Cheese isn’t a food that’s associated with parrots, but some love it as a snack. If you’re looking for healthy foods to incorporate into your pet’s diet, you might be wondering, “is feeding parrots cheese healthy?”
Parrots can’t digest lactose that’s found in cheese easily. It’s also high in saturated fat and can harbor harmful bacteria from the production process. However, cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin K, and other essential minerals.
Cheese isn’t found in the wild where parrots live. Therefore, it’s not a natural part of their diet, and most bird owners prefer to avoid feeding it to their parrots altogether.
Can Parrots Eat Cheese?
While cheese isn’t considered a toxic parrot food, it’s not particularly healthy. All dairy products, such as milk, butter, and cream, are calorific and high in fat. As a result, they can cause your parrot to gain weight.
Do Parrots Like Cheese?
Some parrots love the creamy, mild taste of cheese. Parrots are notorious for being greedy, and they love junk food. As a result, if they can smell cheese, they sometimes screech and squawk to get their owners’ attention.
However, whether parrots enjoy cheese is down to their preference. If cheese isn’t something they’re familiar with, they may avoid it altogether. Some parrots have a sweeter tooth and prefer sugarcane.
Is Cheese Bad For Parrots?
Cheese isn’t one of the best snacks to feed parrots. Dairy products aren’t suitable for most birds and can do more harm than good. Cheese is unhealthy for parrots for the following reasons:
Cheese contains high amounts of fat and sodium. As already mentioned, too much fat in the diet leads to excessive 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
Too much saturated fat can also coat a parrot’s organs, preventing them from functioning properly and leading to an early death. Parrots get healthy fats from pellets, seeds, and nuts.
Parrots are a lactose-intolerant species. 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 after eating cheese. They’re also left vulnerable to secondary bacterial and fungal infections. In serious cases, parrots die after eating cheese, especially if they’re allergic.
If your parrot does consume cheese, it may suffer from bouts of diarrhea and stomach pains. They may also vomit. Removing cheese from the diet normally cures the problem.
Most cheeses go through a fermentation process, during which they sometimes pick up sickness-causing bacteria. While it’s not too common, if your parrot consumes cheese that harbors bacteria, it can become unwell.
A tell-tale sign is that the bird produces watery, foul-smelling stools and becomes lethargic.
Similarly, additives and preservatives are added to some cheese varieties to keep them on grocery store shelves for longer. Processed sliced cheese, in particular, has a long shelf-life, and the additives and preservatives they’re made with aren’t healthy for parrots.
Always check the ingredients of the cheese you buy and look out for any harmful or unnatural components.
Is Cheese Good For Parrots?
While there are some health downsides to feeding parrots cheese, it’s not all bad. Cheese contains essential nutrients parrots need, including the following:
Calcium is an essential parrot nutrient, 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 enough calcium, parrots develop:
- Poor eggshell formation
- Feather plucking
- Heart disorders
- High cholesterol
- Muscular pain and contractions
- Lack of co-ordination
Parrots are omnivores, so they require protein in their diet to remain healthy. Seeds provide some of the protein your bird needs, but all-seed diets are high in fat and unhealthy. A healthy, varied diet is the best way to incorporate protein into your parrot’s diet. Parrots need protein for:
- Good immune system health
- Strong cardiovascular health
- Production of healthy blood cells
- Sharp cognitive function
- Feeling fuller for longer
Not all proteins are created equal, so you shouldn’t rely exclusively on cheese to provide your parrot with all its protein requirements.
Animal protein, including fish, is considered to be the healthiest kind because it provides all the amino acids your bird needs.
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 suffer from 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
As a result, cheese helps boost vitamin A levels when parrots aren’t getting it from other food sources in their diet.
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 suffers from blood loss, it can become anemic as a result of losing too much blood.
Many birds are deficient in B12 because their owners put them on a seed-only diet, which contains very low levels of B12. Therefore, providing cheese is an easy way to get the vitamin into the 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 helps with feathering, molting, and healthy cartilage and bone development.
Phosphorous is necessary for bone and egg formation. It also keeps the metabolism working correctly.
Riboflavin is just as crucial as other minerals because it supports energy production and the formation of healthy red blood cells.
Can Parrots Eat Mac And Cheese?
Mac and cheese is exceptionally high in fat. Processed varieties, like ready meals or packet mixes, are usually laden with sugar to create a sweeter taste. Refined sugar is not suitable for parrots, as it causes weight gain and can be addictive, especially if a parrot has a preference for sweeter foods.
However, macaroni pasta isn’t too bad for parrots. It’s a good source of carbohydrates and keeps them feeling full.
If you’re making mac and cheese, put by some plain, cooked macaroni pasta for your parrot as a tasty snack. Avoid covering it with the cheese sauce so that it stays healthy.
Can Parrots Eat Cheese Puffs?
Cheese puffs are unsuitable for parrots. They lack healthy nutrients and are packed with sugar, additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors that can make parrots unwell.
Parrots should avoid all junk food. They love unhealthy foods and may even reject their everyday diet in favor of unhealthy cheese puffs.
A better snack is unflavored popcorn. Similarly, parrots love fruits and vegetables, so stick to these to keep your bird in good health.
Can Parrots Eat Cheez-Its?
Cheez-Its have high levels of sodium, which are unhealthy in large quantities. According to Hagen Avicultural Research Institute, too much sodium causes:
- Kidney failure
- Abnormal accumulation of body fluids
- Neurological disorders
- Heart failure
Poor growth has also been seen in baby parrots that consume too much sodium. In large enough quantities, too much sodium is toxic.
Parrots do need small levels of salt to survive, but Cheez-Its provide too much, even as an occasional snack.
In the wild, parrots lick clay to ingest the salts they need. Salt also comes from healthy sources, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and pellets.
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’s often 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 always worth the risk.
Can Parrots Eat Swiss Cheese?
Swiss cheese has a rubbery texture, so it’s not easy for parrots to eat. However, it’s 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 – not all parrots will enjoy the unfamiliar texture.
Can Parrots Eat Mozzarella Cheese?
Mozzarella is one of the most dangerous cheeses for parrots and requires surgical removal more often than all other types of cheese. Because of its high gum content, it becomes obstructed in the intestinal tract and causes death within 24-48 hours.
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 easily in a parrot’s digestive system. As a result, surgery is sometimes required to remove it.
Some string cheese varieties are also made with colorings and flavorings to give them a bright orange appearance. You must study the ingredients list to ensure your chosen snack is free from harmful additives.
However, low-fat string cheeses are available that are a healthy option for parrots, 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 your bird has consumed it.
Can Parrots Eat Cheddar Cheese?
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.
That being said, cheddar cheese is one of the mildest forms of cheese, so your parrot may enjoy the taste better than cheese with more potent flavors.
If you are planning on feeding cheddar cheese, grate it so that it’s easy to eat and only provide small amounts at a time.
While cheese contains many nutrients and vitamins that are essential to a parrot’s health, the fact that they can’t digest it properly is a warning sign that it’s not very good for your parrot. As a result, it’s best to avoid it altogether or feed it sparingly.