Chinchillas feed on a variety of vegetation in their natural habitat. But if you’re a pet parent, you might be tempted to give certain foods or treats to your chinchilla, like popcorn. Can you feed your chinchilla popcorn, and if yes, will your chinchilla eat it?
Chinchillas can eat popcorn, but it comes with some risks. Too much consumption of popcorn causes digestive issues in chinchillas. Your chinchilla might experience bloating or excrete irregular stool. Salt in popped popcorn might also be an issue for chinchillas.
Read on and learn why popcorn might be troublesome for your chinchilla.
Can Chinchillas Feed on Popcorn?
Chinchillas can feed on popcorn, but only in moderation. Popcorn contains minerals and dietary fiber, which are beneficial to chinchillas. You can give popcorn to your chinchilla as a treat, but note that salted and too much popcorn might cause bloating or increase the risk of choking in your pet.
The components in popcorn cannot poison your chinchilla. A serving of 100 g (3.5 oz) of popcorn contains:
- Fiber: 15 g (0.53 oz)
- Calories: 387
- Carbs: 78 g (2.8 oz)
- Protein: 13 g (0.46 oz)
- Sugar: 0.9 g (0.03 oz)
- Water: 3.3 g (0.11 fl oz)
- Fat: 4.5 g (0.16 oz)
Chinchillas require about 15% to 35% fiber per food serving. 100 g (3.5 oz) popcorn provides 15% fiber, which is reasonable for chinchillas.
The calories in popcorn are more than the 200 calories chinchillas require. These animals need about 2–3 g (0.07–0.1 oz) of fat, while popcorn provides over 4.5 g (0.16 oz).
The carb content in popcorns is also higher than what chinchillas need. Chinchillas require approximately 35 g (1.2 oz) of carbohydrates per food serving.
Popcorn doesn’t supply enough protein to chinchillas. The snack contains 13 g (0.46 oz), while chinchillas need 16–21 g (0.56–0.74 oz) protein.
Also, the water content in popcorn is too low compared to what chinchillas need in a meal. An ideal chinchilla diet should have approximately 10–15% moisture content.
Nutrition-wise, popcorn isn’t the best diet for chinchillas. Popcorn has many calories, fewer fibers, low water content, and more fat.
Why Is Popcorn Not Good for My Chinchilla?
Popcorn isn’t good for your chinchilla because it can cause bloating. Since popcorn isn’t packed with much fiber, chinchillas digest it quickly. As a result, the popcorn begins fermenting before it can be absorbed. Fermenting releases lots of gas, which chinchillas aren’t able to pass.
The chinchilla’s digestive system prevents it from adequately digesting popcorn. Naturally, chinchillas are folivores. Their dietary intake is composed of a fiber-rich diet like grass and leaves. And because they consume a lot of fiber, their digestive system is well adapted for dealing with a fibrous diet.
How Does Popcorn Cause Bloating in Chinchillas?
Popcorn causes bloating in chinchillas by creating an imbalance in the digestive system. The low fiber popcorn is broken down rapidly and quickly ferments in the chinchilla’s gut. Fermentation is accompanied by gasses, which the chinchilla can’t pass out. This build-up of gasses causes bloating.
The bulk of food breakdown in chinchillas occurs in the bacteria-filled sac, cecum. In this sac, fermentation of consumed cellulose occurs, releasing vital nutrients to the chin. This process is crucial and takes about 15 hours to complete. Any imbalance to this system causes gut issues for chinchillas.
Popcorn is one of the foods that create an imbalance in the gastrointestinal system of chinchillas. Unlike grass/hay, popcorn isn’t rich in fiber. Popcorn undergoes rapid breakdown upon entry into the cecum, resulting in quick fermentation.
Rapid fermentation causes a gas build-up in the chinchilla’s stomach. Unfortunately, a chinchilla can’t pass out vast amounts of gasses. It also can’t relieve the gas accumulation through vomiting. Too much gas might rupture the gut, killing the chinchilla.
Your chinchilla will undoubtedly face bloating issues if it consumes excessive quantities of popcorn (more than two popped popcorn). Sadly, bloating is life-threatening and might kill your pet.
Apart from bloating, popcorn isn’t the most nutritious product for chinchillas. Chinchillas might become overweight if they consume popcorn.
How Does Popcorn Cause Obesity in Chinchillas?
Popcorn contains lots of calories, causing obesity in chinchillas. The recommended calories per 100 g (3.5 oz) of diet in chinchillas is about 200 calories. However, 100 g (3.5 oz) of popcorn contains 350 calories. Chinchillas store the excess calories as fat and end up becoming obese.
Chinchillas’ bodies are naturally built to deal with Gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. Your chinchilla will eat the food you provided throughout the day to prevent GI stasis. Such an action might be problematic if you frequently give your chinchilla popcorn.
Popcorn is a high-calorie food for chinchillas. It comes with about 350 calories per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), while chinchillas require 200 calories per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the food. Your chinchilla won’t break down the excess calories. Instead, it’ll store these calories as fat. The fat will accumulate to dangerous levels if you constantly feed popcorn to your chin.
Vegetable oil that makes popped corn has high-calorie levels too. Popped popcorn will undoubtedly hasten the obesity of your chinchilla. Similar to humans, obese chinchillas are susceptible to various diseases.
Is Salted Popcorn Harmful to Chinchillas?
Salted popcorn is harmful to chinchillas. The pure salt added to popped popcorn is detrimental to your chinchilla’s health. Sodium, an ingredient of salt, increases the calcium levels in your chinchilla’s kidney. Calcium may bind to fat, forming calcium oxalate and eventually kidney stones.
Salt is a vital ingredient in popped popcorn. In most popcorn-making processes, about 1/8 teaspoon (5.69 g) of salt is added to 1/2 cup (62.5 g) of popcorn kernels. While this salt amount is safe for human consumption, it’s dangerous to chinchillas.
The amount of salt in popcorn is high enough to cause a significant mineral imbalance in the chinchilla bodies. As explained earlier, salt might cause an increase in urinary calcium, leading to kidney stones in chinchillas.
Can Popcorn Choke Your Chinchilla?
Popcorn can easily choke your chinchilla. Popped popcorn can get stuck in your chinchilla’s throat and pose serious challenges. Chinchillas cannot throw up, meaning choking problems can quickly turn fatal. Unpopped kernels might be too tiny to choke chinchillas.
According to a 2013 study on rodents, most rodents cannot vomit because their brains cannot trigger emetic episodes. The digestive tract of these animals is also structured to suppress vomiting.
Chinchillas, being rodents, cannot throw up even when they’re choking—a piece of popped popcorn can certainly choke and kill them.
Although chinchillas can eat moderate popcorn, it isn’t wise to feed them popcorn. Popcorn might cause digestive issues in chinchillas, choke them, or lead them to obesity. Salt and toppings in popped popcorn can significantly hamper a chinchilla’s health.
Additional Information On Animals Eating Popcorn
Are you curious about what animals can eat popcorn? Click here for an animal overview or click on an animal below to find out specific details: