IN THIS ARTICLE
- Understanding Chinchillas: Overview and Origin
- How Hard Is It to Take Care of a Chinchilla?
- Choosing the Right Chinchilla for You
- Housing Your Chinchilla: Choosing the Right Cage
- Diet and Nutrition: What to Feed Your Chinchilla
- Health and Wellness: Keeping Your Chinchilla Healthy
- Exercise and Play: Meeting Your Chinchilla's Activity Needs
- Chinchilla Grooming: Maintaining a Healthy Coat
- Chinchilla Care: The Ultimate New Owner Checklist
- Embrace the Joy of Chinchilla Ownership
Looking like a cross between short-eared rabbits or large mice, chinchillas are unique pets whose fur is unlike any other animal. One square inch of the soft and silky chinchilla fur contains 20,000 hairs – 50 growing from a single follicle. It's no wonder they were once hunted for it.
One of the Chinchilla species is thriving due to being kept as pets. And they excel at it. Your chinchilla will be as happy as a clam with an adequate cage, the right nutrition, regular health check-ups, and enough exercise.
Whether you're just starting your research about these little furballs or have already adopted one and want to learn how to spoil them with love and affection, we're here to help. This article will cover everything you need to know about chinchilla care.
Understanding Chinchillas: Overview and Origin
Although they're probably spinning the wheel in your cage today, chinchillas are actually native to the Andes Mountains stretching across Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia in South America. Moreover, they make their homes at altitudes between 2,600 and 19,600 feet and forage for food once the sun sets.
This crisp environment and nocturnal living habits in one of the highest mountain ranges in the world have caused chinchillas to develop the dense coat they're known for today.
The first attempts to transport chinchillas weren't successful precisely because the transporters weren't considering these specific climate conditions. Only decades later, one man managed to bring 11 chinchillas into the United States after carefully examining their surroundings and daily habits.
It has been almost 100 years since then, and today's chinchillas have adapted to household conditions. For example, they're much larger than they once were. Nonetheless, understanding chinchillas' origin and natural habitat is vital to providing these small pets with the right living conditions.
How Hard Is It to Take Care of a Chinchilla?
As prospective pet parents, your first question is probably, "Are chinchillas good pets?"
The answer is yes.
Despite popular belief, chinchillas won't take much of your time or patience if you learn about them and their necessities early on. Apart from getting the right chinchilla supplies, developing a proper chinchilla care routine and sticking to it is the first and, possibly, the only thing you'll need to master.
Choosing the Right Chinchilla for You
Although small animals usually have short lifespans, chinchillas will be your companion for a long time. The average chinchilla lifespan is 10 years, but there have been cases where those in captivity live up to 20 years. For this reason, it's crucial to find the right chinchilla for you.
If you're in the process of searching for "chinchillas near me," you've probably come across multiple pet stores. It's important to know that not all chinchilla sellers know how to take care of their chinchillas or where they come from. Breeders are much more reliable, but even with them, you'll need to ensure they're reputable and trustworthy.
That's why it's necessary that you know what to look at when purchasing your future pet. You'll know that a chinchilla is in good health by inspecting the following areas:
- Eyes: A chinchilla's eyes should be bright and sparkly but not watery or having any unnatural discharge. The same goes for ears and nose. Mucus and similar indicate infections or other medical issues.
- Teeth: The teeth should be even when the chinchilla's jaw is closed. There should also be no drooling or other discharge.
- Body and fur: One of the chinchillas' defense mechanisms is shedding hair when captured by a predator. A healthy and well-cared-for chinchilla shouldn't have bald patches or wounds.
Since chinchillas are mostly nocturnal animals, it's best to come later in the day and see them when they're most active. In addition, ask the breeder or pet store whether you can return the chinchilla if you change your mind, and take it to a reliable chinchilla vet immediately to check for any diseases or infections.
The last tip is to keep in mind the average chinchilla cost. Chinchillas should be between $150 and $1,000, depending on the breed (fur type and color). If they're considerably underpriced, that might be a sign there's something wrong with them.
Once you have all that settled, you can finally bring your new friend home. Your chinchilla will soon become a joy to take care of, but you'll also realize that they come with their fair share of commitment and responsibility.
It's highly recommended to buy at least a pair of chinchillas to start with. They are nocturnal and social animals, so they'll naturally seek out company while you're asleep. If they stay alone, they may become stressed. Same-sex pairs can be kept together without issues. If you're buying a female and a male, consider having the male neutered to avoid breeding.
Housing Your Chinchilla: Choosing the Right Cage
Before you bring your new chinchilla home, you must prepare the correct housing setup to ensure your chinchilla is healthy and happy. Even if you already have a chinchilla, you might need to make some modifications.
The smallest dimensions for a single chinchilla cage are 2.5ft x 2ft x 2ft. Chinchillas are excellent jumpers, so ensure that they have enough space to jump and roam around. Additionally, you'll have to think about whether there's enough space for food, water bottle, toys, nest box, etc. A cage with multiple levels is always recommended to create interesting spots and hiding places and make the most of your space.
Apart from cage size, consider its material. Plastic isn't chinchilla-friendly, so filter out any manufacturers that use it in their cages' composition. Wood cages are also easy to chew through, so your best bet is metal wire cages. Just make sure that the space between wires is less than an inch for safety purposes. Even if chinchillas can't escape, they might get stuck in small openings.
Think about maintenance as part of your chinchilla care routine as well. Find cages with easy-to-clean and removable bottoms so the space is always fresh and your chinchilla healthy.
The last aspect to consider is the placement inside your home. As mentioned, chinchillas' natural habitat has a cool and dry climate. Thus, the optimal temperature for your in-house chinchilla is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in warmer climates, putting the cage in a room with air-conditioning is best. In addition, keep the cage away from windows and direct sunlight.
If you're struggling to find a good shop that offers high-quality chinchilla cages, try Quality Cage. Quality Cage's chinchilla cages are made from galvanized steel that will last between three to seven years without rusting. You can also choose other high-performing finishes and whether you want the second level to have a cutout so your chinchilla can jump freely.
Essential Cage Accessories
Your chinchilla cage should have plenty of toys to keep your furry friend(s) occupied while you're away. Exercise wheels, ledges, bridges, hammocks, etc., provide both fun and exercise necessary to keep your chinchilla in good spirits. Even when domesticated, chinchillas are skittish, so you should also have plenty of hiding places like tunnels and a nest box.
Chew toys are perfect for teeth sharpening and overall dental health. Just note the material they're made of. As mentioned, plastic is a no-no, so you can't just throw in any regular toys.
If you need a recommendation for chinchilla toys, take a look at what Quality Cage has to offer. Their chinchilla toys are made with the chinchilla's needs in mind. For example, their chewable kabob toy is composed of different shapes, colors, and chew-safe materials to provide your chinchilla with ultimate entertainment.
Diet and Nutrition: What to Feed Your Chinchilla
Maintaining your chinchilla's health comes with a nutritious diet. Typical chinchilla food includes grass hay like Timothy hay, pellets, and treats like organic dehydrated goji berries or organic green oats. You should only feed them chinchilla-approved food. Grass hay makes up as much as 80% of their diet.
Lettuce, corn, peas, cabbage, spinach, etc., all sounds super healthy, but it's not recommended for chinchillas. Fresh fruit like a slice of apple or blueberry is also acceptable, but like other chinchilla treats with too much sugar, it should be limited.
When you choose your chinchilla food, you should ensure that it's from a reputable brand and then stick with it. Drastic changes in a chinchilla's diet can negatively affect its stomach. If you do need to switch up the brand, introduce it gradually.
As for how often you should feed your chinchilla, they consume 1-2 tablespoons of pellets a day on average. That amount should be divided so your chinchilla gets food in the morning and at night. As for hay, it should always be available. Your chinchilla will usually let you know when it's time for a refill by pushing old hay out of the tray.
Aside from food, chinchillas need fresh, clean water at all times. They'll typically drink only two ounces, but it's always better to have a full drip water bottle ready.
Health and Wellness: Keeping Your Chinchilla Healthy
Regular veterinary visits are a mandatory part of chinchilla care. Prevention or early detection of potential health issues can be vital for your tiny friend, as their illnesses can be quite serious. Some of the most common chinchilla diseases are respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, heat stroke, overgrown teeth, and fur issues.
Most common warning signs that something is wrong include changes in activity, appetite, or stool. Respiratory issues and teeth overgrowth usually manifest through odd discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth.
To ensure a healthy chinchilla, think about their mental health as well. Stress and improper care can easily lead to the health issues mentioned above, so devote at least 30 to 60 minutes to your chinchilla daily.
Exercise and Play: Meeting Your Chinchilla's Activity Needs
Chinchilla's mental and physical health also involves plenty of exercise. That can be part of your 30-60-minute bonding time since activities outside of the cage are also recommended.
That doesn't mean letting it out into your backyard but providing a chinchilla-safe space inside your house with temperatures already catered to your chinchilla. Removing cables and anything unsafe your chinchilla might chew on is also a must.
At Quality Cage, you can find various equipment to keep your chinchilla active even while you're not around. For outside play, use Quality Cage's chin chillers to keep the chinchilla cool while it plays.
Chinchilla Grooming: Maintaining a Healthy Coat
Although a thick coat might sound like a lot of work, chinchillas actually don't require much grooming to maintain a healthy coat. If anything, their dense coat protects them from getting fleas, so you won't have to worry about protecting your chinchilla from these pests.
Chinchillas also shouldn't be bathed in water as drying them could be problematic and cause fungal growth and infections.
As a replacement, there are chinchilla dust baths. Dust might sound counterproductive, especially if you have a white chinchilla, but this is no regular dust. Chinchilla bath dust is made of volcanic ash or pumice stone that absorbs the oils from a chinchilla's fur rather than dirty it. Your chinchilla should have a dust bath twice a week unless you live in a more humid environment.
At Quality Cage, you can find everything you need to keep your chinchilla's coat soft and silky.
Chinchilla Care: The Ultimate New Owner Checklist
To summarize everything you need for proper chinchilla care, Quality Cage has prepared a quick checklist.
For a "chinchilla safe" cage, you'll need:
- Multiple wooden ledges
- Metal or ceramic food dish
- Glass water bottle
- A dust bath house
- Chew toys such as the lava ledge or Perfect Chew
- Hideaway spots
- Hay rack or feeder
- No plastic
Optional cage supplies include:
- Wooden tunnels
- PVC Tunnels
- Hanging fleece cube houses
- Fleece Hammocks
- Marble or granite cooling tiles
- Play structures
- Lava ledges
- 14" or larger exercise wheel
Necessary care supplies are:
- Quality chinchilla or rabbit pellets
- Hay (Timothy or other safe hay)
- Safe treats
- Chew sticks or blocks
- Bathing dust
- First Aid Kit
Embrace the Joy of Chinchilla Ownership
Now that you know what chinchilla care entails, you're ready to adopt one of your own. Regular health check-ups (starting from day one), cool room temperature, the right nutrition, and plenty of playtime are everything you need for a satisfied chinchilla and you as its owner.
For any chinchilla equipment or food supplies, turn to Quality Cage.
Is a chinchilla easy to take care of?
Chinchilla care tips might be a lot to take in at first, but once you fall into the routine, you'll realize that chinchillas as pets aren't hard to handle at all.
Are chinchillas high maintenance?
Chinchillas require a great deal of commitment and responsibility. But this can be said for every other pet, too. The only difference is that they require a couple of chinchilla-specific items like relatively large cages for its size, dust baths, and chinchilla-safe food.
Do chinchillas like to be held?
Chinchillas can be just as affectionate as other pets. As they naturally live in herds of up to 100 chinchillas, they're also very social animals. However, keep in mind that not all chinchillas like being held. Chinchillas will shed fur if they get stressed and picked up suddenly, which is called a fur slip.
Do chinchillas like to cuddle?
Like with holding, some chinchillas like petting and cuddling. It mainly depends on whether they were socialized around humans early and how they were treated. Note that even if they're open and friendly around you, they might not be around outsiders. If the chinchilla starts backing away, don't force them to be pet or held, as that can put a lot of stress on them.
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Author Bio: Morgan Mulac