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Florida Dept. of Agriculture Registered Feed Master, 2009-10 Feed Registrant #1501

Dealing With Picky Eaters

Special Tips for Squirrels and Flyers

Squirrels and flyers can be very choosy about their food. This is called "selective eating behavior" and it's an important survival strategy in the wild. However, a pet squirrel doesn't have to worry about getting enough fat and calories, and if high-calorie foods like nuts and treats are available every day, their "selective" eating will cause them to choose those foods exclusively, which is not a balanced diet! That's why you should limit certain foods, like nuts and treats.

We've made Henry's Healthy Blocks as tasty as possible; they're packed with nuts, the food squirrels like best, and most squirrels like the blocks right away. However, squirrels don't like change, and with extra-picky eaters it can take time to change eating habits. Below are some important tips to help get your pet on the road to a healthier diet.

Basic Steps:
  1. Clean out all food stashes. This is very important, since your squirrel will ignore healthy foods if he's got lots of yummies stashed. If your squirrel has a stash, he will constantly beg food to add to it; he may also become protective or even aggressive about his stash. So stashes are a no-no, at least at first.
  2. Feed Henry's Healthy Blocks in the morning, when your pet is hungriest, with no other foods. Then leave. He will probably ignore the block and continue begging for something else. That's okay.
  3. Eliminate treats. NO extra nuts, no fruit, and no treats of ANY kind. No sips of your coke, or bits of pizza crust, or any kind of treat.
  4. Give your pet his healthy food and then leave. If he won't eat it, never go back to the kitchen to get something else for him. This is a very bad habit that teaches them to be picky eaters.
Feeding Routine:
  • Breakfast: 1 Healthy Block with no other food.
  • Lunch: Healthy veggies (NOT corn and sweet potato and avocado: these are high-starch, high-energy treats; not healthy veggies). A handful of spring mix salad is good. There's a complete list of healthy veggies in the Healthy Diet for Pet Squirrels. Print it out and stick it on your fridge.
  • Afternoon snack: Some kind of wild food from outside: a fresh branch with leaves (make sure it's not toxic), some grass from your lawn (only if untreated with chemicals), a pine cone, magnolia cone, some pine needles, or more healthy veggies.
  • Dinner: 1 Healthy Block. Just leave it there and don't worry if he eats it.

He probably won't eat much of the food you provided the first day; that's normal. The next morning, clear out any uneaten food, and repeat. In fact, he may not eat any of the healthy foods you're giving for several days. In the first place, your pet probably has plenty of body fat, so she won't really be that hungry. Also, she may have hidden stashes you didn't find. Just be patient. Your squirrel will absolutely not starve herself to death.

Some squirrels adjust quickly to the new diet and love the blocks. Others are more resistant and take more time. Squirrels like routine and they don't like change. Your squirrel might seem confused, restless, or he may even get angry at first. However, once he gets used to the NEW routine, he will learn to love it just as much. So stick with it.

If you stick to the above diet very carefully, your squirrel should begin to eat his healthy foods within 5-10 days.

Remember:
  • Clean out food stashes
  • Feed healthy foods in the morning
  • Avoid snacks, treats, and sweets
  • If your pet won't eat healthy foods, he's not that hungry
  • If your pet refuses a healthy food, don't replace it with a treat.