In order to choose the best chinchilla cage accessories for your furry buddy, you might want to first find out more about this wonderful creature’s natural habitat, behavior and feeding requirements. Understanding an animal before caring for it is key. Here are some general aspects of their wildlife habitat and lifestyle.
Chinchillas are small sized rodents native to the Andes Mountains in South America, a rocky and arid area. Unfortunately, their story throughout history is not the happiest one, since they were hunted for their unique fur to the point of extinction. Luckily, that changed throughout time and now we can enjoy their companionship in our homes.
Somewhere in the early 1920s, chinchillas began being captured from the wild and exported all around the world. They were bred mostly for their special fur in chinchilla breeding farms. As time went by, and they became adapted to the new living conditions, their numbers increased significantly, so that they started being kept as pets also.
Chinchillas as home pets
The average pet chinchilla has quite a life span, living to be between 10 and 18 years old, depending on the gender, size, and variety. A chinchilla’s size can be anywhere between 10 and 14 inches, adding to that of a tail of 5 to 6 inches. They usually weigh about 800 grams. Their quite small size makes it easier for kids to care for them.
What makes chinchillas such great pets is their active, lovely personality and the fact that they tend to be very clean animals. Also, their ability to easily adapt to a wide range of environments is definitely a huge plus for these lovely creatures. Not to mention that they come in such beautiful colors and have a wonderful coat.
Taking their social nature into consideration it is best for their mental and emotional development and well-being if they are kept in small groups or same-sex pairs, especially if they are brought together at a young age, making it easier for them to get along well. Just like for people, socializing is very important to these cute animals.
Although chinchillas will not love it being handled and cuddled like a dog or cat, they still make great pets for children, due to their bonding with their owners and to the very different ways in which a chinchilla will display its affection. Parents who want to teach their children about the benefits and responsibilities of owning a pet will find chinchillas to be very suitable for the job.
What do chinchillas eat?
Good quality grass hay is the first and foremost part of a chin’s daily menu. Since chinchillas are rodents, they have ever-growing teeth, so hay should be provided in unlimited quantities, thus making sure that the fiber needs for the digestive system and dental maintenance needs are properly and constantly met. Their diet must be high in fiber and low in moisture and fat.
Pellets made especially for chinchillas are another important part of its daily menu. Pellets can be plain or mixed up with dehydrated fruits and vegetables, making them a complete menu. However, plain pellets are to be preferred over the mixed food, because it prevents selective feeding, thus ensuring your pet chin gets a bit of every ingredient with each bite.
Choosing pelleted food over mixed food for your chinchilla ensures they get all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrient requirements met since this type of industrial food is carefully balanced this way. Another great thing about pelleted food is that you significantly reduce the amount of food thrown away due to selective feeding.
How to feed vegetables to chinchillas
Fresh veggies and fruits are also a part of a chin’s diet, but they need to be fed in small amounts (not more than a teaspoon a day per chin) and introduced gradually in the menu, in order to avoid any gastrointestinal problems that may occur. Chinchillas are well known for their sensitive digestive system, and any big change can disrupt their balance, that is so important.
Some of the vegetables that are safe for chinchillas are carrots, potatoes, celery, pumpkin, and squash. It is of high importance to keep giving treats in small amounts and to rotate them on a weekly basis, in such a way that they benefit your pet’s health, not making it ill. Rotating treats comes with the added benefit of keeping your little friend interested in new things.
Vegetables that are not to be fed to chinchillas include cabbage (due to its high acid content), corn and bananas (due to their high sugar levels), asparagus, avocado, nuts, and sunflower seeds. It is always advisable to check if a new food you want to introduce to your furry friend’s diet is safe for it or not. If you are unsure, it is better to either completely avoid it or try feeding a very small amount first.
Can chinchillas have fruits?
Fruits are definitely a part of any pet chinchilla’s diet, but just as with vegetables, they should not make up more than 10% of the overall diet. Fruits should always be chopped before serving them, as well as very fresh and properly rinsed with clean water. Chemicals used in orchards and other types of plantations can be extremely harmful to chinchillas.
Fruits that are good for pet chinchillas, mainly on a weekly basis, include pears, bananas, and apples. As a general guideline, whenever you are looking for something new to add to your furry friend’s diet in terms of fruits as treats, look for fruits that have a low acidic and sugar level, rather than just trying to give something tasty.
There are some fruits to be avoided, too. Usually, fruits that are very juicy are not to be given to chinchillas because since they come from such a dry area of the world, their digestive system is used to dry food, and moist, juicy treats will make them bloat and become ill. Also, dried fruits are to be avoided due to their high sugar levels that are not healthy for these pets.
What about strawberries?
Strawberries should be given to pet chinchillas only as treats, every now and then. The recommended size of a strawberry treat does not usually exceed a small piece measuring about 0,4 inches x 0,4 inches. Strawberry treats can be offered as often as once a week. If you notice your little friend really likes strawberries and tolerates them well, you could offer it twice a week.
Benefits of feeding strawberries to chinchillas include the unique flavor of these fruits, the vitamin, and nutrient content it adds to your pet’s diet and the fact that strawberry leaves and plants are okay too. Of course, also served in small amounts and being gradually introduced in the weekly diet, strawberry leaves prove to be an interesting choice.
Some watch-outs in strawberry feeding to chinchillas include thoroughly rinsing the fruits with plenty of clean water before serving them, to avoid your chinchilla getting in contact with any toxic substances that could have been previously sprayed on them, and always serving fresh fruits since chinchillas are unable to tolerate any dried or freeze-dried fruits.