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Home > Birds > Can Parakeets Eat Cheese? Answered by Vet

Can Parakeets Eat Cheese? Answered by Vet

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Dr. Maria Zayas

Veterinarian, DVM

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

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Does Polly want a cracker? How about a cheese cracker? Parakeets are highly social birds, and it isn’t uncommon to want to feed your parakeet little bits of what you are eating. So what foods would be safe, and is cheese on that list? Sadly no, cheese in any form is not safe for parakeets.


What Is Lactase and Why It Can Be Dangerous

Parakeets, as birds rather than mammals, never nurse at any stage of their life. Nursing animals produce an enzyme called lactase that allows them to digest the lactose in milk and, therefore, in other dairy products. Parakeets do not have this enzyme and cannot digest dairy products like cheese.

When fed cheese, lactose-intolerant animals, such as parakeets, can develop diarrhea and other complications, so they should not eat it.

cheese sliced
Image By: PDPhotos, Pixabay

Is Cheese Dangerous to Parakeets?

While cheese is often given to many lactose-intolerant animals in moderation with little repercussions, parakeets can be especially sensitive to cheese for the following reasons.

1. Lactose Intolerance

Unlike some other animals that may become sensitive to cheese as they age, parakeets are lactose intolerant from birth and can be even more prone to diarrhea and GI upset than other household pets.

2. Bacteria & Fungi

Cheese can be a vehicle of exposure to bacteria or fungi for parakeets. They have very sensitive GI and respiratory tracts, and some cheeses, especially raw ones, can pose serious health risks for them.

3. Fats

Parakeets can develop complications secondary to diets high in fats. Usually, we discuss this when advising owners not to feed seed diets to their parakeets, but this is also relevant for cheeses, which are usually high in fats.

4. Other Toxic Ingredients

Cheeses can also have other items in them. High levels of salt, garlic, or onion are not uncommon in certain cheeses, but all of these ingredients can be toxic to parakeets.

onion and garlic
Image By: Monika, Pixabay


Can Other Cheese Products Be Fed Instead?

While items like cheese crackers or chips will contain less cheese per bite than a piece of cheese would, no amount of cheese is recommended for parakeets. These other cheese products are also usually high in fats and salts, so while they can technically eat tiny amounts, it is not advisable to choose these as treats. You can feed them more options, like fresh, in-season, ripe fruits, that your parakeet will love.

Can Parakeets Eat Cottage Cheese?

Cottage cheese differs from other cheeses in that most lactose has been removed. For other lactose-intolerant animals, this makes cottage cheese safe to feed in moderation, but parakeets, unfortunately, are just too sensitive to lactose to have it in any capacity.

cottage cheese
Image Credit: Enotovyj, Pixabay

What Are Signs My Parakeet Has Gotten Sick From Eating Cheese?

  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Poor skin/feather condition
  • Heart rate changes
  • Abnormal droppings

If a Parakeet Eats Cheese, Is It an Emergency?

In most cases, parakeets eating cheese is not an emergency. If they swallow too large a bite, it may pose a choking or GI obstruction hazard, but this is rare. Parakeets that only ate a small amount of cheese may not present with any signs of illness.

The most common consequence of cheese ingestion for parakeets is diarrhea, which will resolve on its own in most cases if they are fed an appropriate diet going forward. If you note breathing changes, loss of appetite, persistent diarrhea, or other changes to their droppings, then it is best to contact your veterinarian.

vet. examining parakeet
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

What Do Parakeets Eat?

Parakeets are omnivores that eat primarily nuts, grasses, flowers, fruits, insects, and seeds. Under human care, a balanced parakeet diet is about 60–70% high-quality pelleted diet, 30–40% fruits and vegetables, and up to 10% of this can be treats.

When discussing feeding cheese to a parakeet, it is important to keep two things in mind:

  • Treats should only make up 10% of a parakeet’s diet. So whatever treat we are talking about, it needs to be fed in moderation.
  • Parakeets do not produce the enzyme lactase.
young woman feeding parakeet parrot
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

Safe Treats for Parakeets

Since feeding cheese isn’t worth the risk, here are other options to feed your parakeet.

  • Apples (no seeds)
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwis
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Greens
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Seed and millet sticks
  • Seed and millet sprays

Other Unsafe Foods for Parakeets

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Citrus
  • Other dairy products
  • Fruit pits and seeds
  • Garlic
  • Green tomatoes
  • Meat
  • Onion
  • Raw potato
  • Salty foods
  • Sugary foods



While cheese and other dairy products are generally avoidable for lactose-intolerant animals, parakeets and other birds are especially sensitive to lactose and should not be fed cheese in any capacity.

If your parakeet has been regularly eating cheese, they may benefit from an examination and bloodwork to check on organs such as their liver and kidneys. Luckily, parakeets often find a wide variety of foods delicious, so there should be no shortage of alternatives to feed them instead, which leaves more cheese for you!

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