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What to feed chinchillas

Chinchillas naturally eat for long periods of time, mainly during the night. They eat by sitting on their hind legs and holding the food in their front paws.

Chinchillas' digestive systems need hay and grass to function properly, and in the wild, they naturally eat grasses, leaves and twigs. Here are our tips for making sure your pet chinchillas have the diet they need to stay happy and healthy.

chinchilla sitting in cage looking straight to camera © RSPCA

A balanced diet for chinchillas

Chinchillas' teeth grow continuously throughout their life, so they need wearing down and kept at the correct length and shape by eating grass and hay or grass-based chinchilla pellets. Not eating the right diet can lead to serious dental disease.

You should feed your chinchillas:

  • Good-quality hay - this makes up the majority of your chinchillas' diet, and they should have it available at all times. A hay rack is a good way of offering hay.
  • Grass-based chinchilla pellets - as well as hay, you should also give them a small amount (1-2 tablespoons per chinchilla) of grass-based chinchilla pellets every day.
  • Treats - only give your chinchillas small amounts of dried fruit and root vegetables as treats. You can also give them assorted dried herbs and plantain.
  • Drinking water - your chinchillas will also need constant access to clean drinking water from a drinking bottle, which you should check twice a day.
  • Avoid nuts and seeds as these are high in fat. 

Never change your chinchillas' diet suddenly, as this could upset their digestive system and make them very ill.

Monitoring your chinchillas' diet

The amount of food your chinchilla needs to eat depends on their age, lifestyle and state of health. If you feed them the correct diet, chinchillas generally keep themselves at the right weight. However, you'll still need to keep an eye on the amount and types of food your chinchilla eats, and how much they drink.

Check that they're eating every day and that they're passing plenty of dry droppings. Chinchillas produce two kinds of droppings - hard, dry pellets and softer, moist pellets that they eat directly from their bottom, which are an essential part of their diet.

If your chinchilla's eating or drinking habits change, the number or size of droppings gets smaller or they stop, talk to your vet straight away, as it could be a sign of illness.

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