There is a common notion that squirrels only eat nuts, but it turns out they eat much more than that. These cute little rodents eat fungi, fruits, eggs, insects, some small animals, and many other foods available in the wild.
In this article, we will focus on a foodstuff squirrels will most likely not find in the wild – bread.
Can squirrels eat bread?
Squirrels can eat bread, but only in controlled amounts. The sugar and cellulose contents of bread are why safety and tolerability are of concern for squirrels.
Hence, the quantity, content, and type of bread determines how well squirrels tolerate eating bread.
Squirrels should not eat a bread-only diet. But they can tolerate different types of bread when given within specific limits. In this next section, we will discuss various types of bread and how tolerable they are to squirrels.
Can Squirrels Eat Bread?
The average squirrel eats about one pound of food every week.
But does this mean that bread is okay for them?
Bread is best used as an infrequent treat for squirrels.
Squirrels should not consume too much sugar. Unlike humans, their bodies are not adapted to metabolize sugar, and giving them considerable amounts of sugar will lead to digestion problems.
Apart from causing issues with digestion, too much sugar can make squirrels hyperactive, and being excessively active is not good for their health.
Salt is another substance in bread that squirrels should consume within limits. The kidney of a squirrel is quite small, akin to the size of the animal, and too much salt will overwhelm their renal system quickly.
Besides sugar and salt, another substance you want to minimize in squirrels is cellulose. Squirrels have a hard time digesting cellulose. Since many types of bread contain cellulose, you have to be mindful when letting squirrels eat bread.
Another thing to note is that bread is of very little nutritional value to squirrels. In other words, bread contributes little to the growth, development, and health of a squirrel.
Note that if you do feed bread to a squirrel, it is advised that you do not give more than 10 grams per day.
Squirrels are known to appreciate white bread snacks. You can leave white bread treats out for your squirrels, within reason.
A typical slice of white bread (25 grams) contains 67 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrate, and 0.6 grams of fiber. A 10-gram piece of the same bread will give 26.8 calories, 5.2 grams of carbohydrate (0.5 grams of sugar), 0.049 grams of salt, and 0.24 grams of fiber.
A study showed that a 500-g squirrel needs about 137 kcal of usable energy per day. Basically, a 10-gram piece of white bread is of little significance to a squirrel’s maintenance calorie intake.
In our search, we found no specific value that stipulates how much carbohydrate, salt, and fiber a squirrel can consume daily. However, the content of a 10-gram piece of white bread should have no effect on the average squirrel.
Apart from the values we stated above, you should confirm the content of the white bread you give your squirrel from the list of ingredients.
A 10-gram piece of wheat bread contains 0.6 grams of sugar, 0.04 grams of salt, 24.7 calories, and 0.7 grams of fiber.
Like white bread, a 10-g piece of wheat bread will not affect your squirrel’s caloric intake significantly.
However, relative to white bread, wheat bread contains more calories, sugar, and fiber. So, you should consider giving white bread over wheat bread.
Never give squirrels stale bread. There’s a good chance that stale bread contains harmful levels of microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria.
Any of the said microorganisms can lead to serious illness in squirrels. One organism you should be particularly wary of is Salmonella. Salmonella infections are serious and best avoided.
One thing you should also keep in mind is that many times, squirrels run off with the bread you give them. If they drop stale bread in a place where it gets eaten by another animal, those animals may also be harmed.
It goes without saying that moldy bread is not an option for squirrels and most animals.
Molds can be very poisonous to squirrels, and giving them moldy bread could be akin to feeding them poison.
Besides poisoning them, squirrels could spread mold from the bread to their skin, which could lead to fungal skin disease.
High-sugar types of bread are generally to be avoided for squirrels. However, in some cases, you might be able to let your squirrel have some.
Let’s consider four types of high-sugar breads and see which of them may be appropriate for squirrels.
Muffins may not cause issues for squirrels in very small portions – a nibble once in a while should be safe. Once again, you have to pay attention to the amount of sugar and salt contained in the muffin.
Ultimately, even when sugar and salt are present in quantities you consider safe, muffins should not be your first choice for squirrels.
Squirrels can eat raisin bread, but since there’s little value in it for them, it should be given infrequently.
Besides being nutritionally valueless to squirrels, the raisins are full of sugar, meaning raisin bread would contain a lot of sugar. It would be best to hold back from leaving raisin bread out for your yard squirrels.
Given occasionally and in controlled portions, banana bread is actually okay for squirrels. However, if you intend to give your squirrel banana bread, opt for the homemade type over the store-bought varieties.
Banana breads available in stores are usually quite processed. In other words, they’ll contain a lot of sugar, flavorings, and much more.
Generally, store-bought banana bread may be less nutritious than the one you prepare at home.
Should you feed cake to your squirrels? No, you shouldn’t. The ingredients used in making cakes can disrupt a squirrel’s digestive system badly.
Besides cakes, you should also avoid giving squirrels confections like chocolate, cookies, and candies. There are better, safer alternatives you can use to treat a squirrel.
27 Household Foods That Are Better than Bread for Squirrels
So far, we have told you which type of bread your squirrel might be able to eat and those they shouldn’t eat. Now, let’s talk about alternatives.
In place of bread, the following are some household foods that are better alternatives for squirrels:
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Given once in a while, in minute quantities, squirrels can eat bread. However, bread holds no nutritional value and may interfere with digestion. Instead, you can treat your squirrel friends with any of the food items on the list above; they are safer and far more nutritious than bread.