Are Cockatoos Good Pets? Everything You Need to Know

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An Introduction to Cockatoos as Pets

Cockatoos can make absolutely wonderful pets! With their big personalities, beautiful plumage, and impressive intelligence, it’s no wonder cockatoos have captured the hearts of bird lovers. However, they do require a very special type of owner who can devote lots of time and care to properly meet their needs. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know when considering adding one of these unique parrots to your family.

All About Cockatoos

Cockatoos are a type of parrot native to Australia and the islands around it. There are over 20 species of cockatoo, with the ones most commonly kept as pets being:

  • Umbrella cockatoos
  • Moluccan cockatoos
  • Goffin’s cockatoos
  • Citron-Crested cockatoos
  • Major Mitchell’s cockatoos

While all cockatoos share some similarities, each species has its own distinct look and personality traits. For example, umbrella cockatoos are known for being super affectionate and cuddly, while Moluccan cockatoos tend to be a bit more independent.

Cockatoo Personality

Without a doubt, the #1 thing that draws people to cockatoos is their big, engaging personalities!

Cockatoos epitomize everything we love about parrots – they’re extremely social, unbelievably smart, often silly and mischievous, yet still loving and affectionate. Many owners describe living with a cockatoo as being similar to having a perpetual two-year old child! They need near constant interaction and stimulation, which they’ll reward with endless entertainment and boundless loyalty.

While their personalities make them delightful companions, they also require owners willing to meet their substantial needs. As we’ll explore more below, cockatoos aren’t suited for everyone and do best in homes with lots of time to spend focused just on them.

Benefits of Cockatoos as Pets

They Thrive on Interaction

For people able to spend lots of time interacting one-on-one with their pet, a cockatoo can make for an extremely rewarding companion. As highly social flock animals, cockies crave attention and engagement with their families.

You’ll enjoy endless hours of cuddling, playing together, engaging in silly antics, and forming an incredibly strong bond. Cockatoos delight in participating in everything their flock does, whether it’s help cook dinner, dance to music, or get tucked into bed at night!

They’re Affectionate and Cuddly

Cockatoos stand out as some of the most overtly loving and snuggly members of the parrot world. Species like umbrellas and Goffin’s, in particular, earn their reputation as “velcro birds” – they’re happiest when attached to a favored human!

If you’re looking for a feathered companion who will be overjoyed to smother you in kisses and scritches while perched on your shoulder, a cockatoo will gladly fill the role. Along with endless snuggles, your cockie will vocally express their love through their impressive vocabulary skills.

They’re Exceptionally Smart

Known for being escape artists and prolific tool users in the wild, cockatoos rank among the most intelligent species of birds. Their inquisitive nature and ability to creatively problem solve makes living with them endlessly interesting.

You’ll enjoy watching your cockatoo figure out puzzles, learn tricks, and analyze new situations. Their intelligence also allows them to amass impressively large vocabularies – over 1,000 words in some cases! Teaching them to talk or whistle favorite tunes provides lots of fun bonding opportunities.

Gorgeous, Distinctive Appearances

Of course, cockatoos also captivate with their elegant, show-stopping appearances! Their crest feathers lend a very exotic, distinctive silhouette shared by no other type of parrot.

Different cockatoo species showcase gorgeous blocks of color – bright red-orange, lemon yellow, salmon pink – contrasted with stately black and white plumage. You’ll never tire of admiring your cockatoo’s striking beauty! Their puffed crest and perky tail also convey their mood, allowing you to easily interpret their body language.

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Challenges of Cockatoos as Pets

Extremely Demanding of Time and Attention

Due to their high intellect and very social dispositions, the biggest challenge posed by captive cockatoos is their intense need for focused interaction and stimulation. In the wild, cockatoos spend their entire day foraging, exploring, socializing, and problem solving.

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To thrive in our homes, pet cockatoos require a similar level of concentrated attention and activities – they absolutely do not fare well simply being decoratively perched in a cage. Their favorite person must be willing to spend multiple hours every day directly interacting with them.

Without adequate attention, cockatoos often turn to self-destructive behaviors like screaming for attention, plucking their feathers, or chewing household items. Well-adjusted cockatoos in proper homes don’t display these disruptive behaviors.

Can be Very Loud

That desire for non-stop flock interaction means cockatoos will demand your attention very vocally and persistently if they feel you’re not focusing on them enough!

While cute at first, the loud squawks, ear-piercing screams, and noisy chatter can quickly try one’s patience – especially withneighbors nearby! Their loud vocalizations reflect their very intense, passionate natures. Managing a cockatoo’s screaming involves lots of preventative training and providing appropriate outlets.

Prone to Bonding Closely with One Person

Given their longing to pair up with a “mate”, cockatoos often choose one very special human flock member to be exceptionally attached to and possessive of. This can lead to behavioral problems if the cockatoo feelscompetitive with other members of the household for that person’s attention.

Careful socialization and training is required to teach cockatoos to be more independent and accepting of others approaching their favored person. With patience and effort, cockatoos can certainly learn to bond with an entire family or living group. But you must invest significant time to ensure they don’t see others as “rivals”.

Can be Destructive

Between those very sharp beaks and intensely inquisitive natures, cockatoos who are bored or feel neglected can do quite a number on household items, furniture, moldings, etc. Their popularity as pets has surely led to many remodeling projects over the years!

To divert their interest in chewing and shredding inappropriate items, attentive owners Must provide plenty of cockatoo-safe toys along with supervision when they’re out of the cage. Thoughtful “cockatoo-proofing” saves one’s sanity and possessions.

Messy with Fine Powder Down

As the cockatoo crest is so iconic, one must also accept the mess that comes with it! Cockatoos generate a very fine, powdery dander as new feathers constantly grow in. This “powder down” ends up coating everything near a cockatoo! Be prepared to dust furniture, sweep floors, and wash curtains much more often if you want to welcome one of these majestic birds into your home.

For people with allergies or tidiness standards, this degree of mess can be challenging to stay on top of. But fans accept the dust as a small annoyance eclipsed by their pet’s wonderful attributes.

Best Cockatoo Species for Pets

With over 20 cockatoo species exhibiting nuanced size, appearance, disposition, and energy levels, it’s important to select the variety best matching your lifestyle. While no cockatoos are truly “beginner birds”, some species tend to adjust more smoothly into pet life than others. Here’s a quick overview of top options:

Umbrella Cockatoos

With their big clown personalities, non-stop antics, and unmatched snuggliness, umbrella cockatoos like “Cuddles” earn their standing as arguably the single-most popular pet cockatoo species. Though nearly as demanding as other cockies, their über affectionate nature helps win their owners’ extraordinary dedication.

Umbies do best in environments where they get virtually round-the-clock engagement. But for households able to meet their needs, an umbrella cockatoo pays one back manifold in bottomless love and devotion. Their lifespan of 40-70 years allows ample time to cement an incredibly close relationship.

Goffin’s Cockatoos

Similar in size to umbrellas but often thought of as slightly mellower and less loud, Goffin’s cockatoos make another fantastic option. They delight owners with their playfulness, cheery nature, and reliable affection while being a bit less “needy” than their larger cousins.

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Goffin’s retain impressively large vocabularies and great memory for routines. Owners praise Goffins for recognizably different, subclassically charming personalities – think class clown mixed with professor. Their slightly smaller size also makes them a bit more manageable in the average pet household.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos

Major Mitchell’s – or “Pink Cockatoos” – seduce on sheer visual appeal alone! Their vibrant salmon and peach coloring contrasted against bright red, yellow, and white make them truly stunning.

While still very interactive, Majors often have a bit more of an independent streak than umbies or Goffins. They’re often content to quietly play or preen alone for periods giving owners a slight break. But Majors still relish quality time with their loved ones engaging in tricks, cuddling, or just hanging out. Their affection and loyalty never disappoint.

No matter which variety you choose, the key lies in fully understanding cockatoos’ extensive needs ahead of time and realistically assessing if you can meet them. With proper commitment, though, few avian companions prove more entertaining and profoundly heartwarming!

Preparing Your Home for a Cockatoo

Since cockatoos have such intense personalities, you must carefully “cockatoo-proof” your home before bringing one home. This requires not only protecting your possessions, but also ensuring safety hazards are addressed.

Caging Needs

Cockatoos should initially be housed in the Largest cage possible to allow plenty of room for toys, spreading wings, and some flight. The cage should be tall enough for them to fully stand upright.

High quality stainless steel cages with powder coating resist corrosion best. Avoid lead, zinc, or paint since cockatoos will shred wood and ingest paint chips. Be sure any cage bar spacing is narrower than their head to prevent getting stuck. Line the bottom with sheets for easy cleaning.

Once your cockatoo is fully bonded and trained, you’ll ideally want to allow them ample “flock time” out of the cage engaged in supervised activities. But having their secure cage space remains important for safety and sleeping.

Cockatoo-Proofing Your Home

Before ever allowing your cockatoo freedom in your home (always fully supervised initially), carefully remove any hazards or temptations. This includes:

  • Hide all wiring, cables, device cords (electrocution risk!)
  • Secure toilet lids down
  • Remove plants (toxicity risk)
  • Block access behind appliances and furniture
  • Cover windows/mirrors with UV-blocking film
  • Remove small loose items that could be swallowed
  • Apply child-proof latches to doors and cabinets
  • Protect important documents
  • Cover furniture and wood trim with protective plastic

You simply must expect your inquisitive cockatoo to investigate EVERYTHING – better safe than sorry!

Finding an Avian Vet

Well before ever purchasing your cockatoo, extensively research avian vets in your region and choose one to establish care under right away. Having an avian vet you trust is crucial for properly caring for such an extremely long-lived, high-maintenance pet!

Feather Destructive Behavior Prevention

Given cockatoos extensive social needs, feather damaging behaviors like plucking and self-mutilation are very common when they feel bored, stressed, or neglected. So preventing the triggers leading to such harmful habits is key!

Strategies include:

  • Spending ample quality time socializing daily
  • Offering lots of toys for mental stimulation
  • Ensuring proper rest/sleep schedules
  • Creating “jobs” and training routines
  • Eliminating environmental stressors
  • Providing well-balanced nutrition
  • Working closely with your avian vet

Catching and addressing any potential signs of emerging feather or self-injurious problems is crucial before behaviors become ingrained. So know what to watch for!

Caring for Cockatoos

While cockatoos aren’t great pets for novices, those willing to thoroughly educate themselves on proper care techniques will be richly rewarded by sharing life with these remarkable birds! Here’s a quick checklist of key care areas:

Proper Diet

With such long lifespans, cockatoos require excellent nutrition to thrive and avoid obesity. Feed a high quality pelleted base diet with supplemental vegetables, healthy grains/legumes, limited fruits, and modest seeds/nuts. Change food and water twice daily and wash all dishes thoroughly.

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Consult reputable resources on safe, nutritious foods. Aviod chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, avocado, salty snacks.

Proper Grooming

All birds molt old feathers while growing new ones continuously. But cockatoos are especially prone to dust due to powder down.

To manage mess, groom your cockatoo daily:

  • Very lightly mist them to reduce airborne down
  • Gently wipe dust off surfaces near their cage
  • Vacuum regularly
  • Provide filtered air circulation

To encourage preening:

  • Offer various perches
  • Spritz with water
  • Provide bathing opportunities

Mental Stimulation

That brilliant cockatoo mind requires ongoing challenge and enrichment. Rotate lots of interactive toys to prevent boredom. Teach tricks. Share household activities. Offer foraging and bathing opportunities.

Puzzle toys allow them to exhibit natural behaviors. Just be sure to monitor use of destructible items so they don’t ingest pieces.

Physical Activity

Cockatoos are highly energetic and love to climb, swing, flap wings, and just burn off steam! Ensure their cage allows safe flying room.

Install playgrounds with ample perches, swings, ropes and shreddable wood pieces for exercise. Supervise time exploring household spaces for added adventure.

Getting in their daily exercise keeps moods bright and bodies healthy!

Social Interaction

By far a cockatoo’s greatest need lies in near-constant social flock time! They require several HOURS per day of direct 1-on-1 attention – not just being in the same general vicinity. Genuinely engaging in conversation, activities, training, affection.

Arrange schedules allowing for such extensive dedicated interaction to prevent behavior issues. Enrich their time both in AND out of the cage. Welcome them to participate in your routines – they love “helping”!

Bringing Home Your Cockatoo!

Once you’ve fully prepped your home and schedule to meet a cockatoo’s demanding requirements for care, attention, and safety measures, it’s time to find the perfect addition to your family!

Selecting Your Bird

Always acquire cockatoos from reputable, experienced breeders only – never pet stores. Breeders hand-raise properly socialized babies increasing chances for adjustment success. Meet babies once weaned around 3-4 months old.

Select youngsters appearing bright, active, and inquisitive with bright eyes, plumage, skin, and well-formed feet/beaks. Ensure parents were health screened. Establish vet care first.

The First Days

Allow your new family member to slowly acclimate to their new environment initially. Set up the cage ready in a quiet area of household activity. Outfit with familiar toys and perches.

Speak reassuringly and move calmly to build trust without overwhelming them. Sit reading quietly nearby allowing them to observe from the safely of their cage. Offer favorite snacks to form positive associations.

Gradually increase interaction under their terms – moving slowly and letting them come to you as ready. This patience pays off allowing time to bond correctly!

Ongoing Bonding

Interacting consistently and positively is key to forming an unbreakable lifelong bond! Engage frequently in conversation, training, play, and shared activities respecting when your pal seeks “down time”.

Shower with affection and laughter balancing with understanding when moods occasionally go “off”. THIS intensive relationship is precisely what makes cockatoos so profoundly fulfilling!

The Joys of Sharing Your Days with a Cockatoo

For bird enthusiasts able to fully commit to meeting cockatoos’ extensive needs for many decades to come, few creatures prove more spellbindingly charming and steadfastly devoted.

Cockatoos simply captivate with their huge personalities, ridiculous antics, decorative beauty, and genuine adoration for their beloved people. They demand extraordinarily high levels of time and attention … which they reward a hundred times over!

So for the RIGHT owner – one truly fascinated by parrots and willing to prioritize responsibly caring for such a privileged creature – cockatoos bring colors, laughter, and rich emotional bonds making everyday life vibrantly beautiful.

Their affection simply knows no bounds. There lies no better feathered companion for those seek a pet to share adventures with for life!

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