Chinchillas are active and playful pets that are generally easy to care for. However, new owners may be hesitant to include new foods in their diets. Since chinchillas are herbivores; grains might seem like an attractive option. They’re commonly well-tolerated among rodents and offer incredible nutritional value to humans.
So, can chinchillas eat oats? The short answer is yes. Oats are a fantastic snack for chinchillas because they’re packed with nutrients and are very low in sugar. Whether cooked or not, oats don’t cause bloating as long as they’re offered in moderate amounts.
However, Chinchillas are known for their sensitive stomachs. Eating too many oats can cause upset bellies, obesity, and other digestive tract problems.
Let’s take a look at the optimum portion for chinchillas, which oats are best for their diet, and other things to be mindful about when offering these delicious snacks.
100 grams of oats (roughly 3.5 ounces) contain about 11% fiber. Chinchillas need fiber as part of their daily diets, up to 35% of their daily intake. This helps in the proper development and function of their digestive system.
Oats are also a great source of protein, up to 17% of their dry weight. There is a significantly higher protein content in oats than other grains, which makes them ideal for chinchillas in moderate portions.
We especially like oats because they’re packed with several minerals. Manganese, for example, is found abundantly in whole grains like oats. Manganese is essential for growth, development, and metabolism. Other minerals include:
Oats are also rich in several vitamins. This means it can support your chinchilla in its growing phase and maintain a healthy immune system.
Oats contain vitamin B1, which is also known as thiamine. This vitamin plays a critical role in brain function and other organ growth.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, should not be given as a dietary supplement. Instead, just one grain of oat can fulfill their daily requirement of this vitamin. Riboflavin is essential for normal growth and maintaining your pet’s energy supply.
Other vitamins include vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B9. The only vitamin B missing from this complex is vitamin B12.
Just a few oats per week can supply your chinchilla with its vitamin B complex requirements. This will promote growth, help prevent infections, aid in digestion, and support brain function.
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There are two main reasons why oats should be offered in moderation. The first reason is the amount of calories. 100 grams of oats contain nearly 400 calories, which means just a handful of oats can exceed your chinchilla’s daily caloric needs.
The second reason is calcium. 100 grams of oats contain around 50 mg of calcium. This isn’t considered low, but definitely not as much as timothy hay’s calcium content. This is why timothy hay isn’t recommended at all while oats can be offered occasionally.
Raising your chinchilla’s calcium intake can cause bladder stones, which could be life-threatening at advanced stages.
So, how many oats should you feed your chinchillas? We recommend you only feed them a few oats per week, and not more than three or four at a time.
There are essentially two types of unprocessed (or very lightly processed) oats. The first is rolled oats, which is how people have been eating oats for thousands of years. This is the type of oats you’ll commonly be feeding your chinchilla, but it’s not the only kind.
Steel-cut oats are considered healthier than rolled oats. The oat groats are chopped up into small pieces and served, which means it contains more fiber. Rolled oats are dehusked and steamed, which means they lose a little bit of nutritional value as opposed to steel-cut oats.
Oatmeal (also known as porridge or porridge oats) is a quick and popular snack for humans, but it’s highly advisable you avoid feeding it to your chinchilla altogether.
Since oatmeal goes through processing and is served in milk or water, they contain significantly less fiber than rolled oats. People also add sugar, salt, or other flavorings to their oatmeal to make it tastier, which isn’t suitable for your pet.
Don’t forget that adult chinchillas are lactose intolerant. This means that just a little bit of milk can cause bloating and diarrhea.
Of course, this extends to instant oatmeal, which is even more processed and contains very little nutritional value.
If you really want to serve oatmeal to your chinchilla, it won’t hurt if you do it once. However, you should never serve it hot nor with any dairy products.
There are potentially endless recipes to prepare oats and feed them to your pet. By far, the most recommended way is to serve oats with hay.
Hay is one of the most essential foods your chinchilla could eat. Sprinkling some oats over the hay before serving it will make it much more appealing to your pet. It will also limit the amount of calories and fat they receive from oats, while providing them with an adequate calcium intake.
Chinchillas are natural foragers; they do it instinctively. Mixing the hay with the oats will enable your pet to forage their plate for their treat, the same as what they do in the wild.
You could serve the oats in a small bowl, but we don’t recommend it. For starters, your chinchilla might knock it over, or sit in it, which would make it inedible. Furthermore, getting your chinchilla used to a separate bowl of oats can make it irritated when you start mixing it with their hay again.
Finally, you could try hand feeding, which is a great way to establish trust with your newly owned pet.
Put the oats in the palm of your hand, and never hold them between your fingers. Otherwise, your chinchilla might associate your fingers with food and try to nibble on them.
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Oats are just as nutritious to chinchillas as they are to humans. However, we still recommend you limit their intake to a couple of oats once or twice a week. This is mainly because oats are packed with calories, which can make your chinchilla gain weight fairly quickly.