Chinchillas originate from the Andes in South America, they were discovered in the 1500’s. When they were brought into Europe their fur was so popular to make coats they were nearly hunted to extinction. It takes over 100 chinchillas to make one fur coat. Wild chinchillas are now a protected species.
Chinchillas are becoming a popular choice for a pet as they are like small pet rabbits with longer and fluffier tails. They are part of the rodent family but because of their very dense fur they do not carry any fleas or parasites.
Pet chinchillas typically live to about 15 years but can live up to 20, because of their life span chinchillas are a long term pet. They grow to 12-14 inches and weigh 18-35 ounces; female chinchillas are bigger than male chinchillas. They are nocturnal animals and will sleep most of the day and are active during the evening. They are very clean and do not smell, they generally do not like to be handled or cuddled but if they have been handled since young you will be able to bond and tame them. They very much enjoy being scratched under the chin and behind the ears like a cat.
Pet chinchillas are very active and playful; they can also jump very high so they need a very large and high cage. For sleeping, have a small box tucked away in the corner they also like to hide. Chinchillas like to stay cool so make sure they have a well-ventilated room and away from direct sunlight. They can suffer from heat stroke.
Cages should be cleaned out at least once a week but shelves and boxes cleaned everyday. Chuck away any leftover food, mouldy hay and stale water as this is a breeding ground for bacteria and harmful to chinchillas.
Pet chinchillas bite and chew everything to keep their teeth trimmed, make sure they do not chew on anything plastic, painted or stained, as they are toxic for chinchillas. For them to chew safely buy willow sticks, bark bites or cholla rings these can be bought on-line or at a pet shop.
Chinchillas eat good quality grass hay with pellets for chinchillas. Treats such as fruits, vegetables, oats and sunflower seeds should be given in moderation.
Chinchilla’s keep clean by having a dust bath rather than bathe in water. They enjoy one everyday but it can get messy so keep the bath outside and put in the cage only when needed.
Overall chinchillas are a wonderful pet to have, not many people have one so you would be the envy of all your friends. They do live a long time so remember this when deciding if it’s the right pet for you.
If your pet chinchilla hasn’t been handled regularly since birth it will need some time to gain your trust, be patient as they can be very playful and affectionate. They are very intelligent and will need more attention if they are alone.