Is It OK for Cockatiels To Eat Cardboard?

Cockatiels, with their vibrant personalities and playful nature, are a joy to have as pets. But as with any pet, ensuring their safety and well-being is paramount. Have you ever wondered if it’s safe for your cockatiel to chew on that cardboard box?

As a general rule, cockatiels can interact with and chew on cardboard, as it provides mental stimulation and mimics their natural foraging behavior. However, ingestion of cardboard should be avoided to prevent potential health issues.

Dive deeper into this article to understand the types of cardboard that are safe for cockatiels, the potential risks, and how to ensure your feathered friend’s safety.

Why Do Cockatiels Chew On Cardboard?

Cockatiels are naturally curious birds that use their beaks to explore their surroundings. This behavior often leads them to chew on various objects, including cardboard. Chewing on cardboard provides cockatiels with mental stimulation and mimics their natural foraging behavior in the wild. 

Here are some main reasons why cockatiels are attracted to cardboard:

  • The fibrous nature of cardboard is satisfying for cockatiels to tear apart, closely resembling the materials they’d interact with in their natural habitat.
  • Cardboard provides an excellent medium for cockatiels to engage in foraging-like activities, keeping them mentally stimulated.
  • Most of the time, cardboard is non-toxic, and nothing in its components can harm the cockatiel. However, it’s essential to ensure that the cardboard doesn’t contain any toxic materials.

Different Types Of Cardboard That Are Safe For Cockatiel

When it comes to our feathered friends, especially cockatiels, it’s essential to ensure that their environment is both stimulating and safe. One common item that many cockatiel owners consider introducing is cardboard. But with various types of cardboard available, which ones are safe for cockatiels?

1. Single-Ply Cardboard

This type of cardboard is predominantly used in food packaging. Its standout feature is the absence of glue within its structure. Only when the boxes are assembled for specific food items is glue introduced. Both the cardboard and the glue used in these boxes are under the watchful eye of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ensuring their safety. Given this oversight, it’s generally safe for cockatiels to interact with this type of cardboard. Even if ingested in minute amounts, it shouldn’t pose any harm.

2. Cardboard Containers With Ink Or Wax

Some cardboard containers come with a layer of vegetable oil wax or paraffin sprayed on their exterior. This process gives the cardboard a smooth finish, allowing ink to adhere seamlessly. While the FDA regulates the wax to ensure it’s of food-grade quality, the ink is a different story. Inks can be toxic to cockatiels, and without FDA regulation, it’s uncertain whether the ink on such cardboard is safe for your bird. It’s best to proceed with caution with this type of cardboard.

3. Corrugated Cardboard

Recognizable by its thick, ridged structure, this cardboard is commonly used for shipping containers. It’s made up of multiple paper layers bound together with glue. The glue might contain elements like zinc, which is toxic to birds. Some manufacturers might also use borax in their adhesives, another substance known to be harmful to cockatiels. In the USA, the use of borax in cardboard containers is prohibited, but it’s always wise to be cautious.

To provide a clearer picture, here’s a table comparing the three types of cardboard:

Type of CardboardCharacteristicsSafety Level for Cockatiels
Single-ply cardboardAbsence of glue, FDA regulatedGenerally Safe
Cardboard with ink or waxSmooth surface, potential toxic inkUse with Caution
Corrugated cardboardMultiple layers, potential toxic adhesivesUse with Caution

Benefits of Introducing Cardboard to Cockatiels

Having observed countless cockatiels in both domestic and clinical settings, I’ve seen firsthand the joy and engagement cardboard can bring to these birds. But beyond mere entertainment, what are the benefits of introducing cardboard to cockatiels?

  • Mental Stimulation: Just as we humans enjoy puzzles and games, cockatiels relish the challenge of tearing, shredding, and exploring cardboard. It keeps their minds sharp and engaged.
  • Mimicking Natural Behavior: In the wild, cockatiels are accustomed to foraging, tearing apart materials, and exploring their surroundings. Cardboard offers a similar experience, allowing them to express their natural instincts.
  • Safe Exploration: Under supervision, cardboard provides a safe medium for cockatiels to explore and play without the risk of ingesting harmful substances.
  • Cost-Effective Toy: Instead of spending on expensive toys, cardboard offers a cost-effective alternative that cockatiels love just as much.
  • Bonding Time: Watching your cockatiel play with cardboard can be a delightful experience. It offers an opportunity for bonding, understanding their behavior, and ensuring they’re mentally and physically active.

I’ve seen cockatiels create intricate designs with cardboard, use it as a tool, or simply enjoy the texture under their beaks. It’s a joy to watch and even more fulfilling to know that such a simple item can bring so much happiness to our feathered companions.

Risks and Precautions

Cockatiels, with their inquisitive nature, often explore their surroundings using their beaks. While cardboard can be a source of entertainment for them, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks associated with its ingestion.

Primary Concern – Impaction

If a cockatiel ingests cardboard, the primary concern is impaction. Impaction occurs when materials that cannot be digested accumulate in the digestive tract. 

  • As these materials travel, they can bunch up, and if the mass becomes too large, it can create a blockage. 
  • Symptoms of impaction in cockatiels include difficulty absorbing nutrients, pain and discomfort, an inability to pass other waste, and a loss of appetite.

If you suspect your cockatiel has ingested a significant amount of cardboard, here are the steps you should take:

  • Monitor Your Bird: Observe for any changes in behavior, especially signs of discomfort or distress.
  • Check Droppings: An absence of droppings or changes in their consistency can be indicative of a blockage.
  • Limit Further Access: Remove any cardboard or potential hazards from the bird’s environment.
  • Hydration: Ensure your bird has access to fresh water to help with digestion.
  • Consult a Vet: If symptoms persist or if you’re concerned, seek immediate veterinary care.


Understanding our feathered friends and their behaviors is essential for their well-being. While cardboard can provide hours of entertainment for cockatiels, it’s our responsibility as caregivers to ensure their safety. Balancing entertainment with safety is the key. Their playful antics, combined with their affectionate nature, make them wonderful companions. However, with this joy comes the responsibility of ensuring their well-being. 

I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. If you found this article helpful, please share it with fellow bird enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cockatiels play with cardboard?

Yes, cockatiels can play with cardboard. It provides a good engagement activity and closely imitates what cockatiels do in the wild.

Can cockatiels digest cardboard?

No, cockatiels cannot fully digest cardboard; they usually chew and shred it without swallowing.

What types of toys are safe for cockatiels?

Safe toys for cockatiels include natural wood, vegetable-tanned leather, and bird-safe plastic toys.

How can I tell if my cockatiel has ingested too much cardboard?

Signs include changes in droppings, loss of appetite, and signs of discomfort or distress.

Mohsin Iqbal

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal, a licensed veterinarian holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, is a respected member of the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Association and a well-established figure in the world of animal advocacy. His professional experiences are diverse, including working in various settings like private practices such as My Pet鈥檚 Clinic, public institutions like Civil Veterinary Hospital, shelters, rescues, and the Bahawalpur Zoo. Treating a wide range of animals, from common pets to exotic species, has enriched his expertise in numerous facets of pet care, including nutrition, exercise, behavior, training, and preventative care鈥攁n area he is particularly passionate about. As an ardent proponent of preventative care, Dr. Iqbal's writing focuses on the importance of vaccinations, routine check-ups, and early health problem detection. His dedication to educating others steered him toward a successful career. Over the past two years, his insightful pieces have been published in national and international magazines and featured regularly on online pet care platforms. Beyond his professional life, Dr. Iqbal is the president of the Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan, demonstrating his commitment to animal welfare through the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in need. His belief in the power of knowledge shines through his engaging content, empowering pet owners to nurture a deep, enduring bond with their animal companions. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Mohsin Iqbal to our team of content writers, eagerly anticipating his contributions that will foster a well-informed pet-owning community.

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