When it comes to a growing house of animals… the more, the merrier. We love having a house full of little fur friends, but knowing how to take care of these cohabitating animals is key.
Can dogs eat Timothy hay? Do cats and guinea pigs get along? Can we all have one big cuddle sesh together on the couch? These are just a few questions you may have when you bring different species of animals into your life.
We’ll help you answer these questions… and more. Understanding the different needs of each pet will help you provide a safe and happy environment for everyone. And that’s the goal.
Dogs, Cats, and Small Animals: Do They Get Along?
A calm, multi-pet home is any animal lover’s dream. But do dogs and small animals like bunnies, hamsters, and guinea pigs get along? And what about cats? Aren’t cats famous for eating rats? Luckily, both large and small animals can live together happily, as long as the introductions are done correctly and their personalities mesh.
Whether or not your animals can live together in harmony depends on their personality types. For example, some buns scare easily and enjoy being left on their own for most of the day, while some rabbits have cuddly, sociable personalities.
The same goes for dogs. High-energy dogs might not get along as well with small animals, while calm and docile dogs can be their big BFF.
How to Socialize Your Animals
It is possible to have your dogs, cats, and small animals get along. The most important thing to do is train them at a young age, or adopt an animal that already has experience in a multi-pet household.
If you already have a bunny and want to get a new kitten, introduce your kitten to the bunny (in a safe and supervised manner) right away to get them both familiar with each other. The first three months of a puppy’s life and the first two months of a kitten’s life is when they should be socialized the most.
If you already have a dog or cat and want to introduce a small animal, consider adopting one that already has this experience. If you adopt from an animal shelter, they may be able to tell you about the animal’s past homes and whether or not they will play well with others.
Cohabitating Furry Friend Safety
There’s lots to consider. Rule number one: never leave them unattended together. While it’s very possible for your dog or cat to get along with their small animal friend, leaving them alone together can turn into a serious accident. Dogs and cats play differently than small animals. Playtime, even if it’s well-intentioned, can hurt your little animal. It’s always best to supervise!
What to Know When Feeding a Household of Animals
Now that we know how to make sure your pets get along, let’s look at how to feed them together. Obviously, dogs and cats need a different diet than small animals. (You don’t see big German Shepherds eating Timothy hay very often… right?) Let’s look at important diet differences, what to feed, and how to feed it.
Dog and Cat Digestive Systems
Dogs and cats are carnivores, but cats are actually obligate carnivores; they must eat meat to survive. A diet heavy on grains, fruits, and vegetables is hard for them to digest. Dogs are scavenging carnivores; they also need a lot of meat, but they can survive on plant-based food, too.
This doesn’t mean that dogs should be vegetarians or are considered omnivores, but unlike cats, they can have other sources of nutrition. Fun fact: adult cats need 2-3 times more protein than adult dogs. Pretty crazy, right?
Small Animal Digestive Systems
Small animals are nearly the opposite of dogs and cats when it comes to diet. Most small animals (bunnies, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, hamsters) are herbivores. Hold the meat, please. They thrive off of eating hay, and some (like bunnies) also love fresh veggies. The best small animal diets are high in fiber and provide adequate levels of protein and fat through plant matter. Dogs like a big, juicy steak… bunnies like the side salad.
The reason why small animals need so much fiber is because the digestive tract is shorter than other herbivores; in order to get all the nutrients they need, they must eat a lot and keep the digestive system moving. This is why lots and lots of Timothy hay is needed. Buns thrive off of hay and fresh fruits and veggies (in moderation).
In contrast, dogs have a larger digestive system, much like a human’s, making it easier for them to absorb nutrients from both plants and meats.
Can Your Dog Eat Timothy Hay?
Speaking of all the hay that your bunny needs to thrive, you may be wondering: what if my dog eats my rabbit’s Timothy hay? Is that safe? The short answer is yes, your dog can eat Timothy hay and be okay, but the longer answer is that they probably shouldn’t, for multiple reasons.
As we explained, a dog’s digestive system is much different than a bunny, chin, or guinea pig digestive system. These small animals not only love hay, but they need it.
Dogs need a more protein-rich diet in order to sustain their energy levels. A little Timothy hay isn’t going to hurt them, but it might not make them feel great either. Try to keep your small animal’s food as far away from your dog or cat as possible to limit this unnecessary eating. If your dog eats his food and your bun eats hers, everyone will be much happier.
The Risk of Dogs Eating Timothy Hay
While generally safe, there are a few risks if your dog eats your small animal’s Timothy hay. Some Timothy hay has the preservative Ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin can be dangerous to your dog if eaten in excess. If your dog is vomiting or acting lethargic or sick, take them to the vet immediately.
Safe Foods for Dogs, Cats, and Small Animals
While dogs and cats might not need Timothy hay, there are plenty of snacks that you can all share together. Believe it or not, there are foods that, when fed in moderation, can be given to dogs, cats, buns, other small animals, and, of course, humans! Here is a list of safe foods for most animals in your life.
- Unsweetened oatmeal
- Small amounts of spinach
- Whole grain bread
Your meat-loving dog or cat might turn their nose up to these vegetarian snacks, but the above are all safe for dogs, cats, and small animals like rabbits. Chinchillas are the exception… no fruits, veggies, nuts or seeds for their fragile and delicate digestive systems.
Maintaining a multi-pet household can be difficult, but knowing each animal’s needs will help you understand their diets and provide a happy and healthy household for all.