Can Chinchillas Get Fat?

Chinchilla natural habitat

Chinchillas can get fat, but it’s usually from the food they eat. The food they eat is up to their owner or, as I like to call them, their chinchilla parent. Chinchillas have a small selection of food in the wild since they live high up in arid mountains. Their foods are mostly hay and grasses with a few other nibbles they find while bouncing about like ping pong balls.

Most chinchillas aren’t naturally fat. They may appear chubby, but most of that is their thick fur. They have up to fifty hairs per follicle. With that many hairs, they tend to appear fat, but really they are just super fluffy.

Long-tailed chinchillas weigh between 370 and 490g or from one pound to just over a pound, and Short-tailed chinchillas weigh between 1.1kg and 1.4kg or around 3lbs, give or take a bit. Those are general estimated weights. Your chinchilla’s weight could vary either lighter or heavier than these numbers, but you should check with your vet to be sure your chinchilla is healthy and that they aren’t too heavy or too light.

What Should I Feed My Chinchilla?

Your chinchilla should be on a diet of quality hay (usually Timothy) and pellets that are specific for chinchillas (make sure to only feed them the recommended amount on the packaging!). Your pelleted food should also not have little treats in it, like many brands do. Make sure you feed just a high quality pellet, that way you can give them the treats yourself (which is way more fun). Timothy hay is high in fiber but low in fat and protein, so they need lots of it to get enough nutrients, so you should give them as much as they will eat. If you feed them the proper diet, they really can’t get fat even if they munch all day.

Chinchillas can get fat though, if they eat too many treats. Treats should be fed sparingly and in small pieces – if you buy prepackaged ones from the pet store break them into a few pieces. I love to feed rosehip pieces – they are a good source of vitamin c and cheap. Pieces of dried hibiscus flowers are also a hit with my chinchillas. You can also go another route and give them fresh sticks as treats – most of them love fresh apple sticks (not the prepackaged pet store ones, look online for the real thing).

Make Sure Your Chinchilla Exercises

Your chinchilla should get a lot of exercise. They are active creatures and should scamper and jump around their cage. If you have your chinchilla in a smaller enclosure, you have to let them out to play in your room or another area that is chinchilla safe often. Plenty of exercise will also help your chinchilla stay at a healthy weight.

Regardless of your cage size or how often you take them out, your chinchilla will still have more energy – especially at night when you are sleeping. I have never had, met or worked with a chinchilla who did not love running on a wheel. It is important to get them the correct size of wheel because the average large ones at pet stores are not big enough and may cause injury to your pet. Online various places sell chinchilla-specific wheels. They are a little more pricy than the pet store versions, but worth it considering how much time your chinchilla will spend running on it.

If your chinchilla isn’t active and won’t play, you should take your chinchilla to an exotic pet vet to find out if something is wrong.

Tummy Troubles

Chinchillas can experience gastrointestinal stasis or GI stasis. This stasis causes the normal digestive cycle to slow and eventually stop altogether. As you probably guessed, this isn’t a good thing. This disorder can happen with a poor diet. Your chinchilla needs their Timothy hay or other good hay or grass as their main diet, which gives them the fiber they need to keep the digestive cycle going.

This issue happens because of a poor diet, which can result in temporary weight and size gain.

Signs of stasis:

1. Your chinchilla will first stop eating its core diet (Timothy hay). Your chinchilla may persist eating treats but will eventually stop eating those too.  

2. Fecal pellets are small and passed less frequently, although diarrhea may occur.

3. Your chinchilla becomes bloated as food and gas accumulate in its stomach and intestines.

Gastrointestinal stasis won’t cause weight gain, but your chinchilla may feel as though they gained weight because they are bloating, and the food and treats they ate remain stuck. Your chinchilla will weigh more, but this is more severe than just gaining weight. If you suspect stasis in your chinchilla, you should take them to the vet ASAP.  

Conclusion

Chinchillas look naturally chubby, mainly due to their ridiculously luscious fur. Your chinchilla can gain weight if fed too many treats or treats that are not appropriate for chinchillas (like seeds and nuts). Chinchillas are individual beings, and their weights won’t all be the same. Some chinchillas are larger and heavier, others smaller and lighter. You should make sure you are aware of your particular chinchilla or chinchillas and their normal weights.

Any questions or comments, please leave them below. I’d love to hear from you.

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