Chocolates! Who doesn’t love them? Even animals will steal a bite if given a chance. But can squirrels eat chocolate? Is it safe to let them eat this tasty, milky delicacy?
Squirrels should not eat chocolates, even though they can. The delicious treat has little to offer them in terms of nutrition. The theobromine content in chocolate can be toxic to squirrels if consumed in large quantities and can cause theobromine poisoning. It is best not to feed chocolates to avoid the possibility of poisoning.
Read on to find out why chocolates are not the safest treats for squirrels and what you can feed them instead.
Why is Chocolate Considered Unsafe for Squirrels?
There are plenty of scientific studies, like this one, that shows how chocolate and its by-products can negatively affect wild and domestic animals.
The main culprit has always been theobromine, the alkaloid substance in chocolate that gives it a somewhat bitter taste. This substance can cause fatal toxicity in pets and is commonly responsible for accidental poisoning in dogs, cats, and other household pets.
Okay, what has all this got to do with squirrels?
Theobromine can be fatal in squirrels, especially if consumed in high doses. This can result in what is commonly called chocolate poisoning.
There are several types of squirrels with different body sizes. One common type is the Eastern gray squirrel, which measures approximately 11 inches and weighs about 1.3 pounds. At that bodyweight, a typical Eastern gray squirrel can become poisoned and even die just by consuming 0.5mg of theobromine.
A regular offering of chocolates can cause stomach aches, gastrointestinal problems, and diarrhea in squirrels. Their small bodies can’t handle the effect of the delightful snack.
Chocolate doesn’t provide any meaningful nutrition to squirrels and can even prevent them from incorporating other nutrients from their food if they eat too much chocolate.
In a nutshell, high doses of theobromine above 75 mg/kg of body mass can be fatal for squirrels. For many people, it is impractical to always remember a squirrel’s body mass when giving squirrels tasty candies or other chocolate products.
But why should you bother feeding your pet squirrel or wild squirrel something potentially harmful when they are several safe alternatives?
Are All Chocolates Toxic to Squirrels?
Not all chocolate products are created equal. Some are high in theobromine, while others have considerably low amounts of the substance.
For example, dark chocolate products have higher amounts of theobromine, and white chocolate doesn’t. Still, white chocolate has a high level of sugar and fat, making it unhealthy for these bushy-tailed rodents.
Here is a list of chocolate products with the highest amounts of theobromine:
- Dark chocolate (228 mg/square oz)
- Dark chocolate coated coffee beans (147 mg/oz)
- Baking chocolate (376 mg/square oz)
- Sweet chocolate candy (175 mg/1.5 oz)
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips (138 mg/1 oz)
- Chocolate wafers (21 mg/wafer)
- Cocoa powder (142 mg/100 grams)
- Hot cocoa (170 mg/cup)
Can Squirrels Eat Chocolate in Moderation?
While some pet owners advocate feeding chocolate in “moderation,” this concept does not exist for squirrels.
These cute, furry animals may be smart, sneaky, and clever, but they are still animals and cannot be bothered about eating in moderation.
Have you ever wondered why these animals stash food? Do you know they can stuff a significant amount of food in their cheeks, even when they are full? In fact, their cheeks have been aptly described as “massive grocery bags!”
Usually, animals know what to eat and what to avoid. Squirrels, in particular, will not eat hazardous foods. But that rule goes out the window when the food in question is chocolate! If a squirrel has access to tons of chocolate bars, it will continue to eat until there’s nothing left or it gets too full. Even at that, it will scurry away with a mouthful for future consumption.
In a nutshell, moderation doesn’t usually work with squirrels.
But can squirrels eat chocolate when pet squirrel owners strictly monitor the quantity of chocolate offered? Is it okay to feed a small quantity of chocolate once in a while? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to take a quick look at the digestive system of a squirrel.
Although squirrels can eat meat and a host of other food types, especially when they are hungry, they are mostly herbivores. But these furry little rodents don’t have the same digestive systems found in animals such as rabbits. That means squirrels can’t digest cellulose.
Guess what? Chocolates contain cellulose!
The next time you think of handing a squirrel some chocolates, consider how risky it is to eat what it can’t digest.
Can Squirrels Die From Eating Chocolates?
Of course, squirrels won’t drop dead just by tasting chocolates, but you don’t want to risk feeding them something that can likely harm them.
Even if you don’t keep squirrels but have a few strolling through your backyard, you should provide healthy treats.
Just as humans “are what they eat”, over time, animals are as healthy or unhealthy as the type of foods that make up their diet. The cumulative effect of eating chocolates is usually not something you want for a squirrel.
Bottom line: avoid feeding chocolates.
What Other Foods Are Unsafe for Squirrels?
Now we have a definite answer to the question: can squirrels eat chocolate? The next logical question is, what other foods are not safe to give squirrels?
Here’s a summary of foods that are either unsafe or offer little to no nutritional value to squirrels.
1. Junk Food
Junk foods are high in artificial sugar and sweeteners. Excessive sugar can make these naturally hyperactive animals even more excited, which is not good for their overall health and wellbeing.
Salted snacks are also not good for squirrels because they are fillers and don’t add any value to these animals.
Junk foods include hot dogs, pizzas, French fries, chips, chocolate cake, chocolate bars, brownies, and other commercially processed foods.
2. Pet Food
Pet foods with high meat content might be okay for dogs and cats but not ideal for squirrels. These furry little animals are mostly vegetarians and can die if they consume too much meat.
Squirrels are, however, also considered omnivores, meaning they will eat plants and meat, but the majority of their diet should consist of fungi, seeds, nuts, and fruit. In some cases, a squirrel may also nibble on eggs, small insects, and caterpillars.
Birdseed often doubles as squirrel food, especially when you add it to a bird feeder, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of nutritional value for any squirrel.
3. Human or Animal Formula
Formulas can be incredibly harmful to squirrels, whether it is baby formula or puppy and kitten food.
Formulas contain too many chemical additives and preservatives that are not good for a squirrel’s system, no matter if it is a baby squirrel or an adult squirrel. These unnatural substances can cause rickets, seizures, nervousness, and even sudden death in squirrels.
Corn might not necessarily be toxic to squirrels, especially if cut into small pieces and fed in small quantities. However, the food can grow mold rather quickly and can also turn sour in a short time. Squirrels can become poisoned or even die if they eat sour or moldy corn.
Foods Low in Nutritional Value
This might come as a surprise because squirrels are usually pictured stuffing peanuts in their face.
Here’s the truth, though. Peanuts are not nuts in the real sense of the word. Instead, they are legumes like lentils and soybeans. Raw peanuts can harbor toxic mold or fungus, which is dangerous to squirrels. Squirrels also enjoy peanut butter even though it is not the best and healthiest option, but it is okay here and there.
It is okay to feed peanuts as treats on occasion, but excess peanuts (and other legumes) can prevent the absorption of essential minerals and trace elements, such as calcium, zinc, potassium, and iron. This can lead to mineral deficiencies in both animals and humans.
2. Sunflower seed
Like peanuts, sunflower seeds do not add any nutrients to squirrels and are not an essential part of their diet. So, they should not be added to a squirrel feeder.
Squirrels are happy to munch on breakfast cereals, but these are not part of the rodent’s natural diet. Cereals are essentially fillers with no nutritional value for squirrels. If anything, they can lead to severe malnutrition, especially when that’s what you consistently feed them.
Ideal Squirrel Diet
The best diet for squirrels consists of natural, plant-based foods, including:
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts in their shells are great for squirrels. Some of the best types to feed are hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, and walnuts.
- Fruits: Kiwi fruit, bananas, strawberries, grapes, peaches, and just about any other type of fruit are good for squirrels. Fruits should be fed in small amounts once or twice weekly, especially sugary types.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, zucchini, carrots, beet greens, kale, turnip greens, radishes, and other high-calcium vegetables are excellent for squirrels. Avoid feeding garlic, fresh corn, yam, and dried veggies.
- Bones: Bones are a good source of calcium for squirrels and can also help keep their teeth in good shape.
Also, provide plenty of water because squirrels can gulp down quite a lot of water daily, especially during warmer months. However, they can go without water when they hibernate.
How do squirrels stay full during the long winter months when they are hardly seen scurrying for food? Check out this article to find out more.
Can squirrels eat chocolate?
The short answer is no. Just say so no to feeding chocolate to squirrels, especially in large quantities. They love the tasty treat and will even steal a mouthful, but it is not healthy for them.