Cheese is one of my all-time favorite foods – I eat it on everything.
Cheese on pizza – yum.
Cheese on crackers – yum.
Cheese in Mac n’ Cheese – yum.
The list goes on and on.
But as I mow down on my cheese, I have to wonder, can I share some with my parrot?
Which leads me to today’s question – can parrots eat cheese?
And if yes, what kinds of cheese can they eat?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. Yes, you can feed your parrots cheese, but no you shouldn’t feed your parrot cheese. In other words, cheese isn’t toxic to a parrot like some other foods, but it isn’t healthy for them either. So if you are going to feed your parrot cheese, keep it to a minimum.
Of course, there are many different kinds of cheeses out there.
So after we elaborate on why parrots shouldn’t eat cheese, we can also talk about the different types of cheese.
Are some cheeses safer than others?
Can my parrot eat brie?
What about swiss cheese?
What about non-dairy cheese?
Let’s take a deeper look into this topic…
Can Parrots Eat Cheese?
As we already established above, the answer to this question is both yes and no.
Yes, parrots can eat cheese, but they shouldn’t eat it in large quantities.
While cheese isn’t toxic to birds, it’s not exactly healthy either.
When a parrot ingests too much cheese, stomach ache and other digestive issues can be the result.
Why is cheese so bad for parrots?
Firstly, cheese is high in lactose content.
Lactose, the sugar that is found within milk, is also found within dairy cheeses.
Many people have an intolerance to this ingredient, but for parrots the effects are even worse.
Why? Because their bodies don’t produce the enzyme that is necessary to break down the sugar.
Unlike people who drink their mother’s milk when they are young, parrots don’t.
As a result, they simply don’t need that enzyme.
And when the stomach intakes sugars that they can’t break down, the result is a strong stomach ache – and sometimes diarrhea. (And yes, the inability to break down sugars is the same reason that people experience lactose intolerance).
The second reason that parrots should avoid cheese is that it harbors bacteria.
The majority of cheeses go through a process known as fermentation.
This can be a complicated process so we won’t get into the details.
What’s important, however, is to know that during this process cheeses can pick up bacteria.
No, this isn’t common, but if it does happen it can be extremely worrisome for a parrot.
Parrots that ingest this bacteria can develop several different digestive issues including diarrhea and stomach ache.
In addition, cheese contains a lot of fat and sodium, both of which can be detrimental to a parrot in large quantities.
Does cheese hold any nutritional benefits for parrots?
Though I don’t recommend feeding your parrots cheese, there are some nutritional benefits to be gained from it. Cheese is rich in:
Required for strong bone formation. Also important for connective tissues, muscles, and blood vessels.
Essential for growth and development. Helps to prevent fatty liver disease.
Required for a healthy immune system, kidney health, and brain and vision development
Also required for healthy skin, feathers, and skeletal development
Vitamin B 12
Required for brain and nervous system functioning, as well as blood formation
Helps to produce insulin. Essential for proper functioning of Vitamin A.
Aids in cartilage and bone development, feathering, and molting
Required for bone formation, metabolism, and egg formation
Supports energy production
Required for formation of red blood cells, as well as growth and reproduction
Helps to prevent blood clotting
So yes, cheese does have some nutritional benefits for parrots. With that being said, it’s important to remember that cheese is not a regular part of a parrots diet.
In other words, it’s not something they would eat in the wild. In return, even though it does have some nutritional benefits, it’s not actually that nutritionally beneficial for them.
All of the same nutritional benefits listed above can be found in other foods that are healthier for parrots and birds (ie. nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables).
What about the different types of cheeses?
Cheese comes in all shapes and flavors, and some are worse for parrots than others.
Can parrots have cheddar cheese?
Yes and no. As mentioned above, cheeses like these are high in lactose content which can cause a parrot to develop health issues.
Cheddar cheeses are not toxic to parrots, but are not beneficial either.
If you are going to feed your parrot cheddar cheese, keep it to a very small amount.
Can parrots have mozzarella cheese?
Yes. Mozzarella cheese has less lactose content than cheddar cheese, so if you are going to give your parrot cheese, this is the better option.
With that being said, parrots should not have large quantities of mozzarella cheese.
If you’re going to feed your parrot mozzarella, keep it to a small bite sized piece.
Can parrots have garlic and onion cheeses?
No. Parrots should not have garlic or onion cheeses at all.
In addition to the lactose content, these cheeses contain garlic and onion products which can be toxic to your parrot.
These should not be fed to your parrot, even in small doses.
Can parrots have cream cheese?
Yes and no. Again, there is nothing toxic about cream cheese for parrots but it is high in lactose and doesn’t hold any nutritional benefits.
It’s okay to feed your parrot a small amount of cream cheese on a cracker as a treat every now and again, but keep it to a minimum to prevent health issues from arising.
Can parrots have cottage cheese?
Yes. Cottage cheese does not contain any lactose and is therefore considered better for your parrot than some other types of cheese.
With that being said, cottage cheese is still a dairy product and should therefore only be given in small quantities
Can parrots have parmesan cheese?
Yes and no. Like many other types of cheese, parmesan is okay in very small amounts, but should not be given as a regular part of a parrot’s diet or in large quantities.
What about Non-Dairy Cheeses?
Can Parrots have soy cheese?
No. Though you may think soy would be a good alternative to lactose products, it actually contains hormones that can be harmful to your parrot.
When parrots have too much soy they can develop concerns like beak and bone deformity, and premature aging.
It’s also very high in protein which, when given in excess, can have a negative impact on a parrot’s health.
Again, small amounts are unlikely to do much harm, but try not to feed a lot of soy cheese to your parrot.
Can my Parrot have cheese made from Coconut oil?
No. Coconut oil cheese tends to be heavily processed, and parrots should never be given processed foods that can contain potentially poisonous ingredients.
In addition, many coconut oil cheeses are flavored with ingredients that are toxic to parrots like garlics, salts, and onion powders.
Avoid coconut oil cheeses whenever possible.
Can my parrot have nut based cheeses?
Yes! Of all the cheese types, nut based are the best for your parrot.
Why? Because nuts are a normal part of a parrot’s diet, and therefore do hold nutritional benefit.
Having said that, it’s always recommended that you read the ingredient list before feeding this cheese to your parrot to ensure that there are no added ingredients or flavors that could be harmful.
In conclusion, parrots can have most cheeses but only in very small portions.
Most cheeses contain ingredients that can be harmful to parrots, and should be avoided when at all possible.
It’s okay to give a bite sized snack of cheese, but don’t make a meal out of it.