Chinchilla Diet 101: What Do Chinchillas Eat & What to AVOID?

image via flickr/dharinivikasagrawal007

Figuring out what to feed your chinchilla can be overwhelming. They have specific fiber, fat, and protein requirements and their digestive system is sensitive to many different kinds of food.

Don’t let this dissuade you from owning a chinchilla though, they can be great pets! To learn about a good and a bad Chinchilla diet, keep reading below…

 

Here’s What Chinchillas Eat

Pellets

You can purchase dry pellets that are formulated for chinchillas from most pet stores. A few respected brands include Oxbow Chinchilla Deluxe, Mazuri, and Tradition.

It is recommended that you look for pellets that are moderate in protein (16-20%), low fat (2-5%), and high in fiber (15-35%).

If your local pet store doesn’t carry food that will fit these requirements, online shopping might be a better option. Some commercial rabbit pellets are a suitable alternative if it meets the necessary protein, fat, and fiber content.

What do Chinchillas eat?

If possible, you should choose pellets over bagged mixes (pellets, seeds, corn, and other fillers) to ensure that your chinchilla eats a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs.

Although high-quality pellets are an important aspect of a chinchilla’s diet, most only need to eat 1 – 2 tablespoons each day and obesity could occur from overfeeding.

 

Hay

Hay is an important component of a chinchilla’s diet and should be readily available in addition to pellets. Its high fiber content provides the necessary roughage for proper
digestive functions and keeps teeth healthy and trim.

Timothy-grass and orchard-grass are the most nutritionally balanced options available, but you can offer alfalfa as a treat for adults or as a staple for young or malnourished chinchillas.

 

Water

Water is just as important for chinchillas as it is for humans and should always be available in a stoppered bottle attached to the cage for easily access.

Chinchillas need water

If your tap water is safe for human consumption, it will be safe for your chinchilla but if you’re not sure, filtered water is a good choice. Distilled and softened water aren’t recommended due to the high sodium content that could cause your chinchilla to become dehydrated in the long-run.

 

Treats

Treats should be offered sparingly (less than four pieces a week) because of their potential for high fat and sugar content. You can pick a commercial treat from the pet store or stick to options you might already have at home such as nuts or dried fruit.

Healthier options include rose hips, dandelion leaves, and twigs from apple trees. While these choices are more nutritious, it’s important to make sure they are non-toxic and haven’t been treated with any pesticides before offering them to your chinchilla.

 

Chinchilla Foods to Avoid

Supplements

If your chinchilla is healthy and eating a balanced diet, they shouldn’t need supplements. The exception is made for pregnant chinchillas and during times of stress or illness.

If this applies to your chinchilla, you can supplement their diet using probiotic powder, multivitamin and mineral mixes, thiamine, calcium, and vitamin C.

Before giving a supplement to your chinchilla you should seek advice from your veterinarian and ensure that is safe for consumption.

Many pet stores sell salt wheels in their small animal section, but this is an unnecessary purchase. The excess salt can lead to dehydration and other complications so it’s best to avoid them altogether.

 

Fruit and Vegetables

While fruit might sound like a healthy choice for your chinchilla, the high sugar content makes them better suited to be given sparingly as a treat.

A chinchilla diet can include a small amount of fruit, but very sparingly.

Most experts recommend offering a small amount of fruit less than three times a week. A diet that is heavily supplemented with fruit can lead to obesity, severe illnesses, and premature death.

Vegetables should be avoided altogether because they can cause bloating and diarrhea in
chinchillas. In some cases, chinchillas experience gastrointestinal stasis from consuming vegetables and this can be fatal.

 

Nuts and Seeds

Most nuts and seeds are safe to offer as a treat but could be avoided altogether due to their high fat content. Chinchillas are not equipped to eat diets that are high in fat and can fall susceptible to illnesses like fatty liver disease.

 

Meat

Chinchillas are herbivores by nature and can’t digest meat. If your chinchilla does consume meat, gastrointestinal blockages can occur leading to injury or death. For this reason, treat meat like it’s poisonous and avoid altogether.

 

Conclusion

Like with all animals, it’s important to feed your chinchilla a diet that suits their needs and dietary restrictions. Our pets can only eat what we give them so it’s up to us to make sure they are eating safe foods and drinking clean water.

By following this guide, you’ll be able to answer “What do Chinchillas eat?” and you are helping to ensure the health of your chinchilla for the years to come.