Skip to main content

How to get your parrot to love when you pet them

One of the best parts of owning an animal is petting them. But do animals like it when we stroke their fur or feathers? It depends on the pet. While some are best left alone (chameleons, for example) others live for the pats (such as labradors). Birds mostly fall somewhere in the middle, though they can thoroughly enjoy cuddles if doled out properly. Knowing your bird will take some practice, but here are a few guiding principles to help you in the process of bonding with your friend and learning how to pet birds.  

Owner pets his gray parrot on the head

Do birds like to be petted?

It really makes a difference if you get a hand-raised bird who will naturally gravitate toward humans, as wild birds or birds from more hands-off previous owners might not trust humans immediately. Regardless, many pet birds will take to petting straight away with no coaxing at all. If that’s your feathered friend, you’re in luck. Still, try not to worry if it takes time and effort. Some birds may take a while to warm up to you, and that’s OK. Start slowly with a few touches and work your way up to snuggles. 

Related Videos

How do you get a bird to trust you?

When you first bring home an animal, you have to work on building a relationship with your pet. Begin by spending time near him while he feels safe in his cage. Speak to your avian and hang out near him so he gets used to your presence, including the sights, sounds, and smells. Then take it up a level by hand-feeding him a favorite treat. Finally, try to touch the bird. You want him to see your hand clearly, so hold it up to his beak for first contact. Mix traditional physical touch like petting with other forms of play like fetch, or let him ride around on your shoulder. Eventually, you’ll build up to real trust.

Where can I not pet a bird?

There are a few places you should avoid on your bird where they won’t want to be touched. Many owners will caution you against petting your bird’s wings and tail since you don’t want to encourage mating hormones in your animal. There can be exceptions to this but start with the head, neck, and feet. 

Blue and gold parrot being petted by owner

How to pet birds

No matter what type of bird you have, stick with these tips for how to pet him to keep both of you happy.

Stroke gently

This is especially important when you first start, but you always want to be gentle and careful with pets and instruct others to do so as well. Remember, a parakeet weighs just over an ounce, so you need to approach with this size difference in mind.

Don’t ruffle the feathers the wrong way

It’s actually OK for you to rub your hand upwards or against the grain. For example, you can stroke birdie’s neck on his throat, toward the beak, and he’ll probably like it. But the key here is that you should never push back his feathers, which could damage or break them. Make sure you don’t pluck or turn his plumage, either. He needs all those feathers to fly.

Avoid the eyes

While we do suggest petting around the beak, neck, and head, you don’t want to get near his eyes. In addition to coming close to his vulnerable spots, you’ll also startle him much more easily when you get too close to this part of his face. 

Let your bird fly or walk away

Especially when you first embark on your bonding mission, you want to give your friend an exit. Don’t pet him to calm him down, or when he’s hungry or in any other bad mood because that can make him associate touching with those negative feelings. You want petting to be connected with positive emotions. Along those lines, let him stop the training and petting session at any time, and allow him to back away if he doesn’t want any pats at the moment.

Don’t rush it

It seems like petting should come completely naturally, but many birds will take a while to warm up to you and your family. The ultimate takeaway: start slow and with the least obtrusive handling possible, then move to full-on nuzzling. Spend time with your animal every day to maintain that connection. 

Editors' Recommendations

Is your fish tank for bettas too small? Here’s are the do’s and don’ts of betta care
Care tips to keep your new betta fish happy in the right size tank
A betta swims with plants in its tank

While the betta craze may have died down a little, you still see many of these beautiful blue fish in homes and in stores. It's true that they make great pets, even for a novice aquarist, since they don't require an overly extensive tank setup and often prefer to be alone. But just because they work well for a newbie doesn't mean you can dive in without any research. We're here with what you need to know about betta fish care and fish tanks for bettas. Here are the do's and don'ts for bettas.

What do I need to know about taking care of my betta fish?
Do research fish breeders
It all starts with the betta egg, and even the mom and dad. Just like with a puppy, you want to ensure your fishy has had a good life from hatching. There are tons of ethical breeders out there, but you can find some shady ones, too. In general, you want to avoid stores that have them crammed into tiny containers and cycled in and out every day. Do your research about local pet fish stores in your area or check out some of the more reputable ones online.

Read more
Wondering what to feed baby birds? Here are 5 things you should never offer them
Don't add these foods to your baby bird's meal plan
Hatchlings in a nest begs for food

Even though baby birds look like little dinosaurs, they aren't quite as tough. Since they're not actually velociraptors, you can't throw just anything down their gullets. Chicks have very specific food needs that will change as they age and also vary from species to species. While it can be tricky to manage your brand-new birdie's diet, we're here to tell you what to feed a baby bird. When choosing your avian's menu, avoid these five foods that may harm the little critter.

What can you feed a baby bird?
In the wild, newborn birds eat basically what their mamas and papas do, only all chewed up. You probably shouldn't go through the regurgitation process, but you'll replicate this type of feeding in your home without the ick factor. The tiniest of birds eat formula when they live away from their parents. In addition to being their favorite food (well, actually their only food), this will help you bond with your pet.

Read more
Can snakes swim? Here’s what you need to know about how these legless creatures move through water
Yes, all snakes can swim — here's how they do it
Water snake swimming through seaweed

Love snakes or hate them, they're fascinating creatures. Unlike other reptiles, snakes don't have arms or legs. Yet, even without appendages, these slitherers can move across many different types of terrain, often very quickly. They can make their way up mountainsides and climb to the tops of trees. Some even leap and glide from branch to branch!

But have you ever wondered, "Can snakes swim?" -- and which snakes can swim? Well, the answer, interestingly, is all of them.

Read more