Chinchillas are native to Chile and Peru. In the wild they live in groups and make their home in burrows and natural outcroppings and crevices.
These small, cute rodents have plush, soft coats of fur. They weigh around 1 to 1.5 pounds and can be up to a foot long. They have rounded ears and eyes on either side of a broad head. Their fur is very dense, soft, and pleasant to touch. The fur is often gray, but can be beige, tan, black or white. These beautiful rodents can live as long as 20 years.
Chinchillas as Pets
Chinchillas can make wonderful pets for the right family. They are smart, inquisitive, and loving animals. They are active, vocal, and entertaining to watch. Since they can live up to 20 years they can be long time companions.
They are not recommended for young children. Children are often overzealous with affection and could frighten or injure a chinchilla. A chinchilla could possibly bite a child out of fear. Although loving animals, they do require gentle and careful handling.
These adorable creatures are social animals and need a lot of interaction. A lone chinchilla requires a great deal of attention and can become very attached to its owner. If you are unable to devote that much time to your pet, it is better to have two chinchillas than one lonely unhappy pet. Two chinchillas can play and interact and not be completely dependent on their owner.
Cage & Habitat
A chew proof cage at least 16″ x 20″ x 16″ is the minimum size for one chinchilla. You should get the biggest cage possible so your pet has lots of room to sleep, play, and move around.
Chinchillas are sensitive to heat, humidity, and drafts. Extreme heat can even cause heatstroke, which can be life threatening. They do not do well when temperatures go above 78º F. You want to keep the cage out of direct sunlight and away from heaters and other heat sources.
You should also keep the cage away from drafts and places with high humidity. Chinchillas are also most active in the evening hours. Since they sleep quite a bit during the day, they should not be kept near brightly lit areas.
Pelleted or shredded paper bedding material. Bedding made from pine or cedar should be avoided.
A stoppered water bottle, food bowl or feeder, and a hay rack.
Hide areas and tunnels for playing and sleeping.
A large exercise wheel with a solid floor.
Dust bin and dusting powder for bathing.
A variety of chew proof toys to keep your pet entertained.
Untreated wooden toys for chewing and wearing down a chinchilla’s ever-growing teeth.
Food & Treats
Commercial pellet food made especially for chinchillas and produced in pellet form, are available in pet stores. Pellets are designed so your pet can easily eat them and include the correct amounts of protein, fat, and roughage. Food should be available at all times.
Hay provides the roughage your chinchilla needs and is a very important part of his daily diet. It also can aid in wearing his ever growing teeth. Timothy or Alfalfa hay is a good choice. Always use fresh, clean, and dry hay. A hay rack is a good way to make sure your pet has a steady supply of clean hay.
Chinchillas love treats, but they should only be fed occasionally. There are a variety of treats available from pet stores that a chinchilla would love.
Dried rose hips, hibiscus, and dandelion leaves all make wonderful treats. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are greatly enjoyed by chinchillas but should be fed sparingly or avoided. They are fattening or high in sugar and may cause digestive problems.
Salt blocks or wheels are good for chinchillas. They can supply essential minerals that your pet may be lacking.
A vitamin C supplement can also be beneficial for your pet. Although chinchilla pellets should have everything he needs, a supplement is a good way to guarantee it. There are vitamin C supplements that can be easily added to your pets water.