Separation anxiety is a commonly used term for dogs, and cats to a lesser degree. However, it’s less understood in birds. Bird owners and animal lovers alike are often surprised to hear separation anxiety is a real issue for birds too.
While they might not be barking and bothering neighbours (see ‘why do dogs bark‘) or chewing up your beloved scatter cushions (see teething puppy tips here), separation anxiety in birds can be equally as stressful for a feathery pet as it is for furry ones.
If not managed correctly, it can become very difficult to deal with. And no one wants to see their beloved bird emotionally disturbed.
If you’re wondering whether your bird is suffering from separation anxiety, here are some telltale signs. We’ve also shared what you can do to help them through it.
Understanding Separation Anxiety in Birds
When deciding to get a pet budgie or cockatiel, you mightn’t have thought about how they’ll react when you aren’t there. Even though they’re some of the lowest maintenance pets for apartments – and houses for that matter – lots of birds, including parrots, cockatoos and macaws, suffer distress when left alone.
It’s now commonly understood that your pet bird can begin to rely on humans in an unhealthy way. It can do the same with other birds, their mirror and even toys.
Are you nodding yet? Read on…
Signs of stress with separation anxiety in birds
If you’re often out or away, you mightn’t even be aware there’s a problem when you’re not home. However, being vigilant about knowing the signs of separation anxiety in birds can help you to catch any problems and address them before they become too unmanageable.
Birds are sensitive to changes in environment and routine. The stress of being separated from someone or something they’ve ‘imprinted’ on can be fatal. This stress might show up as:
- Stress bars (horizontal lines across the shafts of a bird’s feathers – often noticed in conjunction with malting)
- Feather picking and/or self-mutilation (scratching, digging into their skin, or even muscle or bone)
- Aggression (screaming, scratching, hissing, biting or lunging)
- Loss of appetite
- Repetitive behaviour when they’re bored (pacing, tapping, head swinging, screaming)
Separation anxiety in birds – tips to re-frame it
If you think your bird might be suffering from separation anxiety, it’s time to take action before they form habits that are very difficult to break. Or end up being so disturbed they suffer emotional damage. Or worse.
Rest assured, solutions do exist!
Just the same as you would with a puppy or kitten, there are steps owners can take to help their birds adjust to flying solo, and deal with separation anxiety.
Manage these necessary changes to routine and environment gradually, and continue keeping a close eye on your bird for separation anxiety signs.
First steps to relieving their anxiety
As it is with any companion animal, healing separation anxiety is a trial and error process. It will take time and patience.
Give these tips for a healthy, happy bird a run and try our suggested tips below too:
- Avoid giving your bird too much attention and making a fuss when greeting them after you return home
- Break up your daily routine and vary your departure and arrival times so your bird can’t sense when you’re due back
- Provide enough mental stimulation while you’re away – a wide selection of toys (made of cotton or hemp) and things they can tear apart, like tree branches
- With this, avoid bright colours and rotate the stimuli frequently to avoid boredom
- Provide a cage that is large enough for your bird to fly in to give them enough exercise (or buy a harness and take them out with you every now and then)
- Create a see-through barrier between them and the other bird if they’re harming it
- Always speak calmly and never scold – take a ‘firm but fair’ approach to teaching positive behaviours
You might even find some tips in our ‘Separation Anxiety in Pets’ article useful to help you re-frame life for your anxious bird.
Remember: make all these adjustments gradually so your bird transitions smoothly into its new normal. You don’t want to cause more problems while trying to fix the existing ones!
Also remember you have a trusted health partner for your bird in your local vet. They can help you guide you through and provide further tips that may help you and your feathered bestie.
Lessen anxiety with insurance
If you have a bit of a zoo at home and want to insure your four-legged furry friends, check out our dog insurance and cat insurance. Though we can’t cover your feathered flock right now, we can still ease the pressure when it comes to the ones with paws!
Separation anxiety in birds – over to you
Has your bird ever suffered from separation anxiety? Let us know how you dealt with it by leaving us a comment below!