Oranges are fruit—fruit is healthy. But is it that simple? Are oranges good for chinchillas, and if not, why not?
Can chinchillas eat oranges? They aren’t poisonous, but they are entirely unsuitable. They contain too much water, not enough fiber, far too much fructose, and not enough fat and protein. This coupled with their acidity can cause diarrhea. They may also contribute to bloating, although not as much as vegetables. We therefore recommend feeding alternative treats like rose hips, sweet hay and herbs instead.
The guide below first looks at why chinchillas can’t eat oranges (the short answer: they’re nutritionally inadequate, plus they cause health problems). And for any die-hard citrus fans, while we don’t recommend ever feeding your pet orange, we’ve also given some guidelines on small portion sizes and feeding frequencies that will likely be safe.
Can Chinchillas Eat Oranges?
Your chinchilla can eat oranges safely. They aren’t instantly poisonous, and the juice won’t make your pet choke. Even wild chinchillas may occasionally eat fruits, although not as a core part of their diet.
The issue is that oranges, and in fact no kind of fruit, is good for your pet chinchilla. Their nutritional content is entirely unsuitable, they contain too much water, and your chinchilla’s gut isn’t used to them. Because of this, and because there are many treats that don’t have these issues, we don’t recommend feeding your chinchilla oranges.
Do Chinchillas Like Oranges?
Chinchillas do enjoy eating fruits like oranges. They like sweet foods, just like we do. This is a hard-wired evolutionary response that helps animals survive; in the wild, energy-dense sugary or fatty foods are only rarely found, so the animal has to eat as much as it can. It’s for the same reason that we have such a problem with snacks.
This is the perfect analogy, because your chinchilla will enjoy eating orange slices, but they aren’t suitable for it, just like snack foods aren’t suitable for us. They’re the chinchilla equivalent of empty calories.
Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Oranges?
Oranges cause diarrhea because of their high water content, low fiber content, and acidity. They may also contribute to bloating because your chinchilla isn’t used to them, although they aren’t as likely to cause dangerous bloat as vegetables.
Nutrients in Oranges
To understand why oranges are so unsuitable, you have to look at their nutritional content. Below is a table with data from NutritionValue.org. We’ve listed the most important nutrients alongside the requirements chinchillas are thought to have.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||Requirements|
The chinchilla’s precise dietary requirements aren’t fully understood. Different sources give different values that they believe are most appropriate. This one, for example, states that chinchillas need between 15-23% fiber in their diets. Another well-known source gives a figure of 30%. Whatever the precise optimal figure, hay seems to meet it perfectly, while oranges definitely don’t.
The table above illustrates this issue. Oranges simultaneously have too few carbohydrates and too much sugar; they have nowhere near enough fat, protein or fiber, but contain far too much water. These differences don’t just make oranges unsuitable, they make oranges dangerous for your pet.
Are Oranges Safe for Chinchillas to Eat?
The key issue is the water content. Eating food that contains too much water will cause diarrhea. Chinchillas are used to dry foods, so wet foods will overwhelm your chinchilla’s gut; it won’t absorb all of the water in the digestive matter, leaving the resulting feces sticky or even runny. There are several factors that compound this issue:
- Oranges contain hardly any fiber. Fiber makes stool firmer, and a lack of fiber makes stool looser.
- Oranges are acidic. Acid can contribute to diarrhea.
- Oranges contain too much fructose. Your chinchilla’s gut isn’t used to pure fruit sugar, so it isn’t digested properly.
Fructose causes other problems too. As can be seen above, oranges contain roughly twice the recommended amount of sugar as a chinchilla’s optimal diet. If your chin has too much orange, this can contribute to diabetes and kidney issues. It can also make your pet overweight, or at least stands a better chance of doing so than hay.
Besides that, the low protein and fat content of oranges is another drawback. While your chinchilla will still get these nutrients from its regular diet of hay, it would be better if oranges at least had fat and protein; but they don’t. They’re therefore bad for your pet on every count.
Vitamins and Minerals in Oranges
Something that you might think is in the orange’s favor is its vitamin and mineral content.
|Vitamins/Minerals||Amount per 100g|
The best-known vitamin you’ll find in oranges is vitamin C, and chinchillas do need it. But while we need to get our vitamin C from external sources like oranges, chinchillas don’t. They can produce their own inside their bodies. So oranges’ vitamin C content, which is likely the reason you thought of feeding them to your chinchilla in the first place, is actually useless to your pet.
As for the other vitamins and minerals in oranges, your chinchilla should have no need of them. It should get all of its micronutrients in its regular diet of hay. Unlike us, chinchillas don’t need a varied diet to get every nutrient they need; hay is enough. And if your chinchilla isn’t getting enough of any nutrient, we recommend talking to a vet about supplements rather than experimenting with foods that may not be healthy for your pet.
Are Oranges Poisonous to Chinchillas? (Bloating)
Another potential issue is that oranges may cause bloating in chinchillas.
Bloating is a condition that’s embarrassing for people, but potentially deadly for chinchillas. What happens is that the chinchilla’s gut isn’t used to digesting the fibers and sugars it finds in fruits like orange. They therefore ferment in your chinchilla’s gut before it gets a chance to digest them. This causes lots of gas.
What makes this problem serious rather than amusing is that chinchillas struggle to pass gas. It therefore builds up in your pet’s stomach and gut with no easy way out. So much can accumulate, in fact, that your chinchilla’s stomach or gut could rupture. This would kill your pet through a combination of internal bleeding and internal infection. This wouldn’t happen if you gave your pet a tiny sliver of orange, but even slight bloating is painful for chinchillas.
It’s also true that oranges aren’t as bad for this as vegetables like broccoli. But your chinchilla’s gut will react badly to any new food, even a different brand of hay than it’s used to. As such, there’s a chance that oranges could cause slight bloating.
Can Chinchillas Eat Orange Seeds?
Orange seeds, like the seeds of other fruit, are known to contain cyanide. They don’t contain large enough amounts to kill a person, but your chinchilla is much smaller than you are. It therefore takes less of any toxic substance to hurt or kill your pet. It’s therefore best to avoid giving your chinchilla orange seeds.
Can Chinchillas Eat Orange Peel?
Orange peel isn’t as bad as raw orange slices. Data suggests that it contains far more fiber and no fructose. That being said, we still wouldn’t recommend feeding it. There are several reasons why:
- It still contains lots of water (72.5g per 100g weight)
- There are lots of different kinds of fiber, and your chinchilla’s gut is set up to deal with those found in hay, not in orange peel
- Your chinchilla may find the bitter taste off-putting
So even though they’re nutritionally different to regular orange, we don’t recommend feeding orange peels either.
How Much Orange Can Chinchillas Eat?
Because of the issues described above, we recommend not feeding your chinchilla any orange at all. There are many snacks such as rose hips, herbs and sweet hay that don’t cause bloating or diarrhea. We therefore recommend these instead.
If you are going to feed your chinchilla orange anyway, don’t give it a large portion. The larger the portion, the more likely issues like bloating or diarrhea become. Limit portion sizes to the size of your pinky fingernail.
A chunk this large shouldn’t cause any digestive issues, but don’t be surprised if it does. We recommend against experimenting, and instead suggest sticking to known healthy snacks and foods.
How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Oranges?
Similarly, we recommend never giving your chinchilla orange slices. The more frequent the feeding, the higher the chance of gas accumulating gradually and causing severe bloat. Similarly, the more water your chinchilla’s gut has to handle, the likelier diarrhea becomes.
If you’re going to feed orange anyway, don’t do so more often than once a week. First of all, chinchillas don’t need frequent snacks anyway; they aren’t like us, and don’t require highly varied diets. But more importantly, feeding rarely allows your chinchilla’s gut time to deal with the new, ‘strange’ foods you’re feeding your pet.
Should Chinchillas Eat Oranges?
We recommend against feeding your chinchilla on account of the potential health issues above. Rather than feeding your chinchilla any kind of fruit or vegetable, we recommend rose hips, sweet hay or herbs instead. Your chinchilla will enjoy these snacks just as much as it would enjoy something unhealthy, but they don’t cause diarrhea, bloating or any other digestive problem.
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