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By Dr. Michael Fox, Published April 12 2013

Taming a parakeet positively

By Dr. Michael Fox

Dear Dr. Fox: You should retract the advice you gave to a reader regarding suggestions for taming a parakeet. All interactions with this bird should be positive in nature, not aversive, like using the glove. I’m horrified at this advice. Picture a glove from a little bird’s perspective. It’s terrifying.

Much good information is available for the new bird owner without cost. I was a volunteer with Cleveland’s Parrot Education and Adoption Center before I moved to Florida. The organization has online behavior courses that the reader could take. Barbara Heidenreich of Good Bird Inc. has tons of good information.

I assure you, no one with real parrot behavior knowledge would ever suggest using a glove. In the meantime, a much better approach would be to sit quietly by the bird’s cage and place its favorite treat in a cup. Don’t force interaction. In time, the owner can offer the treat by hand. Take small steps to keep the bird comfortable. The idea is to positively reinforce it stepping onto the hand. A glove does not breed trust.

Please retract your advice before more harm is done. – J.M., Naples, Fla.

Dear J.M.: I stand by using the glove to protect birds and small animals, such as hamsters, from the avoidance reflex of children and adults who are not experienced handlers and when the animal is not yet used to being in contact.

I recall one veterinarian who was examining a hamster who bit him and evoked the avoidance jerk response, which flipped the poor animal onto the floor with a fatal concussion.

A light protective glove – not a huge leather gauntlet – gives self-confidence to the wearer and can be left inside the bird’s cage for short periods to facilitate habituation/desensitization.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have an older tabby cat – she’s about 13 or 14 – who loves cat snacks so much that she pesters me every time I enter the room where she stays ... my bedroom! She likes both the soft and the hard kind, and I’ve noticed she always drinks water after eating them.

I started giving her a couple every once in a while about a month ago. Now she expects them several times a day. She still eats her food. Her stools are generally hard, and I worry she sometimes becomes constipated.

Is it harmful for her to be eating so much of these snacks? Thank you for any help you can give me. – B.G., Blakely, Pa.

Dear B.G.: All things in moderation! We give our two cats three or four small crunchy treats on a regular schedule, three times a day. They come for them when called, but it took no time at all for them to know the time and start meowing for their snacks.

The best treats are freeze-dried, organic chicken, turkey, beef or wild salmon. Some highly processed manufactured cat treats are full of questionable byproducts, “flavorings,” coloring agents and preservatives, including sugar and salt, which are all unhealthy and should be avoided. I would avoid treats containing seaweed, including kelp. I have dropped that ingredient from my home-prepared dog and cat food recipes because the iodine content and heavy metal contamination may have harmful effects on animals’ thyroid glands.

The constipation issue could get serious, especially in older cats. Add a little water or salt-free chicken or beef bouillon to the dry food, which may help. Be sure to include a few drops of fish, flaxseed or hemp oil, beginning with just a drop so your cat gets used to it.

Pet food, treat recalls

February brought small- and large-scale recalls: Salmonella contamination probability led to a small recall for The Honest Kitchen, and larger ones for Nutri-Vet and Kasel Associates Industries. Hy-Vee recalled its dog food because of aflatoxin mold. For details regarding product names and lot numbers, see postings at DrFoxVet.com or visit the companies’ websites.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.