I am the owner slave of a cat going on seven years now. I can’t imagine my life without her. She’s my friend, and my therapist. She’s my companion. She’s a super considerate housemate, and on occasion she’s my conscience. She knows when I need a nag, or just a cuddle. And she sure as heck knows when she’s being taken for granted! How truly amazing is the bond that develop between humans and animals!
When I visited my oldest sister about a week ago, I paid closer attention to her pets than I did in a long time. I do know that she owned dogs and cats, and a parrot, before she moved here. The parrot came with her, and instead of the dogs and cats – which she’s not allowed to keep in her flat – she now has three fish tanks in her home. I never really thought about anyone in our family having fishes as pets, probably because it wasn’t the type of animal we grew up around. They suite her, though. They probably suite Madame as well.
Ahh, Madame! Now there’s a character for you! Have you ever met an African Grey parrot, particularly a Congo Grey? The first one I met was when I was a little girl. If I remember correctly it was a family member’s and it had to stay with us a while. It was said that the bird could speak, but I never heard it say anything during the time it was under our roof. I didn’t have a lot of contact with it at the time. Frankly, I was a little afraid of the bird, and certainly not used to anything larger than the cockatiels my mom has a fondness of.
Close to the end of my visit last week, I asked my sis for permission to try my photographic skills on her pets. Of course I did! She didn’t mind, so I scrambled for my camera before she changed her mind. I took a few photos of the fishes, hoping against hope that I’d get it right. Then we relaxed with a last mug of tea, at which time Madame came to join us. So, I couldn’t not take photos of her, right?! At one stage she lifted one of her claws in the air, the fingers folded in, turning it slowly from side to side. How curious. Sis told me that the bird was waving at me. Oh, come on! But I snapped away nonetheless.
At home I reviewed the photos, which hadn’t turned out as I’d hoped, and decided to ask for another chance to photograph my sis’s pets, this time in daylight. Again Sis was very gracious in making her flat and her pets available. It’s very tricky to take pictures of fishes in a tank, especially if the lighting isn’t right, but I tried anyway. The whole thing made Madame curious; she probably wondered what I found so fascinating about creatures that spent their time in water. When I finally decided to give up the ‘underwater’ photography – at least temporarily – I focused my attention on the bird. Och, she’s so territorial – wouldn’t even let me get close enough to open the gate! I had to ask Sis to open up the cage and let Madame out.
The next half an hour or so was a lot of fun – more than I thought it would be! Once Madame knew she had all the attention she really got into goofing around and modeling. I was amazed by the interaction between her and my sis! It’s so obvious that they have a close bond. Some more photos of Madame here.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I left and decided to ask Sis if she would tell me more about Madame so that I can post something about her. So here is a little background on Madame, the Congo Grey Parrot.
My sister adopted Madame as a baby chick, just out of the nest, and reared her by hand. She has lived 13 of the up to 87 year life span of her species. The Greys are great mimickers and Madame is no exception. She said her first words when she was 6 months old and currently knows about 300 words. She’s very good at spouting phrases, and one’d often hear her calling my sister’s kids by name. In the past, before they realised it was the bird calling them, they’d come running, or answered back – thinking it was their mom or dad wanting them. It’s actually very funny to see this happening. Her other talents include singing, dancing, whistling and the occasional participation in a ‘conversation’. She also mimics laughter, at all the right moments, which I think is pretty cool.
As one can expect from a social animal though, she does have moments when she’d get moody, especially when she wants to eat and her food and water aren’t available. Some of her favorite fruit and veggies include apples, rice and peas. Like most women she also loves chocolate, but since it’s not good for her, she only gets a small piece when her ‘mom’ buys a whole nut chocolate. Maybe she likes the nut more than the chocolate?
It seems Madame is also prone to the occasional temper tantrum when she will bite. It is also a defense mechanism she uses with strangers, like me. We’re not at all well acquainted so she doesn’t let me get near her. I did notice however that she discriminates a little between genders. She will allow some men to get closer to her than she would women. I can’t help but wonder if they are wearing those aftershaves, the ones that supposedly makes women swoon, at the time? When she gets a fright, though, there is no discrimination – she lashes out at anything and everyone, putting that strong beak of hers to good use.
As I said earlier, my sister owned cats and dogs before, so I asked her what the relationship was between Madame and them. Seeing as cats are naturally inclined to hunt birds, some tension must be evident, surely? Apparently there is only a period of adjustment, same as with other interspecies interaction, when the kittens get lessons in respecting Madame. The tail pinching may have something to do with the kittens’ conformation and ultimate acceptance of Madame as the ruler of all things pet! That being settled, they would all play along nicely.
How truly amazing the bond that can develop between humans and animals, and between the different species of animals!