What to Feed your Pet Chinchilla - or, what do
By: Huey & Dewey
In its native environment a chinchilla eats vegetation that
has grown in the arid, poor quality soil of the high slopes
of the Andes Mountains in South America, so their digestive
systems are designed to get all the nutrition possible from
their food. Because of this, if you give your chinchillas a
constant diet of rich food, their digestive systems will be
overloaded and they will develop potentially fatal gassy
bloat and diarrhea. This is why the food you choose to feed
to your pet chinchillas is of the utmost importance, and
those snacks you think are just pampering may be in fact
slowing killing your beloved pet.
Below are some diet recommendations from experienced and
knowledgeable chinchilla owners.
Algae are toxic to chinchillas. Empty, wash, sterilize and
refill your chinchillas' water bottle every day and make
sure it doesn't run empty. Fresh water is important to the
health of all animals, as well as humans, but it is
especially needful for animals like rodents that each dry
Chinchillas need a constant supply of fresh hay. Be sure it
is good quality feed hay, and keep it dry and free from
mold. Every other day, take a handful of the hay in each
hand and stand facing the sun or another light. Hit one
batch of hay with the other and watch for fine dust shaking
off of the hay. If you see a cloud of very fine dust, you
will need to throw out that hay and buy fresh, because the
dust is really mold and will sicken your animals. Another
sign of good hay is that it will have a nice hay smell and a
nice greenish (meadow hay) or golden (seed hay) color.
Ask the breeder from whom you buy your chinchillas for
enough of the chinchilla pellets your chinchillas have been
eating to keep them fed for three weeks, so they won't have
to drastically change their feed at the same time that they
change homes and cages. Once you have them set up in their
new cage, feed them the food they are used to eating for at
least the first week. During that time, find a good source
of your own pellets, and gradually begin to add the new
pellets to the old ones, increasing the ratio every day.
That gives your pets time to adjust to the new food without
shocking their digestive systems in any way.
Wood for Gnawing
Chinchillas, like other rodents, must gnaw or their teeth
will grow too long and injure or kill them. Keep a supply of
soft, nontoxic wood in your chinchilla cage for them to
gnaw. Branches from fruit trees such as pear or apple are
great, but be sure the trees haven't been sprayed recently
and remove all moss and such, or strip the bark before you
give the branches to your pets.
Experts say that will good food, chinchillas don't need
dietary supplements, except possibly a calcium supplement
for pregnant females. You can probably find a good rodent
calcium supplement at your local pet supply shop.
If an animal is ill or when hand-feeding babies, you can
supplement their diet with vitamins from your veterinarian,
or some breeders use a couple of drops per day of liquid
multivitamins for children such as the "Abidec" brand in the
Vegetables and Fruits
Green foods, vegetables and fruits are not recommended as
part of the diet for chinchillas, with a few exceptions
listed below in the section on treats.
Treats for Chinchillas
* Treats are okay, if they are the right kind of treats.
Feeding your chinchillas treats from your hand will also
help you tame and train your pets.
Some good treats that knowledgeable chinchilla owners offer
Some breeders recommend feeding a raisin as a snack from
your hand once or twice a day, especially while you are
working on taming/training. Most chinchillas love raisins.
Once a week or so you might give your chinchillas a grape or
a small piece of apple, and a small piece of toasted bread,
cornflake, or a Wheat Chex piece as a snack.
One of the best ways to check the health of your chinchilla
is to examine its droppings. Droppings should be of normal
shape and firm, not loose. A chinchilla's eyes should be
bright but not wet, and the fur should be smooth and shiny,
and not wet around the rear end or mouth and chest. His ears
should not have brown matter in them, and he should move
around his environment with cheer and no difficulty. If you
observe that one or more of these things have changed, call
your veterinarian immediately.
Last but not least in the good advice from the experts,
don't take the advice of your friends as to the best care of
your chinchilla, unless your friends are professional
chinchilla breeders. Even some of the products on the market
that say they were designed or formulated for chinchillas
are in fact not the best thing for your pet's health. Take
the time to do careful research about your beautiful pets
and you can give yourself and your pets the best and longest