Rodents - Feeding

What do pet rodents eat?

All of the pet rodents must be fed a good, high quality rodent chow (nutritionally balanced pelleted food) available at pet stores. Many veterinarians also recommend offering hay to the rodents; check with your veterinarian about this first. The diets containing seeds and nuts ARE NOT RECOMMENDED. If offered these good-tasting seeds (such as sunflower seeds) and nuts, which are high in fat and low calcium and other nutrients, many rodents will eat these preferentially over healthy formulated pellets.


rodents-feeding-1How often should I feed my pet rodent?

Fresh food and clean water should be available at all times in dishes or sipper bottles (depending on the type of rodent you purchase). Many owners offer the food in heavy, spill-proof ceramic crocks, although feeders can be purchased and attached to the side of the cage.


Do I need to give my rodent vitamins?

No, pet rodents do not require extra vitamins when fed a proper diet. Just adding vitamins to a poor diet will not suffice.


Can I offer my rodent treats?

Seeds and nuts can be offered as an occasional treat (less than 5 - 10% of the total daily diet). You can offer your rodent fresh, well-cleaned vegetables (preferably organic) on a daily basis and occasionally give a small amount of fruit. Leafy green vegetables (not lettuce or celery) are acceptable, as are yellow and orange vegetables. The total daily amount of these "people foods" should not run more than 10% of the diet.

"Seeds and nuts can be offered as an occasional treat (less than 5 - 10% of the total daily diet)."

Thus, the pets should eat mainly pellets (90% of the diet), 5-10% vegetables and fruits, and occasionally a few seeds or nuts as treats. It is also acceptable to offer free-choice hay (such as timothy, clover, or alfalfa cubes) as a source of fiber, as long as your veterinarian has not recommended a specific diet for your pet.


Do guinea pigs require their own special food?

Guinea pigs, unlike most pets, do not make their own Vitamin C. The preferred food for guinea pigs is a commercial high fiber guinea pig pellet with added vitamin C offered free choice throughout the day. Ensure your fresh guinea pig pellets contain added vitamin C; however, because this vitamin breaks down or oxidizes rapidly, the pellets must be used up or replaced within 90 days of the manufacturing date.

"Guinea pig pellets contain added vitamin C...the pellets must be used up or replaced within 90 days of the manufacturing date."

If your guinea pig develops a deficiency, it is much better to give a crushed vitamin C tablet liquid by mouth rather than in drinking water, since the vitamin also breaks down rapidly in water and loses its potency. However, mixing about 100 mg of ascorbic acid twice daily in fresh water will meet the vitamin C requirement. Offering fresh green vegetables can be used to supply supplemental Vitamin C as well.


What about water?

Fresh water should be available 24 hours a day. It is usually provided in sipper tubes available at pet stores, although it can be placed in spill-proof crocks. The water should be replaced DAILY and the tubes (specifically the end the pet drinks from) should be inspected daily for blockage that can develop if the pets spits food into the sipper tube., Dishes and sipper bottles should be wash thoroughly every day. Use a bottle brush to thoroughly clean the sipper bottle tube, as it is a great place for bacteria to grow!


Is there anything else I should know about feeding my pet rodent?

Chew toys can be offered to help prevent overgrown incisors; anything suited for dogs, such as nylon chew bones or well-boiled meat bones, are fine. Many owners offer their pet rodents wooden sticks to gnaw, which helps to control overgrown incisors. Speak to your veterinarian about suitable toys for your rodent pet.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Rick Axelson, DVM

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.