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Animal Food for Thought

January 12, 2015
By Sharon Knoblich - Contributing Writer , OVParent

Eating properly is vital for animals as well as people. Food breaks down to be stored or used by body systems. The speed with which this happens depends on numerous factors: size, temperature, physical activity and diet. The time required for the entire chemical process is called the metabolic rate.

It is not a surprise to find that among animals the tiny hummingbird has the fastest metabolic rate. Many bat species appear on that list, too. The shrew may be a more unexpected member of this group. These rodents, related to moles, must eat often. Shrews' bodies process food so quickly that they can die in one day if they do not get regular nourishment.

Other animals process food slowly. Although the elephant must eat a huge amount, it digests gradually. Animals like the sloth and the koala barely move; thus, they need little food. Some large snakes, like an anaconda, may eat only once a year.

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Falling in between, we find the chimpanzee. Its size and activities allow it to eat a few times each day. The same is true for a rabbit, a mountain goat or a goose. These animals can be without food for short periods of time.

Like people, animals may eat things that are not good for them if they have a chance. Also, too much food availability may encourage overeating. If you care for pets or farm animals, it is important to feed them just the right amounts at the right times.

- Sharon Knoblich is the Good Zoo educator.



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