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Timothy and Grass Hay Needs for Small Pets
Nutritional Needs of Small Herbivores Guinea pigs, chinchillas, and rabbits are small herbivores, or plant-eating animals, that are commonly kept as companion animals. They have been bred in captivity for years and their quiet nature, ease of handling, and relatively simple housing requirements make them ideal pets, especially for owners that do not have a lot of room for four-legged friends. Feeding these small mammals is an important part of their daily care and each species has specific nutritional needs.
Clean water must be accessible to all small pets at all times. A sipper water bottle is the best method to provide water because it is less likely to be contaminated with bedding, food, feces, and urine. Animals that are unfamiliar with sipper water bottles may require some training to use them properly. Water bottles and bowls should be emptied and filled with fresh water daily to encourage water intake and to prevent overgrowth of bacteria.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are all classified as hindgut fermenters. In hindgut fermenters, fiber from forages remains relatively intact as it passes through the stomach and intestine, but it is digested, or fermented, by symbiotic bacteria in the cecum and colon.
All of these small mammals produce cecotrophs (sometimes called night feces), which are consumed as soon as they are expelled. Cecotrophs are formed in the colon and cecum and are made of soft, pellet-like fecal material. They are rich in nitrogen and contain microorganisms, amino acids, volatile fatty acids, and vitamins. These nutrients, which were previously unavailable in the forage, are neatly packaged in the cecotrophs and are digested in the stomach and absorbed in the small intestine. Proper and efficient formation of cecotrophs requires a high-fiber diet.