Chinchillas: Pet Care & Buying Advice

Domesticated chinchillas (Chinchilla lanigera) are increasingly popular and common pets. Many pet owners prefer chinchillas over other domestic pets because of their curious minds and extremely friendly behavior. They can be a great pet to keep in your house.

Despite its high popularity, there’s a lack of extensive information regarding chinchillas online.

That’s why, in this article, we will give insight more into the valuable information about keeping a chinchilla as our lovely pet. Let’s start….

Should You Get A Chinchilla?

If you’re considering getting a chinchilla, we’re going to help you make that decision. Chinchillas can be excellent pets for the entire family. Many other typical home pets cost more money than chinchillas to acquire and maintain.

They are independent and just need a secure habitat and a caring home to survive. Chinchillas have a curious and kind temperament, yet they are also quite energetic. They are extremely clean animals and very easy to care for.

Besides that, they’ll continually surprise you every day with their amazing personalities. Unlike other pets, they don’t need to be walked or go outside- which makes them much easier to maintain on a day-to-day basis.

So, if you’re looking for a pet with a great personality that requires less upkeep than a dog, for example, they could be a great option. Here are some pros and cons to help you make the decision:

Pros

Cons

  • They live a long time- up to 15 years!
  • They’re low maintenance and easy to clean up after
  • They’re generally odorless
  • Very affordable to upkeep
  • They don’t require constant attention
  • They can form close bonds with their human owners
  • They’re very soft and smell good
  • They have specific, sensitive dietary needs- only eating hay and approved treats
  • They love to chew, so their cages need to be appropriately stocked with wood chew toys
  • They need to be heavily monitored outside of their cage to ensure they don’t chew something dangerous
  • They poop a lot!
  • They’re not great with other pets or small children
  • They prefer to hang out in their cages- and aren’t lap pets. If you’ve really bonded with them, they’ll let you cuddle with them for longer periods of time

Are Chinchillas Good Pets?

This is a brilliant question to ask yourself before buying a chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera). Before directly answering this question, as a veterinarian, I will provide you some essential information regarding chinchillas and let you decide. As an independent and gentle animal, chinchillas prefer to live in the cage rather than having a cuddle with you. It’s your duty to fulfill some basic needs of chinchillas.

This includes keeping their hay rack, water bowl, and food tray full every time. Apart from dust baths a few times a week, chinchillas don’t require a bath. For a dust bath, you just need to place the bath inside their cage for about 10-20 minutes and remove it. They take little supervision other than these basic requirements.

So, what’s your opinion right now? Are Chinchillas good pets?

Like most chin owners, I know, you’re going to click the “YES” button and you’re right. Chinchillas are extremely good as a pet and having a chinchilla will fulfill your long-time dream to keep a pet friend.

How To Purchase A Healthy Pet Chinchilla?

After hearing so much about how chinchillas are great pets, if you’re going to buy a new chinchilla, this part is definitely for you. Purchasing a new chinchilla can be a unique experience, particularly if you’ve never had one before. Learning the signs of a healthy chinchilla and preparing a healthy and comfortable environment for them is pivotal to give your chinchilla a long and happy life.

While visiting a breeder, check to see if the chinchilla is being well-cared for. It’s a prerequisite to buying a healthy chinchilla with a clean coat, shiny hair, bright eyes, and alert movement. You can easily find the nearest local breeders yourself and choose the best one by checking online reviews and making a direct visit.

Ask your breeder some common questions regarding the chinchillas to get some expert knowledge. You can also check the pedigree record and ask for the health certificate of your chinchillas before buying. A reputable breeder will always help you to transport the chinchilla to your house and make sure you have prepared a suitable environment for them.

If you’re wondering, how much is a chinchilla, the price varies according to their different colors and fur quality. Breeders generally sell standard grey Chinchillas for approximately $150, however, they may be found for as little as $80. Colored Chinchillas are more costly if you can find them at all. Colored chinchillas range from $200 to $300.

Species Overview

If you’re wondering, ‘what is a chinchilla‘, we’re going to take a more detailed look at the species below.

Two species of chinchilla, especially C. chinchilla (short-tailed chinchilla) and C. lanigera (long-tailed chinchilla), are the most popular pets nowadays.

Their native habitat is in the Andes Mountains in South America and is slightly bigger and more robust than ground squirrels.They were named after the Chincha people of Andes, who wore their dense fur.

Today, domestic chinchillas as considered a great pocket pet. Historically, wild chinchillas are found in the region of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. Domesticated chinchillas (Chinchilla lanigera) possess a thinner body, larger ears with elongated tails.

Although, according to IUCN, both the short-tailed chinchilla and long-tailed chinchilla become listed as a critically endangered species.

They are widely known for their densest fur of any mammals that live on land. These furs are very expensive and known as chinchilla pelt. The price of this valuable pelt may range from $10,000 to $100,000. Because of this high price, chinchilla hunting was popular in back days.

Endangered?

Although illegal hunting to collect chinchilla skin is the main reason for decreasing the number of chinchilla species worldwide. During last year, almost 25 endangered short-tailed chinchillas have been relocated in Chili to access 3.5 million ounces of extractable gold in the country’s north. Although, various conservation operation is essential to preserve this species.

Lifespan

The chinchilla lifespan is around ten years on average (9 – 15). Chinchilla species can range in size from 400 to 600 grams, with female chinchillas somewhat bigger than males. Chinchillas usually reach their sexual maturity at 12 months of age and the average length of the female estrous cycle is almost 36 days. They are nocturnal (means active at night) and don’t hibernate.

They are unable to sweat and must be kept in a temperature-controlled environment. They don’t bathe in water and require a dust bath to clean their fur spontaneously (a few times a week). Fleas are resistant to the thick chinchilla fur, which also decreases loose dander.

Behavior and Temperament

As we said earlier, chinchillas (C. lanigera) are very much curious and extremely friendly. Understanding their behavior will help you very much to build a quick human-pet interaction with your lovely chinchilla. They usually possess a unique personality than any other rodents. They are excellent in communication with their trustable owners and amazing at picking up on your patterns and routines. Chinchillas are best kept as a solitary pet or in pairs in captivity.

Experts believe chinchillas have the highest IQ and are smarter than rets of rodents. This makes him extremely social and friendly once comfortable. Their temperament is usually timid at first, then becomes love and affectionate after developing the bond with their owner. Although, some chinchillas are shy animals and require extra effort to adapt in a new environment.

Diet

Like other animal species, chinchillas (C. lanigera) also require a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Luckily, chinchillas can eat specific pellets that are an integral part of their diet requirements. A high-quality chinchilla pellet with a little number of vegetables and fruits makes up a well-balanced diet.

Additionally, a chinchilla’s digestive tract requires high-quality hay such as alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, and prairie grass. Chinchillas can’t get enough fiber from a pellet-only diet. In reality, most chinchillas only need a tablespoon or two of pellets every day.

Hay, leafy greens, and an occasional treat of dried apples, raisins, or sunflower seeds should make up the rest of their diet. Veterinarians suggest providing hay at all times and supply clean, filtered water regularly. Nutritionists recommend avoiding chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol, which might cause serious damages to your chinchilla. Also, you need to avoid sugar and high-fat treats.

Feeding

As a herbivore, chinchilla requires only plant materials to eat and stay healthy. Their digestive system is specially designed to digest grass hay that provides the necessary fiber. You can also add additionally fortified pellets with specific treats with hay to make a balanced diet for their feeding. Make sure the availability of fresh foods and water all the time in their cage.

Veterinarians recommend keeping the total amount of vegetables and fruits for less than 10% of their total diet. Discard the remaining leftovers of vegetables and fruits after every 24 hours. It’s always recommended to avoid sudden changes in their diet which may cause stomach upset.

Grooming and Hygiene Basics

As we said earlier, chinchillas are clean animals. They naturally groom themselves, which means you don’t need to be a panic about this issue. Chinchilla prefers dust bath to clean themselves and you need to supply very fine, powdery sand to your pet chinchilla. You can easily find this sand in your local pet shop.

Don’t let your chinchilla get wet. Dust baths are required at least twice a week for Chinchillas; dust should be removed after 15 to 30 minutes. After their bath, use a soft brush to brush the fur. Reducing stress in the chinchillas environment is essential because this may lead to fur slip, which means the release of a large patch of fur when handled roughly. 

Exercise and training

Chinchillas require at least 30-60 minutes of exercise per day. Some owners prefer exercise wheels or saucers to perform their exercise inside of their cage, while others do it outside of its cage. During exercise, avoid any sound that might make your chinchilla become frightened. It’s better to stop the TV and supervise your chinchilla all the time. Keep a close eye on your chinchilla when you arrange the exercise outside of its cage. They’re naughty little creatures who like to chew on everything from books to electrical cables. They have the ability to burrow and get lost quite rapidly.

Housing And Cages

Chinchillas adapt well to typical indoor temperatures of no more than 26°C; severe temperature swings should be avoided. Never place the habitat in direct sunlight or in a drafty environment. Just because chinchillas enjoy jumping and playing, a big multi-tiered habitat is ideal. You can arrange a wire habitat with a firm bottom to protect their feet. There should be no more than one inch of gap between the wires.

It is preferable to give as much habitat as possible. High-quality paper bedding, crumbled paper bedding, or hardwood shavings should be used to fill the habitat with 1-2 inches of bedding. It is not advisable to use cedar-based products. Small animals of different species should not be kept together.

Chinchillas require a wire cage since they may gnaw through the plastic. In a confined environment, like as an aquarium, they might overheat. Because the chinchilla will eat the wire, it should not be covered with plastic or paint. Mesh bottoms are not suggested since a chinchilla’s feet might become stuck in them, causing injury. If it has a mesh shelf, the gaps between the mesh panels should not be more than 12 inches apart. A chinchilla’s cage should be spacious enough for it to exercise.

A happy chinchilla is one that can run and play. During the winter, keep the cage in a draft-free location. During the summer, your pet may require the use of an air conditioner to stay cool.

Habitat Maintenance

At least once a week, use a 3 percent bleach solution to clean and disinfect the habitat and its contents. Before returning the chinchilla to its home, give it a good rinse and let it dry fully. As a responsible chinchilla owner, you need to remove the wet spots regularly and change the bedding materials at least once a week, as necessary. As a nesting material, you can use shredded paper, newspaper, wood shavings, cardboard litters, or recycled wood.

Healthy Animal Signs

Before adopting a healthy chinchilla, you need to make sure that they are alert, active, and sociable. A healthy chinchilla will eat and drink regularly and its breathing will be normal. During the visit, a breeder facility, check their coat and eyes whether these are normal and bright. Check your chinchilla’s posture and movement before buying.

How can I tell if my chinchilla is sick?

Like other animals, chinchillas also get sick. It’s very important to pay attention to their behavior to see any abnormalities in their body. Like most prey animals, they have evolved to hide any symptoms of weakness. You can observe the chinchillas during the evening when they’re most active. Some common symptoms of a sick chinchilla may include the following:

Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Laboured breathing
  • Abnormal hair loss
  • Gas formation in the stomach
  • Discharge from nose
  • Abnormal skin lesions
  • Overgrown teeth, etc.

Whenever you see any of the above symptoms, contact your nearest veterinarian.

Common Health Problems

The above symptoms of sick chinchilla may occur due to various health problems. The most common disease in chinchillas may include respiratory diseases, overgrown teeth, bite wounds, diarrhea, skin problems, convulsions, diabetes, gastrointestinal distress, heat stroke, etc. The most common infectious disease in chinchilla caused by different organisms may include:

Bacteria:

  • Pseudomonas,
  • Yersinia,
  • Listeria, etc.

Virus:

  • Herpes virus

Parasites:

  • Giardia duodenalis,
  • Toxoplasma, etc.

Fungal disease in chinchilla:

  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes
  • Histoplasma capsulatum

Vaccinations

Like other pet animals such as dogs or cats, chinchillas don’t require vaccination. 

Dust Baths

Chinchillas perform dust baths to keep their fur healthy. A 2-4 inches deep box holding a mixture of silver sand and Fuller’s earth (9:1) need to be placed in their cage for 30 minutes every day. Don’t leave the dust bath left in the cage for a long time. This eventually soiled with feces and requires replacement as soon as possible.

Be careful about the irritation of the eye that leads to conjunctivitis and upper respiratory tract infection because of the dust. Study found that excessive dust has been associated with developing pulmonary epithelial hyperplasia and granulomas in the chinchillas. Always replace the dust when it changes its color into dark brown or becomes grainy.

Best Toys

As we said, chinchillas are active and curious animals that require a lot of exercise to spend their energy. Toys should be a part of their daily routine and eventually help them to become happy and stay fit. Although dust bath itself isn’t a toy, but most chinchillas enjoy this. You can try several chew toys and climbing toys for your lovely chinchillas to engage them with these creative things.

Some owners also prefer exercise wheels and balls for chinchillas and several hides in toys are also found. Many toys for outside the cage are also available in the market for your lovely pet.

Finally, having a chinchilla as a pet may be a wonderful experience! There’s a ton of information available in this article for you about chinchillas. As a veterinarian, I suggest that you follow the advice on this page and contact your nearest vet for any kind of problem.