All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Napping Cockatiel a concern to Senior Citizen Owner

Dear Marie,
I adopted an adult cockatiel from the Irvine Animal Care Center in the summer of 2006.  I am a senior citizen (80 years old) and live alone, so he is my constant companion.  Recently, he started taking more naps than usual and I am concerned.  I cover him up with a sheet at night from the time I go to bed until I wake up in the morning, so I think he is getting plenty of rest. He has always been very energetic so his napping worries me.  How long do cockatiels live?  Is this a bad sign?  What should I do?

Dear Claire,
It sounds like you have a wonderful little friend and I can certainly understand your concern.  Cockatiels live anywhere from 15-25 years and you have had him for almost 8 years.  You’ll need to check your original adoption papers to see if the shelter knew his exact age when you adopted him, but don’t fret over any of these numbers.  I’m sure he still has a long life ahead to share with you.

Aside from the napping, is your cockatiel showing any other unusual behavior or symptoms?  For example, is he eating and drinking normally?  Are his feathers puffed out?  Has he stopped vocalizing? Is he cranky? If you see a combination of changes, then you should get your bird to an avian veterinarian as soon as possible.

Birds can mask poor health to such a degree, that most of their caregivers never know they are ill until it is too late.  If your little guy hasn’t been in to see the vet in over a year, you should take him in for a checkup.

I know that a trip to the veterinarian can be very expensive, and if you are on a fixed income, you may feel as though you can’t afford a veterinary bill.  But there are financial assistance programs available that can help you if needed.  For more information on this topic, please visit the following websites:

If napping is the only symptom your bird is exhibiting, then you probably have nothing to worry about.  As the days get longer, cockatiels tend to take afternoon naps.  Perhaps you just never noticed in the past or were out of the house more often.  Most people who live with cockatiels can attest to this seasonal behavior.

Birds need 10-12 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep time which might be more than what he gets currently if you cover him up when you go to bed and wake him up when you get up.  He needs to be in the dark AND in a place where he feels safe and able to snooze.  If his cage is near a window, even if you cover it with a sheet, the headlights of passing cars will penetrate and wake him up.  The less he sleeps at night, the more he will nap in the day.  Try putting his cage in a corner of the room far from the window and use a denser, darker blanket to cover him.

Another point to consider is that during a molt (period of feather loss and growth), all birds get a little sleepy.  This is completely normal.  If you’ve noticed some feathers dropping in conjunction with napping, that may be the key to this mystery.  To ensure he has all the nutrients he needs during molting season, include plenty of healthy foods in his daily meals.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential, along with a high quality pellet mix designed for cockatiels.  Avoid giving him just “seeds” even if they are labeled “cockatiel diet.”  Seeds do not provide the vitamins and minerals that a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables do.  It’s OK to give him a few seeds, but think of them more as “junk food” rather than a true meal.

It’s good to pay attention to changes in a pet’s behavior.  Get that vet check, but try not to be too anxious about the napping.  I suspect everything is A-OK and your little friend will be around for many more years.

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