From things such as a chinchilla dust bath to what is known as popcorning, these adorable creatures are highly sociable and bring us a lot of joy as pets. However, for those new owners who are still learning how to properly take care of them, certain things such as what foods they can eat might not be very clear.
It’s true that all of the information available on such topics is abundant, which can in some cases make the task of understanding what your pet actually needs an even harder one. However, the most important thing to remember is that you are the one who knows your pet’s preferences and habits in order to make the best choices.
However, when it comes to the food these rodents can eat, there are certain things you should take into account, in order to avoid exposing your pet to unnecessary risks.
One of the first things you need to be aware of is that chinchillas have delicate digestive systems, which means that you might want to take some time and research for a bit before introducing any new type of food in your chin’s diet.
Moreover, even though there are various types of rodent foods available on the market, you should always choose products that are specially formulated for chinchillas. If you buy food marketed to hamsters, rabbits, or ferrets, for example, there is a very high chance that it won’t meet your pet’s nutritional needs which can lead to more problems in the future.
Some feeding principles
If you have just bought your first chinchilla, then it’s a good idea to understand some feeding guidelines before going into more specific details such as treats (popcorn, which is something you should avoid at all costs, is included but we will get to this in a bit).
Chinchillas need to have complete diets and the main food to achieve this should consist of specially formulated pellets. Unlike some other rodents and animals, chinchillas are not known to eat too much at once, so there is little chance to overfeed yours.
However, just like in every other aspect, moderation is key. Therefore, if you do see that your little guy is super excited about a certain food, make sure the quantity provided is not too large.
Besides pellets, chinchillas should also have constant access to hay. The good part is that hay cubes can sit in the cage for a longer time until they eat it, so there’s not much to worry about in terms of wasting food. Just like other rodents, chinchillas have constantly growing teeth, so munching on something all the time is both for their pleasure and dental wear.
Besides the pellets and the hay, you can also add a vitamin-enriched mix to their diet, in a smaller amount (a teaspoon a day should do the trick) since they will eat it in one sitting. This provides both nutrients and variety, but pelleted food should not be overlooked since it’s the best way to prevent selective eating and ensure your pet gets all the necessary nutrients.
What about popcorn?
On the list of foods you should provide to your chinchilla treats come last, but they are still important since you want to keep your pet happy and entertained. These rodents are actually very smart and sociable, so you can use these while you spend quality time together, learning new tricks or developing certain rituals together.
On the other hand, pet parents make the most mistakes when it comes to the treats they choose, especially since they are (or should be) offered in small amounts. Popcorn is definitely one of these examples. This snack food that is popular around the world and comes in multiple varieties and flavors has somehow made its way into the lives of our chinchillas.
When it comes to pets in general, you should always ask yourself if they would find a certain type of food in their natural habitat before feeding it to them. Cooked food of any kind should be generally avoided, especially since they have sensitive digestive systems and it might include ingredients that are toxic to them.
Following this principle, you can probably tell that a chinchilla would never find popcorn in the Andes Mountains of South America where it originally came from, which tells us that we shouldn’t add this to their diets either, not even as treats, not even when it’s just plain popcorn.
Others have done it and the conclusions have been pretty clear. Popcorn can cause harm to a chinchilla’s gut and it can lead to other problems. For these rodents, there is nothing fun about gas, bloating, or dealing with diarrhea.
In extreme cases, these conditions can even lead to death, which makes this a risk you really shouldn’t take, especially since there are so many other options you can choose from in terms of treats for your chin, and most of them are a lot healthier.
Introducing new food
Another very good principle in terms of keeping your chinchilla safe is to never make drastic changes in the diet. This goes for introducing new types of food as well. If you are planning to feed your pet something for the first time, you should always start off with a small amount and give it some time to see if there are any negative reactions.
Moreover, you should never introduce more than one new element at once. If anything goes wrong, you want to know exactly what the cause is in order to avoid it in the future. The same applies in case you want to change the food supplier and go for a completely different product.
You should manage this change slowly, by introducing a little bit of the new food combined with the previous one and then gradually increase the quantity while decreasing the other one, until the transition is finalized. This way you make sure that the little fellow is safe and happy, while you prevent spending extra money on medical care that could otherwise be necessary.
Feeding time & water
Generally, creating a routine makes things more comfortable for chinchillas. While you can pick the hours at which you will feed your pet, you should try to do it around the same time every day to create this healthy habit. You might soon tell what the time is by the fact that your chin will let you know it’s time to feed him or her.
Last but not least, don’t forget about water since chinchillas need to stay properly hydrated. Some pet parents choose distilled water over tap one to protect their pets from harmful bacteria. This can be a good solution that will not prove to be too expensive since they don’t really drink significant amounts of water.
No matter the solution you come up with, make sure that the water container always has enough fresh water, given that this is important for all aspects related to the health of your pet, including digestion, which is, as you’ve seen, something that needs to be properly taken care of. In the end, you want your chin to be happy, active, and comfortable for years to come.