Pet Care Guides Small Pet



Andes Mountains of South America

Approximate Size

9 to 14 inches & 1 to 2lbs.

Approximate Lifespan

10 to 18 years

Chinchillas & Childrem

We do not recommend Chinchillas as pets for children.


Having a chinchilla as a pet can be a very rewarding experience! Before purchasing, do plenty of research to understand their behaviors, proper handling and care requirements. Help them live a long and healthy life in your care.

Chinchillas can make excellent pets for the right person, but every chinchilla is different-just like us. They have very soft, dense coats and produce little to no odor. They are very quiet, shy, and crepuscular, meaning they tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. Keep them in a quiet, low-stress environment and handle them very sparingly, 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. 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. A chinchilla will occasionally make a “barking” noise when agitated.

That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any animal will get along with any other animal, even if they are purchased from the same cage. Same-sexed male pairs are recommended. That Pet Place cannot guarantee the sex of any animal of any age, especially young rodents, since they are very difficult to sex.

Housing Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas are highly active and athletic. They can jump heights as great as 4-6 feet! It is essential to provide a large multi-level cage that provides plenty of space for their natural acrobatic activities and fun. We recommend a cage 36”x24”x36” or larger. The floors of the cage and any shelves should be solid or carpeted, not bare wire. Also, chinchillas are very agile climbers, so create lots of secure sitting platforms in their habitat.

We recommend that you keep your chinchilla in the controlled environment of your home. Keep them safe, secure, and away from outside dangers that could include excess heat, debilitating stress, and predators.

Ideal indoor conditions for your chinchilla are 55-75 degrees, normal household humidity of 40 to 70%, and away from drafts. Temperatures above 8o degrees are too high. Chinchillas are very susceptible to heat exhaustion. If it is too hot, provide your chinchilla with a frozen water bottle, fan or “chinchiller” to lie next to and cool off.

We recommend lining the tray of wire cages or the entire bottom of solid bottom cages with paper bedding to absorb waste and odors. Small pet paper bedding is generally the best choice when it comes to a chinchilla. The bedding should be spot cleaned daily and replaced every 2-3 days or at least once a week. Soiled wet bedding can lead to health issues with breathing and sore feet. Also, the cage itself must be cleaned at least once a week with pet friendly disinfectant.

Use a hay rack to keep hay relatively contained and a ceramic food dish for the pelleted food. Provide clean, fresh water in a bottle. Use spring water.

Provide hiding places to help your chinchilla feel more secure and calm. Wooden hides, timothy bungalows and cardboard play tubes can all provide safe places to spend time and escape potential stressors.

Lastly but VERY importantly, chinchillas’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. Provide required wooden and other chews to keep their teeth worn down and healthy.

Feeding Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas need fresh spring water daily. If they don’t have access to water, they will become dehydrated and eventually become ill and die. Drinking water helps them stay hydrated, absorb nutrients, removes waste and helps keep everything moving in their gut. Provide clean, fresh spring water in a bottle.
Your chinchilla’s diet should be:
• 70% Hay
• 20% Pellets
• 8% Fresh Produce (after 3 months old)
• 2% Treats

As grazers, chinchillas eat a little at a time and do so frequently! Their gut and intestines must stay in constant motion by providing unlimited hay and water. Provide a pile of hay at least 1-2 times the size of the chinchilla themselves. NEVER let your chinchilla run out of hay.

Pelleted food contains the remaining nutrients and minerals they will not get from hay alone. Follow the instructions on the food packaging. Typically, it will suggest what amount of food to feed based on the weight of the chinchilla. Remember, they are crepuscular. So, they do much of their grazing in the evening and morning and may only eat a little food throughout the day. That’s why you should be offered food twice a day, in the morning and at night.

Once they are 3-4 months or older, introduce greens gradually and in small amounts to avoid upsetting their stomachs. Selections may include leafy greens, collard greens, turnip greens, dandelion leaves. Eventually, up to 1/2 cup of chopped greens per 1 pound of body weight can be offered 1-3 times week. Up to 1 tbsp of mixed vegetables per 1 pound of body weight can also be added. Spread the total amount fed over the entire day. For example, give them a 1/3 in the morning, 1/3 in the afternoon and 1/3 of it in the evening. Wash their veggies, and remove seeds, pits and stones.

Other treats can be given 1-2 times a week. Avoid whole seeds, excessive amounts of sugars or fats, and dairy products. If a vegetable or treat causes digestive issues, discontinue its use.

Some supplements that can be provided to your chinchilla, if an issue should arise and as they age, include joint support, urinary tract support and skin and coat supplements.

It is important to know that chinchillas eat some of their own poop, called cecotropes. It is NORMAL NECESSARY and a GOOD THING. Cecotropes, are softer, pasty, and darker than normal poop pellets. Don’t confuse them with diarrhea. Lastly, chinchillas poop as much as 200-300 times a day! The GOOD NEWS… chinchilla poop is odorless.

Habitat Maintenance & Care for Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas require attention and care every day. You will need to:
• Provide fresh food, hay, and water daily.
• Spot clean their bedding daily or change it a minimum of once every 2-3 days.
• Wash dishes and bottles once a week or more if necessary.
• Clean the cage itself at least once a week with pet friendly disinfectant.
• Replace toys and chews as needed.

Grooming Your Chinchilla:
Your chinchilla’s method of keeping themself clean is unique to many other small animals.  Because of the density of chinchilla fur and their naturally oily skin, chinchillas will instinctively “bathe” themselves in dust to maintain a lush, healthy coat of fur.  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 or chinchillas may soil the dust.

Do not allow fur to become wet ever, it takes too long to dry which can cause a chill that will lead to illness. Their fur could also become moldy if it gets wet. Chinchillas shed approximately every 3 months. Although most do not enjoy brushing, regular combing will help to keep the coat clean and shiny and help to remove any loose fur. Chinchillas do not need to have their nails cut or trimmed. They tend to keep their nails short on their own and trying to trim their nails could cause more harm than good.

As mentioned previously, a chinchilla’s teeth never stop growing. Overgrown teeth are painful and can cause loss of appetite, drooling & weight loss. Provide required wooden and other chews to keep their teeth worn down and healthy. 

Enrichment for Your Chinchilla:
Enrichment, exercise, and fun are required! Provide toys, chews, and mats to encourage natural behaviors essential to a chinchilla’s health and happiness.

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. Give your chinchilla access to a “play” area. Create different levels for them to enjoy jumping on and provide tunnels for them to run through or hide in.  Chinchilla -proof wires, carpet, and baseboards in your home to protect from their chewing. Can’t chinchilla -proof a room…. set up a pet playpen with a cover Put them in there a few hours a week and make sure they have access to water, hay, food, and their toys.

Do not use a harness or place your chinchilla in an exercise ball. Chinchillas are too fragile and will overheat too easily.

Bringing Your Chinchilla Home

Allow your chinchilla time to get used to their new surroundings. Put their cage in a quiet area and limit handling for the first few weeks. Some chinchillas may nibble when they feel insecure or are unsure about their new environment

We recommend that all chinchillas younger than three months of age be given only water and hay for the first 2-3 days, then introduce pellets. Avoid giving them treats at first, feeding only hay and pellets for at least the first few weeks. Check on them often for signs of illness such as lack of appetite or loose poop. Their eyes, ears, and nose should be free and clear of any discharge. Treat any sign of illness immediately.

At times, the stress of bringing a new chinchilla home can cause an upset stomach or affect their pooping in 1 of 2 ways. They will have loose poop (diarrhea) or they may not poop at all (GI stasis). You must act immediately.
1. Stop feeding pelleted food and continue to provide unlimited hay and water.
2. Provide herbivore critical care and benebac. Follow instructions.
3. Encourage exercise in an open area to help expel gas.
4. Monitor closely. If poop is loose or no poop after 8-12 hours, seek veterinarian care.

Handling Your Chinchilla

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any pet animal. Help prevent the spread of germs and prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats).

In general, handle chinchillas as little as possible. If you must handle your chinchilla, do so with easy, calm movements. Loud noises and quick movements can startle these animals. Any animal, even a friendly one, will bite or scratch if it feels threatened. Something to note is that chinchillas can release tufts of hair as a defense mechanism. Your chinchilla’s fur will grow back over time. To avoid this, be sure to always support your chinchilla’s body with two hands if handling and never grab them by the tail, fur, or skin.

If your Chinchilla falls or is dropped, they can become seriously injured. They should be seen by a vet, as not all injuries are visible to the naked eye. We do not recommend chinchillas for young children.


1. Provide a large multi-level cage with hides, secure shelves, and tunnels.
2. Provide unlimited fresh clean water.
3. Provide unlimited timothy hay 24/7/365. (70% of diet)
4. Provide balanced chinchilla pellet food. (20% of diet)
5. Provide fresh greens 1-3 times a week. (8-10% of diet)
6. Provide a chew for good teeth health.
7. Replace paper bedding every few days or daily if necessary.
8. Handle sparingly with do so carefully with two hands on or near the floor.
9. Provide weekly dust bathes.
10. Provide love, care, and company. Chinchillas are social. They like having a friend.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about your new family member.   We recommend having a veterinarian check-up soon after you bring your new pet home. It is helpful to keep a medical record about your pet should an emergency ever occur.

Pet care is always evolving & changing.  Please continue to research and monitor your pet’s behavior to assure they are thriving.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274. or