Grapes are fruit, and fruit is healthy. But are grapes good for chinchillas? And if not, why not?
Can chinchillas eat grapes? They shouldn’t, because grapes can cause bloating and soft stools/diarrhea. That’s because they don’t contain the right nutrients for chinchillas. They contain far too much water and nowhere near enough fiber, too much sugar, not enough fat, and not enough protein. These issues aren’t as important if grapes are only a snack, but because there are snacks that do meet these requirements (like rose hips and shredded wheat), there is no logical justification for feeding grapes or other fruits.
The guide below details the ill effects that grapes can cause. It explains why they cause them by looking at grapes’ nutritional content, and comparing that to what chinchillas need in their diets. And while we don’t recommend feeding your chinchilla any grapes at all, for anybody who’s going to do so anyway, we’ve also made recommendations on the maximum safe amount you can feed to your pet without these health effects occurring.
Can Chinchillas Eat Grapes?
Grapes aren’t a suitable food for chinchillas. Your pet won’t choke if it eats one (or, at least, it’s not more likely to choke than usual), and grapes aren’t poisonous. But they can cause ill health like bloating, or soft stools/diarrhea. This applies to any variety of grape, and any kind of chinchilla.
Do Chinchillas Like Grapes?
Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Grapes?
So, grapes will give your chinchilla serious bloating and could cause diarrhea too. But why?
Nutrients in Grapes
To understand why grapes are an unsuitable choice, we have to look at their nutritional content. Below is a table with data from NutritionValue.org, which details the core nutrients grapes contain (carbs, fat, protein and so on).
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||Requirements|
It should be obvious from the table above why grapes are not good for chinchillas.
Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat & Water in Grapes
A high fiber content is arguably what defines the chinchilla’s diet. But grapes are low in everything but sugar and water. While chinchillas need perhaps 20-30g of fiber per 100g of food—there is no definitive figure, but they definitely need a lot—grapes only contain 0.9g of fiber per 100g.
A low-fiber diet causes very real health issues in chinchillas. The first issue that is likely to occur is that the chinchilla’s stools become soft, even runny. The chinchilla’s gut is set up perfectly to digest rough, tough, fibrous foods; that’s why chins produce cecotropes, poops that they eat again to redigest. This allows them to absorb even more nutrients from what they eat. But if the chinchilla’s food is very low in fiber, this system is thrown on its head, and your chinchilla’s poops would be far too loose for it to eat again and reabsorb.
On top of that, grapes are very high in water. This makes the issue of soft stools even worse. The more water is in your chinchilla’s food, the softer its stool will be. Chinchillas need about 10-15% water in their food, which is very little; your pet will get most of its water from its water bottle. But grapes contain 81% water, which is far too much.
Because they contain so much water, grapes contain little of anything else. They contain one tenth of the fat that chinchillas need, and around one thirtieth of the protein they need. These issues aren’t as relevant if the grapes are only snacks. However, considering that there are snacks which do meet these needs, and which chinchillas enjoy just as much as sweet fruits, there’s no logical justification for feeding it grapes instead.
Vitamins and Minerals in Grapes
What people like about fruit is that it typically contains lots of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals, together classed as ‘micronutrients’, are compounds that support vital functions in the organs; an animal that doesn’t get enough will suffer decreased organ function or even organ failure. As you can see in the table below, grapes contain reasonably high amounts of several micronutrients:
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
However, this isn’t a reason to feed your pet grapes. That’s because chinchillas get all the micronutrients they need from their hay. Feeding your chinchilla extra nutrients on top of that would be at best wasteful, and at worst bad for it. Calcium is a good example: chinchillas can develop kidney and bladder stones from eating foods too high in calcium. Grapes don’t have much, but this demonstrates the effect of having too much of certain nutrients.
And beyond that, chinchillas don’t need all the micronutrients we need anyway. Vitamin C is easily the best known vitamin; but chinchillas don’t need it because they can synthesize it in their own bodies. They don’t need to eat it in food.
Are Grapes Poisonous for Chinchillas?
Grapes aren’t poisonous for chinchillas. Your pet won’t start gagging and choking the moment you feed it one. But they can still have severe health effects.
What grapes can do is cause bloating. For you, bloating might be embarrassing; for a chinchilla, bloating can be deadly. What happens is that the sugars in the grapes disagree with your chinchilla’s gut. Your pet’s digestive system is set up to break down complex carbohydrates, and it’s very good at doing so; but other things it’s not so good at digesting. The fructose in grapes can ferment in your chinchilla’s stomach, causing gas.
The problem is that chinchillas aren’t good at passing gas. So, this gas builds up until there’s so much that it can rupture the stomach lining or gut lining. This causes internal bleeding and infections. This may seem like hyperbole, but bloating is a common problem in pet chins, especially in those of new owners who don’t know what chinchillas are supposed to eat.
This problem isn’t likely to occur if you only feed your pet a tiny sliver of grape. But as the gas builds up over time, even small but regular amounts can cause this problem.
Can Chinchillas Eat White Grapes or Red Grapes?
The issues described above apply to all grapes, not just one variety. All grapes share rough nutritional characteristics: they’re high in water, high in sugar, and low in everything else. As such, even if one variety has slightly higher fiber, it still won’t have anywhere near as much as chinchillas need. We therefore suggest you avoid feeding any variety of grape to your pet.
How Many Grapes Can Chinchillas Eat?
We would recommend against feeding your chinchilla any grapes, due to the health effects described above. If you are going to insist on feeding your chinchilla grapes anyway, we recommend keeping portion sizes limited. A piece of grape the size of your pinky fingernail won’t instantly cause bloating and diarrhea.
How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Grapes?
The ideal frequency is ‘never!’ Gas can be trapped for a long time, so even a small piece the size of your fingernail could be dangerous if you feed it every other day. If you are going to anyway, limit feeding frequency to once per week.
Should Chinchillas Eat Grapes?
Again, we recommend against ever feeding your chinchilla grapes. The key reason why it’s such a bad idea is that there are many snacks that are perfectly safe for chinchillas to eat. Chins enjoy rose hips and shredded wheat, for example, just as much as grapes. But these snacks are closer to your chinchilla’s dietary needs than any kind of fruit. There’s therefore no logical reason to feed your pet chin grapes.
Below, you can find our chinchilla quiz, new posts for further reading, and a signup for our Chinchilla Newsletter!