Chinchillas are part of the rodent family and originate from the Rocky Mountains of the Andes in South America. They are named after the Chincha Indians who used to hunt them for meat and pelts (coats).
Chinchillas are nocturnal like most rodents and will spend most of our waking days asleep. They are reasonably easy to look after and like to be clean so they have little smell. They have very dense fur and as a result they never suffer from fleas or parasites. Chinchillas can live up to 20 years - usually averaging out at about 10 years. So if you do not have time for a long-term pet than a Chinchilla is not for you.
When fully-grown Chinchillas reach about 12 inches long and weigh about 18-35 ounces. Females are bigger than the males.
Chinchillas can make really cute and cuddly pets provided they are desensitized to humans as early as possible. This involves getting them used to humans from an early age and letting them gain trust in humans, in their own time. The bonding process can take some time, so patience is important. You need to allow plenty of time for a chinchilla to adjust to a new owner. Once they are bonded with their owner, Chinchillas love to be scratched under the chin or behind the ears.
Did you know? Chinchillas have more fur per square inch than any other known animal!
Housing and General Care
- Chinchillas need a large cage. One chinchilla can be kept in a cage of 90cms height x 61cm width and 46cm depth.
- The cage must in indoors and kept at a reasonably constant temperature.
- They must be shaded from direct sunlight and not placed in any draughts.
- Chinchillas can suffer from heat stroke and any temperature above 75 Fahrenheit can be fatal.
- Although clean animals, the Chinchilla cage must be cleaned out at least once a week to avoid build up of bacteria that can again be fatal.
- Chinchillas do not need bedding, as they prefer just a wooden box to sleep and hide in. Chinchillas should be supervised when outside the cage and it is best to let them out for one hour a day for extra exercise.
- Chinchillas have teeth like all rodents that continuously grow so should be provided with things to chew on.
- Chinchilla-proof your house from all things chewable before letting them loose and let all other family members know when the Chinchillas are loose to avoid accidents.
- It is also worth knowing that Chinchillas are very good at jumping and can easily clear one meter or so! Supervision is very important when they are out and about!
- Chinchillas have a very delicate digestive system so must be fed the correct diet.
- Usual diet consists of pellets, water and hay.
- They should have a regular feeding time that becomes a routine.
- Keep to the same diet as any rapid changes can effect their digestion.
- Changes to diet must be made gradually
- They must be provided with chewing items to limit teeth growth.
- Find a good quality hay that is not dusty or moldy - most pet stores do a small animal hay specially packaged.
- Alfa cubes are a good source of roughage and good for chewing
- Charcoal nuts help aid digestion.
- Treats can be given such as raisins, apple, grapes, sunflower seeds, dried rose hip berries, and peanuts but only give in extreme moderation. A small treat 3-4 times per week is plenty.