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 The Case Againt Cuddling

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PostSubject: The Case Againt Cuddling    Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:13 pm

Melissa McIntyre
BellaOnline's Birds Editor


The Case Againt Cuddling

Humans show affection through touch; it’s a natural part of our behaviour. Many birds, especially the social species, show affection and reaffirm flock bonds through mutual preening. Naturally, many companion birds- particularly parrots and some softbills- seek out human touch, and equally naturally, humans want to touch their birds too. Touching our companion birds, like petting or scratching, can improve our relationships and gives us a sense of well-being. Scratching, petting, et cetera, are all forms of “allopreening” or “allogrooming”, which is acceptable, even sought after, in almost all social animals. The issue with touch is not petting or scratching or any of a number of ways to physically interact with your bird. The issue is cuddling.

Petting or scratching (sometimes called “skritching”) are short interactions, often on the head, back, wings or breast. The key word is “short”- no more then a few moments, and often less then a minute. This imitates the affectionate allopreening found in flock mates and clutchmates. Birds that are friendly with each other often have multiple short physical interactions, rather then longer, more intense ones.

Cuddling is very different then petting. Cuddling, or snuggling, are longer physical interactions, often involving encompassing the bird entirely or partially. It can be fairly intense. The bird may droop and “melt” into the cuddle, fluffing up and seem to be in utter bliss. It’s also satisfying emotionally for the human- there’s nothing like having a cockatoo or an Indian hill mynah in a full cuddle-swoon melted all over your lap! It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy- which is what it’s supposed to do.

There is nothing wrong with the affection being expressed when a person and their bird are cuddling. The issue is that cuddling is sending different signals to the bird then it is the person. Humans use cuddling in a variety of relationships. We use hugging and snuggling for comfort, in laughter, and in love, with our mates, our children, extended family members and with even our friends. We cuddle our dogs and cats and various other mammalian pets, because cuddling is a very mammalian act. For most birds, cuddling means something entirely different. Birds cuddle with their mates. It’s rare for a parent bird to truly “cuddle” with his or her chick; it’s generally less mutual preening in most then it is parental care. It’s even rarer for nonfamily members to cuddle- they may huddle together to sleep or do a bit of preening, but in most cases extended, tender preening sessions are reserved for mates only. There are exceptions, but they are unusual.

Every time we pet or scratch our birds, we should be conscious of the signals we are sending our birds. Many people complain about seasonal aggression in their birds. Who could blame the birds for being frustrated? We snuggle and cuddle them, which is silently telling them we would be open to a more intimate relationship. Then when they show readiness to breed (screaming, destroying things, possessiveness over people or territory, etc) we think they have done something wrong. This is not to say all behaviour issues can be prevented by not cuddling, or reducing cuddling sessions, but it can certainly be a factor in many problems we see in our companion birds.

It’s important to decide what kind of relationship you want to have with your bird. It is generally unacceptable for your pet to see you as a reproductive partner. The birds we live with are flock animals, and are able to maintain dozens, if not hundreds, of relationships with just as many individuals. It is unnecessary to maintain a “mate” relationship with our birds, when there are so many others we can have instead, like a teacher, parent, sibling or playmate.

In most cases it’s not necessary totally stop cuddling your bird, just to understand what you are saying to him or her when you do. There are so many other equally rewarding ways to interact with our birds, such as playing, training, multiple short petting or scratching sessions, sharing meals, showering, etc. So, maybe think twice the next time your bird is giving you the come-hither eyes. You may be saying more then you intended!

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PostSubject: Re: The Case Againt Cuddling    Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:34 pm

You are so right. Remember when Fog Horn came up there. He was in full sexual blume.I made the mistake of over stimulating him and never realized till one day My hand became a 'Love Receptical' lol.He had just turned into a 'Mam' of the world and I didn't recognise the signs till he showed me. No more vent rubbing wich is hard cause he loves his Tail feathers rubbed. I now have to watch how close to his vent I grap and rub.As you saw a sexually confused bird aint reall a happy one and can do distructive things to his feathers like vomitting on his legs and the stomach acid burns the feet. A little love caress and some small grooming is great but at thr certain time of the year it is best to keep it at a mimium. Good advise Sherry. b6
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PostSubject: Re: The Case Againt Cuddling    Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:20 pm

yeah i think its best to watch all signs i watch purrlyn and when he starts getting too lovey dovie he gets put back in his cage i try to make sure im the one in control not him when its snuggle time i sure dont want no goo suprises lol

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