Most people keep cats, dogs, or even fish, but you’ll occasionally find someone with an unusual house pet. Nine million households in the US keep exotic animals as pets, and among these rare species is the chinchilla.
Like other rodents, a chinchilla is a small pet with a rounded body, short legs, and large ears. It is lively, affectionate, and clean, making it a good pet. However, caring for a unique pet also comes with more unique responsibilities.
Chinchillas require a specific diet to meet the necessary nutritional requirements. You can’t walk into a general pet store and find a variety of pellets or seeds as you would for cats, dogs, or birds. That’s why we’ve created this guide to the proper diet for a chinchilla pet.
Read on to find out more!
The Chinchilla Diet
If you’re interested in buying a chinchilla for sale, it’s best to know what you’re getting into. Chinchillas have a sensitive digestive system. Certain foods can cause blockages, constipation, and other illnesses.
Unlike cats and dogs, chinchillas grow in the wild, and their diet depends on the environment. They are herbivorous animals that need food that can meet their nutritional requirements. Chinchillas require at least 15% fiber, at least 16% protein, and, at most, 4% fat.
A diet high in fiber keeps its digestive system working and healthy. When well-cared for, a chinchilla can live up to 20 years or more. On the other end, excessive fat intake can cause liver problems.
In addition, chinchilla teeth don’t stop growing. Your pet needs something that can help shave off some length to keep their teeth healthy and comfortable.
Chinchillas are natural foragers whose nutritional requirements depend on their wild habitat. For a chinchilla, the following foods can give the nutrients they need.
As a chinchilla owner, you must feed your small pet with food high in fiber. You can incorporate this essential nutrient into its diet with good-quality hay. This can give the highest amount of fiber it needs.
A chinchilla needs high-fiber-content food to keep its complex digestive system in good health. Experts recommend giving your small pet unlimited amounts of hay to eat.
Keep hay available 24/7 as your pet’s free-choice food. You can place this in their cage or a food rack. It must make up 75% to 80% of its diet daily.
However, ensure the hay you feed is low in calcium. Excessive calcium intake leads to the development of bladder stones or kidney problems.
Among hay types, it is best to feed your chinchilla with Timothy hay or orchard grass. These high-fibrous foods prevent bloating and gastrointestinal stasis. Moreover, these can file down their ever-growing teeth.
Replace the hay daily to prevent bacteria and mold growth.
Like hay, grass-based pellets are essential in your small pet’s diet. You must give them 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground feed every day. When buying from stores, ensure you get grass-based pellets for chinchillas.
Using pellets meant for other rodents can mess up their system.
Good-quality pellet feed is high in fiber and low in fat. It should not contain excessive amounts of artificial preservatives and colors. Cheap pellets contain additives, chemicals, and nasty dyes that can harm your little friend.
Many commercial pellets have added sugar. When your small pet consumes them, its blood pressure can spike. This can also lead to obesity and diabetes.
If you trust your breeder, buy grass-based pellets from them.
Chinchillas drink an average of 2oz of water each day. Keep its water bottle or bowl full of fresh drinking water. If you must, supply your small pet with purified water to ensure no bacteria is present.
To keep your small pet hydrated, check its water bowl regularly and refill it if necessary. Further, it is crucial to keep its cage clean to prevent bacteria build-up.
Your small pet needs access to clean, fresh water to cool down. Its dense fur makes it prone to high body temperature. Apart from fresh water and good food, a clean cage makes your pet chinchilla’s life more comfortable.
Can Chinchillas Have Treats?
Like other pets, a chinchilla can have treats. However, it’s best to practice caution when giving them certain foods.
In some cases, owners feed their small pets with treats containing unhealthy ingredients. Failing to moderate their intake can cause discomfort or illness. Giving them too many treats causes gas and digestive issues.
So, what treats are good for your chinchilla? Some treats you can give your small pet are rose hips, oats, and Goji berries. Ensure to provide it with these foods in moderation.
If you are skeptical, try hay treats. One is the hay cube, which is hay compressed into a munchy cube. When giving treats, ensure they do not contain moisture to prevent bloating.
How to Tell Your Chinchilla Is Eating Right
As the owner, you want your small pet to be healthy. One way to maintain its well-being is to give it the nutrients it needs. With a good diet and nutrition, your chinchilla pet is safe from diseases.
So, how can you tell if your chinchilla receives the nutrients it needs?
A healthy chinchilla often feeds itself in the early morning or late evening. It eats every day without a problem and passes many dry droppings. However, observe the amount of food and drink your pet consumes despite being healthy.
If you notice a change in their eating habits, contact a reliable veterinarian. Experts do not recommend incorporating abrupt changes to your chinchilla’s diet. Instead, make gradual adjustments to prevent it from falling ill.
As an exotic animal, your chinchilla must get regular checkups. Doing so ensures you meet its nutritional requirements and address potential health risks.
The Never-Feed List
After identifying what your chinchilla can eat, it is time to determine what to exclude from its diet. Giving the following foods to your small pet can cause serious health issues if not managed.
Like other animals, a chinchilla cannot consume chocolates. Chocolates contain cocoa, carrying theobromine. For animals, metabolizing the compound takes time, leaving it to accumulate.
Theobromine accumulating up to a toxic level leads to chocolate toxicosis. It is a condition that can result in vomiting, agitation, and severe cases of seizures among animals. For chinchillas, consuming chocolates can be fatal.
As the owner, it is okay to spoil your pet with treats. However, it is crucial to note what you can feed them and what you cannot. If you want to give your chinchilla treats, stick with the recommended foods by experts.
Nuts and Seeds
From peanuts to sunflower seeds, the family of rodents loves nuts and seeds. Most are high in protein, essential in tissue growth and regeneration. Despite this, a chinchilla cannot consume nuts and seeds.
Aside from its high protein content, these snacks also contain too much fat, which can be harmful to chinchillas.
Moreover, the amount of hay they consume equips them with enough fat. Giving it nuts and seeds exceeds the nutrients it needs. Like other animals, your chinchilla must observe a balanced diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
When it comes to a healthy diet, fruits and vegetables are necessities. However, this is not the case with a chinchilla. With their high nutrient content, fruits and vegetables can cause digestive problems.
Remember, a chinchilla has a sensitive digestive system. Letting it consume nutrients beyond its needs can make it fall ill. If you want your small pet to eat fruits and vegetables, determine their nutrient content and amount.
Doing so allows you to control its intake.
It is best to consult a veterinarian for the chinchilla diet if you want to add something. It prevents you from feeding your chinchilla pet with something harmful to its digestive system. Moreover, it ensures they can live a long life.
Have you heard of yogurt drops? Many pet shops market this product as a treat for chinchillas. Although it contains nutrients animals need, yogurt drops can harm your small pet’s digestive system.
If you look into the ingredients of most yogurt drops, they contain a high amount of sugar. Allowing a chinchilla to consume food with high glucose content can lead to obesity. Moreover, the product can trigger the development of harmful bacteria in the chinchilla’s gut.
Like other dairy products, certain conditions encourage harmful bacteria to develop. For example, yogurt products can go rancid if exposed to heat. In addition, they contain protein, and excessive consumption disrupts your pet’s balanced diet.
With this, it is best not to fall for the marketing of shops about yogurt drops as chinchilla treats.
What Are the Consequences of Neglecting Its Diet?
When caring for a chinchilla, considering its diet and nutrition is necessary. It is crucial to remember its nutritional requirements and the foods it can and cannot consume. Sticking to its recommended diet allows your pet to remain healthy.
Aside from its habits, there are physical indications of a healthy chinchilla. It includes having dense fur and bright eyes. One of the most crucial traits of a healthy chinchilla is its soft, lush coat.
Chinchilla coats have up to 50 fine hairs growing from a single follicle. However, a chinchilla’s diet is crucial in maintaining the quality of its fur. If your pet’s fur is prone to breakage, they might be eating too much protein.
Remember when we said that chinchillas require chewy foods to file their teeth? This is also essential to its fur health. Chinchillas are known to sometimes chew on their fur if they lack stimulation or fiber in their diet.
Deviating from its recommended foods exposes your small pet to digestive issues. Your chinchilla can suffer from bloating and blockages.
Failing to handle the issue can end its life.
Along with balancing its diet, you must often visit its veterinarian to get it checked. Caring for your chinchilla allows it to thrive and live long. In some cases, a healthy chinchilla can live up to 20 years.
Baby Chinchilla Diet
If an adult has a sensitive digestive system, how much more for a baby chinchilla?
Observing extra care when feeding a baby chinchilla is crucial. Baby chinchillas require less nutrients than adult chinchillas, but it’s best to talk to a trusted veterinarian to be well-informed on what nutrients your pet needs and how much.
As a baby, its organs are only starting to develop. It cannot digest large amounts of food and metabolize it. As the owner, it’s best to keep the diet of your young chinchilla simple.
A newborn chinchilla gets nutrients from its mother’s milk for its first four weeks. After that, you can introduce hay and pellets to prepare it to eat more solid foods. Take things slow when feeding a baby chinchilla.
Introducing New Food
Are you planning to adjust or change the diet of your chinchilla pet? When feeding your small pet something new, start small. Abrupt changes in its diet can upset its stomach.
Before adding, removing, or adjusting its diet, observe how your chinchilla acts. Assess its habits and feelings and note changes. Like other animals, the digestive system of your small pet needs time to adjust to new foods.
You must determine if it is in condition for changes, too. Although chinchillas are meek and good pets, they can be reluctant when it comes to new things. Thus, a gradual approach to change is vital.
If you plan on feeding your chinchilla new pellets, mix the old and new products first. Doing so allows the chinchilla’s digestive system to prepare for the transition. Digesting a new set of nutrient compositions becomes simple and easy for it.
Everything to Know About Chinchilla Diet and Nutrition
Like other rodents, a chinchilla has a sensitive digestion. Some treats can cause serious health issues for small pets. Caring for their diet and nutrition is necessary to keep their lively behavior.
Do you want to know more about chinchillas? With their recent exposure to domestic life, caring for chinchilla is challenging. Pet Marvelous can equip you with information about them.
For questions about small pets, reach out to us here!