Home Wild Animals Can squirrels eat bread? Everything you should know

Can squirrels eat bread? Everything you should know

by Dean
8 mins read

Can squirrels eat bread? Well, it is OK to give your squirrel 1 or 2 pieces of whole grain, but not more than that unless you want your pet to be overweight and sick. Feeding a lot of bread to a squirrel is harmful for many reasons. Bread is filled with sugar and multiple fillers that can fasten the weight-gaining process in squirrels. Plus, it is unhealthy for them and causes low mobility and other health issues.

can squirrels eat bread

There are very few things humans eat that the squirrels roaming and jumping in our backyard won’t ingest and crave. And, bread is no exception. Many of us tiny animal admirers have always had a weakness for feeding squirrels. And most of us have probably stirred an unwanted piece of bread crust anyway, but can squirrels eat bread? Is bread a safe choice for them? 

Flip through to find out if the bread is good or harmful for squirrels.

Can Squirrels eat bread?

Yes, squirrels can enjoy an occasional piece of bread every now and then. Nevertheless, wildlife lovers should avoid feeding them bread, as some bread items comprise even more sugar than candy and are not ideal for them. Squirrels are NOT choosy eaters; nonetheless, cellulose is found in bread, and squirrels have difficulty digesting this nutritional fibre. 

Squirrels are members of the Sciuridae family, which includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, marmots, etc. A few of these squirrels, such as Fox squirrels, Eastern Gray Squirrel, and Red squirrels, will literally eat just about everything. So if you have just started providing food for your backyard wildlife, it is essential to know what edibles are good and which ones can cause discomfort for your bushy-tailed buddies. The bread offers very little nutritional value for wild animals, and also it includes zero to none protein in addition to excessive salt. A squirrel’s kidneys cannot filter out vast amounts of salt; that’s why it’s crucial to NOT feed them a lot of man-made food.

Why can’t squirrels eat bread?

Squirrels belong to the omnivore family of mammals, and they enjoy both meat and plants with great delish. Their diet also revolves around nuts, insects, fruits, and seeds. However, vets suggest that squirrels’ natural diet should only include fruits and nuts, and bread shouldn’t be an option in there. Why?

Here’s the reason:

  1. Bread has cellulose.

Squirrels have a pretty sensitive immune system, and market-made bread contains a huge amount of cellulose that their weak digestive systems cannot handle. 

Cellulose is actually 90% of plant matter, making it low on dietary fibre (a much-needed mineral for better digestion). Even though squirrels have a primarily plant-based diet, they find it hard to digest high carbohydrate and high gluten foods having a lower dietary fibre level. Such foods make a squirrel’s stomach expand and cause gastrointestinal issues.

  1. Bread has high sugar and salt content.

The majority of bread readily available at bakeries includes 2-5% sugar. This bread is further sugarcoated with dextrose and high-fructose corn syrup to boost the taste. And according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a single slice of market-made bread contains 1.4g of sugar. 

As stated earlier, their tiny physiques are not developed to digest human snacks such as bread. In addition to cellulose, bread also comes with high sugar and salt content. Just like sugary or salty junk cuisines are bad for us, the same thought goes for squirrels. But squirrels can go through much more distress if given a lot of bread because they cannot filter the salt chlorides to help keep their digestive process on the right track.

Are there any toxic ingredients in bread

Are there any toxic ingredients in bread?

There are different varieties of bread made with various ingredients. And yes, they may be dangerous to squirrels. If the bread contains any of the following, do not feed it to squirrels.

  1. Chocolate
  2. Raisins
  3. Xylitol
  4. Cellulose
  5. Garlic

These are all toxic to squirrels on varying levels and will almost certainly make them ill. Side effects to these ingredients range in severity too. Mild cases can cause stomach discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhoea, while more severe cases can lead to obesity, kidney failure, and heart problems.

Why can’t squirrels digest cellulose?

Almost all herbivores have particular adaptations for digesting cellulose, but squirrels are an exception. Squirrels’ little bodies cannot survive entirely on plants alone. And their digestive system lacks enzymes for breaking down cellulose. Cellulose is a polysaccharide and a chief compound consisting of up to ninety per cent of a plant. Most herbivores have symbiotic gut bacteria that help break down cellulose and aid indigestion. But with squirrels, it isn’t the case. That’s why they must restrict their diet to energy-packed nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies.

It is good to note that bread makers often use cellulose as a calorie reducer, fibre supplement, or thickening agent. So feed only a tiny bit occasionally.

Can squirrels eat moldy bread?

Many people in neighbourhoods tend to feed their old leftover bread to the squirrels. It may seem like a great way to use surplus food to avoid wasting it, but this can be extremely harmful to the squirrels.

Squirrels will jump on the chance to receive any food from us. But old leftover bread may have mould on it. This can contaminate the bread with “mycotoxins,” making the squirrels incredibly sick. Even just inhaling the mouldy spots from the bread can be injurious to their health. This applies to any animal feeding. Throw the bread away immediately if you think there is a smell or mould developing on it.

Squirrels and other tiny animals you may have in your backyard can dig through the trash to find food. So, make sure you properly wrap the mouldy bread while throwing it away.

Can baby squirrels eat bread?

Unlike other animals at birth, baby squirrels require extreme care because they can’t do anything independently. And their dietary needs are complex. The two critical steps of feeding a baby squirrel are 

  • Rehydrating with Pedialyte or sugar-salt-water mix and
  • Feeding.

Feeding an infant squirrel the wrong thing could affect their stomach and make them dehydrated. In the worst cases, they can go into shock. Human formula, cow’s milk, and milk substitutes should be avoided.

  • Day 1 to Week 7: Use milk replacer formulas available.
  • Week 7 to Week 9: Continue formula and introduce protein-rich solid foods.
  • Week 9 to Week 10: Add other solid foods such as apples, grapes, nuts, broccoli stems, green beans, and other veggies.
  • Week 10 to Week 12: Once the baby squirrel responds well to solid foods, add more fruits, nuts, and treats.

The special diet should be continued until the squirrel weans at around 14-16 weeks of age. Then you can occasionally put a loaf in the feeder so they can enjoy a variety of foods.

How to feed bread to squirrels the right way?

Bread is not particularly harmful if taken in tiny doses. So, you can feed them bread from time to time, but make sure you do so cautiously. Making it a part of its daily diet can affect the squirrel’s digestive system.

As long as you feed them with care and concern, those furry animals can be a great pleasure to have in your backyard.

If you decide to feed bread to the squirrels in your backyard or park, we recommend that you go through the list below. Keep yourself informed of what precautions to ensure that you don’t risk hurting the tiny animals.

Do Not Feed Them Too Much Bread

Squirrels do not have weak digestion. So, they can eat bread from time to time. But it is important to not disrupt their well-balanced diet. So, keep the bread feeding to a bare minimum. Do not give them more than 10 grams of bread per day.

The Bread Should Be Soft

People tend to include toasted bread in feeding the squirrel. Contrary to some beliefs, toasting the bread will not make the bread easier to digest. Like the nuts’ hard shells, toasted bread crumbs are incredibly hard to digest for squirrels and can put a lot of pressure on their stomach.

Make sure that you are feeding them bread that is still soft and untoasted. Softer bread would be easier for the squirrel to chew and eat.

What Breads To Avoid

Just because your bread is “organic” does not imply that it will be healthy for squirrels too. Not everyone will know the exact sugar or salt content in the different bread types. But it is necessary to be aware, so you can determine what bread will be best for your furry friends.

Following is the list that mentions the different bread products you should avoid feeding them:

·        Sourdough – high salt content of 1.6 grams

·        Garlic Bread – high on sodium and sugar content (3.7 grams)

·        White Bread – high sugar content of 5 grams

·        Raisin Bread – Raisins have an incredibly high sugar content of 59 grams

·        Whole Grain Bread – High on sodium

·        Banana Bread – One slice of banana bread contains the total carbohydrates of four slices of regular bread

·        Cinnamon Bread – Low intake of dietary fibre and incredibly high sugar content of 25 grams

·        Rye Bread – Rich in carbohydrates

·        Potato Bread – Has as much sugar as found in a chocolate bar

Keep the Feeding Clean

Squirrels can be messy when they try to take away the bread or any other food for that matter. This can leave a trail of bread around your house. Other animals and pets might come and eat in your backyard or balcony. Moreover, it will become a messy ordeal to maintain cleanliness every time you feed them.

So, it is recommended that when you are trying to feed bread to the squirrel, you keep it on a plate and in small pieces that they can carry in their mouth without dropping it all over the place.

Avoid Feeding Squirrels Daily

Squirrels are always willing to eat bread, and if you start feeding them daily, they can become dependent on it. You need to avoid over-populating your place with squirrels that may want to be fed now. People who have ended up feeding the squirrels daily had known to be bitten by them when they forgot to feed them again.

So not only can this affect their diet, but they can become vicious and wild towards you if you miss on feeding them.

Do grey squirrels eat bread

Do grey squirrels eat bread?

Grey squirrels live in the land, and they are opportunists for food. Their diet depends on what is available during a particular season. In early spring, the buds of trees like maple are their staple food. During the summer, maple and elm seeds are their favourites, together with wild berries, fruits, and nuts. They will be after corn, hickory nuts, butternuts, walnuts, beechnuts, or pine seeds in the autumn.

They also dig tunnels underground to bury seeds and nuts for colder days. They are likely to infest fields and gardens and love food lying in the open.

Grey squirrels do love bread, and you can get thousands of stock photos showing them eating bread in the park or on the tree.

If you feed them bread, make sure the portion is no more than 10g per day. Because their digestive system is not adapted to high-carbohydrate, high-sugar baked bread. Some bread varieties won’t hurt, but it would be healthier if you feed healthy, nutritious food. They love seeds, nuts, and garden veggies.

Final Words on can squirrels eat bread:

If the question was just, “Can Squirrels Eat Bread?” then you have a simple answer: yes, they can. But just because they can, does not mean they should.

Unlike what some might think, wild animals, including squirrels, do not require human feeding all the time. Squirrels are scavengers and will eat pretty much anything, and there isn’t a lot that they won’t eat. If you do happen to feed them bread crumbs, make sure you’re not making this a big part of their diet.

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