Thoughts on Stress & Feather Snipping

Posted by Raz on Aug 21st, 2009
2009
Aug 21
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I just got back from a 6 day trip, and when Carly was younger she was so unfazed by me leaving that I seriously wondered if it mattered at all that I was gone.  But since she started seasonal feather snipping at 3 years old she has also been snipping when under stress.   Her seasonal snipping was reduced to almost nothing with the help of lots and lots of foraging (for most all her food) as well as lupron shots every 4-6 weeks during the spring.  Since then her feathers have been growing back in nicely, with just a few exceptions, all of which are stress-related: me leaving town for a week (twice), and the death of another pet in the household.

This is her at her worst, after I was away for a week at the IAATE meeting in February; she stayed at Tex’s house with a pet sitter and did a lot of feather damage, both snipping and plucking.

Carly, 7 March 2009

Carly, 7 March 2009

The next snipping event occurred in mid-April, after she had stopped for about 6 weeks. It lasted 36 hours, starting the evening my vet came to the house to put my cat to sleep (after battle with lymphoma). This was such a short duration and intense bout of snipping it’s hard to see it as coincidental.

When Grace and Roelant visited at the beginning of June, many feathers had molted out and were starting to grow back in. That continued through July and into August.

Carly, 10 June 2009

Carly, 10 June 2009

She was a velcro bird when I was packing for my last trip, and for the first time gave me an enthusiastic greeting when I arrived home (instead of the cold shoulder). The snipping is not as bad as before on the belly, but she did crunch her upper wing feathers quite a lot.

Carly, 21 August 2009

Carly, 21 August 2009

During both trips she was with Piper, with lots and lots of foraging material. The latest trip she stayed at home, with familiar people taking care of her, and her snipping started the third day, immediately upon hearing me talk to her over speaker phone. (Note to self…. ) She had already been behaving oddly, including hanging upside down rubbing her back on the cage, even with the door open; something she’s never done in front of me.

Since I’ve been home she hasn’t touched a single feather except for normal preening, and is carefully de-sheathing some newly grown feathers.

It was nice back when she didn’t notice I was gone! I’m not sure what can be done to make these trips less stressful. Perhaps a few short overnighters to break the routine that every time I leave it’s for a week. But then when it gets to be day 3, day 4 on a longer trip…? I wonder if it’s possible to train an alternate behavior for stress relief.

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