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Can Parrots Eat Cheese? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Guide

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

cheese on cutting board

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Parrots can eat a pretty varied diet, and many people find themselves sharing their parrot-friendly foods with their feathered friends. One food you may be wondering about, though, is cheese. It’s a very common food in many dishes, as well as being eaten as a snack on its own. Although cheese is not toxic to parrots, it’s not good for them and it isn’t generally recommended to give them cheese.

bird divider

Why Shouldn’t Parrots Eat Cheese?

Parrots, like all birds, are unable to properly digest lactose. This means that most individuals are lactose-intolerant to all dairy products, including cheeses. As a non-toxic food for parrots, a bite of cheese isn’t going to poison your parrot, but it doesn’t provide them with good nutrition and risks unpleasant side effects.

When a parrot eats too much dairy of any kind, they are likely to experience similar problems to a lactose-intolerant human. Diarrhea, and abdominal pain are common, even for birds that eat a small amount of cheese. Some owners report their birds seem to have a reduction in these unpleasant side effects if routinely given cheese over time, but they will never gain the ability to properly digest cheese. This means that just because it might not give them diarrhea, it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.

cheddar cheese on cutting board
Image Credit: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

What Should I Do if My Parrot Eats Cheese?

A small bite or two of cheese is unlikely to cause notable negative effects for your parrot. Some parrots enjoy cheese on other items, like cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese. Of course, these highly processed foods are also not ideal items for parrots to eat.

Since cheese is non-toxic, you don’t have to worry about their long-term health if they get a little bit of cheese. The negative impacts are going to occur shortly after the consumption of the cheese. If your parrot eats cheese and begins to experience negative side effects that seem extreme or aren’t stopping after a day, you may need to contact your avian veterinarian for guidance.

What Are Better High-Protein Treats for Parrots?

Some people give their parrots cheese because they believe it’s a good food for providing protein to their birds. There are many foods that are far healthier and safer for parrots than cheese, though.

Parrots love many types of nuts and legumes, both of which are foods that are excellent sources of protein. Nuts are usually a good source of healthy fats, while legumes are high in fiber. Offering sprouted legumes, which are seeds that have barely begun to turn into a plant, provides even more nutrition than the whole food on its own.

Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are suitable nuts to offer most parrots in moderation. Peanuts, although technically legumes, are also a great option. Other healthy and tasty legumes include chickpeas, mung beans, and peas.

Legumes and nuts aside, other high-protein, healthy treats for parrots include plain scrambled or boiled eggs, and grains, like quinoa, buckwheat, oats, and barley.

However, it is also important not to overfeed protein to your parrot as this can lead to health concerns. The specific nutritional plan for your parrot will depend on their species, age and health status. As a general guideline about 75% of their diet should be commercial pellets, 15-20% vegetables and 5-10% nuts and other protein sources. They can also have fruit as an occasional treat, making up no more than around 5% of their overall diet. Speak to your avian vet for specific dietary advice relating to your pet.

Parrots eat rice on hand
Image Credit: nontarith songrerk, Shutterstock

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In Conclusion

Cheese seems to be a relatively common treat for many people to give to their parrots, but this food is not suitable for parrots. Parrots lack the ability to properly digest dairy, which means they are not drawing all of the nutrients from the cheese they eat and are likely to experience negative side effects from eating it. There are lots of great treats available to give to parrots thanks to their highly varied diet, but cheese isn’t one of them.

Featured Image Credit: Sunny Forest, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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