Whenever my pets are being extra cute it’s difficult not to want to give them a treat or two. Treats are a great tool for training for your pets, rewarding your pets when they’ve done something great, or quite frankly giving your pet treats is one of the easiest ways to get them to start liking you (if you’re experiencing difficulty).
Similar to candy or chips, which I have to admit I cannot resist, some treats are much healthier or safer for our pets than others. Oftentimes when we look for healthier treats we look for words like “natural”, “low fat” or “sugar-free” on the packaging, but is it the same for our pets?
Unfortunately, pet food and treats are much different than human treats and there are actually much looser regulations when it comes to labelling and branding pet foods. This is especially true for treats for small mammals. Many treats that are labelled as safe for chinchillas are actually harmful or unfit to feed, especially long term.
That being said, it is extremely important to begin the selection process by first understanding what a chinchilla is meant to eat in the wild.
Chinchillas are not only sometimes finicky about what they eat, but there are a number of foods that are considered harmful for their health. Some of these are surprisingly raw fruits and vegetables.
So let’s break down some of the treats you’re able to feed your chinchilla, which you should avoid and how often you should feed treats!
WHAT ARE THE BEST TREATS TO GIVE A CHINCHILLA?
Surprisingly, one of the best treats you can ever give a chinchilla is a leaf. Now, it is highly recommended that you purchase leaves from a specialized pet store food or an herbalist to ensure that the leaves are not covered with pesticides, acid or other harmful chemicals that may be on the trees in your neighbourhood.
The most common leaves you can give your chinchilla include romaine lettuce, strawberry leaves, raspberry leaves, peppermint leaves, dandelion leaves (and root), hawthorn leaves, blackcurrant leaves, linden leaves, cactus flowers, nettle leaves, carob leaves, red clover leaf Malva sylvestris leaves, bramble leaves and milk thistle.
Chinchillas are also known to love flowers. These flowers should be dried before feeding to ensure that they are crunchy since our little ones love to nibble.
The most common flowers you can feed your chinchilla include rosebuds, rose petals, calendula flowers and cactus flowers.
Some other healthy treats include rosehips and mountain ash berries.
ARE THERE ANY TREATS THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD OR BENEFICIAL FOR CHINCHILLAS?
Absolutely, similar to how pumpkin is great for cats chinchillas will benefit from treats like soy and linseed.
These two products have been known to help with constipation and may actually even help prevent damage to the skin and fur. As we all know, chinchillas have thick coats that need to be cleaned regularly in hopes of keeping them unmatted and soft.
Treats that I love to get for Gary include Apple Orchard Chew Sticks or regular apple sticks. Reason being? They’re great for the teeth and come with no real health risk (such as weight gain).
TREATS YOU’RE GOING TO WANT TO FEED SPARINGLY
I know that as soon as we took in Gary we were told that we should give him dried raisins. Although raisins are extremely tasty, they are actually too rich for chinchillas to digest on a regular basis.
That being said, if fed raisins once per week they should not harm your chinchilla. Though, if fed regularly they may gain too much weight, develop digestion problems or may even develop diabetes.
Other foods you may want to limit include apples, grapes, sultanas and blueberries.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid treats that are high in fats or sugar.
WHAT “HUMAN FOODS” CAN YOU SAFELY FEED CHINCHILLAS
I know, I know, a lot of the foods on this list are foods humans eat, but when I want to take some time to talk more specifically about processed human foods.
Foods like original cheerios (not to be confused with Honey Nut Cheerios), Oatmeal or even shredded wheat. In essence, any type of natural whole grain is considered safe for chinchillas.
TREATS YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY AVOID
As mentioned there are some treats that are marketed towards chinchillas due to the fact that many small mammals are actually lumped together.
I know when we first started to look for treats for Gary we noticed a lot of them were the same ones we found for our hamster. Now, while there are some cross overs between small mammals like hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas, they are actually pretty few and far between. Not only that, many of the blends made for other animals aren’t actually healthy for them in the first place!
I would do my best to avoid medley mixes unless they are made specifically for chinchillas in mind.
Many generic medlies include harmful ingredients such as sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, corn and almonds. Many of these ingredients are used to keep costs low when manufacturing treats and while your chinchilla may love chewing on them, they can lead to liver failure.
Other foods to avoid include peanuts, mistletoe berries, acorns, parsley and chestnuts as some are considered toxic towards chinchillas. If you ever suspect that a treat is making your chinchilla sick make sure to stop feeding them it immediately, even if it even if they love it. You can also give your vet a call to ensure that a treat is considered safe for your chinchilla specifically.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GIVE MY CHINCHILLA TREATS?
Chinchillas should not be given a treat more than three times per week. This is due to the fact that chinchillas have a fairly sensitive digestive tract.
Not only that, similar to us, chinchillas begin becoming fond of treats and if they are overfed them they may begin refusing their regular meals. Chinchillas have been known to starve themselves when not given the food that they want, which will cause longterm health problems.
Luckily there are a number of foods you can feed your chinchilla as a treat, though it might take a bit more searching than you’d imagine. I strongly recommend feeding your chinchilla fresh products (ie. products that haven’t been altered or preserved other than dried or freeze-dried) rather than feeding from “medley bags” which tend to have ingredients that aren’t considered suitable for longterm feed.
I would strongly recommend staying away from products that are marketed for multiple small mammals as they, again, tend to have ingredients that aren’t considered suitable for chinchillas. While they are quite easy to grab from the shelf of a pet store, they are definitely going to cause problems later down the line, especially if you feed them regularly.
As is with most things, use treats as a reward and not as a meal supplement. Chinchillas must be fed a very strict diet to ensure their wellbeing, and straying away from their natural diet may cause health problems such as weight gain or diabetes.
So I’m curious, what foods do your chinchillas love the most? Let me know in the comments below!