Many years ago, you couldn’t find a chinchilla in a pet store. If you wanted one, you would have to get one through a specific chinchilla breeder. Now, you can find chinchillas in cages right next to the ferrets or hamsters.
A chinchilla is a small animal, considered a rodent, related to squirrels, guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, and hamsters. They are the most expensive of the rodent family. Their natural habitat is high in the Andes of Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. Chinchilla fur is the softest fur around and it is the most sought after fur for making coats and other garments. Chinchillas cannot be legally hunted as they are protected by their government. Some natives eat them, but that is not a common thing. The wild chinchilla population is on the US Endangered Species list. This article from Chinchilla Care Group explains why they are near extinction.
There are two species of chinchillas, Chinchilla brevicaudata and Chinchilla lanigera. Both species have long hind limbs, short forelimbs, and four toes. Chinchilla brevicaudata has a stockier appearance than the chinchilla lanigera. Chinchilla brevicaudata is heavily furred with light gray fur. Chinchilla lanigera has darker gray fur. Chinchilla lanigera is the commonly available the species.
Chinchillas have two continuously growing teeth in the upper jaw, just like beavers and hamsters. Chinchillas are nocturnal creatures. They are usually up all night and sleep during the day.
There are advantages and disadvantages to owning a chinchilla as a pet, just as with any pet. The animal’s size is a plus for many with small homes. The cage can fit almost anywhere. Chinchillas are clean animals and they are extremely easy to care for. They pose no threat to children or other animals either. They are not aggressive by nature. They require very little maintenance and the expense to keep a chinchilla is minimal. Chinchillas require dust baths a few times a week. The dust is volcanic ash. You put the dust in a chinchilla bathhouse and let them just roll around in it for a few minutes a few times a week. They never need to be walked like a dog and they do not require an outside visit ever. Chinchillas love to roam free in the house but need to be supervised so that they do not hurt themselves or damage anything. They love to chew wires so if left unattended, they will find your phone wires or TV wires and chew, chew, chew. You can also lose one for an extended period of time since they fit well into small spaces. They should always be supervised for these reasons.
Chinchillas can be alone in their cage or they can have a mate. If you have two chinchillas in one cage, it needs to be a male/female combo. Checking the chinchilla’s sex is not as easy as it sounds. The best way to tell is to have a vet or a pet store employee that deals with chinchillas tell you so that you are sure.
Chinchillas need to be kept in a moderately cool area. Temperatures above 80 degrees are too uncomfortable for them and it can prove to be deadly. They also should be protected from areas of direct sunlight, excessive smoke, and excessive humidity. Keep the cage away from drafty areas such as windows and doors. One side of the cage should be against a wall to provide a feeling of security. They like corners even better.
Feeding a chinchilla is not a difficult thing. There are many different types of chinchilla food that is easy to find in local pet stores. My chinchilla is picky. She only likes Charlie Chinchilla food. I buy it online at www.petsmart.com or www.petco.com. They should have a full bowl of food and a clean bowl of water each day. I feed my chinchilla before I go to bed each night since she is up most of the night. I have four children and our chinchilla, Chili, loves them. She has never even tried to bite them. She loves to run around the house and she loves her dust bath. The kids enjoy giving Chili treats. Chili really likes sunflower seeds and raisins. Sometimes she gets Craisins, and she loves them as well. The kid’s hand feed her and everyone learns valuable lessons while taking care of Chili.
I recommend a chinchilla as a pet for any family. She has been a wonderful addition to our growing family for over seven years now. When we got her, it was just me, my husband, and my daughter who at the time was about four years old. We have since added three boys to our family and each time I brought a new baby home, Chili has run to the side of the cage to check out the situation. She always had to be introduced right away. She seemed to really get excited to meet the new additions. We also have two small dogs and she doesn’t seem bothered by them one bit. They are easy to care for and bring a lot of joy to anyone that owns one.