Chinchillas are small animals with big personalities. On the other hand, strong personalities can occasionally lead to harmful behavior.
From burrowing into places that they shouldn’t to eating their bedding within the cage, they’ve done it all!
Pent-up energy, potential health difficulties, and the use of unsuitable bedding materials are all reasons why chinchillas may begin to eat their bedding.
It’s not something that should immediately cause concern, but this behavior may be the result of something more serious.
For worried chinchilla owners who have witnessed this peculiar behavior, we have collected a list of reasons and solutions below.
Why Does My Chinchilla Eat Their Bedding?
Choosing a bedding, also known as a substrate, isn’t a life-or-death situation, but it is essential nonetheless. Substrates made of hay, for example, are poor choices because hay is already a part of their diet.
Keeping them from biting and eating their bedding can be practically impossible. This is not only inconvenient to replace, but it can also be dangerous if they ingest straw that has been soiled by urine or poo.
In other words, if the bedding (substrate) is made of something they would normally consume, don’t be shocked if they begin to eat it.
We’ll go through the best and worst types of bedding for your chinchilla later in the article.
Pent-Up Energy or Stress
If you’ve chosen the ideal bedding and your chinchilla continues to feast upon it, the problem could be due to pent-up energy or forced lethargy.
This period of idleness may cause them to get agitated, prompting them to chew on objects in their environment, most notably bedding materials.
Always make sure they have enough time to run around and explore outside of the cage, which should be around an hour every day.
Also, make sure they have a running wheel within the cage to help them burn off any remaining energy.
Second, stress could be the cause of eating bedding. Chinchillas are highly sensitive to stress, which can lead to unusual eating behaviors, such as nibbling on bedding.
Unfortunately, chinchillas can become distressed and begin chewing on their environment as a way of expressing themselves due to a variety of potential health issues.
A common problem with chinchillas is a condition known as “Bumble Foot,” an infection in the feet caused by dry or harsh conditions.
Dental problems are a more typical cause for this. Chinchillas’ teeth may become overgrown if they don’t eat a good diet.
The next section below will discuss why trimming their teeth is so important.
If your chinchilla’s behavior persists despite your efforts to correct it, you should consult a veterinarian to ensure they aren’t suffering from other health problems.
This is most likely the case if you use wood shavings as bedding.
The teeth of chinchillas, like those of most other rodent animals, never stop growing throughout their lives. As a result, they are constantly chewing and gnawing on things to keep them filed and trimmed.
Wood chips are ideal for chewing, and they won’t know the difference between chews and bedding. This is especially true if they do not have access to other resources to keep them clean and healthy.
Is Eating Bedding Harmful for Chinchillas?
Some Beddings Are Treated with Chemicals
Although no bedding is definitively poisonous, some are treated with potentially harmful substances to consume. Even if it does not hurt them right away, it may cause problems in the future.
Secondly, some substrates may contain components that aren’t poisonous but are nevertheless harmful to the health of chinchillas.
Pine shavings bedding, for example, may include sap resin, which can create health problems and make it difficult for the chinchilla to digest.
Your chinchilla will chew on their bedding whether they have health issues or not; it’s in their nature to scavenge and burrow, so keep their bedding as natural and simple as possible.
Chinchillas pee and poo a lot, sometimes all of the time. They can be litter trained to some extent, but they will go anywhere and whenever they choose.
This leads to bedding becoming soiled due to their mess, which is why it’s so important to replace the bedding on a weekly (or even twice-weekly) basis. Eating bedding tainted with their own waste can lead to serious health issues.
Bedding Can be Bad for Their Insides
Certain beddings, like cat litter, are designed to clump together when wet or moistened. However, beddings that do this cause chinchillas’ digestive systems to become impaired if they are ingested regularly.
Certain passageways or cavities are obstructed and clogged due to substances becoming trapped and stuck.
This can happen when their digestive systems cannot adequately break down and digest the bedding, producing waste and indigestible elements to clog their colon.
Essentially, beddings made of inferior materials might cause their insides to become twisted in a tangled mess, causing severe health problems and necessitating professional assistance.
How to Prevent Your Chinchilla from Eating Bedding
Avoid Paper & Hay Bedding
The reasoning is straightforward: hay is a natural component of a chinchilla’s diet. Of course, if you’re using hay as bedding, they’ll start eating it.
Hay is frequently marketed as a cheap and comfortable substrate, but if you have to replace it regularly, it can become quite expensive (and dangerous if they soil the bedding with waste).
A chinchilla cannot tell the difference between food-hay and bedding-hay.
Paper shavings are a popular bedding option that is also problematic. Paper tends to clump together, putting the chinchilla at risk of becoming impacted if ingested.
The problem is that chinchillas are drawn to the texture of paper shavings. It may be suitable for burrowing, but it also appears edible to them.
Give Them Plenty of Exercises
Chinchillas, as previously stated, can become easily agitated if not given enough exercise and playtime. One way they respond is to eat their bedding (and possibly everything else in their cage).
A running wheel in their cage is an obvious choice, but it’s also a good idea to provide them with toys and other distractions when you’re not around.
Help Prevent Stress
Maintain as much consistency as possible in their environment. As we all know, stress can cause chinchillas to start eating their bedding, so avoiding stressful situations is a great way to get ahead of the game.
Cage placement, for example, can be critical. Cages placed in high-traffic areas of the house will cause your chinchilla to exhibit strange and troubling behavior. They will react to even the most minor changes, such as temperature and humidity.
This is a no-brainer. On a daily basis, chinchillas require fresh food and water.
Even if they still have food from the previous day in their food bowl, it can become contaminated by debris and waste, causing them to reject the food.
Make sure to clean their food bowls, wipe them down, and refill them with fresh food at least once a day.
The Safest Bedding Options (That Won’t Hurt Your Chinchilla if Consumed)
Kiln-Dried Pine Shavings
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t stop your chinchilla from devouring their bedding, you should make certain that it’s safe to eat.
Kiln-Dried means that the pine shavings have been baked in a large oven.
Pine shavings are typically a poor choice for bedding. They frequently contain trace amounts of chemical compounds derived from sap residue, which cause respiratory problems in small animals. However, when these pine shavings are kiln-dried, the harmful residues are burned away, providing safe and effective bedding.
Aspen shavings are hard wood that has been thinly shaved. They’re the most common choice for cage bedding. Aspen shavings are not chemically treated, and there is no residue that must be baked out by a kiln-drying process. Despite being more expensive than other bedding options, they provide comfort for your chinchilla while also being absorbent.
The comfort of fleece fabric cannot be overstated. It is ideal not only for your chinchilla but also for your wallet. The fleece lining is a one-time purchase. It is reusable and can be washed in the washing machine for multiple uses rather than replacing the bedding every time.
It also keeps your chinchilla from chewing on and eating the bedding. There will be less bedding for them to pry and gnaw at if you tuck the edges of the fleece lining into itself at the end of the cages.
The truth is that you will never be able to completely prevent your chinchilla from chewing and eating its bedding.
Their instincts are deeply ingrained in this behavior. What you can do, however, is provide them with the most natural and healthy bedding possible, so that if they decide to munch, it will not be harmful.
There are numerous reasons why chinchillas gobble up bedding, ranging from foraging to trimming. So, as long as you keep a close eye on their actions, you should have nothing to worry about.
But, as always, if you notice any unusual behavior, don’t be afraid to seek professional assistance.