Getting The Urge To Go Shazam

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - October 28, 2009
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Pet owners are interesting people. By interesting, I mean not only are they very responsible and caring toward their pets, but they can sometimes do the weirdest things. I can say this because I definitely fall into this category with more than 10 pets of my own.

The following story occurred several years ago and taught me that you can train your pet to do just about anything.

It was a peaceful spring day with the morning surgeries uneventful and the afternoon schedule filled but not overwhelming. Tweety, a 5-year-old cockatiel, came in for an annual exam. We recommend annual visits for our avian patients. Although we don’t routinely vaccinate the feathery critters, a lot can be covered in the visit.

We go over diet, husbandry, behavior issues, and document weight, looking for any changes. The physical exam is very important in identifying any illness. You see, pet birds are usually a prey specie and as such don’t display signs of being sick until they are extremely ill. Showing weakness may send out signals to predators that an easy meal is at hand.


Tweety, being a young adult, had no concerns. The owners fed him a healthy diet of seeds, commercial bird pellets and a wide variety of scrumptious table food (fruits, vegetables, cereals and a smattering of protein). His physical exam revealed no problems.

At the conclusion of the exam, the owner, Mr. Higa, smiled sheepishly and expressed his desire to show me a cool trick that he taught Tweety. He held Tweety on his finger and extended his arm outward. “Doc, you got to see this,” exclaimed Mr. Higa. “Tweety ... Shazam!”

At first I didn’t see anything except for Tweety passing a fresh stool. In fact, I thought Tweety failed the trick.

“Cool huh?” I guess my puzzled look prompted Mr. Higa to continue. “I taught Tweety to poop on command. Watch, he’ll do it again ... Shazam!!!” Mr. Higa shouted with even more vigor. Once again Tweety pooped. I stood amazed and speechless.

“I trained Tweety so that he wouldn’t mess my shirt when he perched on my shoulder. After passing a couple poops, Tweety can go about 10-15 minutes without pooping again. Voila, no more dirty shirts.” Mr. Higa beamed with pride.

“I think he’ll do it again if you want to see it.”

“Thanks Mr. Higa, I think I get the picture. That really is a cool, practical trick.”

Actually I was worried that, with the next Shazam, I might get the urge to defecate. The word Shazam was really quite compelling, and I didn’t bring an extra change of clothes that day.

The things that people teach their pets never cease to amaze me. Pooping on command is definitely a benefit. I’m sure there are some cat and dog owners who would like to have their pets trained just as Tweety was. For that matter, being able to train ourselves to defecate when needed would save us a lot of hassle. Well, maybe that’s taking it a bit far. Or is it? Anything is possible on the Wild Side.

Pet Tip: An annual exam is essential for the health of any pet, whether dog, cat, bird or mouse. Not only would the physical reveal any problems, but the office visit could be very educational.

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