can chinchillas eat celery

Can Chinchillas Eat Celery?

Celery is a health food; health foods are healthy! But is something that’s healthy for people good for chinchillas? Or could it be unsuitable, or worse, toxic? And what problems might it cause?

New owner, don't know where to start? Or do you need a handy chinchilla reference guide? Check out our Chinchilla Care 101 eBook, or get what you need from our online store!

Celery is a health food; health foods are healthy! But is something that’s healthy for people good for chinchillas? Or could it be unsuitable, or worse, toxic? And what problems might it cause?

Can chinchillas eat celery? They shouldn’t as it can cause bloating, diarrhea and nutritional deficiencies. Celery is a vegetable so contains sugars and fibers that your chinchilla can’t digest, leading to fermentation and excess gas. This gas can rupture the stomach or gut and kill your pet. Celery’s high water and low fiber contents combine to cause diarrhea. And the low protein and fat content don’t meet your chinchilla’s nutritional needs. We therefore recommend more suitable treats like rose hips, sweet hay and herbs instead.

The guide below looks at the exact nutritional content of celery, and the requirements chinchillas have that you need to meet. We’ll look at what it is about celery’s nutritional content that can cause problems like diarrhea or bloating, before suggesting guidelines on how much celery your chin should eat (none—although if you absolutely have to give your pet celery, like if you’re forced to do so at gunpoint, you can follow our recommendations).

Can Chinchillas Eat Celery?

Chinchillas don’t have any physical problem eating celery. It isn’t poisonous, and they don’t choke even if given large snacks to snack on, mostly because they aren’t stupid: they know to gnaw off small pieces! And a chinchilla’s teeth make light work of crunchy celery.

Rather, the problem is celery’s nutritional content. It contains far too much water, too little fiber, too little carbohydrate, too little protein and too little fat. Through a combination of these factors, celery can give your chinchilla diarrhea. Also, because a chinchilla’s gut is used to hay rather than vegetables, things like celery can cause dangerous levels of gas and bloating. We therefore recommend against giving your chinchilla any celery, even if tiny portions wouldn’t cause such serious effects.

Do Chinchillas Like Celery?

Chinchillas enjoy any break from their regular diet. They like the sweet taste of most fruits and vegetables, and the crunchy texture you get with things like celery. But what your chinchilla won’t enjoy is how painful bloating can be. So in that regard, celery is a little like potato chips or candy. It’s fun for your pet to eat, but it has bad health effects.

Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Celery?

can chinchillas eat celery
Your chinchilla shouldn’t eat celery. Let’s find out why.

The core problem with celery is that it’s so high in water content. Celery is almost entirely water, which might be good for you, but isn’t for your pet. On top of that, vegetables can cause bloating in chinchillas. That’s because a chinchilla’s gut is used to digesting tough fibers like those found in hay, not easy-to-digest vegetables. If you don’t already know, bloating can be fatal for chinchillas, or at the very least extremely uncomfortble. It’s for this reason, plus the water content of celery, that you shouldn’t feed it to your chinchilla.

Nutrients in Celery

Here is a table with data from examining the core nutritional values of celery. Side by side, we’ve also looked at the chinchilla’s rough nutritional requirements.

Nutrients Amount per 100g Requirements
Carbohydrate 3g 35g
Sugar 1.3g 5g
Fat 0.2g 2-4g
Protein 0.7g 16-21g
Fiber 1.6g 30g
Water 95.43g 10-15g
Calories 14 200

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 celery falls short of even the most forgiving estimates.

The level of water in celery is particularly inappropriate. Hay does have some moisture in it, but not much at only around 10-15g. This can vary depending on how the hay is stored, when it was cut, and other factors. But celery is far above and beyond what’s necessary. The water level is so high that celery and similar vegetables can cause diarrhea. Water is absorbed through the gut, but only so much water can be digested in the time that digestion takes, so your chin’s poop will come out soft or even runny.

This is such a big problem because chinchillas hardly need any water in their diets. They come from somewhere dry, the Andes Mountains, where they don’t have access to lots of drinking water. As such, their digestive systems are set up to only expect small amounts of water. Large amounts like that in celery therefore play havoc with your pet’s gut in more ways than one.

This is made worse because of celery’s low fiber content. Fiber makes stool more solid, and makes digestion take longer. Because your chinchilla can process the celery so quickly, your chinchilla gets even less of a chance to absorb the water in the partially-digested celery. This double-whammy makes diarrhea a certainty if your chinchilla is fed enough fruits or vegetables.

Sugar, Fat & Protein in Celery

The levels of other nutrients are also wrong. This isn’t as much of an issue because your chinchilla will get these from its regular diet of hay. But they’re still worth learning about, if only to rule out celery as a large proportion of your pet’s diet.

Carbohydrates, fat and protein are all equally important in your pet’s diet. The idea of entirely cutting out fat or cutting out carbohydrates from the diet is effective for quick weight loss, but not for long-term health, and doing so isn’t good for your chinchilla’s health. Celery has roughly one tenth of the carbohydrate and fat content that your chinchilla needs to maintain its health, and one thirtieth of the protein. While you likely aren’t planning to, feeding a chinchilla a diet largely made up of celery would therefore be very bad for it.

Vitamins and Minerals in Celery

Celery does have a reasonable amount of vitamins and minerals. This is why it’s seen as a health food: despite being so low on calories, it does have micronutrients. Here’s a table looking at what they have:

Vitamin/Mineral Amount per 100g
Vitamin A 449IU
Vitamin B1 0.021mg
Vitamin B2 0.057mg
Vitamin B3 0.32mg
Vitamin B5 0.246mg
Vitamin B6 0.074mg
Vitamin C 3.1mg
Vitamin K 29.3mcg
Calcium 40mg
Copper 0.035mg
Magnesium 11mg
Manganese 0.103mg
Phosphorus 24mg
Potassium 260mg
Sodium 80mg

Having all these vitamins and minerals might seem like a good thing, but that’s not necessarily the case. That’s because your chinchilla should get everything it needs from its hay. While we need a varied diet, chins don’t. They can get everything they need from regular timothy hay and a cuttle bone for calcium every now and then. As such, the micronutrients in celery aren’t that useful. That’s on top of the fact that chinchillas don’t need all the same vitamins and minerals that we do, such as vitamin C, which chinchillas create themselves rather than getting from outside sources.

You also have to consider that these vitamins and minerals are useful to use because we can eat lots of celery. Your chinchilla can’t do that, so it would get hardly any micronutrients from a chinchilla-sized portion. If it wanted more, it would have to eat dangerous amounts.

Is Celery Poisonous to Chinchillas?

While celery isn’t poisonous to your chinchilla, it could potentially kill it.

That’s because of bloating. In chinchillas, bloating is a deadly condition that occurs when gas gets trapped in the gut. Chinchillas struggle to pass wind, so it’s easy for lots of gas to gather. This isn’t normally a problem because chins are so good at digesting high-fiber hay; but when they eat something they aren’t used to, it is.

What happens is that the gut struggles to break down the sugars and fibers it finds in the food. The issue is that certain gut bacteria are good at digesting some things but not others. A chinchilla’s gut bacteria are good at digesting hay, not vegetables. So, what happens is that the vegetable matter ferments before it can be digested. This fermentation produces lots of gas that then gets trapped in your pet’s gut. And that’s not just embarrassing; it can make the stomach lining or gut lining rupture (explode). This will kill your pet because of internal bleeding and infection.

You can tell when a chinchilla has bloating because  it will rub its tummy against the floor of the cage. It’s trying to alleviate the pain. It will also show body language and behaviors that indicate pain, such as holding the ears back or sitting in a hunched position. You can alleviate bloating by giving your chinchilla simethicone. Talk to your pet’s vet about dosage.

How Much Celery Can Chinchillas Eat?

We would recommend not feeding your chinchilla any celery at all.

Chins are highly sensitive to dietary changes. Even switching from one brand of timothy hay to another can cause digestive problems like soft or even runny poop. It’s therefore little wonder that something like celery could do the same, even in small quantities.

But if you’re going to give your chinchilla celery anyway, at least control the size of the portion you offer. Something small the size of your pinky fingernail likely wouldn’t cause the worst of the effects desribed above, although we still wouldn’t recommend offering it.

How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Celery?

Again, we would recommend against feeding your chinchilla celery at all, so the ideal frequency is ‘never’! But you can also control your chinchilla’s intake this way, too, by only feeding the celery very infrequently. Feeding it once a week in small portions shouldn’t cause bloating, at least not bloating that will threaten your chinchilla’s life (although that’s not a certainty). So if you must, only feed celery once a week at the very most.

Should Chinchillas Eat Celery?

We would say no because of the health concerns described above (bloating, diarrhea and nutritional deficiencies). On top of that, there are many snacks that won’t cause these health issues such as rose hips, sweet hay and herbs. These treats are more similar to your chinchilla’s diet so shouldn’t cause tummy troubles, plus your pet will enjoy them as they’re different enough to its normal hay. We would therefore recommend these three treats over any kind of fruit or vegetable.

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New owner, don't know where to start? Or do you need a handy chinchilla reference guide? Check out our Chinchilla Care 101 eBook, or get what you need from our online store!