Diet and Nutrition
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Water is a vital component of every small animal's diet. Because of their small size, it does not take long for them to dehydrate. You need to be particularly attentive to water needs of densely-coated small animals when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The best solution is a water bottle that can be mounted on the cage, which allows pets to sip whenever they desire. Be sure the bottle is mounted low enough for your little critters to reach it comfortably, and that the area inside the cage near the bottle provides a stable surface for standing. You'll need to refresh the water a few times a day and make sure water bottles are filled before bedtime since most of these rodents are active at night. Water bottles should be washed with soap and water, and disinfected daily.
The common small animals discussed on this website are all herbivores, but vary regarding the combination of grains, seed, dried fruit and fresh fruits and vegetables they need for a balanced diet. For each of these small animals, look for commercially available food made for your specific species in pet stores. Most of these commercial foods come in pellet form, but in some cases may also come in blocks. These commercial diets provide the optimum balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fibers, vitamins and minerals your pets need. Commercial food should be supplemented with fresh vegetables and fruits, and, in some cases, seeds, nuts and grains to make up no more than 10% to 15% of your rodents' diets. Remember that these animals are small; one slice of an apple constitutes one serving for many of them. A treat for a mouse is one raisin. Make sure your establish portion sizes that are appropriate for the size of your pet.
Rodents eat around the time they are most active. Because most of them are nocturnal, this means they will eat at night. Most rodents only need to be fed one or two meals a day. Use solid ceramic bowls so that they won't move around during feeding or be chewed on. Remove any uneaten food as early as possible to prevent your pet from eating spoiled food.
Please Note: Do not feed small animals cabbage, corn, candy, chocolate, junk foods, peanuts and raw beans, potatoes or onions and caffeinated or carbonated beverages.
The chart below provides some guidelines for feeding small animal pets:
|Animal||Commercial Food||Nutritional Balance||Fruits & Veges Treats||Meal Times|
|Chinchilla||Chinchilla pellets and grass hay (timothy)||Dried fruits and nuts
|Gerbil||Gerbil seed mix||12-20% protein
Whole grain bread
|Morning and night|
|Guinea Pig||Guinea pig pellets||18-20% protein
Dark leafy greens
|Morning and evening|
|Hamster||Hamster Pellets||15-20% protein||Sunflower seeds
Whole grain bread
Once or twice a day or leave food out at all times since they hoard
Fruits & vegetables only 2-3 times a week
|Mice||Rodent pellets or blocks||16-19 % protein
|Rats||Rodent pellets or
Whole grain breads
Please note: Do not feed your small animal commercial foods designed for other rodents. Each mix is calibrated for the specific balance of nutrients needed for each species.
Most commercial rodent pellets provide all the nutrients these small animals need, with two exceptions. Rats often need a supplement to ensure they receive the right levels of vitamins and minerals. Guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C. You will need to include in their daily diet either vitamin C-rich foods, such as kale or dandelion, or provide them with a supplement.