Foods that are prohibited and not recommended for small animals
Our small animals have a different diet to ours, and foods we enjoy eating can sometimes be fatal to them. Coffee, chocolate, but also alcohol and tobacco, must never be fed to small animals.
Meat and meat products, cheese, fish, shellfish and seafood should also be avoided for herbivorous small animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, degus, gerbils, hamsters, etc.) as their digestive system is not at all adapted to these foods. Very small quantities can be given to rats and mice, but this is not their favourite food, and should not become a habit.
Some plants should be kept away from your small animal, regardless of species. This includes several plant categories: plants with milky or irritant sap, bulb plants and, of course, poisoning plants! These can be cultivated or wild plants which can be tucked away inside the home, outside, or in the vegetable garden,
Ensure that the following house plants are kept out of your pets’ reach: Ficus, Croton, Dieffenbacchia, Draceana, poinsettia, Anthurium, yucca, Philodendron, snake plant, aloe vera, Jerusalem cherry, caladium, certain types of bonzai and Datura, etc. In short: practically all ornamental plants, to be safe.
In the vegetable garden, beware of tomato plants and potato plants, together with onions, garlic, rhubarb, sage, peas, sorrel, leeks, and lily of the valley, which is fatal. Cabbages can be dangerous as they are difficult to digest, and vegetables with a high water content. You will also need to protect your rabbits and rodents in the garden: wisteria, jasmine and star jasmine, clematis, ivy, honeysuckle, Solanum, hemlock, Datura, deadly nightshade, mistletoe, buttercup and certain types of mushrooms (this is not an exhaustive list). And even when species are not dangerous, you will need to avoid plants that have been treated with pesticides or possibly exposed to pollutants and contaminants.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
The same produce as in the vegetable garden should be avoided in fruit and vegetable stores. The “banned” fruit and vegetable list should also include: avocados, aubergines and raw mushrooms, peanuts, passion fruit, citrus fruit and the seeds and stones of all other types of fruit.
Vegetables with a high water content (cucumbers and fresh gherkins, melons, watermelons, very ripe tomatoes) should be kept for very hot weather, to hydrate your pet, and only given in small quantities and gradually added to the diet for rabbits. These should be completely avoided for guinea pigs and degus, due to the risk of triggering gastrointestinal disorders.
Fruits are not generally a usual part of small animals’ diets: they can be fed, but in small quantities and added gradually to the diet so as to be able to withdraw the food at the slightest sign of digestive upset. Fruit with an excessively high sugar content (bananas) should be avoided, and root vegetables (carrots, etc.), which also have a high sugar content, should be given in very small quantities. Rabbits prefer carrot leaves rather than the root vegetable.
WHAT ABOUT WOOD FOR CHEWING?
It is essential to avoid wood which has been treated with pesticides, and, as a general rule, painted, waxed or varnished wood. Also avoid reconstituted wood, laminated wood, plywood, or composite wood, which contain glues or polymer resins highly indigestible for rodents and rabbits.
Pay attention to softwoods, as some can be poisonous (thujas, cedars, cypress, yew, pine, privet, Lawson false cypress, etc.), and even if this is not the case, it is never good to eat resin. You should therefore choose non-toxic varieties which no longer contain resin, or even better, keep (dry) pine for use as litter, as long as it is well maintained.
Other tree species are also inadvisable, because they are poisonous or simply highly indigestible: bamboo, juniper, cade, bay-tree, citrus wood (orange, lemon, mandarin trees), birch, lilac, mimosa, fig, etc.
Advice written by Dr Padiolleau, HOPI Veterinary Surgeon.