Some parrots are drawn to the creamy taste of cheese. If a parrot can smell cheese, it might screech and squawk to let you know that’s it’s feeling hungry. You might be wondering, is feeding parrots cheese healthy?
Parrots aren’t mammals, so they lack the enzyme to process lactose. That said, most parrots can eat cheese in moderation. It’s a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin K, and other minerals. Cheese is high in saturated fat and calories, so over-consumption could lead to weight gain and obesity.
Cheese isn’t a natural part of a parrot’s diet, and most owners avoid feeding parrots cheese altogether. While cheese isn’t toxic parrot food, it’s not always processed well by birds’ digestive systems, leading to diarrhea.
Are Parrots Allowed Cheese?
Not all types of cheese are the same, and all parrots respond differently to cheese consumption. If your parrot gets diarrhea (excessively watery feces), you should feed your parrot less cheese or no cheese at all. Some cheeses are healthier for parrots than others, such as those that are lactose-free, reduced fat, and low in salt (sodium).
Cheese contains high amounts of saturated fat that raises LDL cholesterol levels. As mentioned, too much fat in the diet leads to weight gain. MSD Veterinary Manual describes how a high-fat diet is directly linked to obesity in parrots. While a small amount of healthy fat in a parrot’s diet is essential, too much can lead to:
- Fatty liver disease
- Joint pain
- Leg and foot injuries
- Digestive problems
Saturated fat can coat a parrot’s organs, preventing them from functioning properly and leading to premature death.
Parrots are lactose-intolerant. They hatch from an egg and are fed regurgitated food from their mothers. Because parrots aren’t nursing animals, they don’t produce lactase, which is the enzyme responsible for digesting the lactose contained in cheese and other dairy products.
As a result, parrots can develop an allergic reaction or obstructive disease due to eating cheese. They’re also left vulnerable to secondary bacterial and fungal infections.
If your parrot does consume cheese, it may experience bouts of diarrhea, stomach upsets, and vomiting. If your parrot is adversely affected, removing cheese from your parrot’s diet usually resolves the problem.
While parrots will gladly eat salty foods due to the added flavor, it’s harmful to do so. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), resulting in heart failure, strokes, kidney problems, and fluid retention.
Most cheeses go through a fermentation process, during which they sometimes pick up bacteria. While it’s uncommon, if your parrot consumes cheese that harbors bacteria, it can become unwell. Obvious signs are where your parrot produces watery, foul-smelling stools and becomes very lethargic.
Additives And Preservatives
Additives and preservatives are included in some cheese varieties to keep them on the shelves for longer. Processed sliced cheese has a long shelf-life, and the additives and preservatives they’re made with are unhealthy for parrots.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for parrots, but many birds don’t get enough of it.
African grey parrots and blue-fronted parrots need more calcium in their diets because they’re larger birds. Egg-laying birds also require more calcium to ensure the eggshells are strong and healthy.
Calcium is responsible for strong, healthy bones. It’s also necessary for muscle movement and nerve transmission. Without sufficient calcium, parrots can develop:
- Poor eggshell formation
- Feather plucking
- Heart disorders
- High cholesterol
- Muscular pain and contractions
- Lack of co-ordination
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, allowing for the growth and repair of cells and tissues. There are two types of proteins: complete and incomplete. Cheese is a complete protein, containing all 20 different amino acids.
The table below has a breakdown of the protein content of popular cheeses:
|Type of Cheese||Protein (Per 100 Grams)|
|Cottage cheese||15.4 grams|
|Cream cheese||8.2 grams|
|Swiss cheese||28.4 grams|
Vitamin A is one of the most common parrot deficiencies. Vitamin A is needed for bone growth and the healthy secretion of secretory glands.
Niles Animal Hospital explains that parrots may experience more severe respiratory and sinus infections, scaly, flaky feet, and thickening of the skin without enough vitamin A in their bodies. Signs of a vitamin A deficiently include:
- White plaques on the roof of the mouth
- Excessive oral mucus
- Watery eyes
- Abscesses and legions in the oral cavity
- Fading feather and skin coloration
- Failure of young birds to gain weight
- Low hatchability rates
- High hatching mortality
Cheese consumption increases vitamin A levels when parrots aren’t getting it from other dietary sources.
Vitamin B12 is essential for a parrot’s brain and nerve function. It’s also necessary for red cell maturation. If a parrot that’s deficient in B12 experiences blood loss, it can become anemic as a result of losing too much blood.
Many parrots are deficient in B12 because their owners put them on a seed-only diet, which contains very low levels of B12. Therefore, providing a small amount of cheese is an easy way to add vitamin B12 to your parrot’s diet.
Parrots need vitamin K to preserve bone health and eggshell quality. Without it, hatching mortality is increased.
Vitamin K also promotes the blood clotting process. A lack of vitamin K causes excessive bleeding that won’t stop, even when the cut, scratch, or injury is only small.
Parrots are also likely to experience internal hemorrhages if they’ve been deficient in vitamin K for a long time.
Cheese contains good amounts of zinc, phosphorous, and riboflavin. Zinc helps to produce insulin and allows vitamin A to function properly. It also assists with feathering, molting, and cartilage, and bone development.
Phosphorous is necessary for bone and egg formation. It also keeps the metabolism working optimally.
Riboflavin supports energy production and the formation of healthy red blood cells.
Can Parrots Eat Cottage Cheese?
Cottage cheese (and all other white cheeses) causes proventriculitis, along with secondary bacterial and fungal infections. Proventriculitis is responsible for causing severe nervous disorders and digestive dysfunction after destroying the nerve fibers. It’s a painful condition that can be fatal.
However, one upside is that cottage cheese contains no lactose, so it’s easier for parrots to digest. While small amounts are probably OK for parrots to eat, it’s not worth the risk.
Can Parrots Eat Swiss Cheese?
Swiss cheese is lower in fat and sodium than other cheeses but high in vitamin A and calcium. As a result, it’s one of the healthier cheeses to feed a parrot. Whether or not parrots enjoy the taste comes down to preference.
Can Parrots Eat Mozzarella Cheese?
Mozzarella requires surgical removal more often than all other types of cheese. Because of its high gum content, it becomes obstructed in the intestinal tract, causing death within 24-48 hours if left unresolved. Even small, bite-sized pieces can be a problem because of the cheese’s stringiness, which often expands in the gut.
Can Parrots Eat String Cheese?
String cheese is also another snack to avoid. Like mozzarella cheese, string cheese gets stuck in the parrot’s digestive system. As a result, surgery is sometimes required to remove it.
Some string cheese varieties are made with colorings and flavorings to give them a bright orange appearance. You must scrutinize the ingredients list to ensure that it’s free from harmful additives.
However, low-fat string cheeses are available, providing high levels of vitamin C, protein, and calcium. Cutting the string cheese up into small pieces is the best way to ensure it doesn’t cause problems after consumption.
Can Parrots Eat Cheddar Cheese?
Cheddar cheese is one of the mildest forms of cheese, so your parrot may prefer the taste. Cheddar cheese is high in lactose, so it’s not easy for parrots to digest. It’s also high in saturated fat, which is unhealthy and fattening.
Cheese contains many nutrients and vitamins that are essential to a parrot’s health. However, the fact that parrots can’t always digest it properly due to the lactose content is a warning sign that consumption should be limited.