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Explained: Why pet parrots eat your hair

Aussies love their pets, and while fur babies are by far the most commonly chosen family additions, feathered friends also rate as a popular choice. According to the latest figures from Animal Medicines Australia’s national survey of pets and people, of the 29 million pets in the country today, an estimated 5.6 million are birds.In…

Aussies love their pets, and while fur babies are by far the most commonly chosen family additions, feathered friends also rate as a popular choice.

According to the latest figures from Animal Medicines Australia’s national survey of pets and people, of the 29 million pets in the country today, an estimated 5.6 million are birds.

In the survey, 30 per cent of bird owners listed companionship as the main reason for having one as a pet.

As Dr Magdoline Awad – who is the chief veterinary officer at Greencross The Pet Company and SMARTDaily’s weekly pet columnist – explains, birds can also come to see their owners as companions. Here, she answers a reader’s question about their parrot, Pooch.

PARROT’S HAIR OBSESSION

I have a two-year-old parrot, Pooch, who keeps on eating my hair. It’s so frustrating as I have long hair that he keeps snipping short in places. He’s caged at night and most of the day unless we are home. We feed him parrot pellets and bits of fruit and nuts.

Most birds, including parrots, spend about 80 per cent of their life foraging for food and 20 per cent devoted to socialising, grooming and sleeping.

Preening is a social activity and it’s how your parrot keeps his feathers clean, waterproof and in good condition.

When Pooch is eating your hair, he is in fact preening you and nurturing a bond between you both. He is showing you that he really likes you.

If Pooch is caged for most of the day and night, it is important to provide him with plenty of environmental enrichment that allows him to carry out his natural foraging behaviours.

Enrichment strategies may include wrapping some of his food items in cardboard or newspaper; mixing edible and non-edible food items to encourage foraging behaviours; or providing a puzzle box where Pooch is required to unscrew or manipulate parts of the box to receive a food reward.

Lack of stimulation may cause Pooch to feel a heightened anticipation when you return home, and he may react by engaging in overzealous preening behaviours such as eating your hair. Providing enrichment may alleviate some of this unwanted behaviour.

Ensure Pooch is not swallowing your hair as this may contribute to blockages over time.

GOT A PET QUERY?

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