For many different reasons, parrots are the ultimate pet. Many species are the most beautiful of any commonly-kept pet, shimmering in irridescent, kaleidoscopic, feathered splendor. They are by far the most amusing of pets, big league natural entertainers who leave dogs, cats and such as rank amateurs. And they are the one and only animal, outside ourselves, that is capable of human speech.
That last fact is very interesting, when you think about it, and turns out to be the key to understanding parrots. Talking ability should be a low priority when looking for a parrot because many individual parrots -- even those of a supposedly talkative species -- will never utter a word. But whether or not a particular individual parrot ever talks, the very fact that its kin are capable of this stunning achievement dramatically indicates how intelligent these birds are.
Parrot owners have known for a long time what animal-intelligence researchers are only now discovering: Parrots may not be simply repeating what they have been conditioned to say; many of these birds actually understand what they are saying. Some scholars are now suggesting that parrots are perhaps the most intelligent of all birds, and probably rank very high upon the scale of animal intelligence, perhaps ahead of such animals as dogs. Animal lovers who keep both parrots and dogs have no trouble believing this to be true.
It is their incredible intelligence that makes caretaking a parrot such a marvelous experience... and/or sometimes a nightmare.
When you bring a parrot into your home, it is not at all like bringing in a puppy or kitten. Cats, of course, are solitary creatures who quickly develop their own self-sufficient independence, if not actual aloofness. Dogs typically happily accept their role as a loved, but decidedly subordinate, member of the family pack. The parrot, however, seeks neither independence or subordination... but rather full-fledged membership in the family flock, as an equal.
In the wild, parrots usually live in large, egalitarian communities. They are extremely social animals. They typically bond very tightly with other individuals... and as a pet they will willingly and happily accept a human as their "partner". This, of course, is far different than a cat accepting a human as its provider, or a dog accepting a human as its master. And thus, the parrot requires a totally different approach and a fine-tuned understanding. The parrot who does not receive this approach and understanding can rapidly turn into the "parrot from Hell."
It should be obvious by now that parrot ownership should be entered into very judiciously, and not at all by many would-be keepers. The individual who does not have the time, energy, patience, facilities and personality to deal with parrots should not have one. Plus, one should have a complete fascination with and love for parrots for the relationship to truly soar.
There are hundreds of different kinds of parrots -- from the tiny parrotlets to the magnificent macaws (the largest bird anyone should own). Yet every parrot is a clever, resourceful and sensitive creature that will crave stimulation and attention. Parrots are not finches or canaries that can be left alone in a cage all day. They are not a pet to be fed and forgotten. They require far more attention than even dogs. Indeed, a parrot should really be considered more of a roommate than a pet.
Unfortunately, parrots are messier than even the most messy roommates. They also are louder; in fact there are jackhammers quieter than a few parrot species. Some bite with the force of pliers... sharp pliers. And they are capable of destruction that a demolition crew would admire. Add to these attributes the precociousness of, say, a two-year-old child, and one can imagine the complexity and potential chaos of having a parrot around.
Another thing to carefully consider is the longevity of parrots. A pet hamster lasts a couple of years; a dog maybe 15 or so. With some species of parrot, it is likelier that it will attend your funeral than you will mourn it.
One final aspect of parrot-keeping may be the most horrific of all. Yes, we are talking about "aviholism." This dreaded disease affects many, if not most, people who acquire a parrot. A 13-step program has been established to help treat the thousands upon thousands of unfortunate souls who have gotten themselves tangled in the powerful hold of this malady. What is "aviholism"? Simply, the compulsion to acquire more and more parrots. An aviholic figures, "one is good, eight would be much better." Soon their entire life is awash in feathers, seeds and parrot poop... and they think this is just GREAT! Whatever you do, don't let this happen to you.
So parrot keeping should be entered into very soberly and as a lifelong commitment... or perhaps not at all. Are we trying to scare you off? Sure. Better that you never acquire a parrot, than get one only to get rid of it a short time later. And make no mistake about it -- parrots are probably passed along from owner to owner more than any other type of pet. Then there is that "aviholism" situation. We certainly do not want to encourage innocent people to walk into the jaws of such a potential trap.
So, with all of the drawbacks to parrots, exactly what is the big attraction? Ah, that you will just have to find out for yourself with a bit of study and the sincere desire to know the secrets of the world's best pet. You will find that the dedicated parrot person cannot envision life without their beloved birds. Parrots' childlike quality, their intelligence, their quirky, hilarious mannerisms, their endearing jabber, their unsurpassed beauty, their complete devotion to their human friends render parrots the most magical of all creatures willing to share their lives with the right person. The question isn't whether parrots are right for you, it is whether you are right for parrots.
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