Whether you already own a parrot or are considering getting one as a pet, it’s always a good idea to check what makes a healthy diet. That includes finding out what foods they can and cannot eat. 

For humans, cheese and other dairy products make up a large portion of our diets, so can parrots eat cheese too? That’s what we will look at in this article to help you keep your parrot happy and healthy.

a parrot on a person's hand

The parrot diet – can they eat cheese?

Parrots should not eat cheese due to the dairy it contains. While it is possible to give them a small amount of cheese as a treat, this is not recommended as it is not part of their natural diet. Because they are not mammals, parrots are unable to process dairy in the same way that humans are. You can read more about the effects of this on parrots in our next section.

What to do if your parrot wants cheese

If you already have a parrot and it begs for cheese, then you should try to wean it off this as a snack with some alternatives that we outline at the end of the article. It may not be toxic for a parrot, but the lactose is the problem when it comes to cheese.

If you are intent on feeding your parrot cheese or want to wean down the level of lactose, try to opt for cheeses that have a low lactose content. Cheddar, one of the most popular cheese types we’re likely to have in the fridge, ranks somewhere in the middle for lactose content, while parmesan is the highest. Edam and muenster cheese are both much lower in lactose content, so is more appropriate as you try to steer your parrot away from a cheese addiction.

What are the side effects of cheese for parrots?

We’ve already mentioned that cheese is not good for parrots due to the lactose it contains, so what are some of the side effects of feeding your parrot cheese? Here are the most common effects, highlighting a few reasons why you shouldn’t be feeding a parrot cheese in anything other than minuscule amounts:

  • Diarrhoea – Excessive excretion and stomach ache result from eating too much cheese. Parrots don’t have the necessary enzymes to tackle lactose, meaning it’s hard for their bodies to process.
  • Thirst – The high salt levels in some cheeses can lead to polydipsia for parrots, making them overly thirsty and contributing to those stomach problems outlined above.
  • Obesity – As with all pets, treats can seem like a nice thing to give them, but it often leads to issues with weight and obesity. Cheese contains saturated fats that are not good for your parrot in the long run.

The same side effects apply to all dairy products given to parrots, including things like milk, butter, cream, yoghurt and ice cream.

Can my parrot eat cheese-flavoured foods?

The popular phrase “Polly wants a cracker” might be closely associated with parrots, but it certainly doesn’t mean you should be feeding them cheesy crackers. 

There are lots of cheese-flavoured snacks that we humans love to eat, and it’s understandable that your parrot might show an interest in them. However, it’s important that you don’t feed your parrot junk like cheese puffs or biscuits. Just as with cheese itself, it’s better to avoid this altogether to ensure your parrot lives a longer, happier life.

Alternatives to cheese for parrots

If parrots aren’t supposed to eat cheese because of the dairy content, then what makes a good snack for a parrot? This is especially important to know if you’re often eating cheese or cheesy snacks and you want to be able to feed your parrot without giving them something harmful.

Here are five alternative snacks that are much safer to let your parrot enjoy:

  1. Fresh fruit – With apples, bananas, berries, melon, strawberries and more to choose from, you can give your parrot essential vitamins and minerals with these healthy snacks.
  2. Fresh Vegetables – Offer your feathered friend some carrot, bell pepper, cucumber or broccoli to put some fibre in their diet with natural food.
  3. Nuts – Give them the healthy fats they need with another food they would naturally eat in the wild. Shelled nuts also get them to use their beaks more.
  4. Grains & seeds – Another food type parrots would naturally eat is grains and seeds, just be sure not to overfeed them due to the fat content.
  5. Bird treats – Ask your vet or a professional at a pet food store for parrot treats if you really want to give them something special that isn’t going to cause them any harm.

It should be pretty easy to either avoid cheese or wean your parrot away from it as a snack with the above. If they’re particularly stubborn, just remember that it’s for their own good due to their inability to digest any dairy naturally.

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