Since the health, safety and comfort of animals during travel is paramount for pet parents, many turn to experts for guidance when they plan on taking a trip. Thus, customers shopping to prepare for travel with birds will rely on their trusted retailers to provide product recommendations and teach them about the steps they can take to ensure a safe, happy journey for all.
First and foremost, pet parents should focus on creating a contained space that’s as comfortable for their birds as possible. It’s important to recognize that not all birds share the same needs when traveling; there is no one-size-fits-all plan to prepare birds when setting out on a journey. Retailers and pet owners need to take the type and proportion of each animal into consideration.
Working with San Francisco single-store retailer The Animal Connection for 21 years, Joe Taylor, bird department manager, advises clients to choose a containment product appropriate for a bird’s size that can be secured in place with a restraint such as a seatbelt.
“Traveling with canaries and finches verses a budgie or a small-medium size bird versus a macaw or cockatoo, the biggest thing would be space that the bird is going to need to be in while it’s traveling,” explains Taylor. “Something along the size of a macaw or cockatoo is going to be a problem, no matter how you look at it. You’ll need something closer to a dog carrier, but modified so there is perching, water and food dishes.”
Depending on the type of travel—car, plane or train—birds will require different types of accommodation in a carrier. The specific mode of transportation will determine whether pet parents will need to secure a cage in a car, fit a carrier in limited space on a plane or carry a container on a train. Connor Thornberg, pet counselor at Safari Stan’s Pet Center, a two-door operation with locations in New Haven and Stamford, Conn., highlights that safety is the priority for transporting birds and a proper containment product is key.
“We have two different travel carriers,” says Thornberg. “One is a larger cage that looks like a suitcase, [which is] intended for airplane travel or trains. The other is a smaller cage—named The Excursion—with a strap that you [can] wear…”
At first glance, it might seem like the demand for cages would be low because of the pandemic’s impact on travel. However, according to Jennifer Kor of T.S. International, a Los Angeles-based wholesale operation, the demand for cages has risen despite the reduction in travel. She reports seeing an uptick in cage sales and that T.S. International has been selling out of most items for birds of all kinds.
“For traveling with birds, most of the items we carry are cages,” says Kor. “All kinds of cages are selling well right now. People are ordering like crazy.”
Once the right bird containment product is secured, the next step when traveling with birds is to check that they have everything they need to be as content as possible. Providing comfort for birds during travel doesn’t require a lot of products, but customers still have to make smart decisions.
Since birds need a constant source of water, retailers should advise customers to invest in a water feeder that will securely attach to a bird’s cage. Depending on the method of travel and length of trip, providing food might not be necessary. Taylor advises bypassing food altogether for brief car travel or trips that include multiple stops where the car will be parked, as those breaks provide an optimal time for feeding.
“There is a good possibility that, when trying to get the food and maintaining balance in a moving vehicle, they could end up losing balance,” says Taylor. “That is often when people will say they heard the bird screaming, they look back and the nail or wing was caught because he was in the process of trying to eat and he slipped.”
Water, however, is a different story.
“Always make sure there is water,” he emphasizes. “It’s something where they can lean in, take a drink and come off of it.”
In addition to food and water, it’s also recommended to have some form of entertainment for birds; keeping them occupied can help create a calm environment. Trends in bird-travel accessories have not changed drastically over the last 12 months, according to Kor; therefore, retailers should keep in mind that sticking with trusted basics are best.
“Right now, it’s mostly still the same, not much difference,” says Kor. “Most sales are for cages and supplies such as the feeders, toys for the birds to play with, feeders for the [seed] cake that they need to replace and the calcium they need every day that can be secured to the cage.”
As consumers shop for toy products meant to attach to bird cages, retailers should emphasize that, during playtime, safety comes first. It’s imperative that the chosen products will not move or swing within a cage. Taylor advises providing a toy that the bird is familiar with, if it’s a product that can be secured within or outside the container.
By creating a fun, engaging space for birds, pet parents can make sure they’ll want to remain in their containers, because taking them out during travel could prove disastrous if one flies away.
“A good way of giving them something to play with, without the possibility of them injuring themselves, is putting the toy on the outside of the cage,” recommends Taylor. “That way they can grab at it, play with it and pull at it, but it’s not going to swing and hit them in the head or break a wing. If for some reason there are any concerns—take [the toy] out.”
Within the travel space outside of a bird’s container, pet parents must strive to maintain a quiet environment that affords climate control. Ensuring that the temperature is consistent in the area surrounding the bird is crucial to comfort.
“Your goal is to keep them in warm places, give them enough food and enough water,” explains Kor.
While the weather outside might be cold during this time of year, and maintaining bird warmth is important, these animals are susceptible to overheating.
“Our sense of temperature can vary a lot when we are traveling,” says Taylor. “Birds can become overheated very quickly. They start breathing heavily and the circulatory system is running at a much higher rate.”
In addition to their sensitivity to temperature, witnessing the passing landscape outside of a moving car or train can easily bother them. Whether advising clients for longer trips or a short visit to the groomer, Taylor notes that birds are susceptible to motion sickness and can begin to suffer from symptoms after only a short travel time.
“When they are standing in a vehicle and it’s moving, they are seeing things move by them and they are not moving—it’s very confusing and they’ll throw up,” he explains.
To help prevent birds from motion sickness, Safari Stan’s Pet Center’s travel carriers have mesh screens over them, effectively darkening the interior while allowing birds some visibility. According to Thornberg, birds owners should aim to have a carrier that’s secure, safe and darkened.
“Have something that will be comfortable for them and keep them safe while they’re moving,” says Thornberg. “You don’t want it to be transparent in any way because that will stress out the bird quite a bit.”
Overall, pet parents should aim to establish a more-tranquil atmosphere outside of the carrier. As receptive, responsive animals, birds must feel comfortable staying in their cages, but they should also remain at ease regarding the environment around them.
“I would recommend keeping the volume of the radio down,” says Taylor. “A lot of times when birds get stressed and hear noise outside of the cage, they’ll call out to it. In a small vehicle, it becomes cacophonous.” PB