Chinchillas are members of the rodent family, and can make excellent and enjoyable pets for the right person. They are native to the Andes Mountains of South America. These animals are known for their very soft, dense coats, and they produce little to no odor. Chinchillas are very quiet and Crepuscular, meaning they tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. With proper care, chinchillas can live 10-18 years.
Chinchillas are delicate, curious creatures, but they are also very shy and should be kept in a quiet, low-stress environment. They should also be handled cautiously, using slow movements. Taming takes time and patience. We do not recommend Chinchillas as pets for small children.
These animals are social and may enjoy the company of other chinchillas, but bonds may not form in every case. Same-sexed pairs are recommended, unless you intend to breed them. Special precautions must be taken when introducing one chinchilla to another as any two animals may not get along, even if they were together when young. They should be separated if there is any sign of aggression, and some may never want to be housed with another chinchilla.
Feeding Your Chinchilla
Your chinchilla’s diet should consist of commercial pellet food and timothy hay. Commercial chinchilla food
is a blend of wheat germ, alfalfa, oats, molasses, soybean and corn. Two tablespoons of chinchilla food per chinchilla per day is recommended. Timothy hay should be offered daily. Chinchillas should always have hay available to them, as it is high in fiber and helps to keep the chinchilla’s digestive system functioning properly
should be given in moderation, three to four times a week. Appropriate treats include raisins, unsalted peanuts, dried or fresh fruit or vegetables, sunflower seeds and commercial chinchilla treats. If you notice any digestive upset, stop feeding treats and provide fresh hay and water. Too many treats, fruits or vegetables may cause diarrhea which can lead to dehydration. Chinchillas drink very small amounts of water in general. Fresh water should be provided daily, and water bottles should be cleaned frequently to prevent bacterial growth.
Like other rodents, Chinchillas have teeth that continually grow, so they should be provided with wooden chews
to keep their teeth worn and healthy. Lava blocks
are also excellent for keeping teeth trimmed and providing a treat.
Chinchillas use dust baths to keep their fur clean and to remove oil and moisture in their coats. Dust
should be offered in a dust bath house
or in a deep pan. Place the bath in the cage once or twice a week, or as often as needed, but do not leave the bath in the cage. Constant access may lead to a dry coat. The dust can be reused over and over again and be replaced as depleted.
Chinchillas shed approximately every 3 months. Regular brushing and combing will help to keep the coat clean and shiny and also help to remove any loose fur.
Housing Your Chinchilla
Chinchillas should be kept as indoor pets because they do not tolerate fluctuations in temperature. Keep them in a quiet room in your home with low activity during the day. Chinchillas should be kept in a cool, draft-free area in your home. During the summer months, they will need to be in an air conditioned room to prevent heat stroke.
They should have a large enough cage to be active and explore. A large wire cage
with at least two levels is recommended to house one chinchilla. The floors of the cage and any shelves should be solid or carpeted, not bare wire.
We recommend lining the tray of the cage with small pet bedding
to absorb waste. The bedding should be replaced every week and spot cleaned daily.
Chinchillas are very agile climbers. Create lots of sitting platforms in their habitat. Sturdy branches for climbing can also make great additions to their cage. Arrange and secure all their furnishings so that they are sturdy and will not fall if your pet climbs on them.
A large exercise wheel is another excellent way for your chinchilla to stay active and occupied.
Chinchillas like to have a dark, secure place in which to hide and sleep. Provide at least one hide box
for each chinchilla you keep, such as a timber hide-away
or a plastic “igloo”.
Bringing Your Chinchilla Home
Chinchillas are very alert and fast. Be careful with your new pet until he or she has adjusted to his new environment. Give your new pet at least one week to adjust to his new surroundings before handling. Some chinchillas may nibble when they feel insecure or are unsure about their new environment.
Once they are acclimated to their new home and tamed or used to handling, chinchillas can be allowed out of the cage for short periods of time. This provides an opportunity for stimulation and exercise, and will quickly become one of your chinchilla’s favorite activities. While time outside their cage can be rewarding, it is also potentially dangerous. Keep a close eye on your chinchilla and be sure to chinchilla-proof the room you intend to use as a play area. If you are unable to completely pet-proof a room, consider investing in a small animal playpen for exercise and time outside
Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. This habit will help to prevent the spread of germs, and help to prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats).
We recommend a vet visit for your new chinchilla and regular visits thereafter. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274 or [email protected]
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life as your companion.