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I've lived with Peachfront Conures Aratinga aurea for 30 years. I've bred 'em, trained 'em, even visited Bolivia to observe them in the wild. For more about me, click right here.

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5:36 a.m. 2012-05-22

if you have cats...

Not too long ago, a poster who lives and works at home, but who has multiple pets as well as an older parent to care for, left a post on an online forum asking about whether or not to adopt a Macaw. Because Peachfronted Conures are also strong pair bond species, I think it's worth reprinting my reply here:

Many Macaws appear to be pair bond species, so if you work at home and have hours to spend in company with the Macaw, you could have a very special relationship. I like that part of what you describe. I don't know about all these other pets in the household though. I really don't like it that you have three cats. People do sometimes make it work, but I think it would be easier to have a tight pair bond if the Macaw was the only pet, so in your shoes, I might wait until the cats had passed on to that mouse-infested paradise in the sky...I don't know how old the cats are or how long you might have to wait though. The dogs are not so much of an issue with a big bird who can hold its own but the cats...I just don't know about intentionally bringing a bird into a home with three cats. It's good that you are doing a lot of thinking and considering before you make the final decision. Also, some Macaw species have a reputation for being sensitive. I have heard it said about Scarlets that they are sensitive. If the cats could psych out a Cockatiel, they could psych out a Scarlet. Try to meet some Macaw owners who are not selling birds and ask them for their honest opinion of the calmest species. African Grey parrots are sensitive too. Some of the Amazon species are tough, rowdy birds who aren't too nervous, but they might try to intimidate the cat. I found out that my Yellow-Crowned Amazon had pulled the tail of the cat owned by his previous owner. How do I know? Because he can make the sound of a cat screaming and then he bursts out laughing. I'm allergic to cats so it's a moot point in this household, but it's definitely for the best that he no longer lives with a cat...for the good of the cat!

I'll repeat myself here. Some people make it work. But it WILL be work. If you have cats, you may not be at the right place in your life to own a bird who would like to spend hours a day in your company. Especially if the bird in question would expect to be out on your shoulder or a playpen. A careful person can make it work.

But think about this: A modern cat, with modern vet care and diets, can live 18 years, maybe longer. That's a very long time to be careful. Now, if you have an old, sluggish cat, OK. If you have an especially young kitten whose ideas are not formed about birds, MAYbe OK. But for most of us, 18 years of never once making a mistake or looking the wrong way would be a lot of stress.

For most people, I recommend that if you already have a cat, you do not acquire a companion parrot. Learn and study. There will be time when your cat passes on. 18 years is a long life for a cat but it goes by scarily fast for us humans.

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