Choosing the best Chinchilla food is high on the list of Chinchilla care priorities any owner may have, but not everyone knows what is best for their pet. Chinchillas have a special and sensitive digestive system which requires a special diet of Chinchilla food. In the wild, they are adapted to eating a great deal of plant material with high fiber. They are not equipped to handle fatty or rich diets. In fact, giving your pet rich and fatty foods will cause serious health problems, such as digestive upset. So what then and how often should you feed your Chinchilla?
Today, many Chinchilla food choices are available, and they are grouped into 3 categories, namely, hay, loose feed mixture and pellets. Their merits are discussed below:
Loose Feed Mixture
|What it is||Hay is made from dried grass and other plant material. It is high in fiber and contains vitamins and minerals which is important to your pet’s health.||Loose feed is a mixture of various plant material in dehydrated form. It may contain nuts, legumes, seeds, occasional dried fruit, fiber, grain, bits of twigs, etc. Only buy loose mixes labeled as Chinchilla food.||Pellets are made from a grinded mix of plant materials and are designed to meet the nutritional needs of the animal it is made for. Only feed your pet pellets labeled as Chinchilla food.|
|Benefits||Chinchillas need a high amount of fiber to help keep their digestive system in great condition. They need 15-35% fiber on a daily basis. Fiber also takes more time and effort to chew. The Chinchilla needs fiber to help ensure that their teeth do not grow too much or too long as this can lead to problems. For the ultimate benefit, choose a mixture of alpine, alfalfa, timothy, blue grasses and orchard grass for your pet.||Chinchillas are known for picking out only the tastiest bits from a mixture of loose feed, so this may not be the best option for your pet. However, giving loose mixtures a few times a week is a treat for your Chinchilla. Just ensure that you pick a brand with more than 50% high fiber ingredients and with very little nuts and dried fruits mixed in.||Chinchillas will not overeat pellets and seems to have a built in system that tells them how much is enough pellet for a day. Also, pellets are formulated to meet the needs of your pet so this makes it a good Chinchilla food option over loose feed mixture. However, it should be noted that although pellets for different pets might look the same, a pellet made for rabbits or guinea pigs may not provide the right nutrition that your Chinchilla needs.|
|How much to give?||Fresh hay should be available for your pet at all times. Inspect the hay everyday and each time you are about to replace or replenish it to ensure that it is not wet, there is no fungal growth and that it is clean. About a big handful per day would be a good estimate to give to your pet Chinchilla.||Loose mixes can be given everyday or a few times a week although pellets are preferable as your pet can become a picky eater with loose mixes. A tablespoon or two can be given to Chinchillas once or twice a day depending on your pet’s age and eating habits together with an adequate fresh supply of hay.||Pellets are preferable over a feed of loose mix. Generally, a tablespoon or two can be given to your pet every morning and night, adjusting on what is best for your pet. Although most pellets are marketed as a complete meal, your pet still needs a supply of hay on a daily basis to help with their digestion and to keep their teeth from growing too much.|
Giving your pet Chin new food should be done gradually. For example, if you are switching the brand of pellets that you feed to your pet, start at 75% old brand and 25% new brand for a few days before giving half and half of both new and old brand. Continue on until you have completed the food switch. Introducing new treats should be done one at a time. It is helpful to observe your pet and any changes a new food may bring to your pet’s health and behavior.
Since most commercially available food are pre-mixed in either loose or pellet form, it is possible that it may contain additives which might be harmful to your Chinchilla’s health, especially in large quantities. The two most common culprit being corn and raisins. Both corn and raisins are high in sugar content. As a Chinchilla’s diet should consist of only 4% sugar and the fact that corn and raisin are more than 50% sugar, it can be easy to see how bad they are for your pet. Corn is usually found in pellets as a part of the ingredient and raisins are often mixed in loose feeds.
Because Chinchillas like to gnaw, it is easy to get tempted into giving them various bark and wood material such as twigs as a treat. However, some wood might be toxic for Chinchillas. It should be noted that any twig or bark you give to your pet should be free from pesticides and chemicals which might harm your pet Chin. Another important thing to note is that giving treats such as raisins should be done in moderation. A piece of raisin might seem like a small treat but it is like giving a cup of sugar if your pet is human. When training your pet and giving treats as a reward, it is helpful to cut up the treat into several small pieces to avoid the error of giving too much.
Chinchillas eat feces, and yes, that is normal. It is called coprophagy. Animals such as Chinchillas and rabbits practice it to ensure that they get to digest and absorb important nutrients. Baby Chins or Kits do eat an adult Chin’s feces as well. It is presumed that they do it to get good bacteria in their digestive tracts. When in doubt, you may talk with your breeder or veterinarian about your Chin’s behavior.
1. When choosing pellets, it would be best to stick to pellets without corn or those that only have corn as a minor ingredient.
2. For choosing loose mixes, it would be best to choose one with a high concentration of fiber and has no treats or very small amounts of treats like raisins and nuts mixed in. Chinchillas are known for picking out only the tasty bits of loose mixes so it would be helpful to give only a tablespoon of loose feed mix once or twice a day to ensure your Chinchilla would eat the non-tasty but good ingredients as well before giving your pet fresh feed.
3. Always ensure that your Chinchilla would have access to fresh dry hay at all times. A mixture of timothy hay, alfalfa hay, and other grass hays is best for overall Chinchilla health.
4. Treats should be kept at a minimum and not given daily if possible.
5. For supplements such as vitamins, consult your breeder and veterinarian before giving any to your pet.
Chinchillas need food which are labeled as Chinchilla food to ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs. Besides their usual food such as feed mixes and pellets, your pet needs an adequate supply of fresh clean hay and clean (not tap) water. A good balanced diet for your pet Chin is all that it needs to keep it healthy and happy. A good balanced diet can be met by knowing how to choose what your pet needs, and that is the best Chinchilla food.