Poster presented by Pauleen Bennett and Scott O’Hara, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia – ISAZ 2013
Research Examining relationships between humans and companion animals has focused on dogs and cats. However, many other species are kept as companions, including parrots. Parrots lack many of the “cute” and “cuddly” features that are believed to have promoted pet ownership throughout humans’ evolutionary history. They are, however, described on numerous internet sites as being wonderful companions.
In this project, we examined parrot owners’ perceptions of parrots and compared these with the perceptions of other companion animal species. We also examined whether parrot owners are psychologically attached to their pets. Over 1,000 adult participants (86% female) completed on online survey that was distributed internationally. We modified the Comfort from Companion Animals Scale to assess perceptions of parrots, dogs, doves, and goldfish and asked participants to complete the Lexingon Attachment to Pets scale in relation to various companion animal species. Parrot owners perceived parrots to have excellent companionship qualities, equal to or better than dogs. Non-parrot owners, in contrast, perceived parrots to have better companionship qualities than goldfish, but no where near the standard they perceived dogs to offer.
Participants who owned parrots reported being more enthusiastic about initially acquiring their pet, they spent more time planning and preparing for its arrival than owners of other species, and they were just as strongly attached to their birds as were owners of other species. People who owned multiple pets tended to be more strongly attached to their parrots than to other animals, although the effect size was fairly small.
Attachement to a pet parrot was not correlated with various psychological outcomes, including loneliness, perceived stress and general wellbeing. The results indicate that perceptions of animal companions may vary with experience, and that parrots may, for some people, provide a level of companionship equivalent to that provided by more popular pets.