What should rodents eat?
WHAT SHOULD RODENTS EAT? SMALL ANIMALS WITH VERY SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS
As a future rodent owner, you may be wondering about the suitable diet for these exotic pets whose incisors grow throughout their lifetime. In order to choose your rodent’s food, you first need to be aware of the requirements specific to its species. Whether for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, mice or hamsters, discover our advice for a healthy diet, to keep your pet healthy in the long term.
WHAT DO RODENTS EAT?
CONSTANT FOOD SUPPLY
Rodents are described as exotic pets. These are small animals, usually herbivores, who need fibre in their diet. To feed your rodent properly, you should offer it a diet as close as possible to what it would eat in the wild.
Grasses, hay or fresh herbs are the main food sources for these small animals.
Whether your rodent is left alone for a large part of the day or not, these foods should be constantly available. Rodents, in fact, eat little and often. In the wild, rodents spend nearly all their time searching for food. They thus eat small amounts, but regularly. You must allow your rodent to feed in this way, to maintain its digestive health.
⚠️Warning! Some fruit and vegetables are highly inadvisable, depending on the species of rodent. Make sure any fruit or vegetables that you are about to feed your pet rodent are not hazardous to its health.
CHANGING NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS
Rodents’ nutritional requirements also change depending on the animal’s age and time of year. Growth, breeding, old age and hibernation are all specific phases in which your rodent’s nutritional requirements need to be met.
To supplement a high fibre basic diet, offer your pet a more complete and balanced feed in mix or pellet form. You will need to give your pet the nutrients essential to its dietary requirements. Always provide access to fresh, clean water. Replace with fresh water several times a day in hot weather.
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WHAT DO RABBITS EAT?
Rabbits are fairly strict herbivores. Their food mainly consists of fibre, but they also love fruit and vegetables.
Only “green” vegetables should be fed, such as celery, carrot tops, dandelions, spinach, etc. Vary the vegetables provided to make sure your pet is getting the right vitamins and nutrients. Gradually introduce fresh vegetables into your pet’s diet to avoid any digestive issues.
Avoid banana, maize, avocado, grapes, carrots, etc. which are too high in sugar for your rodent.
Supplement its diet with a compound feed (pellets) containing at least 14% vegetable fibre and 15% protein to support your pet’s intestinal health. An adult dwarf rabbit eats approximately 30 grams of food per day, whereas a lop rabbit can eat up to 150 grams.
Hay should be constantly available, but not pellets and treats as these could cause your pet to become overweight or obese, or to develop health problems when fed in too large amounts.
🐇 Rabbits, not technically rodents: it is a misuse of language to describe rabbits as rodents. In reality, they are lagomorphs which are distinguished by having two pairs of incisors in the upper jaw, instead of one in rodents, and one pair in the lower jaw. Hares and pikas also belong to this order in the mammal class.
WHAT DO GUINEA PIGS EAT?
Guinea pigs are herbivores, like rabbits. Domestic guinea pigs should mainly be fed vegetables, ad lib hay and fresh plants.
To avoid digestive upsets, we advise introducing fresh greens gradually.
Like rabbits, when feeding guinea pigs, it is essential to pay attention to the quantities of fruit and root vegetables provided, to keep your pet at a healthy weight.
Guinea pigs can eat 1/10th of their body weight daily. Hence, if your guinea pig weighs 1 kg, you will need to provide 100 grams of food each day.
Guinea pigs are the only rodents that need to be fed vitamin C as part of their diet. Vitamin C is naturally found in fresh greens, such as parsley.
Otherwise, you can add complementary foods rich in vitamin C to your pet’s diet, in liquid form, to be added to drinking water, or as tablets or treats added to your rodent’s food.
The optimum daily dose of vitamin C for guinea pigs is approximately 20 mg/kg. Gestating females will have a higher requirement. Laboratoire Francodex offers appetising vitamin C treats for guinea pigs.
💡 Guinea pig hide-and-seek: guinea pigs are particularly fond of food, but are also wasteful! Feeding guinea pigs requires relatively large rations as they feed night and day, and tend to spit out their food… which often gets lost.
WHAT DO CHINCHILLAS EAT?
Contrary to rabbits and guinea pigs, when feeding chinchillas it is essential to avoid fruit and vegetables, and to only offer dry food, in the form of hay, dried leaves or grass.
Their body struggles to assimilate fresh fruit and vegetables which contain too much water and can cause occasionally fatal diarrhoea.
However, chinchillas are both herbivorous and xylophagous, i.e. they also eat wood. Feeding these rodents means offering a suitable diet to support their digestive health, but rich in vitamin A.
Their diet mainly consists of ad lib hay and pellets for additional nutrient intake. Your pet’s diet should contain fibre, protein, fats and vitamins to guarantee daily intake of essential nutrients.
Chinchillas are among the less voracious rodents, as a ration of 20 to 40 grams per day is largely sufficient.
🐹 Feeding your chinchilla treats? Despite a somewhat bland diet, your rodent will appreciate treats such as dandelions, thistles and dried fruit.
WHAT DO DOMESTIC RATS AND MICE EAT?
Feeding rodents such as domestic rats and mice is really very simple. They are omnivores and eat almost constantly, and are less susceptible to digestive issues compared to their cousins.
Grain mixes for rats and mice are perfectly suitable, but you can also add other foods to keep up with their insatiable appetite and culinary curiosity! They sometimes suffer from protein deficiencies, which is particularly the case for gestating or lactating female rats.
A rat can ingest 5 to 10% of its body weight each day. As a general rule, an average-sized adult rat will eat 20 grams of food. Mice, which are much smaller, will only eat 3 to 5 grams per day, but can eat twenty or so meals, each weighing approximately 0.15 grams!
Even though you might think they will appreciate fruit or vegetables, they will be more interested in grain which they find more appetising.
🐁 Danger! Domestic rats and mice are not distrustful of anything and chew any objects they can get their teeth into. Unfortunately, this behaviour can cause problems, and it is not unusual for rodents to poison themselves. If you allow your domestic rat or mouse to roam free in a room in your home or in an enclosed space in your garden, you must remain vigilant!
WHAT DO HAMSTERS EAT?
Like guinea pigs, hamsters waste a lot of their food. As soon as their feeder is full, they tend to stuff their cheek pouches, and then go and empty them in a safe place to build up their food stores. They might nibble on a small amount, but most of their spoils will simply go to waste.
Hamsters tend to be rotund. You will need to balance and ration their feed, which mainly consists of grain.
Average-sized golden hamsters eat approximately 13 to 15 grams of rodent food each day. Dwarf hamsters will eat 8 grams maximum.
🐭 What about exercise? Hamsters are most in need of physical exercise compared to other rodents, to offset their fondness of food. A sufficiently large cage with toys such as a wheel, tubes to explore or a little house to climb will be essential. If possible, hamsters should be allowed out of their cage to roam in a safe, closed room.
It is essential to distinguish between common or golden hamsters and (Chinese, Russian, Roborovski) dwarf hamsters which eat smaller rations. The golden hamster’s diet can include sunflower seeds and carob, to meet its dietary requirements. Opt for a mix specially for small hamsters to satiate the appetite of dwarf hamsters.
It is essential to feed your rodent properly to avoid dental or digestive problems. Sufficient chewing and gnawing behaviour will allow your little friend to wear its teeth, and thus prevent any risk of dental malocclusion.