We would love to have the interior of our home painted professionally, but we have two birds. One is a Cockatoo that we’ve had for 32 years, and the other is a parrot that we’ve had for three years. I’ve done research on using low VOC paint, but I still don’t trust what I’ve read. We love our birds, but haven’t painted in the 18 years of residing at such home. We also have two dogs.
– Michelle, Naugatuck, Connecticut
As a long-time bird parent, you clearly know how sensitive birds are to even the slightest change in the air and environment, and are smart to ask questions about painting around them. The fumes from a freshly painted room can be lethal for your feathered friends. That’s because some of the most harmful chemicals in paint come from Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, which are released into the air not just when you paint, but for several years afterward.
Low VOC and No VOC (which is just super low VOC) paints are good alternatives to regular paint because they reduce VOCs released into the air. But it doesn’t mean there are zero VOCs in the paint or that there aren’t other aerosolized toxins that can affect birds.
“Whenever you’re dealing with anything aerosolized, you must remove the bird from the room or home,” says Dr. Laurie Hess, author of Unlikely Companions, Adventures of an Exotic Animal Doctor. “You also should consider the dust you will stir up while sanding walls and preparing to paint, which can be harmful to birds and make them sick.”
Hess recommends asking a neighbor, friend or family member to watch your birds in their home or boarding your birds for a few days until your home has time to air out.
As for the dogs, you could keep them outside while you paint or board them as well, so they don’t have to breathe in the fumes and are not underfoot while you paint. Dogs are not as sensitive to paint fumes as birds, but they should be treated with the same precautions you might have for a young child in the home.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal