Chinchillas are adorable little creatures that make popular pets. Hailing from the Andes Mountains in South America, these little creatures have hair as soft as velvet, and they can live up to 20 years with proper care. Speaking of proper care, if you’re thinking of owning a chinchilla, you may wonder how to care for them properly to give them their best life. You also may wonder how long chinchillas can go without food and water.
All domesticated animals need access to food and water at all times, but in case you are away from home often and need to know the answer to this question, chinchillas should go no more than 24 hours without food and water. Read on to learn more about these fascinating little creatures and how to properly care for them.
How Long Can Chinchillas Go Without Food?
We’ve stated that chinchillas can go up to 24 hours without food, but that doesn’t mean you should go that long if you can avoid it. Chins have a high metabolism and can eat constantly—ideally, they shouldn’t go without food for more than 12 hours, but 24 hours is doable if absolutely necessary. If you have to leave your chin alone for up to 24 hours, ensure you leave out plenty of food and water to cover the time span.
How Long Can Chinchillas Go Without Water?
The same rule applies to water. Your chin should have access to water 24/7, but if, for some reason, your chin runs out and you are not there to refill it, your chin can go for a few days without water. Their natural habitat is dry, rocky conditions in the Andes Mountains, and they are equipped to survive with little to no water for several days, but it is not recommended. Remember, your chinchilla is domesticated and will rely on you for adequate food and water.
Dehydration is a concern for your chin to go without water. Even though they can technically survive several days without it, they still need water to keep their body temperature cool. Dehydration is a dangerous condition that can lead to intestinal blockages, kidney damage, and even death. Signs to watch for are lethargy, dark urine, dry droppings, and skin tenting.
The best way to keep fresh water for your chin is by attaching a water bottle to its cage. Check the water bottle daily and keep it full, as your chin will drink anywhere from 2 to 4 ounces of water daily. Clean the bottle regularly and inspect it often for bacteria buildup. You should also replace the water each day with fresh, new water.
What Do Chinchillas Eat?
Hay and pellets are the preferred menu items for chins. Chins are herbivores and require a high-fiber diet that consists of Timothy hay, botanical hay, orchard grass, meadow hay, and oat hay. Chins have a delicate digestive system, and it’s imperative to supply them with the necessary nutrients they need. In the wild, they are adept at surviving on vegetation and roughage, and they cannot tolerate rich foods high in fat. You can feed pellets, but limit to 1 to 2 tablespoons daily, as giving too many pellets can cause obesity.
You can give your chin the occasional treat, such as dried apples, dried bananas, dried cranberries, and raisins, to name a few. Bear in mind that dried fruits are high in sugar and should only be given as a treat 2 to 3 times a week in small amounts.
Snacks and Treats to Avoid
Chins can become obese, which can lead to a number of health issues. It’s wise to avoid store-bought chinchilla treats because they tend to be high in sugar, oils, and fats—not to mention preservatives. Chins have a hard time digesting acidic foods, so avoid citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Corn can be fatal to chinchillas, and chocolate is high in sugar and fat and can make your chin sick. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your chin human food to ensure it’s safe for your chin to eat.
How to Care for Your Chinchilla and Keep It Safe
Having a chinchilla as a pet comes with a lot of responsibility. Remember that chins can live up to 20 years when properly cared for and that solely relies on you. Your new chinchilla friend will need an adequately sized, multi-level cage that is safe and secure. Chins need plenty of hiding places in case they get scared, and PVC pipe is a great way to provide hiding places.
They also need objects to climb on for exercise and be sure to provide plenty of toys for stimulation. The temperature in the cage should not exceed 80 degrees, and if you live in a hot, humid climate, ensure you run your AC. Paper and hardwood shavings make excellent bedding substrates for these little fellas, but be sure to discard any bedding with urine or feces. You should also clean the cage monthly with soap and water.
Chinchillas are adorable, domesticated rodents that make excellent pets. With proper care, they can live up to 20 years. It’s vital to supply your chin with food and water 24/7, but if for some reason you fall short from time to time, chins can survive several days without food and water—although this is not ideal.
If you’re going on vacation or have to travel for work, we recommend having a friend come to stay or pop in each day. Chins can get lonely and depressed, and having human interaction will help. Ensure your chin is familiar with the person, as they may get stressed and scared around someone they’ve never met.
Featured Image Credit: AJSTUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock