Hay and grass are a part of most rodent’s diet and for some, they are the most important component. There are different types of hay and grass available too, and some are unsuitable for some species so keep reading to make sure you buy the best one for your furry friend!
The main reasons for feeding hay and grass are due to the fibre content and motion in which rodents have to chew them in. Fibre is important to keep their guts moving, meaning food is digested properly, and firm faeces are produced as a result. Moreover, rodents' teeth (especially incisors - the small teeth at the front) continually grow and if they become overgrown, this can become painful and stop them from eating. Due to the length of hay and grass, rodents have to chew it in a figure of eight fashion, which helps keep teeth at a suitable length to avoid dental issues.
Hay and grass is the main component of a guinea pig’s diet and should make up 85-90% of it. A general rule of thumb is that guinea pigs should eat their body weight in hay a day. I know what you’re thinking, that sounds like a lot! Truth be told, you can’t overfeed it and because it is high in fibre, it has plenty of health benefits.
Timothy hay is a good option, as it is fresh grass (not mown grass). However, if your guinea pig has not had fresh grass before, it’s best to introduce this gradually so they don’t get an upset tummy.
Timothy hay is a key part of a hamster’s diet, as they benefit from the high fibre content. You can make feeding fun for your hamster by hiding their timothy hay in cardboard, empty kitchen or toilet rolls, thereby encouraging their natural behaviours of foraging and gnawing.
Chinchillas need a constant supply of hay as it is the main component of their diet. Timothy hay or meadow hay (with no dust) is perfectly suitable for them and they should be given fresh hay each day. Alfalfa hay should only be given if your chinchilla is pregnant, feeding babies or growing. This is because it is high in protein and calcium, which are two essential nutrients for such life stages and conditions. However, the high quantity of protein and calcium could result in urinary crystals if fed regularly to an adult chinchilla (and in the case of females who aren’t pregnant or feeding). Urinary crystals can cause pain and discomfort and in serious cases, can result in a bladder blockage, which is a medical emergency.
Unlike their fellow rodents, rats, mice and gerbils do not require hay as part of their diet. Although, similarly to hamsters, one of their natural behaviours is to gnaw, and hay cubes are a great form of enrichment to promote this.