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VACATION PLANNING WITH PARROTS IN MIND
By John Geary

Practical - Index > Pets > Pet Care > Parrots > General


Parrot Sitter

Scottish writer Oswald Wynd once said about travel that  " ? all any of us need is a very light suitcase."

If you plan to take your pet bird on summer vacation, however, do not expect to travel light.

By their nature, birds - particularly parrots - require greater consideration than cats and dogs.

First and foremost, you have to bring their food along. While many hotels and motels are becoming more pet-friendly, good luck finding a birdie drive-through on the road.

The next thing to consider is accommodation - aside from their cage, which you also have to tote along. You have to find bird-friendly lodgings, so ask when booking a room. A quicker, easier way to accomplish this without increasing Telus profits would be to purchase a copy of Traveling With Your Pet, available at any Alberta Motor Association office ($10.75 for members, $14.50 for non-members.) The book features pet-friendly accommodations only. Double-check anyway, to ensure they will accept birds. Parrots can be noisy, and some lodgings accept quiet animals, only.

If you plan to camp rather than stay at a motel or hotel, that problem is solved - provided you're camping in a motor home. Sleeping in a tent is not advisable for pet birds, as they cannot handle the night-time temperatures.

Calgary's Dave Hind has been taking his Quaker Piper and budgie Kiwi camping in his family trailer for several years now. He says you have to plan better and make some adjustments, but in some ways, birds derive as much pleasure from vacations as people - sometimes more.

"Because we spend more time in the same dwelling with them - including sleeping in the same room, which we don't do at home - they get to spend more time with us, and they really love it," the Calgary Parrot Club member says. "In fact, when we come back from holidays, they're sometimes a little peeved because we're not spending as much time with them as during the vacation."

Driving with a pet parrot in your vehicle presents unique problems. Make sure each bird is in a secured, proper travel case. Cages are not transportation modules - there is too much potential for injury from sudden stops, hanging toys, etc.

You can purchase carrying cases made specifically for birds, although they are next to impossible to find in Calgary. A cat or other small pet carrier works fine. You can adapt it for your bird by inserting a wooden dowel into the carrier to serve as a perch.

Be aware of the fact you need to stop regularly if your vehicle heats up. Birds can over-heat easily in the summer. They also need access to water.

Get your bird vet-checked before leaving, so if there is a health problem, you won't be somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no avian vet help.

WHAT ABOUT WINTER?

While dogs, cats and other mammals may travel without too many difficulties, if you have to travel with a more exotic pet like a parrot during the winer, be aware of how it reacts to its environment and be prepared to make stops for more than bathroom breaks. Parrots can overheat; they can also suffer from being too cold, too long.

?The best advice I can give about traveling with birds or reptiles, is "Don't", says Dr. Melanie Conard of the Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic. "Reptiles shouldn't travel, period. They're entirely dependent on their environment. With birds, you need to bundle them up in a small cage for quick transfer in and out of a pre-heated vehicle."

LEAVING THE COUNTRY?

For international travel, you need to find about quarantining and species certification. Some bird species are endangered (read, "lots of paperwork") and require special permits to move across borders.

BIRD-SITTING OPTION

The other option involves leaving your bird at home. Parrots are not pets that you can have your neighbor visit once a day to change their food and water like you would with a cat. Parrots need exercise, stimulation and companionship.

You can either board them or hire a pet/house-sitter. Some pet stores offer these services, or can put you in touch with a bird-sitter. Your avian vet may also be able to refer someone to you. There are also several professional pet-sitting services available, although finding someone with experience to look after a parrot can be difficult. If you belong to a bird club, another option would be to hook up with someone willing to swap bird-sitting services with you. Club members can also tip you off to potential sitters they have used and would recommend (conversely, they can also tell you sitters to avoid!)

If you choose to have someone stay in your home, there are some basic questions you have to ask a potential bird-sitter:

    What experience do you have handling birds?


    Are you willing to come and meet my bird(s)? If they say "no," forget it. When they do, pay close attention to how they interact; if your bird is terrified of the person, keep looking.

    For private boarding: Is anyone in your house a smoker? If  the answer is "yes" look elsewhere. Also, visit the house to see what the environment is like.p>

    What is your schedule like? Will you be at work most of the day at another job? It's pointless to pay someone who will leave your birds alone for eight to 12 hours every day.

Finally, remember that leaving a parrot to go off on a vacation is like leaving a four-year-old child behind. It will feel disoriented and lonely. If you wouldn't leave a four-year-old caged up in a playpen alone all day for two weeks, don't do that to a parrot, either. For more details about bird sitting, see Looking for a Good Bird Sitter.

RESOURCES:

    Pet Travel Tips, from the Canadian Automobile Association. 

    Pets Can Stay , an organization that certifies and promotes accommodation     providers who strive to enrich the travelling experience of their guests and their pets.

    Your avian vet may also be able to help you.

Travel Cases:

There are different styles of travel cases. Some are clear plastic, some are cage-like and others are very similar to the kinds of travel cases used for cats and dogs - except the avian versions come with perches and food dishes. Here is a sampling. (Note: This is NOT an endorsement, just a resource. I have not personally tested any of these products.)/p>

Clear Plastic

    Wingabago: 

Cage-Like

Standard Pet Carriers with perches

For Pet Sitters: