Small animals make great starter pets for kids and close-quarters companions for apartment dwellers. This category includes rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, ferrets, mice and rats. Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re feeding them the proper diet. When considering small animal nutrition, it's important not to give the wrong thing, or too much of the right thing, which can be hazardous to their health.

Most pet stores offer specially formulated mixtures, designed to provide your small pet with a balanced diet. You can occasionally supplement with treats, but be careful not to over feed your pet or allow food to remain in the cage that may become rotten or moldy.

Water is also a very important part of every pet's diet. Your pet should have free access to fresh water at all times, either from a water bottle or a small, sturdy dish.

Small animal feeding by species:

  • Rabbits - Rabbits enjoy a mixture of rabbit pellets and vegetables. They also need a constant supply of hay to chew and aid in digestion. Rabbits are sensitive to sugar, so fruity snacks should be kept to a minimum and never give your rabbit legumes, beans or nuts. 
  • Ferrets - Unlike most small pets, ferrets shouldn't dine on fruits and vegetables. They're carnivores and need a good supply of protein in their diet. Dry kibble is best, but try to mix in a small amount of wet food, such as cooked meat or insects as treats.
  • Chinchillas - Chinchillas have very specific dietary needs. Changing their diet can cause health problems, so once you establish a routine, stick with it. They may have up to one teaspoon of fruit, vegetables, or seeds each day in addition to their regular pellets. 
  • Rats - The least discerning of all small pets, rats will eat just about anything and enjoy variety. Foods to avoid include peanut butter and onions, as well as large amounts of salty or sugary snacks.

For more information on small animal feeding, refer to our Smart Pet Guide.