Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
Never share coffee with a parrot, whether espresso, Americano, Macchiato, cappuccino, or Café au lait.
Coffee is high in caffeine, which is metabolized into theobromine and theophylline. This causes hyperactivity, seizures, elevated heart rate, heart arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest.
Under no circumstances should you leave unsupervised coffee in the same room as a free-roaming bird. However, it’s unlikely that a few accidental sips of coffee from your cup would kill a parrot.
Even if your parrot is interested in coffee, never give it a taste. Although not as addictive as cigarettes, caffeine kills pet birds. However, unlike smoke, the smell of coffee won’t make your parrot unwell.
Parrots can’t drink coffee, and nor should they eat coffee beans.
Why Coffee Is Bad for Parrots
All parrots are vulnerable to the effects of caffeine. However, small, sick, and elderly parrots are most susceptible. Birds that take medication for health conditions also face an elevated risk.
Caffeine can interfere with health supplements like echinacea. This supplement affects how quickly the body can break down caffeine, exacerbating the adverse side effects.
Even decaffeinated coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free. Decaffeination strips away about 97% of the caffeine content, leaving around 3%. The precise amount of caffeine depends on the brand of coffee.
Toxic events sometimes cause seizures, and caffeine is a known trigger. As the toxicity progresses, the episodes become worse and more frequent.
When a parrot has a seizure, it’ll commence with a period of altered behavior.
Then, it loses muscle function, becoming stiff with occasional spasms. Sometimes, the parrot loses its grip and falls to the bottom of the cage. This stage only lasts 5-20 seconds.
The final stage lasts hours and involves lethargy, exhaustion, disorientation, confusion, and restlessness.
As caffeine is a stimulant, it can cause irregular heart arrhythmias and cardiac arrest.
Caffeine raises the blood’s adrenaline levels, raising the parrot’s blood pressure (hypertension) and increasing the force and rate at which the heart must work.
Not all parrots display warning signs of heart problems, but these are common symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Abdominal distension.
- Intolerance to exercise.
- A blue tint around the eyes.
Parrots with heart problems must be taken to a vet for emergency treatment.
Depending on how much coffee a parrot consumes, it may become dehydrated.
The methylxanthines in caffeine are soon absorbed into the intestinal tract. Then, the liver metabolizes the alkaloids before passing them out of the body through its urates.
Because coffee is a mild diuretic, the kidneys are affected. They have to work harder to flush caffeine from the body, drawing on its fluids to do so.
Many parrots experience dehydration and require extra fluid to counter the effects. If parrots refuse to drink, fruits like watermelon can increase their fluid levels.
Parrots are active birds, deriving energy from their everyday diet. As mentioned, caffeine is a stimulant, increasing energy levels by blocking the molecules that tell parrots they feel tired.
As a result, some parrots become frenzied once the effects occur. This leads to behavioral problems like aggression, destruction, and stress. Caffeine prevents parrots from sleeping, making them moody.
Coffee often has other added ingredients, including:
Parrots shouldn’t drink milk because they lack the enzyme (lactase) needed to digest lactose.
Milk is also fatty, contributing to weight gain. According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, a high-fat diet is directly linked to obesity, diseases, and a much-reduced lifespan.
Refined sugar is empty calories, causing weight gain. If parrots enjoy the taste of sugar, they may reject pellets and other nutritious foods, leading to malnutrition.
Sugar impacts parrots in the following ways:
- Reduced immune function.
- More prone to infections.
- Alters the brain’s biochemistry.
- Leads to self-destructive behaviors, like feather plucking.
- It causes nervousness and anxiety.
- Diabetes mellitus.
Sweeteners are made with artificial ingredients, which can harm parrots. While they contain almost no calories, West Park Animal Hospital explains that sweeteners can cause:
- Stomach upsets.
Sweeteners (aspartame, xylitol, and sucralose) should never be given to parrots.
Decaf vs. Regular Coffee
According to the National Coffee Association, decaffeination leaves up to 3% of the original caffeine. A standard cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine, while a decaffeinated coffee contains just 2.5 mg.
You don’t want a parrot to develop a taste for coffee by allowing it to drink decaf because it won’t understand that one cup of coffee is safe and one is unsafe.
Caffeine-free teas, like chamomile and rooibos, are recommended as a healthy alternative.
Parrot Accidentally Drank Coffee
Upon noticing the parrot has consumed coffee, they need water to dilute the caffeine. Then, immediately take them to a vet for an assessment and emergency treatment.
There’s no specific medication for caffeine toxicity, but vets can flush the system with fluids. They may also induce vomiting to remove the caffeine from the gastrointestinal tract.
A parrot drinking coffee will enjoy no health benefits, so it’s safer to enjoy a morning cup of Joe alone or with family. Piquing a parrot’s coffee curiosity can have life-ending consequences.
Whether black or white, there is no best type of coffee for parrots.