America is a country of animal lovers. Large or small, fins or paws, furry or scaly we love our animal friends. Small animals and “pocket pets” make up a large portion of the American pet population, and they can make great pets for the right home. Here’s a look at some of their nutritional needs.
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning their diet is exclusively vegetarian. They require pellets made up of at least 15-19% protein and 18% fiber. Try to avoid pellets with additional dyes or nuts, and they should have a daily allowance of dark leafy greens with a small amount of fruits and other vegetables for treats. The most important part of a rabbit’s diet is hay. Hay is the key to a rabbits tooth and digestive health
Guinea Pigs are also herbivores and require a quality pellet, avoiding additional food coloring. Like rabbits, they’ll need hay and fresh water at all times, as well as a source of Vitamin C, which can be obtained from fruits vegetables or supplements. Vitamin C deficiency is one of the most common guinea pig ailments so they will need a daily supply.
Hamsters and Gerbils are herbivores too. A food with a mix of grains seeds corn and pellets is best for hamsters, and a small amount of fresh fruits vegetables and alfalfa pellets make good treats. Gerbils should have a gerbil seed mix with a protein content of approximately 12% and a fat content around 6-8%. The ASPCA suggests giving your hammys or gerbils fresh foods like grains sunflower seeds (unsalted) and nuts every couple days, but be careful because nuts have what would be considered a high fat content for these little guys.
Chinchillas are herbivores with sensitive digestive systems. It’s recommended that they receive a pellet specifically for chinchillas, avoiding added nuts corn seeds and fruit. They also require a large amount of roughage so they will need unlimited access to hay.
Mice do well on pellets or food blocks with at least 16% protein, 18% fiber, and no more than 4% fat. Small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables will make good treats.
Rats are omnivores and you’ll want to look for a pellet with a good balance of protein, fat, carbs, and minerals, with vegetables in moderation.
If you decide a small animal is the right pet for you please do research before bringing one home. Each species has specific care and dietary needs, and there are foods that can be harmful to them. Your local shelter or rescue can provide additional information about small animal care, and there will be animals inside the facility that you can interact with.
Your local pet supply store can also be a good information source, so think local first and don’t be afraid to ask for help when shopping for your new small animal friend.
By: Lisa Carroll, The Big Bad Woof