The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Since chinchillas and hamsters are different animals, they each have their own nutritional needs. Some of these needs might overlap or be similar, but it is always best to make sure that you are feeding your pet food that is specifically made for their individual needs.
Chinchillas should never be fed hamster food. Hamster food contains ingredients that are toxic to chinchillas.
If you feed a chinchilla food that is made for a hamster, or a different kind of small animal or rodent, they will not be getting all of their species-specific nutritional needs. This has the potential of causing health issues and should be avoided.
How Are Chinchilla Food and Hamster Food Different?
Pet foods are formulated through research to be what is best for each different kind of pet. These foods are made to ensure that they are compatible with the needs and digestive systems of each pet.
This means that chinchilla food was made for chinchillas and would not be interchangeable with the food made for any other kind of animal, including hamsters.
Hamster food is made largely of things that would be harmful for a chinchilla to eat. Hamster food contains ingredients that are high in fats, including seeds and nuts, which could even be toxic to a chinchilla’s system.
You should never feed a chinchilla hamster food, as it is one of the worst blends of ingredients for chinchillas to consume. Feeding your chinchilla the wrong food could cause them to have serious health problems and could make them very sick.
Can Chinchilla Food Be Substituted?
The only reason why you should substitute chinchilla food for that of any other animal is if you have an emergency. If you run out of chinchilla food and are unable to get more chinchilla food before you need to feed your chinchilla, you may be able to substitute it.
Make sure that if you are substituting chinchilla food for the food of any other animal, you are only doing this for a limited time. As soon as you are able to, make sure that you go to the store and buy the right kind of food for your chinchilla.
You are better off trying to substitute chinchilla food with regular food, rather than with packaged food made for other kinds of animals. Substituting food should only be done in an emergency situation, when you have no other options.
Keep in mind that if you need to suddenly change your chinchilla’s diet, such as substituting it with another animal’s food, it could cause them to have stomach and digestion issues due to the sudden change.
Human Food for Chinchillas
There are plenty of “human” foods that chinchillas are able to have. These are things that you would be able to find in your kitchen, or outside of the pet food section of your grocery store.
Some healthy human foods for chinchillas include:
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Always feed these foods to your chinchillas as treats and not as substitutes for their usual diets. Chinchillas need pellet foods that are formulated with all the nutrients they need to be healthy, and feeding them human foods will not meet all of their requirements.
You shouldn’t feed your chinchilla any processed human foods, such as chips, candy, or canned fruits and vegetables. These foods have ingredients that could be extremely harmful to chinchillas, who are sensitive about what they can eat.
Chinchillas are vegetarians with notably sensitive stomachs, so they have very specific diets. They need food that is low in fat and high in fiber, with some protein as well.
Make sure that your chinchilla always has water, food pellets, and hay available to them in their enclosure. They also enjoy treats, but those should be given sparingly and should not be kept in their enclosure in large amounts, since they don’t have the same nutritional quality as regular food pellets and hay.
Chinchillas eat grass, twigs, and leaves. These are what their dry food pellets are based on, and they should eat about a tablespoon or two of pellets per day.
Grass and hay are necessary to keep chinchillas’ teeth healthy. Chinchillas’ teeth grow continuously, so they need to be shaped and worn down by grass or hay, which should be always kept available in their enclosure.
Just because chinchillas are vegetarians doesn’t mean that they can eat any vegetables, or any food that is designed for animals with vegetarian diets.
How to Tell If Your Chinchilla’s Diet Is Healthy
An unhealthy diet will lead to an unhealthy chinchilla. Luckily, if your chinchilla’s diet is unhealthy, you will be able to tell very easily.
Chinchillas should never eat food that contains seeds or nuts. Dried fruit should only be used as an occasional treat, since its high sugar content can cause health issues if it is consumed regularly.
A sudden change in diet can also cause issues that will have the same symptoms as many unhealthy diets will give to your chinchilla. If you have recently changed the chinchilla pellet food brand or type, your chinchilla might need a while to get used to the new food before it adjusts.
If your chinchilla is experiencing any symptoms of a bad diet, make sure that you review the ingredients on any pellet food they are consuming, and research any other treat or food that you might be giving them. Chances are that there is something you might have overlooked, and once you find what is causing their illness, find a healthy substitute instead.
Foods That Are Toxic to Chinchillas
Some common foods found in a household kitchen that would be toxic to chinchillas are:
- Lettuce or spinach
You might notice that some of the foods on this list are enjoyed by and are non-toxic to other rodents, such as hamsters. Foods cannot be used interchangeably between different pets, so make sure to look up any food that isn’t marked as specifically made for chinchillas before you allow your chinchilla to eat it.
Chinchillas are unable to tell whether or not most foods will be toxic to them before they eat it, which is why it is your responsibility to keep these foods away from your chinchilla.
To be safe, keep your chinchilla in their enclosure when you are eating so that they are unable to have access to your food. When your chinchilla is out of its enclosure, make sure that the area they are in doesn’t have any food or crumbs around that your chinchilla would be able to find and eat.
Best Other Animal Foods to Substitute
While it is inadvisable to substitute chinchilla food for that of other animals, there are a few that would be more safe than others.
When looking for a substitute, check to see what ingredients the other food uses. Look for ingredients that might be similar to those that are found in chinchilla food, and make sure that there are no ingredients that are toxic or unhealthy for chinchillas.
Rabbit food is one of the best substitutes for chinchilla food, as they have the most similar diet to chinchillas. A chinchilla will get some of the nutrients it needs from rabbit food and it will not make them sick.
Another animal that has a similar diet to chinchillas is the guinea pig. They also eat hay and grass-based pellets, and can be substituted for short-term use.
What to Do If You Are Out of Chinchilla Food
Running out of chinchilla food is something that you should avoid at all times. When you notice that you are running low on the chinchilla food you have at home, you should go to the store or order more food online.
Never wait until you are completely out of chinchilla food to buy more. If you do this, it will increase the chance that your chinchilla will need to have their food substituted or that they will go without a meal.
If you are out of chinchilla food, the best thing to do would be to find human foods that can be substituted in small amounts. Giving them a few human food treats is better than letting them go without a meal, but keep in mind this should only be used as a whole-meal substitute in emergency situations.
Make sure that you have backup food for your chinchilla. If you run out of food, any diet change for your chinchilla could risk upsetting their sensitive digestive system and they could become sick.
Be Careful with Substitutions
Make sure to research any food that you give your chinchilla, and purchase more chinchilla food as soon as you can to make sure that your chinchilla remains healthy.
Any substitutions made to a chinchilla’s diet should only be as a last resort. If you are unable to find chinchilla food in stores, as chinchillas are an exotic and relatively uncommon pet, you should order it online.
The sensitive digestive system of chinchillas makes feeding them more difficult than other animals, so be sure to always keep this in mind when caring for a chinchilla.