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Can Chinchillas Eat Rabbit Food? What You Need to Know

Ed Malaker

The chinchilla is a rodent native to a small area of South America. It’s been steadily growing in popularity for several years in the United States as a pet because it’s easy to breed in captivity and owners love the chinchilla’s big ears and bushy tail. However, since these animals are somewhat exotic, many people don’t know what to feed them. One of the most common questions we get about these unique pets is whether it is OK to feed them rabbit food, seeing as these animals have many characteristics in common. We don’t recommend feeding rabbit food to your chinchilla, as it can cause your pet stomach issues. While rabbit food won’t instantly kill your chinchilla, it is a different animal from the rabbit with specific needs that you will need to meet to keep it healthy. Keep reading while we look into the pros and cons of feeding your pet rabbit food and what you can do to improve its diet so it can stay healthy and live a full life.

divider-chinchillaIs Rabbit Food Bad for My Chinchilla?

Digestion

While rabbits and chinchillas both eat many of the same foods, they require them in different amounts. Much of the reason has to do with how each animal digests its food. Chinchillas have a sensitive digestive system that is easy to upset because it breaks down its food in the gut, while rabbits can use their large intestines and cecum so they can handle slightly more complex foods like fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens.

white chinchilla with red apples
Image Credit: Suzanna Fonaryova, Shutterstock

Overeating

As we mentioned earlier, rabbits can eat more fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens than a chinchilla can, and these ingredients will be in the pellets. Just because your chinchilla can’t digest rabbit food easily doesn’t mean it doesn’t like it. In fact, your chinchilla will likely find the rabbit food quite tasty and will tend to overeat once they get started on it, which will only lead to a bigger problem.

Is Rabbit Food Good for My Chinchilla?

Unfortunately, rabbit food is not good for your chinchilla. While it may contain some ingredients your pet needs, it also likely includes ingredients that can be difficult to digest, resulting in an upset stomach and other uncomfortable digestive problems. Chinchilla pellets use a special formula that is sensitive to your pet’s needs and won’t cause digestive issues.

chinchilla eating a nut
Image Credit: Edel-in-Wonderland, Shutterstock

How Can I Feed My Chinchilla Rabbit Food?

We recommend avoiding rabbit pellets for your chinchilla, but if it is your only option, we recommend purchasing the highest quality pellets you can find and reducing the portion size significantly until you can locate the proper food for your pet.

What Other Foods Are Good For My Chinchilla

Timothy Hay

Your chinchilla requires a never-ending supply of Timothy hay that it can eat at its leisure, and this single food should make up 80% to 90% of your pet’s diet. The chinchilla can be quite fussy about the hay it eats, so don’t be surprised to see it sorting through it and leaving behind what it doesn’t want. Higher-quality Timothy hay will result in less mess and waste, though if you have a rabbit, it will usually happily eat whatever your chinchilla leaves behind.

two chinchillas in the grass
Image Credit: PawelPonichtera, Shutterstock

Alfalfa Hay

Alfalfa is similar to timothy hay and is a great choice for growing chinchillas because it’s packed with nutrients and can help them gain weight. Once your pet is fully grown, it’s important to switch to timothy hay to prevent your pet from becoming overweight.

Fresh Greens

Fresh greens are an important food to feed your chinchilla but only in small amounts each day. Too many fresh greens can cause an imbalance of nutrients that can lead to health problems.

chinchilla eating sunflower seed
Image Credit: DenVIP, Shutterstock

Chinchilla Pellets

Besides plenty of timothy hay, another staple food your chinchilla will require is high-quality chinchilla pellet food. Pellets will provide your pet with the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy and live a full life. These pellets use a special formula that won’t upset your pet’s stomach or cause digestive issues.

Occasionally In Tiny Quantities

  • Apple
  • Sweet Potato
  • Carrots
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Dried Apricots
  • Raisins

How Much Should I Feed My Chinchilla?

Besides a never-ending supply of Timothy hay and chinchilla pellets, most experts recommend no more than a tablespoon or two of fresh greens and a tiny amount of fruit.

divider-chinchillaSummary

If your chinchilla ate some of your rabbit’s food while you weren’t looking, it would likely be fine. It will also be fine if it eats the occasional meal. However, rabbit food is difficult for your chinchilla to digest and will likely cause at least minor digestive problems for your pet. A steady diet may result in more serious health problems and might even lead to a nutrient deficiency.


Featured Image Credit: rossiaa33, Shutterstock

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.