November 28, 2022 by Umair Shahid
Chinchillas are so friendly and playful animals; you’ll start loving them the moment you bring them home. Chewing & rasping is their instinct to keep their teeth in shape.
Although they love to play with cardboard and chew on it, they can’t eat it. As a veterinarian, I’ve seen cases of cardboard ingestion resulting in blocked digestive tract and choking.
If you let your chinchilla play with cardboard, you must supervise it to make sure the chinchilla doesn’t ingest it. Eating cardboard and paper can be very harmful and may possess significant health risks if contain toxic compounds.
There may be chinchilla-safe cardboard available, but swallowing any kind of cardboard is quite risky and not recommended by animal experts.
We all know the importance of playtime for chinchillas because of their friendly and social nature.
Apart from the other toys, cardboards can be used to give chinchilla an extra activity boost by not letting him or her swallow it.
The jumping and rolling on a toilet paper roll is their favorite thing apart from timothy hay, teats, and oats.
Can Chinchillas Eat Cardboard
Cardboard Safety Risks for Chinchillas
Nobody wants to take away the things their pet chinchilla loves to play with. But monitoring and maintaining the health of your chinchilla is still the priority.
In my opinion, playing with good-quality cardboard is safe for your chinchilla, but chewing on it isn’t. Most of the chinchillas spit out the cardboard after they are done chewing on it.
The main problem lies in swallowing a considerable cardboard portion. The composition of cardboard doesn’t let it go through the chinchilla’s sensitive digestive tract.
Moreover, cardboard has an abundant fluid soaking ability and it may lead to a blocked intestine and choking, which is very cumbersome for your chinchilla and yourself.
Cardboards are not manufactured by keeping animal ingestion and choking risks in mind. Therefore, cardboard may contain harmful glues and dyes that are unsuitable not only for chinchillas but also for other pet animals.
The dangerous ink and dye will disturb the chinchilla’s digestive processes, making him or her seriously ill.
Besides the choking and dye toxicity issues, it may contain foreign objects such as staples and other sharp pins. Ingesting even a single staple can bring havoc to your chinchilla gut leading to a life-threatening situation.
What About Toilet Paper Rolls?
Many chinchilla owners often come up with a common question about the use of toilet paper rolls as an alternative source of cardboard.
Well, in my opinion, toilet paper rolls are great because of no chance of staples and harmful dyes. Apart from its negligible toxic percentage, you still need to take care not to let your chinchilla ingest it.
I used to stuff the timothy hay in a toilet paper roll and let my chinchilla play with it and have a feast at the same time.
No doubt the toilet paper rolls are a much safer and better choice than using packing cardboard. It has no harmful chemical residues and your chinchilla will love rolling it during his or her playtime.
Supervision Is Crucial
If you want a darn good playing item for your chinchilla, cardboard can be an ideal option. However, there is a difference between only chewing and consuming the cardboard. Your chinchilla has an instinct of chewing on things to rasp the fast-growing teeth.
Whether it’s the cardboard or paper, the chinchilla will start shredding it to pieces in no time and that’s perfectly ok.
The proper supervision is ideal when it comes to swallowing these items. Additionally, don’t let your chinchilla play with cardboard for too long alone. Experts don’t recommend placing cardboard in the cage of a chinchilla in any way.
If you have an extensive emotional attachment to your chinchilla, you may feel bad taking away his favorite playing item. Again, it is perfectly ok to put a restriction on cardboard playtime or it could turn dangerous.
The better solution is to use a bigger cage with more climbing racks so the chinchilla doesn’t feel bored and keeps himself engaged in activities.
Pine Box vs. Cardboard for Chinchilla
Ever heard of a pine box? In my opinion, pine is a very health-friendly alternative if you are hesitant in giving cardboard to your chinchilla.
Chinchillas are quite sensitive animals to deal with and you may feel overprotective in this regard. Pine box offers safety and a better place for your chinchilla to maintain dental health.
I’ve seen people building customized pine boxes for hiding or as a bridge for your pet to play and jump. Making a hanging toy out of pine is a great option to keep the chinchilla exercising and chewing on it.
Using pine as a chinchilla’s primary chewing choice eliminates the worries you have about using cardboard for the same purpose.
Minimize the Risk of Cardboard Ingestion
Now you’re quite aware of the benefit and harms of choosing cardboard for your chinchilla. Your next objective is to make sure the choking and blockage risk should be minimized by following some important advice.
Pet stores sell numerous toys & treats with a false tag of ‘chinchilla-safe’ items, but you should never trust this stigma. It’s crazy to know, but there are indeed chances of the presence of toxic and harmful materials in these items.
The main reason is the false and inadequate knowledge of pet store staff to know what’s good or bad for your pet.
Chinchillas are such friendly creatures; you don’t bother disturbing them while they play. This is where the problem arises, as you don’t take notes on whether your pet is chewing the cardboard or ingesting it.
It is always the best deal to keenly observe and supervise a chinchilla’s playing time. This can save you and your pet from getting into severely cumbersome situations that are not easy to deal with.
The next thing is to keep a check on the quality of the cardboard you’re offering. Make sure to check thoroughly for the presence of any staple pins or harmful, sharp objects.
Try to get cardboard with no printing or dyes over them for extra secure playtime. You can also use pine boxes or toilet paper rolls instead of cardboard, as these are undeniably much safer choices.
How much cardboard ingestion is harmful to chinchillas?
According to a study, ingestion of a small amount of cardboard doesn’t pose any significant effect on the health of chinchillas. However, too much ingestion is a problem you should never neglect.
What to do if my chinchilla eats too much cardboard?
The foremost thing you must do is to remove any remaining cardboard and limit its access. If you see any signs of choking, a respiratory issue, or a bloated stomach, immediately take your chinchilla to an exotic animal veterinarian.
Can my chinchilla eat toilet paper roll instead of cardboard?
Toilet paper rolls are safer in terms of no harmful staples or pins and unhealthy dyes. As a veterinarian, I still recommend you to look after your chinchilla during playtime so that he or she doesn’t try to ingest and swallow it.
Using cardboard as a playful item for your chinchilla is a safe choice as long as your pet doesn’t try to ingest it.
Due to choking and intestinal blockage hazard, cardboard must be provided for a limited time under strict supervision. You must never provide cardboard in free access or the cage of a chinchilla.
According to exotic animal experts, toilet paper rolls can be used, but the condition of ‘don’t let your pet ingest it is still applicable.
Consider other harmless chewable chinchilla toys or pine boxes to engage your beloved pet in healthy activities. With that being said, take care of your chinchilla and let him have a healthy and happy life.
I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and have a keen interest in animal health care. Working as a veterinary content writer, I intend to stay with professional approach in producing quality content. I like research-based reading and currently seeking my veterinary profession. My hobbies are travelling to exotic places and observing nature to the fullest.