Does your cat pester you all the time, crying, and excessively grooming herself until she takes all the hair off her legs? Is she overweight, when you only feed her a small amount of food? Is your bird pulling all his feathers out and screaming all day long? What is wrong with him? Does your dog whimper all the time, licking his legs till they bleed?
What do all these pets have in common? Perhaps they are bored. All species of pets at some point were wild. In the wild they had to work all day and sometimes all night to feed themselves, their mates and offspring and to find shelter. Our pets no longer have any work to do, so they sit around all day, trying to occupy their time with activities to entertain themselves. Unfortunately this entertainment may be destruction of their environment, themselves, or annoying behavior that drives you crazy.
What can we do to provide our pets a job, to keep them busy with constructive activities and to keep them mentally active? We can provide toys that require some work to obtain food and treats, rather than leaving their bowl full. Sometimes with pets it may take some time to teach a sedentary pet how to interact with its environment and to work for its food. Foraging is providing an environment in which the pet has to search for and gather food. This can be very enriching to the pet, providing entertainment all day.
For birds, you might start by providing multiple feeding locations at different levels throughout the cage. Place only a small amount of food or no food at each location. After awhile you can start covering their dishes with paper or cardboard. You can wrap small amounts of food in paper so they must take it apart to get to their food. Small boxes, paper cups and coffee filters work well as foraging toys. In addition there are interactive toys that you can put food in. Starting gradually and working up to more complex methods will ensure that your pet will learn the “game.”
This food carousel is an example of an interactive toy to make your birds work for their food. Keep in mind that you may need to alternate various toys and interactive toys to keep your bird challenged. These toys can be found at various pet stores in town or on line. Give your bird a job and entertainment and you will hopefully see an improvement in their behavior.
*There are some behavioral problems that can be caused by medical conditions. We recommend an examination for any pet displaying behavioral problems so any potential concerns can be addressed.