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My Pet World: Traveling with birds whether by car or plane

Dear Cathy: We have four birds — two cockatiels, and two domestic doves. We are snowbirds with a summer house in the north and a winter place in the south, so these little guys go everywhere with us. The birds travel very well with us in the car, but it’s a long two-day trip both coming and going. We are both licensed pilots and recently bought a small airplane to make the trip quicker. We are worried about the effect of the loud noise and the high altitudes on the birds. Do you have any words of wisdom? — Monica, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Monica: Your birds should easily adjust to plane travel because they are already so well-traveled via a car. The altitude will be fine. After all, they’re birds. But there are things you can do to help them adjust to being a passenger on your flight. Here’s my advice, along with some recommendations from my friends at the Parrot Conservation Alliance (PCA) who travel with birds all the time.

First, consider purchasing a travel cage. These cages are often sturdier and have additional locks on the doors and latches on trays to prevent accidental opening during travel. If traveling with a regular cage, secure all doors and trays and consider adding an additional locking mechanism on the door to thwart an especially industrious bird from escaping.

PCA advises removing anything from their cage that has sharp edges or hard parts. Bring along their favorite foods and toys to distract and entertain them. Secure the toys so they won’t be jostled around in the cage during the flight.

Once on board the plane, buckle the cage so it can’t slide around or go flying into the air if there is a sudden change in altitude. Withhold water until the flight is in progress or use ice cubes in the water dish, but only if you know they know what ice is and are okay with it.

While you can cover the cage to help them rest, not all birds like that, says PCA. You know best if your birds will be less stressed covered or less stressed being able to see what is going on. It’s good to bring a cover though for transporting them from the car to the plane and vice versa since airports can be windy places.

During the flight, play their favorite music or sing and talk to them to distract them and keep everything upbeat. Overall, I think your already well-traveled birds will enjoy taking a plane ride.

Dear Cathy: I was appalled by your stance on “rescue” and “adopt” being the same thing. I have been doing adoptions of ferrets for 31 years. The organization takes in ferrets and does adoptions. If anyone were to say they “rescued” the ferret they adopted from us, they would be flogged. There is a clear delineation between rescue, adoption, and purchase. Rescue means someone took the animal from someone giving it up or that the animal was taken from the streets. Adoption means that a person has gone to a facility or to an individual that has taken the animal in and goes through a process to see if they are an acceptable candidate to adopt. They pay a fee and off they go. Purchase means the person has gone either to a breeder or a store and picks out an animal, pays for the animal, and goes home with it. Stores don’t check who is purchasing the animal. Most breeders want to know something about you before selling you the animal. So, to expand the definition of any of these terms is wrong on your and anyone else’s part. — David, Oceanside, New York

Dear David: While I agree with your definitions, I am willing to accept your public flogging because I think you are missing out on the nuance of the word and the pride it gives to adopters who simply want to be a part of their pet’s story. I have worked in animal welfare for 30 years so I understand the effort required to rescue a pet from a hoarder or abusive situation. I am not trying to diminish that work. All your efforts though would be for naught if not for the person who steps up to adopt one of these pets. So, if someone says they “rescued” a pet instead of “adopted” a pet, it tells me that their mindset is on saving pets’ lives and that the animal welfare field has done a great job over this last decade connecting rescue work with adoptions.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state.

You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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