Healthy Feeding for Rodents:

Including Rats, Mice, Hamsters, and Gerbils:

Rats, mice, hamster’s and gerbils all have similar dietary requirements. They are mainly seed eaters, but rats, mice and particularly hamsters are also known to like insects and other small animals either fresh or as carrion.

All of these species have long, continually growing incisors, which are worn down by the action of eating and by chewing on hard surfaces such as wood in the process of creating nests and burrows.

Timothy hay/grass is not a main part of a rodent’s diet, but they will chew on stems and are fond of the seed heads on Timothy hay.

Their basic diet should consist of a good quality rodent chow or lab block. Rodent chows should have a minimum of 16% protein and 4 to 5% fat content. These dry foods can be left in the cage at all times in a bowl or hanging feeder to be consumed as needed.

Very young, recently weaned animals may have a problem gnawing on the hard pellets and it will be necessary to break them into smaller pieces or soften them for a few weeks until the pet is more mature. Pelleted food should be purchased in amounts that will be used within three months to prevent spoilage.

Good quality rodent chows are considered to be fairly complete diets for this group.


They love grains, nuts and seeds, but these foods should be offered in small quantities because of their high fat content.

Timothy hay seed heads work here as they are relatively low in fat and provide a source of roughage.

A reasonable amount of nuts and or seeds would be a total of 1 teaspoon/day for rats and about ½ teaspoon for the others. If these ‘treat’ foods are given free choice, the pet will eat them exclusively, not eat the balanced pellets and develop nutritional disease such as obesity.

Take care when introducing new foods:

Sometimes, because of illness, dental disease, rapid diet changes, stress or numerous other reasons, rodents can develop severe GI disease. The signs that an observant keeper should watch for are decreased appetite, decreased defecation (pooping) or diarrhoea. If any of these signs is seen, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Please know, this is often a life-threatening problem and waiting to see if your animal gets better is not the best option!