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Birds and Exotic Pets: Passionimo Answers your Questions

 
When we think of pets, cats and dogs are often the first examples to come to mind, of course. But birds, reptiles, rabbits, and rodents can also awaken one’s passion for animals. However, the needs and habits of exotic pets are often unknown.
 
Dr. Lucie Héneault, Dr. Évelyne Joubert, and animal health technician Cassandra Carignan from the Le Gardeur Veterinary Hospital are here to answer frequently asked questions about those likeable exotic pets.
 

We can’t have a dog or a cat in our condo. What would be the best choice of pet for my children?

The best pets for children are rats and guinea pigs because they are both used to live in community.
 
Rats are very sociable creatures who develop a strong bond with their masters. Similar to dogs, rats will do everything to please their masters and can therefore learn tricks and follow commands. Their only flaw is their short life span: 2 ½ to 3 years.
 
While just as endearing, guinea pigs will not develop a bond as strong with their masters. On the plus side, their life expectancy is much higher: up to 6 or 7 years.
 

I’m allergic to cats and dogs. Would I have the same reaction to rabbits?

Unfortunately, people allergic to cats and dogs will also have an allergic reaction to rabbits. It’s thus imperative to do an allergy test before adopting one. That aside, rabbits make for very compelling pets with a life expectancy of about 10 years.
 
Rabbits are generally territorial, but some are very sociable and can forge a bond with their masters. They can also be litter trained. Rabbits are smart pets who will fare better when allowed to roam free in your home.
 

I would like to get a buddy for my hamster. Is it a good idea?

No! Hamsters are solitary animals who hate to be in the company of same-sex fellows and will only tolerate the company of the opposite sex during mating season. In fact, hamsters are always spoiling for a fight and will generally brawl to the death. Ideally, you should only have one pet hamster.
 

I adore reptiles and would really love to get a pet iguana. Is it easy to take care of one?

Reptiles are fascinating animals. However, it can be difficult to recreate their natural habitat in captivity. Every species has its specific needs in terms of temperature, humidity level, and nutrition. Some species are harder to keep in captivity due to their need for space and specific conditions, and their size or temperament.
 
Bearded dragons, geckos, and corn snakes are generally good choices for budding herpetophiles. Iguanas, turtles, and chameleons are best suited for people with more knowledge and experience with reptile pets.
 

Why is my parrot screaming when I’m away?

In nature, parrots live in very large groups of several hundred individuals. Behaviours such as screaming are normal and used on a daily basis.
 
In our homes, parrots find themselves with a much smaller group and are often left alone in a cage, which is contrary to their very nature. Lonely parrots will thus seek to communicate with other members of the group to reassure themselves, and screaming is their means of communication to get closer to their family.
 

Does my bird need its beak trimmed or its wings clipped?

ABSOLUTELY NOT. Wing clipping is against nature! While some owners have their birds wing-clipped, thinking this will protect them against incidents; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Clipped birds are actually rendered handicapped and are more at risk of injuries such as beak or bone fractures (particularly the sternum) and concussions.
 
As for the beak, trimming is not necessary. If a beak is crooked or too long, it could be a medical issue. In such cases, beak trimming will be necessary, but it will also be imperative to consult with your veterinarian and attempt to resolve the underlying cause, which could be parasites or hepatitis, for instance.
 

My rabbit eats its own feces. That’s so gross! What can I do?

Rabbits have a very unique digestive system. Like other mammals, rabbits produce excrements, but also special droppings called cecotropes (or cecal droppings). Cecotropes are actually produced by their digestive systems and are therefore not waste but nutriments.
 
Indeed, rabbits eat those “soft” droppings to reingest several vitamins and minerals essential to their health. If cecotropes are not reingested, rabbits will suffer from nutritional insufficiencies.
 

My female bird lay eggs even though there are no male birds around. Isn’t that a little strange?

It’s possible for female birds to lay eggs even while alone in their cage, as egg-laying does not require the presence of a male. Obviously, those eggs will not be fertilized.
 
If the female bird only lay a few eggs every year, this should not be a problem. However, if egg-laying becomes compulsive, please see your veterinarian, as this could lead to serious health issues, even death.
 

My bird keeps on plucking its feathers. What should I do?

Birds exhibiting feather-picking behaviour have a lot of owners wanting to pull their own hair out! Though psychological causes might be at play, medical issues are often the root cause of this behaviour.
 
Whatever the cause, please consult your veterinarian. Medical and physical factors must be explored first before considering psychological causes.

 

Do you have other questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic closest to you. Please note that only a few clinics will treat birds and exotic pets. However, the staff of your local clinic can refer you to an appropriate resource, as needed.