Chinchillas can be wonderful pets, but they require a certain specific kind of care to make sure that they receive the nutrition that they need and the exercise that they require to cater to their delicate digestive systems and predisposition to obesity.
A chinchilla not only need a certain balance of nutrition, but it must also receive those nutrients within certain high fiber foods that ensure a healthy digestive tract.
Every day, the average chinchilla should receive approximately two tablespoons of a high quality chinchilla pellet food, as well as a large amount of fresh hay and water. The quantity of pellets will depend on the individual chinchilla and the brand of food, but they can consume as much hay as they can eat without adverse effects.
Since chinchillas thrive on routine, it is best to keep to a set feeding schedule. Most owners choose to feed their pets in the evening when chinchillas are at their most active.
Carefully select the brand of pellets that you will be feeding your chinchilla so that you won’t need to change them. If, for some reason, you find that you need to change the brand, do so gradually. Begin by taking out ten percent of the old food and adding ten percent of the new food. Every day, add a little bit more of the new food and a little bit less of the old food. Switching too quickly can cause severe digestive upset.
Select a food that is meant specifically for chinchillas, which consists only of pellets. Mixed foods will encourage picky eating in your chin and could lead it to eat only the tasty “treat” foods and not the pellets that contain the best balance of nutrition.
You should also be quite selective about the hay you serve your chinchilla. Make sure that it is fresh and free of chemicals, dust, mold, or any musty smells. Coarse, loose hay is preferable to chopped hay.
Though hard pellets and hay are great for keeping teeth healthy and trim, it is still important to carefully check your chinchilla’s teeth to make sure that they’re neither broken nor overgrown. The incisors in the chinchilla’s mouth will grow between 2 and 3 inches every year, so additional chew toys will be vital to preventing dental problems that can be expensive to repair, traumatic to the chinchilla, and dangerous to its health.
Remember to choose items from a pet store that are designed specifically for chinchillas or large rodents, including chew toys made out of pumice, cholla rings, wood (avoid highly scented wood such as pine and cedar), and cuttlefish. Cuttlefish is especially beneficial as it also provides the chinchilla with calcium.
With a healthy diet also comes the need for proper exercise and chinchilla care. Obesity is a major problem among chinchillas, and though it may look cute to see a fat chinchilla, a round fuzzy ball of a chin, the dangers of the condition are even greater in these animals than they are in humans. Although a good tall cage with lots of ledges will provide some exercise, a wheel – either standard or “flying saucer” – will go a long way to make sure that your chinchilla can have a good run whenever it wants, burning off extra calories and weight.