Feeding the best quality food and maintaining good nutrition for your chinchilla is the foundation of sound pet care. The chinchilla can easily be subject to digestive disorders, so it is important that your pet has a good diet.
Never make sudden changes to a pet chinchilla’s diet. Diarrhea is a very serious condition for a chinchilla and can be easily triggered. At first, your pet chinchilla should eat whatever has been given to it at the pet store or breeder facility.
If you want to switch to another type of food or add better nutritional elements for your pet chinchilla, go very slowly. Keep an eye on your pet’s droppings. They must remain firm and dry at all times. If they are not, you are changing your chinchilla’s diet too fast.
Pellets for your pet chinchilla
Commercially formulated chinchilla pellets will be the staple of your pet’s diet. Typically a chinchilla will eat about 2 tablespoons (US or UK) a day, but no need to ration meals.
The pellets should be available to your chinchilla at all times. Every few days, discard all the pellets in the bowl and start over with fresh food.
Do not feed your pet pellets that have been formulated for rabbits or any other species as it can lead to malnutrition and liver damage.
Always store your chinchilla’s pellets in a sealed container away from any source of moisture in a cool place protected from the sun.
As a little extra treat, you can sprinkle the pellets with rosehip powder available at your local health food store. This will make the food sweeter for your chinchilla, but won’t add sugar to its nutritional profile.
In the United States, consider using Oxbow garden select chinchilla food, which comes in different bags from 5 to 50 lbs.
In the UK, Charnwood pellets are a favorite with enthusiasts.
The importance of hay for your chinchilla
A good quality hay mix is essential to provide your chinchilla with adequate forage and the dietary fiber it needs for optimal gastrointestinal health.
Never let your chinchilla run out of hay!
When a chinchilla chews hay, the grinding action also wears down its teeth, preventing both overgrowth and the development of tooth spurs. Don’t worry about your chinchilla eating too much hay. That will not happen.
Remove hay that has spread and soiled on a daily basis, and continue to replenish the hay feeder, which should be full at all times.
You will know you have good quality hay when it looks and smells clean and dry. Hay should not be dull brown, dusty, or smell musty. Also, make sure the mixture is free of any thorns or burrs.
Pet chinchillas will thrive on high-fiber, low-protein grass hay. The reason for this is simple. Read the label on the preformulated pellets that you are feeding your pet. In most cases, alfalfa will be the main ingredient. Alfalfa is rich in fiber and protein.
If your chinchilla gets the protein it needs from its pellet food, you won’t want to add that protein load to your choice of hay.
For this reason, the best options are:
- Mountain grass
You can still give your chinchilla some alfalfa, maybe 2-3 times a week, because it’s a good source of calcium, but don’t overfeed it.
If you are just feeding in rich hay like alfalfa, do it slowly to avoid gastrointestinal upset. (This is also true for clover hay, which should also be used sparingly.)
Packaged timothy hay is available in a variety of sizes from 5 to 50 lbs. /2.27-22.7 kg in a price range of $20- $65/£12- £40.
Things to know about the hay cubes
Hay cubes are compressed hay, usually timothy or alfalfa, that are packaged for purchase at pet stores. There are many cases where hay cubes are very convenient if your chinchilla eats them.
Hay cubes are perfect for traveling and they don’t get as messy as loose hay. It’s a good idea to break the cube into smaller pieces and offer it to your chinchilla on its food plate.
Whether you use loose hay or cubes, always make sure the material stays dry. If stored in a container, the receptacle should be ventilated to prevent mold growth and kept in a cool, dry place, protected from the sun.
Small, compressed “bales” of timothy hay are priced at $14/£ 9 for 6 lbs/2.7kg.
Treats for your Chinchilla
Keep in mind, Chinchillas are highly skilled beggars! They stand on their hind legs, look at you imploringly, and often spread their little legs “asking.” It’s adorable, and the big chinchilla scam.
Don’t be fooled! Chinchillas like all kinds of things that just aren’t good for them. Once a Chinchilla starts eating treats, there is no turning back. He will stuff himself and refuse his regular food.
You will not only be forced to fight against obesity in your pet chinchilla but also against poor digestion. Nature designed chinchillas to eat plant material full of fiber, not fat, sugary treats, or lots of protein.
Chinchillas have tiny little stomachs. They will not overeat either in their pellets or in the hay, but they will gorge themselves on treats. A pleading little chinchilla can be hard to resist, but this is where tough love is required on your part.
Under no circumstances should you give your chinchilla anything that contains chocolate, as it can damage its digestion and nervous system.
Also, remove the corn in any pellet mixes that are designated as “treat.”
There are mixes available containing dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that you can use once or twice a week as a treat, dispensing no more than a teaspoon (US or UK), but all corn must be picked out.
(Corn is highly subject to fungal content and mold development, which can cause bloat in your pet.)
You can use fresh or dried fruit as a treat 2-3 times a week in very small amounts (just a bite or two). Safe fruits for your pet chinchilla include:
Keep in mind, fruits and vegetables should never represent more than 10% of your chinchilla’s total diet.
If you’re training your chinchilla to perform “tricks” or trying to reinforce positive behavior, choose items from the treat mix to use as rewards.
Alternatively, you can also use rolled oats from any standard oatmeal preparation. Use one flake at a time. You may think it’s a stingy approach, but your chinchilla will be happy to get something “extra.”
Your chinchilla’s water bottle should be kept full and clean at all times. In general, it is better to go for a glass water bottle, as the plastic itself can be toxic or is subject to the retention of bacteria.
Never wash your pet’s water bottle with any chemicals or soap. Rub it in thoroughly with hot water, then allow it to cool before refilling and returning it to the box.
Use non-chlorinated water for your pet or allow the tap water to degas for 24 hours before using it on your chinchilla.
Also, make sure the spout is placed at the level of your pet’s mouth and does not drip.
A chinchilla’s coat easily mats when it comes in contact with water, which is usually the result of a faulty water bottle.