Chinchillas are not like your traditional dogs or cats. Their personality is quite similar to a park squirrel. But then, they are preferred over squirrels and all other rodents because they make amazing pets. Therefore, they are commonly found for sale in pet shops all across the globe.
If you love having chinchillas as pets, you would be glad to learn that they are low-maintenance pets. Yes, cost of a chinchilla is quite minimal compared to other indoor pets out there. Even their diet requirement is pretty modest. As the title hints, this article is about a chinchilla’s diet. So, let’s tell you more about this pocket-size pet’s dietary needs.
Chinchillas are omnivores creatures. By nature, they thrive on grasses, twigs, stems, and leaves. Since they can eat both meat and plant, they will also eat bird eggs and insects whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Keep in mind that they are desert-adapted rodents. Therefore, they need very little food and water in comparison to other rodents. Simply put, they can live well on a simple high fiber diet consisting of hay, pellets, and water.
Like other rodents, they have constantly-growing teeth, which makes them susceptible to dental issues. To keep their teeth in correct shape and length, they should be fed grass and hay. By eating grass and hay, chinchilla’s teeth wear down on their own.
Not to mention that grass and hay are also good for their digestive health. So, the mainstay food for them should be hay (usually to be offered in unlimited quantities). You can also provide them with commercial pelleted food in limited quantities (no more than one or two tablespoons every day for an adult chinchilla).
Something to Consider…
Excessive feeding of pellets won’t provide the roughage, which is needed to wear down their ever-growing teeth. A pellets-rich diet also won’t provide enough fiber for their digestive tract to keep functioning at its optimum level. Furthermore, over-consumption of pellets can lead to obesity.
That said, growing and breeding chinchillas can be fed with a larger quantity of pellets to help them derive additional protein, fat, and calories from their food. They should also be provided with clean drinking water in a bottle or water bowl. If tap water is offered, it must be boiled a night before. Never use chlorinated water!
Fulfilling, safe, and hygienic food aside, chinchillas should also be fed with a little amount of natural wood on a daily basis. Being habitual chewers by nature, they love to nibble on natural wood (dried pine, bamboo, mulberry, cottonwood, hazelnut, etc). Of course, make sure that the wood in use has not been treated with pesticides. Also, do not offer wood from toxic trees.
When to Feed Chinchillas?
Chinchillas should also be offered food twice a day to mimic their wild vegetation. For those who don’t know, chinchillas in the wild consume most of the food in the early morning or late at night. Chinchillas are slow eaters and may consume the offered food throughout the day. As much as possible, try to be constant with your offerings because chinchillas dislike change in routines.
To begin with, avoid offering seeds, raisins, or nuts as treats because they are not easily digestible. Chinchillas also can’t throw up (vomit), which can be fatal for their health, in case seeds or nuts get stuck in their windpipe. So, don’t offer them treats that can cause possible breathing issues. Also, avoid highly acidic foods as treats.
Safe treats include mountain ash berries, dandelion leaves, marigold flowers, dried rosebud, or non-sugared shredded wheat. Of course, treats should be treated as ‘treats’ and offered sparingly (once or twice a week). You can also get some store-bought foods that are meant to be treats for chinchilla pets. Keep in mind that the best food/treat must have a balanced amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, sugar, and fiber in them.
If you are considering commercial foods for treats, make it a point to get the foods only from specialized stores because they will usually come with feeding instructions. This will prevent you from overfeeding your chinchilla. Not to mention that most commercial treats are loaded with sugar and fat. Therefore, it’s best to get something from specialized pet stores that may have low sugar and fat options for the special moments.
Word of Advice:
Treats should always be served by hand and not placed in the food bowl. One must also avoid treats to baby chinchillas that are less than six months old. Moreover, one shouldn’t offer treats to a sick chinchilla. Additionally, caregivers must avoid chocolates for treats because chocolates can harm their digestive and nervous systems. If you are unsure about anything, check with your vet before feeding your chinchilla.
Key Dietary Factors to Remember:
-A bad diet can make way for health problems in them. Also, sudden changes in the diet can cause serious digestive concerns. Therefore, chinchillas should be introduced to the new food gradually.
-Avoid sugary foods in their diet. Chinchillas are as sensitive to sugar as diabetic individuals are. So, don’t go overboard with sweet treats because they can do more harm than good.
-Do not feed fruits to your chinchilla. Believe it or not, fresh fruits can cause deadly bloating in them. That said, dried fruits can be fed (once in a while) in very small proportions.
-Chinchillas are strict vegetarians. So, they should not be fed anything that has animal ingredients in them. Moreover, dairy products such as yogurt and milk should be avoided as they can cause severe digestive issues in them.
So, they should not be fed anything that has animal ingredients in them. Moreover, dairy products such as yogurt and milk should be avoided as they can cause severe digestive issues in them.
-Also, make it a point to not feed chinchillas with any of the following food items: sunflower seeds, avocado, cabbage, lettuce, peas, broccoli, cranberries, corn, asparagus, banana, apple, peanuts, and rhubarb leaves.
-Chinchillas practice coprophagy, which implies that they nibble on their own poops as a natural process to keep their digestive system in track. Basically, they need to eat some of their own poops for a healthy gut.
Bonus Advice: Eating every day without fail and passing loads of dry poops is a sign of a healthy chinchilla. So, it helps to inspect how much your pet chinchilla is eating and drinking to catch health problems at the earliest.
Usually, chinchillas live long (up to 20 years). Of course, a good diet plays a key role in chinchilla care. Good diet aside, it’s advisable to take your furry friend to a qualified exotic animal vet for a routine checkup once or twice every year. The vet will monitor your chinchilla for any health problems that may be developing.