Chinchillas are very loving animals but they are also quite picky and sensitive, so you’ll need to pay extra attention to their wellbeing if you want them to live a long and happy life. And, apart from your everlasting love and attention, you’ll also need to provide them high-quality chinchilla food, as well as an adequate dust bath, which you can read about if you check out this post.
When it comes to your pet’s diet, many think that these creatures have similar tastes to other rodents. However, they originally come from dry and cold climates, so not all foods, especially fruits and veggies, are good for their diet. Here is what they should eat and what foods should be avoided.
Pellets should count for around 60-70% of your pet’s daily diet to ensure a well-nourished animal and provide all necessary vitamins and minerals required for healthy growth. Pellets can be made specifically for chinchillas or, if your local pet store doesn’t have them, you can opt for pellets made for bunnies.
However, make sure the pellets are clean and dry and don’t contain any items that are considered “junk food” for your chinchillas such as fillers, nuts, fruits, and veggies. The latter should only be provided occasionally as treats.
Switching to a new type of pellets should also be done gradually as chinchillas are very picky and can easily stress. As a general rule, the perfect transition from old pellets to new ones should be done within one month, to ensure enough time for your pet to accommodate to the taste and the texture of the new food.
During the first week, you should serve a mixture of 25% new pellets and 75% of old food, to see the reactions of your pet and how it adjusts to the new taste.
You should also carefully monitor your rodent’s behavior and look for any signs of health affections, including nausea, diarrhea, bloated stomachs or urine discolorations. If any of these occur, you should talk to your vet immediately and stop feeding your animal the new pellets.
If everything goes well, you can start replacing an additional 25% of the old food with the new one throughout the remaining weeks.
Hay should count for the remaining 40% of your pet’s diet. It provides a powerful source of nutrients, the remaining ones your chinchilla doesn’t get out of regular pellets. Keep in mind that chinchillas are rodents, so they’ll constantly need something to chew on, and hay is the perfect ingredient to keep their teeth healthy and strong.
It will also look after your rodent’s digestive tract and regulate its metabolism. There are various types of hay you can introduce your pet to, but the most common ones include Timothy hay, Alfalfa, orchard grass, oat hay, and bluegrass hay. Each of them provides mainly the same nutrients, so it’s really up to your pet’s preferences.
Timothy hay, for instance, comes in three cuts, with the third cut being soft and leafy, which makes it the perfect choice for picky chinchillas. On the other hand, the second cut contains a combination of firm and soft leafy hay and is the most popular choice.
Alfalfa hay is richer in nutrients than any other type and is specifically designed for nursing females, cubs, and malnourished ones. It comes with a sweeter taste and can be fed occasionally to adult chinchillas as well.
Another alternative for picky animals would be hay cubes. They are usually made of Timothy hay or Alfalfa and, sometimes, they contain a 50/50 blend of the two. Compressed cubes or even cookies made of hay will dramatically decrease the amount of hay-dust in your home that might cause allergies to you and even your furry friend.
Delicious treats and snacks
Just like the name suggests, these treats should only be offered occasionally as a form of reward for your pet’s good behavior. Moderation is the key as many of these foods can cause serious health problems if they become part of your pet’s daily diet.
Some healthy and delicious snacks your chinchilla can enjoy include calendula, Hawthorn berries, oat groats, Goji berries, mixed flowers, raspberry alfalfa, apple blossoms, and loofah.
Foods you should avoid
Although most rodents prefer a diversified diet, based on fresh fruits and veggies, chinchillas and some hamster breeds originating from desert environments may beg to differ.
In their natural form, most fruits and veggies contain a lot of water, which comes in contradiction with the dry and cold climates chinchillas usually prefer. Thus, introducing them to a diet based on too much moisture could cause diarrhea and bloating. Bloating is extremely dangerous, especially since chinchillas cannot relieve themselves from gases.
Most fruits also contain a high quantity of natural sugars, no matter if they are fresh or dry. A sugary diet for your pet can cause diabetes and hyperglycemia, all health conditions you want to avoid if you wish your pet to live a long and fulfilling life.
Nuts and seeds should also be avoided as they are high in fats that your chinchilla cannot properly digest. Extra fats can lead to severe health problems like fatty liver disease, which is known as one of the “silent killers” of these beautiful rodents.
However, occasional treats can be offered to your pet, especially if we’re talking about certain types of berries or bananas, fruits that are less watery.
Corn and soy shouldn’t be part of your chinchilla’s diet either as they are rich in empty calories or carbs. Regular consumption of corn and soy can lead to overweight and obesity problems, especially if they are associated with a lack of exercising.
Therefore, we strongly suggest you provide your pet with various forms of entertainment and exercising, including running wheels and exercise balls.