QUICK SUMMARY ↬ Squirrels should not eat chocolates, even though they can. Chocolates have theobromine which can be poisonous for these bushy-tailed rodents. Chocolates also contain cellulose which can’t be digested by them.
Chocolates! Who doesn’t adore them? Even small creatures like squirrels will steal a bite if given a chance. But can squirrels eat chocolate? Is it safe to feed them this delectable, smooth delicacy?
Can squirrels eat chocolate?
There is plenty of research out there that shows why chocolate—and its by-products—is bad for wild and domestic animals.
The main culprit has always been theobromine, the alkaloid substance that gives it a somewhat bitter taste. This substance can be fatal in pets, including squirrels, if consumed in high doses. This is called chocolate poisoning or theobromine poisoning.
A regular offering of chocolate to these small species can cause stomach aches, gastrointestinal problems, and diarrhea. Their small bodies can’t handle the effect of the delightful snack.
In a nutshell, high doses of theobromine above 75 mg/kg of body mass can be fatal for squirrels. An Eastern gray squirrel—which is one of the most common wild squirrels—can experience theobromine poisoning and die just by consuming 0.5mg of theobromine.
So, can squirrels eat chocolate? The answer is, YES and they will if you feed them.
But are chocolates healthy for squirrels? The answer is a big NO.
It’s a poison for them and therefore doesn’t provide any nutritional value. In fact, it can potentially prevent them from absorbing other nutrients from their regular food.
Don’t bother feeding your pet squirrel—or wild squirrel— something harmful. There’s a lot of alternatives out there.
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What about milk chocolate?
The concentration of theobromine in dark chocolate products is up to 10 times that of milk chocolate or white chocolate. Meaning dark chocolate is far more toxic to squirrels per unit weight or volume than milk chocolate or white chocolate.
Still, both milk chocolate and white chocolate have sugar as major ingredients, making it unhealthy for these bushy-tailed rodents.
Can squirrels eat chocolate in moderation?
Other pet owners advocate feeding squirrels with chocolate in “moderation”. But this concept simply does not apply to squirrels.
Try giving your grey squirrel a big chocolate bar—or a candy bar—and you’ll see that they cannot be bothered about eating in moderation.
In fact, their cheeks have been described as “massive grocery bags”. They can stuff a significant amount of food in their cheeks, even when they are full.
Another issue with chocolate is they contain cellulose. And guess what? Squirrels can’t digest cellulose. So the next time you think of handing some chocolates to squirrels, consider how risky it is to them even in “moderation”.
Can squirrels die from eating chocolates?
It’s not like squirrels will drop dead just by tasting chocolates. So, no, squirrels will not die after eating a chocolate bar.
But we don’t want the cumulative effect on them eating this sweet delicacy. Even squirrels are as healthy or unhealthy as the type of food that make up their diet.
Bottom line: avoid feeding squirrels chocolates.
At least provide them healthy treats.
Other unsafe foods 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?
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 a 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 and roasted peanuts 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, hickory nuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, 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 .
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.