Diet for Pet Squirrels
(Revised March 21, 2008)
Your squirrel needs a balanced diet containing protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals, including lots of calcium. Feed a variety of foods from each category in the amounts indicated. Note: Amounts are for a 450-gram (1 pound) squirrel, and should be adjusted as necessary depending on your squirrel’s weight. For squirrels that are older, overweight, or less active, you should limit foods that are high in sugars, starches, or fat.
1. Rodent Block—2-4 small blocks per day. Below are two of the best:
Harlan Teklad 2014 and 2018 Rodent Diets. The cadillac of rodent chows. Vegetarian formulas contain no preservatives, phytoestrogens, or nitrosamines. The 2014 is a low-fat, low-protein formula suitable for older squirrels. The 2018 is for growing squirrels (under 18 months old). Store in the refrigerator. $5.00 for 5 lbs at the Crafty Rat:
KayTee Forti-Diet for Rats and Mice. A tasty vegetarian rodent diet available at pet stores. If you’re having trouble getting your squirrel to eat blocks, it can be a good choice. Does contain added sugars such as molasses, as well as preservatives for long shelf life. $3.47 for 2 lbs at Petco:
2. High-Calcium Vegetables—5-7 thumb-sized pieces per day. Arugula, beet greens, Belgian endive, chicory, chinese cabbage (bok choy), cilantro (fresh), collard greens, dandelion greens, escarole, fennel, kale, mustard spinach, parsley (fresh), purslane, radicchio, radishes, romaine lettuce, squash (butternut; raw or cooked), swiss chard, turnip greens, watercress.
3. Other Healthy Veggies—2-3 pieces per day. Asparagus, artichokes, avocado**, bell peppers (green, red, or yellow), broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carnations, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, mushrooms (1 per week), okra, pumpkin, squash (all types; raw or cooked), sugar snap peas, sweet potato (raw or cooked), zucchini.
*Somewhat higher in sugars/starches
**High in fat; also the skin and pit are toxic
Avoid: Dried vegetables, fresh corn, garlic, onion, palm hearts, potatoes, sprouts, yams
4. Wild Foods—Unlimited while in season. Magnolia cones, pine cones, pine branches and bark, branch tips of nontoxic trees, roses from your garden, wild rose hips, purslane, plaintain, lambs quarters, and dandelion greens can be gathered fresh daily. Look to see what the wild squirrels are eating in your area. Make sure the area wasn’t sprayed, fertilized, or treated with any chemicals.
5. Animal Protein. Live or dried mealworms, crickets, or live moths (2 per day). Another option is eggs (hard-boiled or scrambled, with the shell), cheese, or plain yogurt mashed with some fruit (1 tsp. per day). Mealworms are available live or canned from pet stores and online at http://www.exoticnutrition.com/Treat-Department.htm
6. Fruit—2 slices per day. Apple, apricot, bananas,* blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries* (sweet), cherries (sour), crabapples,* cranberries, grapefruit, grapes,* honeydew, kiwi, kumquats, lemon, lime, mangos,* navel oranges, nectarines, papaya, passion fruit,* peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranates,* raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
*Somewhat higher in sugars/starches
Note: Pits and seeds can be toxic, except for berries.
Avoid: Dates, dried fruit of any kind, figs, fruit juice, persimmons, plums, prunes, raisins.
7. Nuts/Seeds—Two per day, preferably in the shell. Acorns, whole roasted pumpkin seeds, and almonds are the healthiest, followed by hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, English walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and peanuts, in that order.
Avoid: Cashews, sunflower seeds, dried corn, pine nuts (will cause severe calcium loss).
8. Something to Chew On. Antlers, tree branches, sea shells, or a walnut-sized rock from outdoors provide trace minerals and keep teeth from overgrowing. A cuttlebone or other calcium/mineral block should be hung on the side of the cage.
Foods to Avoid Generally
- Packaged “squirrel food,” “pet treats,” or seed mixes.
- Starchy foods: pasta, bread, grains, seeds, rice, potatoes.
- Sugary foods: candy, cookies, dried fruit, banana chips, soda, fruit juices, sweetened yogurt, granola, sweetened breakfast cereals.
- Junk food: french fries, potato chips, pretzels, crackers, anything salted.
- Legumes: beans (kidney beans, lentils, etc.), peas, and soybeans; except for green beans and sugar snap peas in the pod.
- Artificial sweeteners like Nutra-Sweet or aspartame.
Also Important for Good Health:
Natural sunlight. 1 hour per day in an outdoor cage or screened porch during the warm months provides Vit D and will help keep your squirrel healthy. An open window screened with aluminum screening or hardware cloth is another option. Indoors, a full-spectrum light (FSL) for 8 hrs per day is the next-best thing; although it does not provide Vit D, it is believed to have other health benefits.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight. Being overweight causes all kinds of health problems and is a major factor in diabetes in older animals. “Healthy weights” may vary: northern squirrels tend to be heavier than southern squirrels, and foxers are heavier than greys. In general, your pet should look like the healthy wild squirrels in your area.
And of course,
Chris’ Squirrels and More (http://www.squirrelsandmore.com/)