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A Nutrition Guide for Exotic Animals

Exotic animals are enchanting creatures and require special attention. For your exotic animal to grow strong and healthy you need to ensure a nutritious diet.

There are thousands of species of exotic animals. The entire “exotic” group consists of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, and even birds, and each of them has its preferred food and restrictions. 

In this article, we will talk about the dietary requirements of the most common exotic animals and share some important feeding tips.

1. Reptiles

Most people think about colorful lizards and snakes when they hear the word “exotic”. This is because keeping reptiles and snakes as pets has become very common as these amazing creatures come in bright vibrant colors.

For better understanding, reptiles can be divided into four groups

Insectivores

While crickets and mealworms are nutritious foods, they are not sufficient for a balanced diet. Mealworms have high levels of fat and crickets do not have the right calcium to phosphorus ratio. 

For a balanced diet, offer a variety of insects including Dubia Roaches, Discoid Roaches, Silkworms, Black fly larvae, and other staple feeders. The insects can also be gut-loaded with vitamins and calcium to make them more nutritious.

Carnivore

You can feed carnivorous reptiles such as snakes and aquatic turtles whole prey items available in the local pet shops. Before feeding them, freeze the item to remove parasites.

Omnivore

Omnivore reptiles are easy to feed since they eat a variety of food. But you need to make sure that omnivores get equal amounts of all types of food. Their diet should consist of plants, fresh vegetables, insects, and meat. 

Herbivore

Make sure to provide the same amount of nutrition your herbivore reptile would have consumed in the wild. The perfect diet for a herbivore should consist of alfalfa, bean sprouts, apples, barley, corn kernels, carrot root and leaves, fresh figs, mulberry fruit, grass clippings, okra, and unsalted sunflower seeds.

2. Small Mammals

Most small mammals are herbivores and an ideal diet for them should contain moderate levels of protein, minimal starch, and adequate fiber. You need to provide both non-digestible and digestible fiber to ensure their gut motility, appetite stimulation, and dental health.

Lack of motility can cause caecal obstruction and constipation. Make sure you do not feed them diets high in sugar and starch. Occasional treats are fine, but regular consumption can cause intestinal disease. 

An example of a true herbivore would be rabbits and rodents like guinea pigs, hamsters, degus, and chinchillas. However, even among this group, there are different dietary needs. 

For instance, you should feed specific pallets to chinchillas which are longer and easier for them to hold.

On the other hand, guinea pigs require a daily dose of vitamin C which is different from a rabbit’s diet. A daily dose of 10 mg vitamin C mixed with its drinking water will suffice.

Small mammals can also be carnivores. Ferrets are the common example and since they are carnivores they require a diet packed with protein. Their basic diet should contain over 35 percent protein, 15 percent fat, and only 3 percent fiber.

Lastly, we have insectivore mammals such as hedgehogs who love eating high vitamin-enriched insects. 

3. Birds

The diet for birds needs more research. The reason it is so complex is that birds will only eat food they have eaten in their respective regions.

And remember, the diet of general poultry and exotic birds should never be considered the same. 

Whatever the diet, you need to make sure your pet birds get their daily dose of Carbohydrates since it is a source of energy. Carbohydrates can be found in the form of starch and sugar. But make sure the amount is lower than 10 percent. Overfeeding them with carbohydrates and sugar can cause diarrhea.

Other important ingredients are fat found in vegetable oil, Glycine, and fiber. Contrary to popular belief, your pet birds need a variety of different items than just a pack of “Parrot mix”.

In the wild, birds eat a variety of fruits, insects, flowers, leaves, nuts, and seeds. Seeds are a good source of energy but lack calcium and phosphorus.

A balanced diet for birds should contain fruits, vegetables, and legumes like peas, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas. Also, try feeding them commercially prepared amino acids, vitamin and calcium supplements.

How to Feed Exotic Animals

After learning about what your exotic animal needs to eat, the following tips will help to feed them properly.

1. Stick to the Base Diet

You may want to experiment and mix different ingredients with your pet’s diet, but even a small change can cause harmful effects. These animals become naturally strong in the wild, but it is not the same under captivity. So, to be safe stick to the same diet.

2. Never Feed Them Toxic Food

A professional vet will tell you what food is toxic for which animal. For instance, grapes and raisins are harmless to some animals but can cause kidney damage in foxes

3. Do Not Overfeed Them

You need to know the quantity of food you should provide. If you feed them less, they will suffer from malnutrition, but overfeeding can cause diarrhea and other problems.

Different animals have different needs. Like, some snakes should only be fed twice a week, bearded dragons should be fed only once a day, but a monkey needs to be fed three times a day including snacks after every few hours.

4. Learn How to Properly Feed Them

Feeding the right way will stimulate their appetite and make eating more interesting. For example, reptiles like to hunt for their food, so they prefer live food. 

If it is not alive, you can attach a string to it and jump it around to make it look live. Squirrels and guinea pigs prefer eating from bowls or feeders but large animals that do not fit in cages would like a more hands-on approach.

Final Thought

Exotic animals just like any other animal will require a healthy and nutritious diet to live long. Their diet requirements are a bit tricky but can be managed easily if you do a little research.