Small furries diet

What vegetables are unsafe to eat? Why muesli-mixes cause pain. Why do guinea pigs eat their own droppings? How can I introduce new food?

In this section we’ll look at:

  • Chinchillas
  • Dwarf Hamsters/Syrian Hamsters
  • Ferrets
  • Gerbils
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Mice
  • Rats

Chinchillas

What should I feed my chinchillas?

  • Day and night access to good quality hay or grass. This is vital to keep their teeth and digestive system healthy.
  • Commercial chinchilla nuggets. Follow the packet guidelines on how much to feed. The approximate daily intake for an adult is 25-50g.
  • Fresh greens – around a teaspoon a day per chinchilla.
  • Don’t feed muesli-type mixes. Chinchillas leave the bits containing fibre. This lack of fibre causes them painful dental disease.


Which vegetables can I feed my chinchillas?

The table below isn’t an exhaustive list. Still unsure about a particular plant or vegetable? Just ask your vet for advice.

Safe vegetables

Unsafe vegetables

Carrot

Asparagus

Celery

Broccoli

Potato

Cabbage

Pumpkin

Lettuce

Squash

Peas

Sweet potato

Rhubarb and rhubarb leaves

Spinach


Can I give my chinchillas fruit?
Yes, but only in small quantities as it’s high in sugar. Apples, blueberries, grapes and raisins are suitable in small amounts.

How can I safely introduce new foods to my chinchillas?
Gradually. Changing a chinchilla’s diet suddenly can upset their digestive system. So always introduce new foods gradually over at least a week, unless your vet tells you otherwise.

Can I feed my chinchillas treats?
Yes, if they are the right ones. Natural treats are enjoyed by chinchillas and are good for their teeth and digestive health: they are available from pet shops. Avoid sugary treats, e.g. those made with honey, as these can cause teeth problems, stomach upsets and obesity.

My chinchillas are eating their droppings, is this normal?
Yes. It lets them to digest their food properly, so don’t be concerned.

Water for chinchillas. 
They need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout.

What do I do if my chinchilla starts drinking much more or much less than usual? 
Make an appointment to see your vet as over- or under drinking can be a sign of a medical problem.

Dwarf Hamsters/Syrian Hamsters


What should I feed my hamster?

  • Commercial hamster mixes containing seed, grain and nuts. 
  • Also give small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apple, carrot, broccoli, pear and cabbage. 
  • Avoid citrus fruits, such as oranges, as they’re too acidic. 
  • Wash fruit and vegetables well to remove any chemical traces. 
  • Give small amounts of Timothy hay to add extra fibre to their diet. 


How can I introduce new foods to my hamsters?

Changing a hamster’s diet suddenly can upset their digestive system. So always introduce new foods gradually day by day.

How often should I feed my hamster?

  • Feed the commercial hamster mix twice daily, morning and evening. 
  • Remove any uneaten food, especially if it will go mouldy quickly. 
  • Once or twice a week, give extra protein, such as a small amount of hard-boiled egg or cottage cheese.

Did you know? 
Hamsters have cheek pouches to carry food for hoarding (hiding) around their cage.

How much should I feed my hamster?

  • Dwarf Hamster: around a tablespoon of the commercial hamster mix each day.
  • Syrian Hamster: around 10g of the commercial hamster mix, twice a day.


Can I feed my hamsters treats?

Yes, if they are the right ones. Natural treats are healthy for them and hamsters enjoy them. They’re available from pet shops. 

But sunflower seeds and peanuts are high fat treats that should only be fed occasionally. Giving too many is like feeding a child too much chocolate. Keep sugar-based treats such as ‘honey sticks’ to a minimum, as they lead to obesity and sometimes to diabetes. 

When can young hamsters start eating solid food?

  • Dwarf hamsters need solid food from about 2 weeks.
  • Syrian hamsters need solid food from 7–10 days of age.


Water for your hamster 

They need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout. They drink about 10ml per 100g of their body weight every day.

What do I do if my hamster starts drinking much more or much less than usual? 
Make an appointment to see your vet as over-drinking or under drinking can be a sign of a medical problem.

Ferrets


What should I feed my ferrets?

  • It is best to feed commercial ferret nuggets. These contain the right nutrients in the right quantities. They’re available from pet shops. Follow the packet’s guidelines and weigh the food out so you keep your ferret healthy by preventing overfeeding and obesity. 
  • Ferrets are carnivores – meat eaters. They can’t survive on a vegetarian diet. 
  • Give them a whole hard-boiled egg, as an occasional treat. Avoid giving frequent treats as this can lead to obesity. 
  • Ferrets like vitamin pastes – which are good for reward-based training. They’re available from pet shops. 
  • Don’t feed human foods, e.g. cakes or fruit as they upset their stomach. 


How can I safely introduce new foods to my ferrets?

Changing a ferret’s diet suddenly can upset their digestive system. So always introduce new foods gradually over at least a week, unless your vet tells you otherwise.

Ferrets also need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout. Bowls can be messy as ferrets turn them over or may use them as a toilet.

Gerbils


What should I feed my gerbil?

  • Commercial gerbil mixes containing seed, grain and nuts. 
  • Also give small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apple and carrot. 
  • Wash fruit and vegetables well to remove any chemical traces.

How much and how often should I feed my gerbil?

  • Adult gerbils will eat around 4–10g of food per day. So give them one tablespoon of gerbil mix per day: half in the morning and half in the evening.
  • Remove any uneaten food, especially if it will go mouldy quickly. 


Can I feed my gerbils treats?

Yes, if they are the right ones. Natural treats are healthy for them and gerbils enjoy them. They’re available from pet shops. 

But sunflower seeds and peanuts are high fat treats that should only be fed occasionally. Giving too many is like feeding a child too much chocolate. Keep sugar-based treats such as ‘honey sticks’ to a minimum, as they lead to obesity. 


Water for your gerbil 

They need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout. They normally drink between 2ml and 4ml per 100g of their body weight each day.


What do I do if my gerbil starts drinking much more or much less than usual?
 
Make an appointment to see your vet as over-drinking or under drinking can be a sign of a medical problem.

Guinea Pigs

What should I feed my guinea pig?


  • Day and night access to good quality hay or grass. This is vital to keep their teeth and digestive system healthy
  • Commercial guinea pig nuggets. Follow the packet guidelines on how much to feed. 
  • Fresh greens – around a teacup a day. Aim to feed a few different greens each day


Don’t feed muesli-type mixes. Guinea pigs leave the bits containing fibre. This lack of fibre causes them painful dental disease.

Which greens and vegetables can I feed my guinea pigs?

The table below isn’t an exhaustive list. Still unsure about a particular plant or vegetable? Just ask your vet for advice.

Safe greens and vegetables

Unsafe greens and vegetables

Asparagus

Potato and potato tops

Basil

Rhubarb (including leaves)

Broccoli

Tomato leaves

Brussel Sprouts

Cabbage

Carrots and carrot tops

Cauliflower leaves and stalks

Celery

Chicory

Coriander

Courgette

Cucumber

Dandelion (in moderation)

Dill

Kale

Parsley

Parsnip

Radish

Red cabbage

Romaine lettuce

Rocket

Salad peppers

Savoy cabbage

Spinach

Turnips

Tomato

Watercress



Can I give fruit to my guinea pigs?

Yes, but only occasionally, as they are high in sugar. Apples, grapefruit, strawberries, gooseberries, kiwi fruit, mango, orange and tangerine are suitable in small amounts. 

How can I safely introduce new foods to my guinea pigs?
Changing a guinea pig’s diet suddenly can upset their digestive system. So always introduce new foods over at least a week, unless your vet tells you otherwise.

Do guinea pigs need extra vitamin C? 
Yes. Like humans, guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C. They need to get it from their food. Salad peppers, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and leafy greens, e.g. parsley and kale are all high in vitamin C. 

Good quality commercial guinea pig foods in the correct quantities usually contain vitamin C. But always follow the food manufacturer’s storage instructions and shelf life as nutrients can disappear if it’s stored too long.

It’s better to be on the safe side: add a vitamin C supplement to their drinking water. If they consume too much vitamin C it will harmlessly pass out in their urine. Vitamin C supplements are available from pet shops.

Can I feed my guinea pigs treats? 
Yes – there are natural treats available from pet shops which your guinea pigs will enjoy and are good for their teeth and digestive health. Avoid sugary treats, such as ones made with honey, as these can cause teeth problems and diabetes. 

My guinea pigs are eating their droppings, is this normal? 
Yes. Guinea pigs produce two types of droppings: 
  • Hard, dry ones, which are true faeces.
  • Dark, shiny, smelly ones, called ‘caecotrophs’. Guinea pigs eat them, usually straight from their bottom. Don’t be concerned if you see this: it’s natural and means they get the full goodness out of their high-fibre food.


Water for guinea pigs

They need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout. Check your guinea pigs are using the bottle: some may be used to drinking from a bowl and may not change easily. Keep the bottle or bowl clean at all times. Guinea pigs drink 100 to 200ml per kg of their bodyweight per day.


What do I do if my guinea pig starts drinking much more or much less than usual? 
Make an appointment to see your vet as over- or under drinking can be a sign of a medical problem.

Mice


What should I feed my mice?

  • Commercial mixes containing seed, grain and nuts. 
  • Also give small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apple, carrot and broccoli. 
  • Wash fruit and vegetables well to remove any chemical traces.
  • Avoid giving citrus fruits such as oranges, as they are too acidic.

How often should I feed my mouse?

  • Feed around a tablespoon of commercial seed-based mix per day: half in the morning and half in the evening.
  • Remove any uneaten food, especially if it will go mouldy quickly. 


How can I safely introduce new foods to my mice?

Changing a mouse’s diet suddenly can upset their digestive system. So always introduce new foods gradually, day by day.

Can I feed my mice treats?
Yes, if they are the right ones. Natural treats are healthy for them and mice enjoy them. They’re available from pet shops. 

But sunflower seeds and peanuts are high fat treats that should only be fed occasionally. Giving too many is like feeding a child too much chocolate. Keep sugar-based treats such as ‘honey sticks’ to a minimum, as they lead to obesity. 

Water for mice 
They need constant access to fresh clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout. An adult mouse drinks about 15ml per 100g of their bodyweight per day.

What do I do if my mice start drinking much more or much less than usual? 
Make an appointment to see your vet as over- or under drinking can be a sign of a medical problem.

Rats


What should I feed my rats?

  • It is best to feed commercial rat nuggets. These contain the right nutrients in the right quantities – and are available from pet shops. Follow the packet’s guidelines and weigh the food out so you keep your rat healthy by preventing overfeeding and obesity. 
  • Also give small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apple, carrot and broccoli. 
  • Wash fruit and vegetables well to remove any chemical traces.
  • Rats are omnivores – they eat both plants and meat – so you can occasionally give them small pieces of lean meat, egg or pulses like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas.
  • Avoid giving citrus fruits such as oranges, as they’re too acidic.
  • Don’t give chocolate or dairy products as they can be harmful.
  • Some commercial rat mixes contain seed, grain and nuts. But rats can be picky and leave bits behind, which can cause health problems. 


How often should I feed my rats?

  • Feed rat nuggets twice a day: in the morning and the evening
  • Remove any uneaten food, especially if it will go mouldy quickly. 

How can I introduce new foods to my rats?
Changing a rat’s diet suddenly can upset their digestive system. So always introduce new foods gradually, day by day.

Can I feed my rats treats?
Yes, if they are the right ones. Natural treats are healthy for them and rats enjoy them. They’re available from pet shops. 

But sunflower seeds and peanuts are high fat treats that should only be fed occasionally. Giving too many is like feeding a child too much chocolate. Keep sugar-based treats such as ‘honey sticks’ to a minimum, as they lead to obesity.