Together with the room temperature, adequate menu and comfortable environment, the chinchilla accessories for cage use are of utmost importance to your pet’s health and well-being. In order to better understand what the needs of this cute and cuddly pet are, we need to take a look at the place it comes from and the living and feeding conditions it had there.
A bit of chinchilla history
Chinchillas come from the Andes Mountains in South America. This means they come from a dry mountain area, where the local vegetation is made out of less succulent plants, no vegetables, nor fruits.
In the early 1920s, chinchillas started being captured and exported around the world for financial purposes, being bred in chinchilla farms for their fur. As time went by, their numbers increased significantly, to the point where they became part of our everyday life, as pets. Throughout this process, chinchillas have adapted to the new life, and so did their feeding requirements.
What does a chinchilla eat?
Being that chinchillas are South American rodents, they have continuously growing and open-rooted teeth, in order to compensate the wear that takes place while chewing on very rough, abrasive, high fiber grass and hay. This is an adaptation to their natural environment. For a pet chinchilla, this translates into giving it good quality hay, in unlimited quantities.
The second component of a chinchilla’s menu is special pellets, that have been developed and enhanced throughout the many years of breeding chinchillas. They are usually made of derivatives of vegetable origin (mostly lucerne), cereals, vegetables (less than 23%), fruits (less than 3%), minerals and vegetable protein extracts.
Some chinchilla pellet types available on the market also added seeds and spirulina (in the range of 1%), in order to maintain your pet’s well-being. Although pellets are a great and important source of calcium, fibers, and minerals to your pet chinchilla, it is not advisable to be fed in a larger amount than 1 – 2 tablespoons per day, for an adult.
Vegetables may be offered as treats, but only in small amounts, once or twice a week. The amount given can be increased gradually over time, with constant supervision of the chinchilla’s feces and general health. The vegetables must always be offered fresh to make sure they get the maximum level of nutrients and vitamins out of them.
There are a few vegetables that are to be avoided, since they can pose a threat to your chinchilla’s health, like peas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and cabbage. These vegetables have a very high acidity and fermentation level and will lead to a lot of gas in your pet’s intestinal tract.
Can chinchillas eat lettuce?
Up to 10% of a chinchilla’s daily diet should consist of herbs and leafy greens, vegetables and a few pieces of fruits. High sugar fruits and commercial yogurt treats are to be avoided. The daily amount of vegetables, leafy greens, and fruits, all added up, should not be more than 1 – 2 teaspoons for an adult chinchilla.
Lettuce, in general, can be offered to your pet chinchilla in very small amounts and not more than once or twice a week. Because of the high water and acid content may cause bloating and gassy intestines, which can be harmful to chinchillas. However, some types of lettuce are more appropriate for feeding your beloved pet than others.
Red leaf lettuce is the one type of lettuce that is most suitable for chinchillas. The fact that it has a low-fat content but a high vitamin (especially vitamin A and K) and mineral level make it a good choice for pet chinchillas. Moderation is key in feeding red leaf lettuce to your pet.
Green leaf lettuce is one of the most commonly found types of lettuce out there, however, due to its high acid content level, it shouldn’t be your first chinchilla treat choice. Serving it once a week and in very small amount should be ok for your chinchilla.
What other types of lettuce could be considered?
Oakleaf lettuce is a variety of butter lettuce, round in shape and with lobed leaves, it is available throughout the year (especially summer to late fall). Oakleaf lettuce contains a high level of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins, which makes it a valuable addition to your chinchilla’s diet, but should be fed seldom in order to avoid digestive tract problems.
Iceberg lettuce resembles cabbage a lot, with its crispy texture leaves and rounded way of growing. Unfortunately, just like cabbage, this type of lettuce is not suitable for chinchillas. Because of its high water content, it will cause bloating in the digestive system, a lot of gas being accumulated and making your pet chinchilla ill.
Romaine lettuce has a high acidic content, calcium, phosphorus and fat content, which makes it quite unsuitable for chinchillas. Offering Romaine Lettuce to your pet may lead to tummy aches, gassy digestive issues and an overall poor condition. It is to be avoided.
Boston lettuce is a sweet, nutty flavored lettuce, with a somewhat mildly astringent taste also. This type of lettuce is suitable for your pet chinchilla is small amounts, served, at most, once a week. Having a slightly higher level of sugar, being fed in large amounts can become unhealthy to chinchillas due to their inability to digest high amounts of sugar.
Bibb lettuce is one of the smallest types of lettuce and tastes very sweet due to its high sugar content. Just like Boston lettuce, it can be a part of your chinchilla’s diet, on a weekly basis, and in very small feeding ratios. Its high sugar level can become problematic for your pet’s digestive tract and overall health if fed in large amounts.
Batavia lettuce comes in two varieties: green leaved lettuce and red-brownish lettuce. The green variety is to be avoided in a chinchilla’s menu. The red-brownish one is okay for chinchillas in very small amounts, fed on a weekly basis and not more than a teaspoon of chopped leaves in a feeding.
Other useful facts about chinchillas
In the wild, chinchillas prefer consuming their food both early in the morning and late at night. In a similar way, pet chinchillas should be offered food twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. They may eat throughout the day, given that they are not so fast eaters. Clean, fresh water should be given on a daily basis, either from a water bowl or from a bottle.
Chinchillas love to chew, especially on wood. Chewing is a very important activity in order to maintain their health since it helps to keep their continuously growing teeth at the right length. Wood sticks should always be available in your pet’s cage. Make sure they are clean and dry at all times, given that any sort of mold or unsuitable wood can be harmful to chinchillas.
There are types of wood that are good for chinchillas, and others that can be unsuitable and toxic. On the “safe to chew on” list are applewood, elm, pear, willow (but not white willow), aspen (good for bedding also), pecan, and hazelnut. On the unsafe list, you may find cherry, plum, redwood, chestnut, pine (kiln dried is okay in small amounts, air dried isn’t) and oak.