If you’re a new owner, you may want to feed your chinchilla lots of fruit and vegetables. After all, they’re a healthy food choice for us—but are they good for chinchillas?
Can chinchillas eat strawberries? They shouldn’t as they contain too much water, too much fructose, and not enough fiber. They will cause soft stools, and in large quantities, severe bloating. Bloating can be fatal if left untreated. You should feed your chinchilla suitable snacks such as rose hips, sweet hay or shredded wheat instead (although chinchillas can thrive without any snacks).
The guide below explains exactly why strawberries are bad for chinchillas by looking at their nutritional content. We’ll also detail the negative health effects they cause, before making recommendations for how much strawberry chinchillas can eat (short answer: none!)
Can Chinchillas Eat Strawberries?
Chinchillas can physically eat strawberries. Your chinchilla knows to take small bites of food, no matter what they are, so it won’t choke on any pieces of strawberry you give it. And they aren’t instantly poisonous, either. But if you look at their nutritional content in any depth, and the way they interact with your chinchilla’s body, you’ll see that they are a bad choice of snack.
Do Chinchillas Like Strawberries?
Chinchillas love any kind of food that’s different to what they usually eat. On top of that, they love any food that’s sweet or fatty, or especially strong tasting. As such, they like strawberries quite a lot.
The problem is that strawberries aren’t good for your pet. They’re the chinchilla equivalent of unhealthy snacks, and aren’t good for your pet’s gut. Beyond that they can even cause such serious health issues that they threaten your chinchilla’s life—and that’s not an exaggeration.
Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Strawberries?
Since new owners so often make the mistake of feeding fruit to their chinchillas, it’s useful to explain exactly what’s wrong with fruits like strawberries. To do that, we have to look at the precise nutrients they contain, and compare what they have to what chinchillas need.
Nutrients in Strawberries
The table below contains data from the website NutritionValue.org, and represents what nutrients you’d find in 100g/3.5oz of typical strawberries.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||Requirements|
It should be fairly clear from even a brief inspection what the key problems with strawberries are. They have far too much of some things, and not enough of other things.
Carbohydrates, Fiber & Sugars in Strawberries
Chinchillas get most of their energy from carbohydrates. Carbs are divided into many categories, with the broadest being simple and complex sugars. Fiber is a kind of complex carbohydrate, while pure sugars like fructose, which is found in strawberries along with glucose and sucrose, are simple carbohydrates. Simple sugars are easier to digest than complex sugars, which are made up of lots of simple sugars bound together.
A chinchilla’s normal diet is of tough, fibrous grasses (hay is dried grass). Your chinchillas has a rough and tough digestive system to match, which can expertly break down these complex carbs into their constituent parts. Unfortunately, strawberries don’t have enough carbohydrate in total to give your pet the energy it needs. This isn’t a major problem if you’re only intending on feeding them as snacks, but since there are snacks that do meet these requirements, there’s no logical reason to feed them.
Protein & Fat in Strawberries
Another way in which strawberries are lacking is in their fat and protein content. While certain diet plans might tell you so, there is no need to cut out certain nutrients like carbs, fats and proteins. Rather, a healthy diet is made of a mix of these things, and your chinchilla needs all three.
You can tell from the table above that strawberries aren’t suitable. They contain around a tenth of the fat that chinchillas need, and even less of the protein they need. Snacks such as sweet hay, rose hips and shredded wheat meet these needs and your pet enjoys them just as much.
Water in Strawberries
Aside from strawberries’ fructose content, something else you have to worry about is their water content. Wild chinchillas get most of their water from food, and that’s because there’s little water available in their Andes Mountains habitat. But as a pet, your chinchilla gets its water from its water bottle. If your chinchilla both drinks water and eats very watery foods, this can make its stool looser and softer.
It’s then more likely to make the cage, and your pet’s fur, a mess. At the very least, the water isn’t of any benefit as it might be to a person.
Vitamins & Minerals in Strawberries
The main reason why people think fruit is healthy is that it typically contains lots of micronutrients, especially vitamins. Here is another table which looks at each micronutrient strawberries contain lots of:
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
The standout nutrient here is vitamin C. It’s easily the best-known vitamin, and the effects of a deficiency are well understood even by the general public.
But what’s good for people isn’t necessarily good for chinchillas. Chins don’t need to eat foods that are high in vitamin C like we do. That’s because they can synthesize their own vitamin C inside their bodies. That means they can make vitamin C out of other things, so they don’t need to ingest any complete vitamin C.
Surprisingly, people are the exception here. Most animals can make their own vitamin C, while people, apes and a handful of other animals can’t. So, long story short, the fact that strawberries have lots of vitamin C in them isn’t relevant.
Besides that, a chinchilla’s regular diet of hay contains all the minerals and vitamins chinchillas need.
Are Strawberries Poisonous for Chinchillas?
Strawberries aren’t poisonous per se, but they can make your chinchilla unwell.
The problem is that strawberries, like many other kinds of fruit, cause bloating in chinchillas. The fructose in them is broken down by bacteria in the gut, which then produce large amounts of gas. Whereas this might be embarrassing for you, for a chinchilla, it can be life threatening. That’s because chins struggle to pass gas, and as more and more gas accumulates, it can rupture the stomach lining or intestinal lining.
How Much Strawberry Can Chinchillas Eat?
We would recommend against feeding your chinchilla any strawberry, and in fact, any fruit at all. Your chinchilla doesn’t need fruit in its diet, and it can even be bad for your pet if fed in large enough quantities, as described above. This is something that practically every experienced owner agrees with.
If you plan on feeding your chinchilla strawberry/fruit anyway, at least limit portion sizes. This will stop your snack choices from seriously affecting your pet’s health. A single slice of strawberry the size of your pinky fingernail won’t make your chinchilla seriously ill, although it may have minor-to-middling effects.
How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Strawberries?
We recommend against feeding your chinchilla strawberries at any frequency. But again, if you are going to do so anyway, at least limit the frequency with which you do. Once a week is the absolute most that you should consider.
The problem is that the gas strawberries cause sticks around for a long time. It takes a while for your chinchilla to pass it. As such, even if you give your pet only a small amount each time, feeding strawberry every day would make it build up. At least by only feeding once a week, it gives your chinchilla a chance to get rid of the gas before it eats any more.
Should Chinchillas Eat Strawberries? (& Snack Alternatives)
You shouldn’t feed your chinchilla any strawberries for the reasons outlined above. But that doesn’t mean your chinchilla can’t eat any snacks.
Good choices for snacks include rose hips, shredded wheat and sweet hay. These snacks have roughly the same nutritional content as regular hay, which means they won’t cause tummy upsets, loose stools, bloating or any other problem. They also aren’t nutritionally deficient, so won’t make your chinchilla sick in that way either. Ask any experienced owners’ group and they will tell you to feed snacks like these rather than fruit, and there’s no logical reason not to listen to that advice.