Just because pocket pets are smaller in stature does not mean they need any less attention. Pocket pets usually include small mammals such as hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, and guinea pigs.
Keeping a healthy and balanced diet for small pets is key to their overall health. Below, we outline some of the best practices for keeping a balanced diet to ensure a lifetime of health.
How to Keep a Balanced Diet for your Pocket Pet
In the wild, a hamster would eat a mix of insect larvae, seeds, and larger insects such as crickets. At home though, the majority of hamsters are fed commercially prepared food mixtures. Most food mixes are made to ensure that the hamster receives all of the nutrients and minerals vital for health. Sometimes it may be necessary to supplement the commercially prepared food mixes. In small quantities, it is alright to give your hamster some greens or root vegetables that have been cleaned. Small cut up pieces of fruits can also be given. Never give rhubarb or grapes to small rodents because these can be poisonous.
Gerbils need to eat a healthy blend of protein and fats. A good rule to follow is to keep your gerbil’s diet about 18% protein and less than 5% fat. To achieve this mix it is a good practice to give your gerbil some food pellets as part of his or her diet. These pellets should be 80% to 100% whole meal. In combination with the food pellets, it is a good idea to add in a seed mix. You will notice that your gerbil will probably pull out the sunflower seeds first, as this is commonly a favorite. The remaining mix of the diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables. This can be anything from pears, apples, blue berries, cucumbers, pumpkin, broccoli, or asparagus. As with hamsters, it is important to never give your gerbil grapes or rhubarb.
A healthy diet for a guinea pig should include a combination of Timothy hay, pellets, vegetables, and fruits. The majority of a guinea pig’s diet should be Timothy hay, which is also a common source of bedding material for them. It is important to keep a separate area of Timothy hay that is designated for eating within the cage. Your guinea pig should also have some high quality pellets mixed into his or her diet. Look for a pellet that has about 16% fiber and about 20% protein. It is beneficial to find a pellet that also has Vitamin C added in since guinea pigs are not able to produce this vitamin naturally. You can also add fruits and vegetables to supplement your guinea pig’s diet. Some favorite additives for guinea pigs include kale, watermelon, celery, spinach, and peaches.
Just like with other pocket pets, the generic food mix is not quite enough to maintain a healthy diet for your fancy rat. While the commercial mix is a great start for the essential minerals and vitamins, rats will need to have additional foods to fully supplement their diet. In the wild, rats get a tremendous mix of everything from seeds, vegetables, worms, eggs, and even fish, reptiles, and other small mammals that they are able to catch. Rat blocks may be a good idea to keep your rat healthy with a complete diet. Additionally, adding soy to your female rat’s diet can help prevent mammary tumors. Many rat blocks are made with soybean oil for this very purpose. For older male rats, try a low-protein rat block of about 14% protein. New studies are showing that low protein diets are the most beneficial for older males.
If you are a proud new owner of a pocket pet feel free to reach out to our experts at Community Veterinary Clinic to make sure your new pet gets on the right track to a lifetime of good health. Our professional and caring staff are here to help answer any questions you may have.
Feel free to visit our website at turlockvet.com to learn more about what services we can offer for pocket pets.