The general consensus is that hay and hay products are one of the most important
aspects of small animal nutrition. Claire Hamblion, marketing manager for Supreme
Petfoods, says that it’s all about getting it right, “providing the right nutrients in the right
formats in the right amounts, with respect to each other, at the right time.”
“Herbivorous small pets need constant access to long fiber in the form of hay, and
that’s not something that should be an after-thought,” explains Hamblion. “That hay
should be selected for its nutritional characteristics, too.”
Lucas Stock, communications manager for Oxbow Animal Health, also emphasizes
the importance of high-quality grass hay, noting it should make up about 70 percent of a
small animal’s daily diet.
“Rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas have unique gastrointestinal systems that require
constant motion that is best facilitated by high-fiber grass hay,” says Stock.
Fiber is the cornerstone of small animal nutrition. In addition to large, constant and
consistent amounts of hay, it is also vital that small animals get a uniform food, packed
with essential vitamins and minerals, to make up 20 percent of their diet and fresh, leafy
greens, which should make up about 8 percent, along with a small amount of healthy
It’s easy to think that throwing a couple pieces of hay and a handful of mixed nuts and seeds into a small animal’s cage is enough to sustain them throughout the day. But just as it’s dangerous for a
human to survive on junk food and soda, a lack of well-rounded, nutritious meals can be detrimental for small
animals. While it is much easier to find information on
the dietary needs of cats, dogs and—of course—humans,
the nutritional needs of small animals can’t be pushed to
ALL THE ESSENTIALS
A complete, balanced diet is necessary for all animals,
but it’s not consistent across the board. Some animals
may require more proteins and carbohydrates, while
others require higher intakes of fibrous, starchy essentials.
Although the animals may be small,
their nutritional needs are big.
BY KELLY LINDENAU