The least favorite part about having any pet is generally dealing with what comes out of it on the other end. Luckily for chinchilla lovers, the excrement of these adorable pets isn’t noxious like cat or dog poop.
In fact, it’s small and doesn’t have much of a discernible smell at all. Though chinchillas are diminutive creatures, they tend to deposit a surprising number of droppings due to their fiber-based diet.
Keeping an eye on all of this poo is a good idea because it is an important indicator of your pet’s health.
Summary of today’s article:
- Healthy chinchilla poop
- Why is my chinchilla eating its poop? (Chinchillas and Coprophagy)
- Common chinchilla poop issues
- Maintaining good poop health
As you clean up the copious amounts of feces from your pet’s cage regularly, you will gain a solid understanding of what healthy chinchilla poop looks like. Just like mice and guinea pigs, chinchillas produce small, compact, rounded tubules of brown or black odorless poop.
Though there’s a lot of it, as long as your pet is healthy and the refuse is cleaned up regularly, you will never have to deal with any foul smell coming from the cage or your chinchilla. This is one of the great benefits to owning a chinchilla, a pet that can truly say its stuff doesn’t stink!
Thanks to the small size of these little rodents, Chinchilla poop is tiny, generally shorter than the diameter of a dime. The size of each pellet will vary slightly according to the size of the chinchilla.
Notice the size of your pet’s poop to keep a mental baseline in your mind as a comparison in case she produces any irregularly-sized stool.
Chinchillas hail from a dry environment in which they have evolved to conserve water. Due to this, their excrement is and should optimally always be, solid and dry.
Immediately after expulsion it will be slightly moist, as it needs to be to slide through the tubes, but it will dry and harden quickly. You will find that when (not if!) your pet poops on you during handling, the consistency of it is such that cleaning is simple and there isn’t a residue or mess left behind other than a few hard pellets.
The funny thing about chinchilla poop is that its shape leaving the body is so similar to the pellets that enter the body as food! Expect homogeneously shaped and sized skinny cylinders with rounded ends.
If you ever notice irregular shapes, or stool with holes in it or pieces missing from it, this is a red flag that something is wrong.
Taking a page out of Hansel and Gretel’s playbook, chinchillas tend to leave a trail behind them wherever they go. Out of the cage for five minutes?
Poop. Freshly cleaned cage? Poop. Awake? Poop. It’s safe to say that just as with death and taxes, chinchilla poop is one constant in the world on which we can always count.
If their stool was as valuable as their fur sadly is, every chinchilla owner would be a millionaire since these tiny rodents can poop up to 250 times each day! Though this might seem like a lot, keep in mind that plentiful droppings are indicative of a healthy appetite and a well-functioning digestive system.
Thankfully humans don’t share their hay-based diet!
The diets of herbivorous animals are difficult to digest, so they have evolved sophisticated digestive systems that allow the animals to extract as much nutrients out of plants as possible. Chinchillas, specifically, use what is known as “hindgut fermentation,” in which food passes through the stomach and small intestine then into the Cecum, which is where beneficial bacteria reside which ferment plant matter and break down cellulose.
This fermentation process renders plant nutrients available, which are absorbed by the large intestine. Many of these nutrients and the beneficial bacteria are lost in feces, however, which is why chinchillas and other rodents and lagomorphs practice autocoprophagy, the act of eating one’s own feces.
These animals produce a specific kind of dropping called cecotropes, otherwise known as ‘night feces’ or ‘soft feces,’ which are fortified with this nutrition and beneficial bacteria that would otherwise be lost. Cecotropes are smaller and stickier than normal feces, and contain roughly double the protein and half the fiber of normal stool.
They are consumed directly after being passed from the body, usually even pulled directly out of the anus for consumption. This is a healthy and even necessary practice which allows chinchillas to increase their nutritional intake and replenish their salubrious gut flora.
Chinchilla poop is typically uniform in shape, size and consistency. The color might change a bit if your pet is offered different kinds of food.
As long as there are no alterations to your chinchilla’s diet, the appearance and texture of your furry friend’s stool should remain the same. When it doesn’t, this can be an indicator of a health problem.
Let’s take a look at some common chinchilla poop issues so you can know what to do if they arise in your home.
Soft, Sticky and Wet Poop
Diarrhea in chinchillas can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation and should be treated immediately. Soft, mushy, sticky, wet or runny stool is generally a sign that something is wrong – be it a parasite, lack of dietary fiber, stress, change in diet, excessive water intake, lack of beneficial gut bacteria or illness.
Let’s take a closer look:
If your pet is experiencing diarrhea, first think about her food intake. Chinchillas should consume almost exclusively hay and hay-based pellets. Other foods, including “healthy” treats such as seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables, often contain too little fiber and too much water for their systems to handle, which can cause diarrhea. If your furry friend is experiencing soft stool and has been eating anything other than hay and pellets, immediately stop feeding him the other foods and switch to the hay-based diet to rebalance him and clean out his system.
Chinchillas can contract microscopic parasites such as Giardia from water or other animals’ feces. Diarrhea is the symptom of this and veterinarians can identify it by performing a stool sample analysis.
Think about the first time you jumped out of a plane, found out you were in major trouble or had crippling anxiety over a test. You probably experienced a common side effect of the fight or flight system, which is the clearing out of the bowels. Animals experience this as well. Chinchillas shouldn’t experience chronic stress as it wears on them and their health gradually over time. Read more on how to help a stressed chinchilla.
- Bacterial Imbalances
Due to the simple nature of chinchillas’ hay-based diet, these creatures of habit aren’t prone to developing bacteria-based illnesses since they aren’t exposed to much in their food, but it does happen, especially when they’re thrown into the context of life with humans. When their bodies encounter bacteria, the response is to get it out of them as fast as possible. The vehicle for this is diarrhea. Antibiotics, when administered for eye infections or other ailments, can have a similar effect.
What should you do if your chinchilla has diarrhea?
If the cause of soft stool is obviously a food or stress issue – you’ve been indulging her in her affinity for raisins, you switched her diet significantly, she had a scary run-in with a dog or toddler, she took a ride in a U-Haul and moved into a new home – then address that issue immediately by either cutting out all treats and feeding her strictly hay and pellets, or ensuring she is safe from stressors and has a comfortable, protected place in her cage in which to retreat and collect herself.
If her diarrhea subsides quickly, then all is well. If there is no apparent cause or the diarrhea lasts longer than a day, call your veterinarian immediately.
Your vet might ask for a stool sample or might prescribe probiotics after a course of antibiotics or some sort of appropriate antidiarrheal such as Pet Pectillin or Activated Charcoal.
Chinchilla Not Pooping
What if one day the usual torrent of poop ceases? A lack of excretion could be a sign of ileus, a blockage, constipation or another underlying issue.
Ileus, otherwise known as gastrointestinal stasis, is a dangerous condition in which the animal’s digestive system pauses or stops, causing the bacteria within to release gas which is trapped inside the body, causing pain and distress. Since chinchillas’ health can deteriorate rapidly, it’s important to obtain an expert opinion if this happens.
Your veterinarian might suggest administering mineral oil by mouth, an enema, critical care food or a medication that will help the digestive system start moving again.
Chinchilla Pooping A Lot
Chinchillas poop a lot, so much that pooping “too much” isn’t a problem. As long as your pet is behaving normally, eating and drinking in normal amounts, and the poop looks normal, she should be just fine.
If anything is out of the ordinary, keep a close eye on her and call your vet if any problems arise.
To maintain excellent poop health, follow these tips:
- Resist the urge to indulge your pet with too many treats, remembering that hay and hay-based pellets are the ideal food for chinchillas
- Watch the shape and consistency of you pet’s stool
- Keep an eye on your chinchilla’s overall behavior and notice any changes
- Call the veterinarian immediately if your pet stops pooping, eating or behaving normally
Overall, remember that these little creatures have fast metabolisms and consume a lot of fiber, so a healthy chinchilla is a pooping chinchilla, and the copious amount of poop you will clean over your pet’s lifetime is an excellent indicator of her good health.