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What Do Chinchillas Eat?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Chinchillas are a type of rodent that lives in the wild in South America. They are closely related to squirrels. Chinchillas have small beady eyes, big ears, and long fur with colors ranging from black to grey to white on their backs and bellies.

They also make adorable pets that don’t require a lot of room. But if you choose a chinchilla as a pet, you must know how to feed them.

If you're thinking of getting a chinchilla, it's helpful to know what foods they can eat and which could be harmful. Chinchillas are rodents and can eat some of the same things as squirrels, like nuts and seeds. But chinchillas also have very specific dietary needs, so you shouldn’t give them any old snack food.

What Type of Diet Do Chinchillas Eat?

Chinchillas eat hay, pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Hay is the main part of their diet; they will need a constant supply of it to keep healthy. Pellets are made from chinchilla food ingredients, so they contain some of the nutrients chinchillas need but don’t provide enough variety for a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables provide additional vitamins and minerals that complement the hay in your pet chinchilla’s diet.

Can They Eat Sweet Potatoes?

But what about sweet potatoes? Can they be part of a chinchilla’s diet? Despite their nutrient density and benefits, be cautious when feeding sweet potatoes to a chinchilla.

First, you shouldn’t give chinchillas raw white potatoes. They contain solanine, an alkaloid that is toxic to humans and animals in significant quantities. Potatoes with green areas contain a higher level of solanine and are especially risky for chinchillas and other animals. They can even be toxic to humans. That’s why humans don't eat raw potatoes.

Fortunately, even raw sweet potatoes don’t contain solanine and cooking sweet potatoes reduces some of the components in sweet potatoes that aren't healthy for chinchillas in large quantities.

So, it's best to cook a sweet potato before offering it to your chinchilla, but how many chinchillas enjoy a soft sweet potato? They would prefer something crunchier they can sink their teeth into. That’s why sweet potatoes aren't the best option for chinchillas. If you give them raw sweet potato, keep the quantity small and offer it only occasionally.

Sweet Potatoes Have Key Nutrients

So, can chinchillas eat sweet potatoes? Yes, but only in small quantities. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of fiber and vitamins for your chinchilla. Despite their nutritional benefits, they're also high in sugar.

Although they contain fiber, which helps reduce the negative effects of the sugar in sweet potatoes, the fiber is mainly in the outer skin of sweet potatoes.

Chinchillas Should Get Hay Too

As PetMD.com points out, the bulk of a chinchilla’s diet should be hay substituted with other foods, including pellets and leafy vegetables for more fiber. Hay is important for a chinchilla's general health and dentition.

Including hay in their diet helps trim down teeth that continue to grow throughout their life. They also eat twigs in the wild to trim down their teeth.

Without hair or twigs, they can experience elongation of their teeth, leading to pain and dental issues. Feeding chinchillas too many foods high in sugar, including sugar, can also cause dental problems in chinchillas.

That's why you should book a check-up for your chinchilla by a veterinarian once or twice a year. The veterinarian can check their teeth and ensure they aren’t having dental issues.

Chinchillas can also have vegetables and dried fruit as treats. However, “treats” shouldn’t be the mainstay of a chinchilla’s diet. They need basic hay and pellets too and can benefit from gnawing on chew blocks too to ensure their teeth don’t lengthen too much.

Final Thoughts

Feeding a chinchilla a healthy diet will help maximize its lifespan, which can be up to 20 years if they receive proper care and attention. Chinchillas will eat anything they can get their paws on! The best way to keep your chinchilla on a healthy diet is by giving them a variety of foods that contain essential nutrients for optimum health, along with hay and pellets.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.