Any pet you might keep has different needs and maintenance requirements, and it is no different in the case of these cute little rodents, who require a dust bath for chinchillas in order to be healthy and happy. Chinchilla nutrition is the most important aspect when it comes to taking care of such a pet.
Chinchillas are native to South America, to the west coast to be more exact. Here, they live in herds and at high altitudes. Since they have one of the softest furs, this species had been hunted to near extinction in the 19th century.
Nowadays, most chinchillas are bred and raised in farms, so it is important to know about the nutritional needs of these squirrel-like creatures. It is just as important to know what not to feed them.
It turns out that chinchillas are somewhat finicky eaters and they require specialized diets. Therefore, knowing what to feed them and what not is crucial to a healthy diet.
What to do
If you are a responsible person, before deciding to adopt a pet of any kind, you should normally do thorough research. First of all, you need to make sure that you have the necessary and appropriate living conditions, time, and financial possibilities to keep such a friend.
You should also get all the mandatory products, like a cage in a chinchilla’s case, to make sure that when he or she gets home you already have a safe environment.
Know your pet’s necessities: nutritional requirements, grooming habits, and anything else that your pet may require in order to live a healthy and happy life.
Below, we made a list of foods that should be avoided or provided in very moderate servings. Otherwise, they can cause your chinchilla to feel sick. In some cases, they can even cause death.
You might be surprised by some of them, and others might be tolerated very well by other rodents.
Grains and Pellets
These small rodents do not do well with recooked foods, especially if this is the only thing they are fed. Their elaborated dietary requirements need combinations of seeds, fruits, roots, leaves, grasses, and barks.
Simple pellets, even those developed particularly for chinchillas, ought to be given only in moderation and never as the only food. As a suggestion, you can provide a diet which combines pellets with hay or grass, and limit the pellets portion to one or two tablespoons per day.
Going hand in hand with the previous paragraph, chinchillas need the nutrients that pellets provide because they assure a balanced diet. The trouble is that these cute pets tend not to eat the pellets if they have other foods available.
Probably, you will have to remove other temptations, until the pellets are eaten. Still, we have to stress one more time that a diet based only on pellets affects their health negatively.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and raisins
Fruits are only safe if provided in moderation. They act as treats, just like candy or sweets are for humans. Too many fruits will lead to a fatty liver and even death. Specialists recommend giving this type of treats two or three times a week, and in a portion that is no more than 10% of the chinchilla’s diet.
Still, fruits are better than vegetables which can cause diarrhea and bloat for a chinchilla. They should definitely be avoided. The grass and leaves these rodents eat in the wild are very different from the vegetables we consume. It is recommended to feed your pet plenty of grass and hay but avoid other greens as much as possible.
Processed foods such as raisins need to be mentioned here as well due to their high sugar content. Just 4% of a pet’s calories should come from sugar.
When it comes to raisins, they contain as many as 70% of a chinchilla’s calorie intake as sugar. That is more than 17 times the amount of sugar this rodent should eat. This is not a good option for food. You can go for apples, strawberries, or pears instead.
Although proteins should be part of a chinchilla’s diet, those that come from animals are strictly forbidden. These cute rodents are strict vegetarians and consuming animal protein can make them very sick. You should avoid any food that might contain any animal products.
In case you are not sure of the content of processed food or treats, do not feed them to your chinchilla.
Tap (chlorinated) water
Indeed, water is not necessarily food, but it is part of the pet’s diet. Do not get us wrong, water is very important, as the chinchilla needs to stay hydrated. It is the type of water that can be damaging and that you really need to take into consideration. You should always provide filtered or distilled water to your pet.
Chlorine can wreak havoc on the chinchilla’s fur and GI system, so you need to avoid it. You can purchase bottled water but do not add any supplements to it unless your vet instructs you so. Just so you understand how important this is, supplementation can be even fatal.
Expired food or food that’s not meant for chinchillas
Besides the products discussed above, there are many things that can go wrong while taking care of a chinchilla. Even recommended foods can be harmful to his or her health if not provided with moderation.
Although this should be common sense, we must mention that you should never feed your pet expired food. Even if you are low on money and supplies, never feed your chinchilla food that has expired. You can cause serious damage and end up spending even more money on medical services and treatments.
Another thing you should avoid is to provide a chinchilla with food that is not particularly designed for her or his nutritional requirements. If you are not sure, do some research or ask your vet whether you can feed your pet a certain type of food.