Friday, January 21, 2005

This cockatoo, named Kooyong, is 31 years old and belongs to Judith Catherine Henry of Honolulu. Cockatoos and other large birds can live for 50 years or more, which is one of the facts prospective pet owners must take into consideration before committing to a companion animal.

Birds, turtles and fish
need adoptive homes, too

Most people recognize the Hawaiian Humane Society for finding homes for thousands of dogs and cats, but fewer know that birds, turtles and fish can also find families through the humane society's adoption services. While not as common as dogs and cats, these fur-free pets still make great companions. Here are a few of their characteristics and a few details as to how much care they require.

Birds of a feather

Many bird species have life spans as long or longer than humans, making them wonderful friends for years to come. Small birds live from seven to 10 years, and many large birds can live 50 years or more.

When planning to adopt a bird, it is important to consider what type would best fit with your family. Consult a veterinarian for advice on the different personalities and needs of various bird species. Talk with other bird owners as well. Learning from the experience of others can be a valuable asset in determining whether a colorful cockatoo, majestic macaw, tiny finch or lovebird will fit in with your flock or just end up ruffling your feathers.

Prospective bird owners should also evaluate the amount of time they have to devote to their feathered friends, as well as the personality characteristics native to the different kinds of birds. As highly sociable creatures, many bird owners feel they need more attention than dogs.

Birds need exercise to stay healthy. Because many will spend the majority of their day inside a cage, the cage must be large enough to maximize activity. For small, active birds like finches, this is very important. When birds are outside of their cages, owners should keep a watchful eye on them as they might become frightened by other members of the family, including children and other pets.

It is important to keep the cage at a moderate temperature and away from areas exposed to heat, intense sun or cold drafts. Sudden changes in temperature can cause a healthy bird to get sick. Keep the cage away from direct sunlight but close enough to a window to see outside.

Another consideration is a bird's diet, which is specific to its breed. Some birds need grit, seed, pellets, cuttlebones and other supplements to keep them healthy. Get a book for your bird breed and talk with your veterinarian.

Bird owners must be committed individuals willing to provide lifelong care. These wonderful pets deliver companionship to anyone who understands that feathered friends last forever.

Slow and steady turtles

People are intrigued by these quiet and gentle reptiles. For those restricted to quieter housemates but still looking for a lifelong friend, turtles could be the perfect answer. Box turtles can live 30 to 40 years, with some living much longer.

Turtles require a larger living area than birds, so potential pet owners should have a large enclosure or aquarium. Twenty-gallon tanks can be used, but larger tanks are ideal. The bottom of the tank should be lined with wood chips and peat moss or a dirt and sand mixture to prevent skin cracking. Many turtles prefer to have a shelter in which they can hide, such as a box or loose leaves.

Box turtles are omnivorous and need a well-balanced diet consisting half of animal or high-protein foods and half of plant foods. In addition to their food pellets, they should be given a wide variety of high-protein foods, such as earthworms, crickets and grasshoppers. Fruits and vegetables should make up their plant intake, with the bulk of it consisting of dark, leafy greens and other vegetables. Turtles need continuous sources of vitamin A, which is found in liver and dark orange or yellow vegetables. To keep a turtle healthy, a diverse diet is suggested.

Because turtles are reptiles and cannot produce their own heat, the ideal temperature should be kept between 60 degrees at night and 80 degrees during the day. A large pool of shallow water should be available to them because turtles are aquatic by nature.

Something's fishy

While turtles can make entertaining buddies, the aquatic ballet of fish swimming in an aquarium provides a serene, mesmerizing form of entertainment.

Fish are occasionally available for adoption at the humane society. Before creating your aquarium, select your favorite types of fish and research their compatibility. Some species might be too aggressive to happily live with others. The aquarium tank should be large enough to accommodate one inch of fish per gallon of water.

When the appropriate fish and tank size are selected, set up the tank a week in advance to stabilize the water. Instead of bringing all your fish home at once, introduce them slowly to their new home -- one or two fish every week. Immerse the fish travel bags into the aquarium to equalize the water temperatures.

Most fish eat a staple of flakes or pellets available in most pet stores. Fish should be fed once or twice a day in an amount that they can consume in three minutes. Got leftovers? Any excess should be scooped out of the aquarium to avoid murky water.

In addition to tank decor, your aquarium will need an air pump and filter. Filters help break down the nitrites and ammonia, and should be cleaned regularly. The air pump helps keep the water clean by circulating the water so a film will not form on the top of the water. That film will inhibit the carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange and jeopardize fish health.

Like people, pets come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you would enjoy the lifelong companionship of a bird, the antics of a turtle or the vibrant beauty of an aquarium, if you are in need of a quick source of information, visit www.hawaiianhumane.org.

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month.
The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to
preventing cruelty to animals. They are at 2700 Waialae Ave.
Call 946-2187.

Hawaiian Humane Society

E-mail to Features Desk


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