The Omlet Blog Category Archives: Budgies

Can I Keep Chickens With Other Pets?


Photo by
Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash

When considering whether or not to keep chickens, it’s important to take into account the pets you already have around your home. The most obvious examples are cats and dogs, who sometimes let their chase instincts get the better of them. However, all your pets can get along just fine, as long as you lay down a few ground rules.

Keeping chickens with dogs

If you’re a dog owner, the first thing to consider is the temperament of your pet. Does it often chase rabbits or deer when out on a walk? How does your dog react to birds in the garden? If your hound tends to lose control in these situations, this behaviour is likely to carry over into their relationship with chickens. Equally, if your dog is of a more relaxed temperament, they may show little if any interest in your coop.

The likeliest scenario falls somewhere between the two extremes, in which case you’ll see your dog taking an interest in the chickens, and spending plenty of time watching and attempting to play with them, but not moving in ‘for the kill’. What’s important here is that your dog needs to understand that the chickens are part of the pack, and not something to be hunted. It’s also important that your dog understands that chickens are fragile, and that dog-style rough play is out of the question.

Teaching dogs to get along with chickens

You can teach your dogs that the chickens are part of the family by letting them watch you spending time in the coop – initially keeping them separated with chicken wire or fencing. Many breeds of dog are naturally cautious around small animals and will be protective of your chickens once they consider them a part of the pack. The behaviour you want to see is your dog cautiously sniffing at the chicken, as opposed to adopting the head-down-bottom-up ‘let’s play’ stance.

One of the most important considerations when it comes to dogs and chickens is the temperament of the dog breed. Hunting dogs such as greyhounds and beagles will cave in to their chasing instincts if the hens begin to flap around, and they should never be allowed to mingle with the chickens. In contrast, farm dogs such as sheepdogs have protective and herding instincts, and they will be less likely to harm your chickens.

There is no sure-fire way to guarantee your dogs and chickens will get on, but spending plenty of time introducing them goes a long way. As with all dog training, this can be an extended process, so be prepared to spend a few weeks introducing your chickens to your dogs with a barrier before you let them meet face to face. When you do introduce them, it’s a good idea to keep the dog on a short leash at first, just in case.

Keeping chickens with cats

Cats are a completely different story to dogs – they are harder to predict and less susceptible to training. However, they are unlikely to view a big fat hen as potential prey. Many farmers concur that their farm cats have no interest in hunting poultry, and are much more interested in the rats and mice that are inevitably attracted by birds. When keeping chickens, the occasional rat is standard, and having a cat around can greatly reduce their numbers.

Although most chickens are too large for a cat to hunt, this largely depends on the breed of chicken and the size of your cat. If you find that your cat is beginning to stalk your chickens, a sturdy and secure coop and run that your cat can’t access will deter trouble. This is good practice either way, as even if your cat is friendly with your chickens, your neighbour’s cat might not be! The ideal answer here is the Eglu, which is super-secure and comes with its own attached chicken run.

Keeping chickens with guinea pigs

You may already have a guinea pig hutch or run in your garden, and while this won’t be a problem for your chickens, it is not recommended for chickens and guinea pigs to share living quarters. This is for several reasons, one being that rats will be further attracted to your pets’ food, and they may attack your guinea pigs. Another reason is that when establishing a pecking order, your chickens will peck at each other and any other animal they live with. This can cause serious harm to guinea pigs, who do not have thick feathers to protect them.

Keeping chickens with rabbits

Rabbits can be great companions for your chickens if you introduce them to each other when they are all very young. You will also need to ensure that you care for their different needs within the same run, in terms of food and equipment.

Rabbits, for example, like to have a clean space to sleep in, so you may need to muck out your coop and run more regularly than you would if the chickens were alone. You will also need to ensure that the chickens and rabbits all have a safe space within the coop where they can have privacy and space. You can achieve this by separating your run into three areas, one to house the roosting chickens, another for your rabbits, and a communal space.
 
Photo by JackieLou DL from Pixabay

Having a large and secure garden run will make your chickens feel safer in general, and plenty of space will maximise the chance of the hens getting along with each other and their rabbit and guinea pig neighbours.

Chickens and other pets

Chickens can also rub along happily with goats, and with female ducks (males will tends to bully them). Ironically, they do not mix with birds in an aviary. They will eat anything that falls to the aviary floor, but they will also happily peck the other birds whenever they can and may attract rats and mice, which will cause problems for the smaller birds.

Small mammal pets such as hamsters and gerbils should never be kept in the same enclosure as chickens. The rodents will be pecked and killed.

By following these few ground rules, you will be able to keep the various members of your mixed menagerie happy!

Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash

 

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15% off Geo Bird Cage for a limited time only!

For a limited time only, save 15% on the Geo Bird Cage from Omlet.

Upgrade your budgie cage for 2021, with the stylish, easy clean Geo and it’s integrated ‘no-spill’ feeder and drinker. Available in three contemporary colours with optional accessories, including the constellation Night Cover and striking blue Bird Bath, all now with 15% off!

Use promo code: HAPPYGEO

Offer ends 24/01/2021. T&C’s apply.

See what our customers have to say about the Geo Bird Cage…

Julie, Washington: Amazing cage! Aesthetically beautiful as well as spacious for two budgies. We bought the high stand and all the accessories and are completely satisfied with the purchase. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sharon, Queensland: Absolutely love this bird cage looks so good with the modern legs and such a great size highly recommended. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Terms and conditions

Promotion of 15% off Geo Bird Cages runs from 20/01/21 until midnight on 24/01/21. Use promo code HAPPYGEO at checkout. Includes all colours of Geo Bird Cage, plus stand, bird bath and night cover. Excludes Geo Bird Cage Perches – Pack of 2. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.

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Exclusive interview with Jamieleigh from the Youtube channel “BirdTricks”

Photography by Rachael Baker Photography

 

How and when did you get into keeping birds?

Like most kids, as a child I had a budgie I, nor my parents, knew nothing about. At the age of 17 I hadn’t had birds since that time in kindergarten but my boyfriend (and soon to be husband) did. It kind of forced me into a world I didn’t understand but wanted to.

What does a typical day look like for your budgie?

I half-wish there was such a thing as a “typical day” in my life at all! Because there’s a lot of different areas of my life, it keeps things interesting for my birds based on the fact that I travel so much. My budgie has been to a lot of states and hotel rooms

already, and one of her favorite things is actually road trips because she enjoys being in the car with us!

When we are home, she owns the house and we even screened in an outdoor porch area for her to fly around in as well. The cutest part of the day is when she wakes up and flies herself into the main living area of our home to greet everyone, and when you notice in the early evening she is nowhere to be found because she went off to find the quietest room in the house to sleep (we keep foraging trees in each one – and her open Omlet cage in my daughters room.)

How can you tell your budgie is happy?

All animals make happy noises – cats purr and birds sing. Our budgie is no exception and has her own set of content and happy noises we’ve grown to love to hear. She also flies laps daily around our home which is always fun for us to watch!

What is your budgie’s favorite treat?

Like a typical budgie, she loves herself some spray millet.

What would be your best advice for someone thinking about keeping budgies?

Ask yourself “why” you want a budgie. Make a list of the reasons why and ensure you’re committed because budgies can be really discouraging pets – they spook easily, they’re flighty and they can become hand and human shy if not interacted with and instead left to their own devices inside a cage. A lot of the typical things humans interpret as “budgie loves” like mirrors, will work against you creating a meaningful relationship with your bird.

What is it that you like about the Geo bird cage?

The first thing that attracted me to the Geo cage is its unique design and how well it looks in the home. The footprint is also nice, and it fits easily in any room and looks great in it too. Of course, my main concern with any budgie cage is design and materials and once those both checked out for safety, I was hooked!

 

 

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Four Easy Tricks to Teach your Budgie

The starting point for all budgie tricks is trust, and the key to success is treats! Once a budgie has been hand-tamed and is happy to perch on your finger outside the cage, you can take it a step further and introduce some fun challenges. Make sure you have a sprig of millet or your pet’s favourite vegetable snack handy!

Snakes and Ladders

For this, you need a small raised platform, with a ladder leading on one side and a slide on the other.

The ‘ladder’ part of the trick is simple: place the budgie at the foot of the ladder, and offer the treat at the top. As the bird climbs up, use a command such as ‘Up the ladder!’ After a while, you will be able to place the budgie further from the foot of the ladder.

For the ‘snakes’ part of the trick, the budgie will scoot down the slide, and once again the millet or other treat is the key. Place it at the foot of the slide, and be patient. It’s very likely that, being such a smart bird, the budgie will fly to the treat without using the slide. If this happens, hide the treat, and start again.

The budgie will soon realise that the slide is the key to the treat. Once the bird is on the slide, say ‘Down the snake!’ You can then extend the ladder and the ‘snake’, if you wish.

Budgie Football

If you put a table tennis ball in your budgie’s cage, the bird will soon be playing with it, ‘dribbling’ the ball with its beak. Outside the cage, this can be turned into a human-versus-budgie football game. Gently roll the ball towards the budgie, and the bird will instinctively ‘save’ the ball. Include a goal mouth, and your budgie is transformed into a goalkeeper.

Set up another goal mouth a metre away from the budgie, and see if the budgie manages to score a goal as it taps the ball forward with its beak. Once the ball is between the goalposts, say something like ‘Goal!’, and offer a treat. The bird will soon learn to hone its beak-dribbling skills in order to score those treats!

The Great Escape

The aim here is to get your budgie to negotiate a short tunnel. It won’t be tunnelling its way to freedom, though, just to a tasty treat!

To begin with, use a piece of cardboard with a large hole cut into it, or a large plastic ring. Call the budgie, offering a treat on the other side of the hole. As the bird hops through, speak your chosen command words – something like ‘Let’s tunnel!’ Once the trick is going well, swap the hole for small sections of plastic or cardboard pipe, with a narrower hole/tunnel as time passes. Eventually, you will be able to call your budgie to make his Great Escape through something with the thickness and length of a kitchen towel tube.

Fetch

This one takes a little time to get right, but once again the budgie’s intelligence wins through in the end. The goal here is to teach your bird to pick up an object, bring it to you, and drop it into your hand.

To begin with, get the budgie to perch on your hand, and offer a shiny object such as a button or paperclip. When the budgie takes it in its beak, say ‘Fetch!’ When it drops the object, say ‘Drop it!’, and if it lands in your hand, offer a treat.

Once this has been mastered, place the object away from your hand, and say ‘Fetch!’ when the budgie picks it up. Bring your hand close, ready to catch the object when it falls. Over time, this will develop into a routine in which the budgie picks up an object, runs back with it, and places it in your hand for a treat.

The thing that all these tricks have in common is that the budgie will love performing them. If they don’t want to take part, they won’t, simple as that. This means there’s no pressure, no forcing the issue. It’s just fun all the way, for budgie and owner alike. Trust and treats – that’s the key!

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How to Care For a Budgie

Budgies make wonderful pets. Not only will their beautiful plumage brighten up any room, they are also very intelligent and sociable, and will develop strong bonds with their owners. Like with all pets however, they come with responsibilities, and it is now your job to make sure they stay healthy and happy. Here are the most important things to think about if you’re new to budgie keeping: 

FOOD AND WATER

Try giving your budgies the nutritional equivalent of what they would eat in the wild. The basis of their diet should be a good quality seed mix, and they should always have access to water and a cuttlefish bone. Leafy greens and herbs provide vitamins and minerals, and can be given a few times a week. Only feed your budgie fruits once a week, as they are high in sugar. Food and water containers must be refilled every day, and washed a few times a week. 

Twice a year your budgies will moult, and their plumage will gradually fall out and grow back. To help them keep healthy during this time it’s important that the budgies get extra moulting vitamins in their water. 

Like most pets, budgies prefer clear routines in their lives. Try feeding and letting them out of the cage around the same time every day, and if you want to put a cover over the cage at night time, it’s best to do this every day. This way the budgies will know what’s happening around them and feel comfortable in your presence, which will minimise stress and anxiety.

STIMULATION

Budgies are very sociable creatures, and it’s always best to keep them as a pair, preferably two siblings of the same sex who are used to living together. If you just want one budgie, you will need to act as its friend and companion, and spend a lot of time together with your pet. 

Most budgies like to bathe. In the wild the main purpose of the bath would be to clear dust and sand from their feathers and to cool off, and even if your budgies probably won’t have these daily requirements, they will enjoy splashing around in the water. You don’t have to have a bath in the cage, instead you can put a bowl of water somewhere in the room where the budgies are flying, but if you do it’s important to change the water as soon as it gets dirty. If your pet doesn’t seem interested, an alternative to bath time is a budgie shower. Hang some wet leaves (lettuce, basil and parsley are favourites) in the cage, and watch your budgie run through them. 

The budgies should be offered the opportunity to fly freely (but supervised) outside the cage every day, at least 45 minutes, but ideally a few hours. Make sure the room is budgie proofed before your let your pets out. Close windows and doors, block off fireplaces, turn off fans and air conditioners and keep other pets out of the room. Budgies are intelligent, very sociable and active birds who will enjoy spending time with you and the rest of the family.

CAGE CHECK

Check the cage weekly to see that everything is in place and nothing has broken. Perches must be kept clean and fully functioning. Toys are great for mental stimulation, they encourage physical exercise and wear the beak down. Change the toys every now and then to keep your budgie interested. You don’t have to buy new toys all the time, but rotate the ones you’ve got regularly and throw in a new one every now and again. 

HEALTH CHECK

Budgies’ beaks and nails grow constantly throughout their lives, so it is important that they have access to toys to grind them down. In most cases you will have to trim the nails when they get too long, so make sure to purchase a pair of clippers suited for the task. 

Budgies, like other pack animals, are very good at hiding pain and illness, so it’s important to give your pet regular health checks. When you get to know your budgie, it’ll be easier to spot irregular behaviours. 

Normal signs of illness include changes in weight, discoloured feathers, reduced interaction with humans and toys, scabby nostrils and missing feathers around the eyes. Another way of spotting early signs of illness is to regularly check your budgie’s droppings. The disposable paper liners in the Geo bird cage makes it easy to monitor your pet’s health. When you do your weekly clean, check the amount, colour and texture of the droppings. They can vary somewhat depending on what your budgie has been eating, but all faeces should be firm, and the urine part transparent and clear. If you notice clear changes, or have other reasons to suspect that your budgie might be ill or in pain, contact your vet as soon as possible. Make sure to find a vet that specialises in small animals, ideally as soon as you take the budgie home, so you know who to contact if something goes wrong. 

If you need more information, check out the section on budgie illnesses in our guide.

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Giving Your Budgie and Finches the Best Possible Living Space

What do you need from a bird cage?

The main thing is to give your budgies and finches a space in which they can happily do what a bird has to do – eat, sleep, fly, perch, and chill out.

So, your check list might read something like this:

  • Full flying access to the entire cage
  • Fantastic feeding station
  • Lots of perches and usable ‘corners’ for taking time out
  • Easy access to and from the cage
  • Fantastic design that makes it a standout feature in the room.

And that pretty much summarises the new Geo – the first great leap forward in cage design for 100 years.

The Geo Bird Cage for Budgies, Finches and Canaries

Until the arrival of the Geo, bird cages hadn’t changed much since the early 20th century.

But why did we need another innovation in cage design, you may ask? For the simple reason that when keeping a pet, its welfare and happiness are the top priorities.

So, with this in mind, could the old, rectangular-type standard bird cage be improved upon?

The answer is yes – and then some!

The unique geodesic-dome shape of the Geo, and its central feeding station, are the stand-out features. To explain how we got there, let’s take a brief sprint through previous approaches to cage design.

Bird Cages – from Small Cells to Big Sales

Bird cages have a long history, and their basic shape and function has evolved over the years.

In the beginning a cage was simply a cell in which the feathered inmate – usually a finch, bunting or starling – was expected to sing its little heart out. These small cages were made from wicker or other light, pliable wood. By the 1830s cages were being made from metal and wire. The basic design remained bell-shaped (the kind of thing seen in Tweety Pie cartoons).

This design lingered into the later 19th century when keeping birds as pets underwent a huge surge in popularity, with budgies becoming the pet bird of choice for many. The cages were often ornate, but the emphasis was on decoration, rather than keeping the birds happy. These cages were all height and no width, usually.

By the early 20th century, rectangular, wider bird cages were mass produced – the kinds of things still sold as the standard finch or budgie cage in most pet shops. Design was, at last, part of the overall concept – seed trays that slot into the cage sides, water bottles that attach via clips, better, wider doors, removable bases for easy cleaning.

With a wide range of cage sizes, it meant you could ensure that the dimensions were right for the number of birds you owned. So what was left improve – why do we need the Geo?

Why the Geo Cage is Better for Pet Birds

The geodesic dome shape of the Geo cage provides the ideal dimensions for birds to move around in. When flapping and flying in a rectangular cage, birds don’t have much front-to-back space – the flying area is limited to the length of the cage. Also, birds cannot negotiate 90 degree corners: these are dead space when it comes to flying.

So, if you were to map the total usable flying area, you might be surprised to find that in a standard rectangular cage of 90x60x40cm (220,000 cubic centimetres) a budgie or finch can only make use of one tenth of the area for flying.

In contrast, the Geo’s 62x60x60cm (223,200 cubic centimetres) is nearly ALL flying space. There are no front-to-back limited space issues, and no right-angled corners to prevent a bird stretching its wings.

Birds are happier if they can fly outside the cage

In any indoor cage, a bird is only able to fly in a limited space. Ideally, all pet birds should be allowed to free-fly in the room every day in a safe manner.

The Geo makes free-flying a breeze – it has two wide doors allowing your birds easy access to and from the cage.

Cutting Corners

Do birds need corners to hide in if they’re startled or afraid of something?

Yes and no. It’s more about the position of the cage. If the birds are in the middle of a room completely surrounded by activity they will have nowhere to hide if they’re feeling nervous. That’s why a cage – including the Geo – should be close to a wall or a corner of the room if possible.

Also, the Geo does have corners – lots and lots of them, just not the right-angled corners of a standard cage. You’ll still find your birds using these multiple corners to rest and take stock.

Looking good, feeling good

The Geo’s marriage of great looks and ultimate bird-friendly design set it apart from anything else available.

One of the most eye-catching features is its central feeding station. It’s a joy to watch birds gather together and feed, and the Geo has an extra bonus in that most of the discarded husks and dropped seeds fall into the feeding station’s hopper for easy cleaning.

The rounded shape of the Geo – not circular, but a collection of many flat sides – makes it a striking feature in the room. But, most importantly, it’s a striking feature that doubles as the perfect environment for your pet budgies and inches.

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Five Reasons Why Budgies Make Such Great Pets

The budgie is the world’s most popular pet bird. When the first specimens were brought to Europe from Australia in the 1840s they were an instant hit. The reasons for their popularity are clear to anyone who has spent time in the company of these wonderful little birds. They are pocket-sized parrots, with all the personality of their bigger cousins – clever, colourful, and with the seemingly magical ability to learn human words… sometimes!

1. Budgies don’t require much

Budgerigars are also easy to look after, and being small birds they have modest appetites, so they’re an inexpensive addition to the home. Their diet is based on seed, and as long as you source a good mix, without added colours or chemicals, the birds will thrive. They will also enjoy some fresh greens and other vegetables, but only in small quantities.

This reflects the birds diet in the wilds of Australia. They gather in large feeding flocks and seek out grass seeds. Most of these are fresh, of course, and in captivity the seed should be as fresh as possible too.

In terms of equipment, a good cage and basic accessories are all you need. You can give them simple things to play with, too, like ping-pong balls and bells. All very cheap, and incredibly cheerful.

2. Budgies Have Fantastic Personalities

Beautiful as a pet canary or finch may be, you can’t train them beyond the basic perching-on-a-finger level. Budgies, however, can take on board an amazing variety of skills, from coming to your hand when you call, to negotiating tunnels, skateboarding, and manoeuvring a ball around obstacles.

The key to these skills lies in bonding with your budgie. It’s more than simply taming – it’s a human and bird friendship, the kind of connection you can only form with an intelligent animal. Budgies are not alone in this, of course – the whole parrot family is renowned for its grey matter. But in a bird as small as a budgie, intelligence appears even more remarkable.

3. Budgies Can Talk To You!

Budgies talk, pretty much all day, with various moods that you soon come to recognise. Not all the ‘talking’ consists of recognisable words – in fact many, if not most birds, never master human words. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s great fun if your bird takes on board a few words and phrases, but even without them budgie sounds are a source of great pleasure.

Female budgies are less inclined to speak than males. Of these, around half may pick up human words. They have more chance of learning if you start teaching them in their first nine months. Some require lots of time and effort, while others seem to soak up words with relative ease. Talk-time tends to be after a good feed or a spot of exercise. The budgie will settle on his favourite perch and begin to chatter. The bubbling, clicking, whistling babble of speech sounds voice-like even when there are no human words in the mix. It’s a lovely, soothing backdrop to the day.

4. Budgies Don’t Like Vets!

In other words, budgerigars are generally very healthy and robust birds. As long as they have a super-healthy diet and a clean environment (cages should be spruced-up once a fortnight), they will be strangers to the vet.

Budgies also let you know on those rare occasions when they’re not feeling well. They will stop chattering non-stop, will sleep during the day, and will look sad and ‘droopy’ on their perch. Because, of course, there are potential illnesses, as there are with any animal. Give them a daily visual check – if they’re looking as happy and chirpy as usual, all is well. If you have any doubts, run through our checklist of possible problems, and have a word with a vet. Chances are they will never have met your budgie before!

5. Budgies Come in Endless Colour Patterns

Although there are just three basic colour combinations – green and yellow, blue and white, or a mixture of these – the variety of patterns within this mix is incredible. In some birds the white dominates, with other colours bursting through like flowers in a snowy meadow. Some birds have striking primary colours, while others have pastels, sometimes fading to just a hint of translucent colour. There are all-yellow budgies, all-white ones, birds patterned in just greys and blacks, and, of course, classic green and yellow budgies looking exactly like their Australian wild cousins.

Whichever variety of budgie you bring home, you are guaranteed a bird packed with enough personality to fill a dozen birds twice its size. And this will be a long-lasting friendship, as a healthy and well fed budgie can live up to 15 years. Enjoy your time together!

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Omlet Launch the Geo Bird Cage!

Finally there is a budgie cage as good looking as the budgies

The revolutionary NEW Geo Bird Cage from Omlet is a breathtaking, contemporary design that redefines what a pet bird’s habitat can and should be. The geodesic shape defines a light and spacious habitat for your birds, creating the perfect environment to reveal their natural beauty. 

Rigorous design and testing have refined the Geo Bird Cage into a final form that has nothing superfluous but leaves nothing out. 

Simon Nicholls, Omlet’s Head of Design said “The inspiration for the Geo Bird Cage came from a really amazing polymath called Buckminster Fuller, who pioneered geodesic domes in the 50’s. Once we had the form we developed over 60 prototypes to ensure that every aspect was optimised for both the bird and the owner.  I couldn’t be prouder of the finished product.”  

A good example of the care and attention to detail throughout the Geo is the central feeder. A delight for both owner and budgie to use, it’s also a remarkable piece of engineering. It intelligently catches any dropped husks and seeds in a hopper making this the cleanest bird cage of its kind. 

Pet birds are the 4th most popular pet in Australian households according to recent reports. Budgies have long been a favourite with children, parents and grandparents as they enjoy human company and can be easily trained to land on your hand and can even learn to speak. With Omlet’s latest innovation, keeping budgies is easier, cleaner and better looking than ever before!

Available in a choice of teal and cream base colours, and black, white or gold mesh, the Geo Bird Cage can be further customised with or without the stand. Made from solid bamboo, the stand elevates your Geo Bird Cage and makes it easier for you to interact with your pets. No other small bird cage creates such a captivating centrepiece for your home

The Constellation Geo Bird Cage Cover is typical of the kind of thoughtful touches pet owners have come to expect from Omlet. Decorated on the inside with a map of the stars, when it’s placed over the Geo at night, budgies can try to spot Orion, Ursa Major and maybe even a shooting star before they nod off to sleep!

The Geo Bird Cage is available exclusively at Omlet, from $180!

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The Best Pets For Older People

Elderly pet-owners will need a little help looking after their furry or feathered friends. Shopping for pet food, training, grooming, and cleaning out cages and litter trays are all factors to be considered.

If a pet falls ill, it will need taking to a vet, or medication may have to be given. Lack of transport and shaky hands can suddenly become problems in these circumstances.

The level of assistance needed will, of course, depend very much on the physical and mental health of the pet owner.

But in spite of these considerations, pets and older people are a perfect match – as long as you get the right pet!

Pets to Avoid

For many older people, owning a pet is all about companionship. So, although an iguana, goldfish or tarantula may be low maintenance, they don’t exactly exude personality and friendship. Reptiles, fish and insects can therefore be placed in the category ‘Dedicated Enthusiasts Only’.

Rodents are not ideal choices, either. They are fast moving, and can easily escape from an open cage. Some, such as the hamster, are largely nocturnal too, losing several points on the ‘companionship’ scale.

The Best Bird Companions

Small cage birds make good pets for seniors. Larger species such as parrots are long-lived, and this can present mounting problems if an owner becomes increasingly frail with the passing years.

A budgie is a good option. These birds are intelligent, easily hand-tamed, and once trained they will return to their cage unassisted after playing and flying indoors. Some also learn to talk, which reinforces the companionship enormously. Add to this the fact that their cages can be kept on holders at shoulder-height, with easy access for cleaning and feeding, and you have the perfect pet for older people.

Canaries and other pet finches can be good choices too, but it has to be said that they lack the big personality, trainability and talkativeness of budgies. There are other plus points, though, notably the beautiful song of the canary.

The Best Cat Companions

In many ways the cat is an ideal pet for seniors. But it isn’t just a question of arriving at Gran’s door with a kitten and expecting everything to be fine!

A kitten will need to be house-trained, and won’t instantly be the placid lap-loving cat that many elderly owners will be looking for. An older cat, on the other hand, will have ‘grown in’ to its personality. You could choose a placid, indoor-loving coach-potato breed such as the Persian, Russian Blue or Ragdoll if laps and cuddles are the priority.

Ideally the cat should still be given access to the outdoors to prevent the chore of cleaning a litter tray every day. In this respect one of the ideal breeds is the Abyssinian. Super-friendly and incredibly tame, they are also lovers of the great outdoors, mixing and matching house and garden perfectly.

If a cat is being adopted from a previous home, you will be able to find out all about its personality. Many ‘moggies’ of a non-specific breed turn out to be the perfect pet for seniors, after a little investigation into the animal’s background.

Bear in mind, though, that cats can live up to 20 years – a big time commitment if someone is already worrying about health and mobility in later life. But once again, this is where the animal’s independence becomes a great asset. Most cats, even though they love their owners, can pretty much look after themselves.

The Best Dog Companions

For an elderly person with mobility, dogs are a great pet choice. Several breeds thrive with just a little daily exercise. Many of these are at the smaller end of the scale – dogs such as the Miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and good-natured individuals from the West Highland and Yorkshire Terrier families. Smaller dogs have smaller appetites too – a major consideration if money is an issue.

However, some smaller dogs can be very yappy or snappy – not a great combination. Breeds to beware of for these reasons include Chihuahua, Jack Russell, and Dachshund.

If the owner is still able to walk a mile or two a day, a Golden Retriever makes a great choice. But with all breeds you need to bear in mind longevity – a dog that needs walking at six months old may still be demanding walkies at 15.

Pets For Therapy

It’s a well known fact that pets are therapeutic. Some care homes hold regular pet therapy sessions in which residents spend quality time with cats, dogs, and other tame animals.

Pets bring positive benefits for mental health across all age groups, and can also prevent loneliness becoming a problem. We all need affection, and pets deliver it with no questions asked!

However, having a pet-handling session in a care home is a different proposition to an elderly person keeping a pet in their own home. All animals need a certain amount of looking after, and if mobility is an issue, even a simple chore such as cleaning a cage can become difficult. In these circumstances, seniors will need a little assistance.

But if you get it right, a pet can bring so many positives into an elderly person’s life – companionship, stimulation, stress relief, and that most important human need of all: love.

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