Parrots may grow interested in coffee due to its enticing smell or when they see you drinking a cup. Worryingly, just a small quantity of regular coffee can cause severe illness or even death.
Parrots shouldn’t drink coffee because it’s high in caffeine, which contains methylated xanthine. A parrot can experience hyperactivity, seizures, elevated heart rate, heart arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest.
Even decaffeinated coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free. Decaffeination strips away about 97% of the caffeine content, leaving around 3%. The exact amount of caffeine depends on the brand of coffee.
Quantifying how much coffee is safe for parrots is difficult because toxicity is size, age, and health dependent. It’s unlikely that a sip of coffee from an opportunistic parrot would kill it.
Do Parrots Like Coffee?
Some parrots like coffee, but it depends on their taste preferences. Birds may try anything once, even if they don’t enjoy the taste. Though, a small amount is all it takes for coffee to cause mild sickness.
Coffee has a strong and distinctive smell, which deters most parrots. As coffee differs from anything in a parrot’s natural diet, it’s unlikely to regard it as something it would want to consume.
Parrots that enjoy milk (even though they tolerate lactose poorly) are drawn to lattes and milky coffees because the creaminess of the milk lessens the coffee’s smell and flavor.
If a parrot is interested in coffee, never offer it a taste. Although not as addictive as nicotine, caffeine can lead to dependency. In reality, a bird won’t survive long enough to become addicted.
If a parrot is getting exercise, don’t drink caffeinated coffee in its presence. Under no circumstances should you leave unsupervised coffee in the same room as a free-roaming pet bird.
Is Coffee Bad for Parrots?
Caffeine contains methylated xanthine, which is a class of alkaloids. It stimulates the central nervous system and heart, causing them to malfunction.
While all parrots are vulnerable to the effects of caffeine, small, sick, and elderly birds are most vulnerable. If a parrot takes medication for a health condition, it’s particularly susceptible to harm.
Caffeine can even interfere with health supplements like echinacea. This common supplement affects how quickly the parrot’s body can break down caffeine, exacerbating the adverse side effects.
Coffee can cause the following health complaints in pet parrots:
Toxic events sometimes cause seizures, and caffeine is a common trigger. As the toxicity progresses, the parrot’s episodes become worse and more frequent.
When a parrot has a seizure, it’ll commence with a period of altered behavior.
Then, the parrot loses its basic 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 as they need to work harder to flush caffeine from the body, drawing on its fluids to do so.
As a result, 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 (including self-destruction), and stress.
Similarly, caffeine prevents parrots from sleeping properly, making them moody and irritable.
Harmful Added Ingredients
Coffee often has other added ingredients, including the following:
Parrots shouldn’t drink milk because they lack the enzyme (lactase) needed to digest lactose.
Milk is also fatty, leading to weight gain. According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, a high-fat diet is directly linked to obesity and a shorter lifespan.
High-calorie drinks such as milk should be restricted. They increase a parrot’s weight and offer little nutritional value, potentially leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Refined sugar is empty calories, causing parrots to gain weight. 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.
- Causes nervousness and anxiety.
- Diabetes mellitus.
Sweeteners are made with artificial ingredients, which can harm birds. 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 pet birds.
Can Parrots Drink Decaffeinated 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.
Even a small amount of caffeine can be harmful, especially for smaller parrot species, like budgies and parrotlets. Larger species, like macaws and cockatoos, are likelier to remain unaffected.
Also, 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 isn’t.
If you want a healthy alternative to coffee, caffeine-free teas, like ginger, chamomile, and rooibos, are preferred. Chamomile tea can even enable parrots to sleep more restfully at night.
My Bird Accidentally Drank Coffee – What Do I Do?
Upon noticing the parrot has consumed coffee, they must drink 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.
As there’s no health benefit in parrots drinking coffee, it’s safer to enjoy a morning cup of Joe away from pet birds. Piquing a parrot’s coffee curiosity may have life-threatening consequences.