Is a Cockatoo the Pet for You?

There are twenty-one species of cockatoos belonging to the family Cacatuidae of the order Psittaciformes. Although similar to parrots in many of their characteristics, they are not of the same family. True parrots belong to the family Psittacidae also of the order Psittaciformes. On average cockatoos are larger than parrots.

Many people are fascinated by videos showing cockatoos doing tricks and responding to musical sounds by dancing up and down. So they rush off to the pet shop to buy one because it is so clever and so cute. It certainly is true that cockatoos are highly intelligent and extremely affectionate birds that respond well to attention. In fact they love interacting with humans so much that, if left on their own for a time, they will raucously demand attention.

Anyone considering buying a cockatoo as a pet needs to realize that a cockatoo is more than a pet, it will be a constant companion – one that, with a lifespan of 70 years or more, may very well outlive its owner. They do, however, make wonderful companions for someone who has a lot of time to devote to them on a daily basis. Cockatoos need to be played with, cuddled, exercised and talked to for at least two hours a day. Given this attention they tend to form such a close bond with their owner that it is believed that the cockatoo views the owner as its mate. A lack of attention on the other hand, often results in a bird that is bored, lonely and frustrated causing it to self-mutilate and pluck out its feathers.

Another important point to consider is that cockatoos don’t come with a volume control and they can be extremely noisy. Sometimes the noise can be amusing such as when they imitate sounds around them, but very often they simply screech and scream, especially if they want attention. This makes them unsuitable for people living in flats and apartments – the neighbors are sure to object to the noise.

Cockatoos need very large cages and are actually better suited to an aviary unless they are going to be allowed out of the cage for a large part of the day. They are, however, very destructive and must be let out of a cage only under strict supervision as they will get into everything and possibly come to harm. They need to be provided with lots of toys, such as cardboard, knotted rope and bird-friendly leather strips. They are not seed-eaters and need a specialized diet with fresh fruit and vegetables every day.

All things considered, the best way to decide if you have what it takes to share your home with a cockatoo is to discuss the matter with a long-time cockatoo owner – please note the “long-time”. If you are not prepared to make the long-term commitment that owning a cockatoo requires, it may be best not to get one.