To ensure your pet chin stays happy and healthy, it’s always wise to try and mimic their environment in the wild. In the Andes Mountains, wild chinchillas feed on a diet of dry, rough vegetation. To mimic this setting, a domestic chinchilla diet consists of hay, pellets, water, and the occasional treat.
But how much can you vary this? What if you want to give them a special treat? Are some foods necessary to help their digestion or properly file their teeth? Let’s find out.
Hay takes up a significant portion of the chinchilla diet. Grasses like alfalfa, alpine, orchard grass, bluegrass, timothy, and common prairie grass are great hay choices for your pet chin. Of these grasses, timothy may be the best one. When picking out the grass for your pet chin, be mindful of their protein content. Grasses high in protein, such as alfalfa, should be alternated with low-protein grasses, like oat, wheat, and barley, to balance their diet.
Chinchillas typically consume about one to two tablespoons, or about twenty grams, of pellets every day. Chinchilla pellets are mainly made of alfalfa or timothy hay. Sometimes, minerals and vitamins are added to the pellets, specific to the nutritional needs of chinchillas. For this reason, you should not feed your chinchilla pellets made for other animals.
Different brands will also have different formulas. To find a good pellet formula, look for brands that have about 14 percent to 16 percent fiber and protein. Too much fiber can cause diarrhea and intestinal problems. To mimic their natural environment, pellets should be given at dusk and dawn. Your chinchilla will not immediately finish all the pellets on their plate; this is a natural behavior. They will continue to munch on the pellets throughout the night.
Chinchillas should always have a supply of fresh water. As such, ensure their water bottle is constantly full. The best type is bottled water, since you can be sure that it’s free of chlorine, as well as parasites. Never give your chinchilla water straight from the tap. Should you only have tap water available, bring it to a boil for at least five minutes to ensure that it is free from parasites. Let it cool completely before filling up your chin’s water bottle.
Be sure to give treats sparingly. Chinchillas will opt for the tastier option in their food bowl; this can cause them to miss out on needed nutrition that their pellets provide. When giving treats, be sure to calculate fat content, as chinchillas should never have more than 3.5% fat and 4% sugar per day.
Here is a list of treats that are safe:
- Berries: Berries are great for chinchillas, specifically mountain ash berries. You can safely feed your chin these twice a day. Other berries, like raisins, should be given sparingly.
- Non-toxic fruit tree twigs: Fruit tree twigs can give your chinchilla’s teeth a great workout. Fruit trees where the fruit bears seeds, like apple and pears, are an ideal choice. Trees that produce a pit, like cherries and plum, will be toxic for chinchillas.
- Dried herbs: Dried rose hips, hibiscus, dandelion leaves are excellent choices. Other common choices like nettles, blackberry, and strawberry leaves are great for the digestive tract, but should be given sparingly.
Here is a list of foods that should not be given to chinchillas:
- Non-vegetarian food: Chinchillas are vegetarians; any animal products in their diet will wreak havoc in their digestive system.
- Corn: Corn, or maize, will cause bloating. In some cases, bloating is fatal to chinchillas.
- Chocolate: Not only does chocolate contain too much fat, protein, and oils for chinchillas, but chocolate is also toxic for them.
- Tree Bark: While fruit tree twigs make ideal treats, tree bark does not. Tree bark can be contaminated with plant diseases, parasites, or toxic spray material. The sap between the wood and bark layer could also be harmful to your chin. Some trees are safe for chinchillas; others are not. Before letting your chin munch, do your research about the wood that you are feeding them.
Because of their sensitive systems, chinchillas are susceptible to diet-related issues. Here are the main ones to be wary of.
A chinchilla’s teeth grow throughout their lives. To keep them healthy, they should be given enough hay and nutrients. Otherwise, the front and bottom of their teeth will collide inside their mouths. This condition is called impaction. Impaction causes severe pain when chewing, and may even cause drooling and eye discharge. Do your best to avoid this condition, as it is irreversible.
A terrible diet can lead to overconsumption, wherein your chinchilla eats too much of one thing. Overconsumption of pellets can lead to diarrhea and obesity; too many fresh greens can also lead to diarrhea. High amounts of calcium in hay, such as alfalfa, have been connected to bladder stones.
Chinchillas cannot vomit; if something is lodged in their mouth or esophagus, it will be hard for them to remove it themselves. Common signs of blockage include excessive salivation, gagging, a lack of appetite, and, sometimes, breathing problems. If you notice any of these signs, contact a vet immediately.
Now you know how to feed your chin to keep them happy and healthy!