Chinchilla care tips for first-time owners 0 225

Grey chinchilla

Lively and adorable, chinchillas are an increasingly popular choice for people in the UK looking for a fantastic unique pet. It’s worth noting they live up to 15 years, need the company of other chinchillas to be happy, and are naturally nocturnal. If you feel you could care for an animal like this, here are some handy tips for first-time owners…

Housing your chinchilla

One of the most important aspects of chinchilla care is getting the temperature of their cage just right. Though they can survive in fairly cold temperatures, draughts can pose a health risk. They can also be vulnerable to heat stroke, so you should never keep their cage near a window that gets a lot of sun. Being quite large, you need to have a decent amount of space for them. For a pair, the minimum floor space of a cage is 1m x 1.5m, with a height of 1.3m, and shelves of varying heights. They should also be let out for carefully supervised exercise at least once every day.

Feeding your chinchilla

Chinchillas are herbivores native to South America, where they eat dry, low-hanging plants, grasses, and tree bark. Make sure the food you buy for them is high in protein and fibre, but low in moisture and fat. Foods high in fat will put them at risk of liver disease, and greens that are too moist will increase their risk of colic, or make them bloated. Muesli is not a good chinchilla food. To start with, get a nutritious pellet-type food, as these make it easy to ensure a balanced diet.

Cleaning your chinchilla

Though wild, chinchillas use fine sands in their natural habitat to keep their coats clean. You can give them the next best thing with a dust bath for their cage. Good-quality chinchilla dust is available from most pet stores. It’s expensive, but there’s a reason for this. Using ordinary sandpit sand or construction dust is too coarse for your pet, and if they use it, it can damage their fur and skin over time. Make sure the bath you use is large enough for a chinchilla to roll around in without hurting itself, and roughly 10cm deep.

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3 surprising behaviours of pet rats 0 87

Pet rat behaviour

Rats have been given a bad name by decades of bad press. Far from the dirty, disease-filled pests that are portrayed on our screens, these sociable, clean animals have a few surprising perks to owning them.

These sociable, friendly pets are highly trainable animals who show affection for their owners and have many cute little quirks that make them great companions. They also have a very strange way of showing they’re happy!

With that in mind, here are three surprising behaviours of pet rats.

1. They are incredibly playful animals

This one will be no surprise to those who will have seen the boxing, chasing and excited jumps with their own eyes, but many are unaware that rats spend lots of time playing with each other and their owners. One scientific study actually showed that rats giggle when they are tickled. It’s highly recommended that you fill your pet rat’s cage with lots of enrichment toys and interact with them daily. Many owners report that their pet rats love being chased or to wrestle their hands!

2. They are incredibly social animals and love to show affection

Rats are incredibly social creatures. While of course every animal has its own personality and there are exceptions to the rule, they need to live with at least one other rat and most enjoy lots of daily interaction with their owners. It is not a rare sight to see pet rats snuggled up in the laps, pockets and sleeves of their humans. They will also nibble and lick them, as they would other rats, in a show of affection.

3. They boggle their eyes when they are happy

Surprising when first witnessed, one of the most peculiar aspects of rats is the way they display their contentment. While cats purr and dogs wag their tails, when a rat is very happy or relaxed they will brux and boggle – which is a sort of teeth grinding and very fast bulging of the eyes.

Rats are brilliant pets for all ages and there are many positives that come from owning these friendly, misunderstood animals.

What can degus eat? 0 104

What can degus eat

When they’re living in the wild, degus focus on dietary fibre. It makes up about 60% of their diet, with the other 40% consisting of natural vegetation. But when they’re kept as pets, you’ll need to keep a close eye on what you feed your degu.

Good quality hay

For the most part, your degu’s diet should consist of good quality hay. There are lots of brands that will suffice, but two of particularly good quality are Timothy Hay and Meadow Hay. Keep an eye on the colour: if it’s pink or white, you should throw this hay away as it’s growing mould. If it’s green, it can cause bloating. Occasionally, you can mix some Alfalfa hay in with your regular hay. It’s high in protein, so great in small doses.

You can top up your degu’s bowl with a little bit of guinea pig or degu-specific food, but don’t go overboard. It’s important that your degu doesn’t start ignoring the hay because it’s got a range of health benefits, including the maintenance of a healthy gut and strong teeth. Around 10g of degu food a day should do the trick.

Human food in moderation

The good news is you can feed your degu some of your human food! Give them to your degu in moderation though, as they can cause gas and bloating. On rotation, you can feed them the following foods around once or twice a week:

• Asparagus
• Carrot tops
• Dandelion leaves
• Broccoli
• Cauliflower
• Fresh herbs
• Brussels sprouts
• Celery
• Cabbage
• Courgette
• Green beans
• Beetroot
• Dried herbs
• Pumpkin
• Butternut squash
• Marigold flowers
• Radish

Some sugary foods can be an occasional treat for your degu. In excess, they carry the risk of diabetes, so we’d only recommend doing this once a month.

• Apple
• Cherry tomatoes
• Peas
• Sweet potato
• Carrots
• Cucumber
• Sweetcorn or corn on the cob

When it’s treat time for your degu, give them a tiny amount (one or two) of:

• Sunflower seeds
• Peanuts
• Pumpkin seeds
• Whole nuts

As a general rule, the main thing to avoid giving your degu is fruit not listed here, rabbit food, hamster food or anything with molasses.

Just like us, degus love food – whether it’s good or bad for them. Bookmark this page to make sure you give your degu a balanced diet, and happy feeding!

Learn more about caring for your degu and other pet care advice here: http://www.nichepets.com/category/mammals/degus/