Chinchilla As a Pet | One of the Cutest Friendly Pets

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Are you planning on getting your first chinchilla? These adorable creatures will certainly make great pets and enrich your life as a pet parent. In order to make it easier for you, we’ve sat down and written this comprehensive guide to chinchillas as a pet.

What is a chinchilla?

Chinchillas (also called “chins”) are small rodents originating from the Andes Mountains in South America. Their name actually means “little Chincha" and they are named after the Chincha people of the Andes.

A few sad facts: the Chincha people used to wear the soft fur of chinchillas to keep warm as each chinchilla hair follicle sprouts about 60 hairs. Hence the warmth. Since a lot of people have hunted these cute rodents for their fur to make coats and other clothing, wild chinchillas have been rare and endangered as a species.

chinchillas are small rodents

The sadly decreased number of chinchillas will hopefully increase because it's illegal now to hunt wild chinchillas for fur. The remaining species of wild chinchillas remain close to extinction and every time you adopt one as a pet means that you’re doing a good thing and are preventing their extinction.

A lot of enthusiasts and animal lovers keep domestic chinchillas as pets in their homes.

Their life as a pet is much easier than in the wild. They are hunted by many natural predators, including birds, skunks, snakes, cats, and dogs. Fortunately, chinchillas are great jumpers - they can jump up to six feet.

In the wild, chinchillas live in burrows underground or rock crevices. They tend to stay in social groups called "herds" which can include as few as a dozen or as many as 100 chinchillas.

Chinchillas are crepuscular, which means they are most active during twilight (dawn or dusk), as opposed to nocturnal animals, which are mainly active at night. Many predators look for food at night, while others are most active in the middle of the day when the sun is the brightest. By limiting their activity to twilight times like dawn and dusk, chinchillas decrease the chance of falling victim to predators.

What does their biological clock mean for you as the owner? Well, your pet will be most active at dawn and dusk. At other times of the day when you're active, it may prefer to rest. You need to respect that and you shouldn’t wake them up in the middle of the day just because you’d like to play with them.

Chinchillas are a species that are best housed as a single pet or as pairs of the same sex. They are fun as pairs and they interact with one another, especially when pet parents don’t have time to give their chin the attention they need.

Chinchillas are very quick-moving and are not recommended for children under eight years old. They are more suitable for teens who know how to handle and care for a pet and adults.

 

Will chins get along with your other pets? Well, be careful - unless they are raised together or have been accustomed to one another, dogs and cats may think chinchillas are prey.

As for the temperament, Chinchillas are quick and perky little animals resembling park squirrels. They are lively, inquisitive with their boisterous nature and make no objectionable noises. They are very low-maintenance pets and have a longer lifespan than other rodents.

If you are wondering about their color, the most common color is silvery gray but chins also come in white, beige, ebony and sapphire color.

Proper chinchilla care

With proper care, chinchillas can live 12 to 20 years, which is an exceptionally long lifespan for a rodent. Chinchillas will not thrive above 78 degrees Fahrenheit or in humidity over 40% so you need to provide them with favorable living conditions.

Since chinchilla personalities are formed during their first month of age, you need to handle and pat them frequently from the time they are born or they will grow up skittish and aggressive.

An ideal age to purchase your chinchilla is 10 weeks of age and start proper handling and care at once. Aggression is often a problem in pets not socialized to people at a young enough age so you really need to start getting chins used to human touch at an early age.

The obvious first step in looking after your chinchilla properly is providing them with a good quality and spacious cage. Chins are very active, have a lot of energy, and love to climb. This is why you need to provide them with lots of space, both horizontally and vertically, so that they can have an active, healthy and happy life.

The floor of your pet's cage should be solid – never get a cage with a wire floor. Wire floor housed chinchillas eventually end up with injuries and arthritis of their feet.

Proper care includes providing your chinchilla with everything they need in their home. Pelleted or shredded paper bedding is a good choice for covering the floor. It is safe if your chinchilla likes to nibble on the bedding. Wood and recycled paper-based bedding absorb odors well.

with proper care chinchillas can live 12 to 20 years

Avoid cedar and pine which have been proven to contain phenols (aromatic hydrocarbons). These pose serious health risks to chins and other small pets.

You also need a water bottle that easily attaches to the cage and provides a steady supply of water. A stoppered bottle prevents water from being spilled and helps keep the bedding dry.A heavy food bowl that will not spill is a good solution which prevents spillage and contamination of food. A hay rack is also necessary.

A great addition is one or more hiding areas so that your chin can play or have some privacy. Get a model which is safe, cozy and secure. Hide areas can be nest boxes, tunnels, or any other chew proof options.

Chinchillas are very active and should have an exercise wheel in the cage. The wheel should have a solid floor to prevent foot injuries and spin well so that your chin can burn excess calories and stay healthy

Since chins are very clean and have almost no body odor, a lot of pet owners prefer them over hamsters or rats. Chinchillas maintain their soft, plush fur by taking dust baths so do provide one for your pet.

Commercial dusting powders and bins are affordable and readily available. Make the dust bath available to your chinchilla two or three times a week. The best time of day for a dust bath is in the evening when chinchillas are most active.

Leave the dust bath in the cage for 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t remove the dust bath on time, your chinchilla may use the dust out of boredom, and a too long dust bath could cause its skin to become too dry.

Finally, add some pet toys to keep your chin occupied and to help keep his teeth worn down. In fact, make sure to have plenty of things for the chin to chew. Good chewing blocks are pieces of hard rock maple, non-resinous pine, fruit woods and beech

Chinchilla cages need to be cleaned every few days. Clean and disinfect the habitat and its contents at least once a week with a 3% bleach solution. Rinse and allow the cage to dry completely before placing the chinchilla back into the habitat. Also, don’t forget to remove wet spots daily and change bedding at least once a week, or more often if needed.

Finally, position the best cage chinchilla deserves out of drafts and away from strong direct sunlight. Avoid too noisy areas of your home so that the pet doesn't wake up grumpy in the middle of the day.

Chinchilla lifespan

The differences between chins in the wild and domesticated ones include their lifespan. With quality nutrition and dust baths for good hygiene, the domestic chinchilla’s lifespan has increased from 5 years to an average of 15 years with some chins living to be 20+ years old.

Chinchillas have an exceptionally long lifespan compared to other small rodents. This makes them an appealing choice for people looking for long-term companions.

However, to maximize a pet chinchilla's lifespan, proper care is essential.

In the wild, their lifespan averages a decade or less. Predators such as birds of prey, as well as foxes and wild cats,  prevent chins from living as long as they are biologically capable. What’s worse, human hunting and destruction of the chinchilla's natural habitat shortens their lifespans and reduces their numbers even more.

Like many other small pets, chinchillas live considerably longer when lovingly kept as pets with a potential lifespan of about 20 years. No danger from predators, no fight for food and no extremely bad weather.

When kept as pets, chins are provided with all a nutritionally balanced diet. The veterinary care is available to chinchillas kept at home, which also helps to extend their lifespan.

Maximizing their lifespan is largely based on proper nutrition is essential for keeping a pet chinchilla alive, healthy and happy for 15 or more years. We’ll talk about chinchilla diet in detail later on.

Consider that a pet chinchilla is potentially a 20-year commitment. While hamsters, mice and other rodents commonly kept as pets tend to live for a few years, the chinchilla lifespan is considerably longer which means up to two decades of cleaning cages, filling water bottles, buying food, bedding, chew toys and other supplies, providing out-of-cage time and interacting.

A sanitary environment promotes longevity in pet chinchillas. Take out soiled bedding and old food daily and replace all bedding and clean the cage weekly.

In addition, you as the chin owner are also responsible for arranging care if you're traveling, paying veterinary bills and buying the occasional medications if necessary.

Also, don’t forget that chinchillas should be kept in pairs at least, so you’ll be looking after more than one chin for a long time.

Ask yourself whether you are willing and able to act like a responsible pet owner. If so, you’re in for plenty memorable moments with your pet. If not, consider a small pet with a shorter lifespan.

The health of your chinchilla should be checked frequently. Keeping the chin away from stress factors increases its life. Owning a chinchilla is like owning a dog. Both require a lot of care and work for many years but they also give affection and fun times in return.

As for the health checkups, chinchillas are considered exotic animals so many vets are unfamiliar with the species. New owners must find a vet with knowledge of chinchillas before a health issue occurs so that when a problem arises they have someone to turn to for help.

Best chinchilla diet

What is the basic diet for a chinchilla? Chinchillas are exclusively herbivorous animals and not granivores. This means that they do not eat grains and seeds like other rodents.

A healthy chinchilla's diet is based on three main components with the corresponding percentages:

  • 75% hay
  • 20% feed (pellets) and mixtures of food
  • 5% fruit and vegetables

As simple as it looks, don’t forget that chinchilla’s digestive flora is very delicate, so if you have to introduce a new food into its diet you need to do it very gradually so that its digestive system can get used to the new food properly.

The intestinal motility of chinchillas must be active constantly and only then will their body function properly. In general, the best diet for a chinchilla should be composed of the following:

  • 32% carbohydrates
  • 30% fiber
  • 15% protein
  • 10% wet food
  • 6% minerals
  • 4% sugar
  • 3% healthy fats

So for a healthy diet, your chin’s daily nutritional intake should correspond to the values above as closely as possible.

However, remember that apart from adequate food and fulfilling its basic nutritional requirements, chinchillas must have clean, fresh water available always as well as a well-kept and clean cage to live in. In addition to a balanced diet, you need to provide your chinchilla with proper care if you want it to be happy.

A Chinchilla's diet should be simple but healthy. Quality pellets, ample amounts of fresh hay, and unlimited access to water. If you can get these three dietary components together, you'll have a healthy and well-nourished chinchilla.

However, is it that easy? A lot of the pellets sold at the pet store are not what we consider “quality food". In fact, they're junk food filled with fruit, nuts, fillers, and treats. You can’t really have a healthy pet if you serve them treats with every meal, can you? Components you need to avoid in your pellet choice are fillers such as corn or soy, vegetables or vegetable products, dried or fresh, fruit, dried or fresh, seeds, and nuts.

chinchillas are exclusively herbivorous animals

A good rule of thumb is to avoid pieces which are brightly colored and shaped funny. Why? They are treats, really, rather than essential food to sustain your pet and provide and maintain a healthy metabolism.

Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of sugar in their natural and dried forms. Pet chinchillas do not need all this excess sugar. This excess sugar will result in your chinchilla becoming ill.

Diabetes, hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia are all risks when feeding a sugary diet. Many pet parents do not realize that a dehydrated small piece of dried fruit is just a shrunken big piece. When you dry fruit, it shrinks down, but the sugar is still there. It's just concentrated into a smaller piece. How about fruits and veggies in their natural form? Well, these contain ample amounts of moisture. Since chinchillas originate from a dry climate, they have developed a need for a very dry diet.

Too much moisture in their food will lead to bloating which is a hazard because chinchillas cannot relieve themselves of any gasses.

As for nuts and seeds, they are high in fat. When a chinchilla is fed a diet which is high in fat, it will become prone to ailments like a fatty liver disease. The fatty liver disease is known as a "silent killer" because your chin will be gone before you realize that it had health problems in the first place.  

To conclude, carbohydrates, including sugars, poison the normal intestinal flora (bacteria yeasts and molds) of your chinchilla. Raisins, bits of fruit and fruit roll-ups should be reserved as occasional treats and training aids or best not given at all. Fatty foods should be avoided at all cost. Hay, water, and quality pellets will do the job!

The price

The price of a chinchilla varies greatly depending on where you live and where you get the chinchilla from. What color you choose is also a factor to consider as different color chins are sold at different prices.

Pet stores usually charge $150 or more for a standard gray chinchilla. If they sell colored chins, they will cost you more.

Chinchilla breeders typically start around the same price. However, in areas with lots of chinchilla breeders, the price can be as low as $80 for a standard gray one. Breeders also take pedigree or fur quality into account when forming the price for chinchillas.

Animal rescues often enable you to adopt chins at a lower cost than breeders, and sometimes they even include a cage which can greatly reduce your start-up costs.

The reason why rescues do not give away chinchillas for free is that the adoption fee helps cover chinchilla care, food, and any vet visits and care while chins are waiting for their new owners at the rescue.

Here are the prices I found online:

Standard grey

$50-75 (adult / senior rescue), $135-150 (baby / pedigreed) 

Hetero beige 

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $150-175 (baby / pedigreed) 

Pink white

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed)

White mosaic, silver mosaic, Wilson white

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Black velvet

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Brown velvet

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $225-275 (baby / pedigreed) 

Tan

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $175-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Tan white

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Light / medium ebony

$50-100 (adult / senior rescue), $175-200 (baby / pedigreed) 

Homo beige

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Dark or extra dark (homo) ebony

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

White ebony

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Sapphire

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $200-250 (baby / pedigreed) 

Violet

$75-100 (adult / senior rescue), $250-300 (baby / pedigreed) 

Curly (locken) carrier

$300-500 (pedigreed, price depends on quality, color, and sex) 

Curly (locken)

$400-600 (pedigreed, price depends on quality, color, and sex)

Babies

A baby Chinchilla is one of the cutest baby animals but they are very demanding in terms of care. A newborn healthy chinchilla baby weighs between 1-2 ounces and reaches its full size within 18 - 24 months.

When they are born, a baby chinchilla (often called a kit) has fully open eyes and a whole body of fur. It really looks like a mini chinchilla but is as vulnerable as any other baby animal in some regard.

A chinchilla is technically a baby if it is less than 8 weeks old. Although it looks strong enough and can even move around the cage on its own, it needs special care.

In terms of their diet, a kit needs chinchilla milk if it is too young or less than 6-8 weeks of age. If their mother chinchilla is not producing enough milk, another female (if you have one) can feed your kit. If there’s no other option, you need to bottle feed your baby chinchilla special milk.

A baby chin will usually begin eating hay or solid food at about 4 weeks of age and will be ready to be weaned from mother’s milk when they are 8 weeks old.

Until 8 weeks of age, a kit needs milk every 2-3 hours. If you have too many kits and they are not getting enough milk because bigger or stronger ones are getting all the milk, you can try rotating your kits and leaving only weaker ones with the chin mom so it can feed in peace.

Since babies are very small and quite fragile, it is a good idea to keep them in cages that have bars which are very close together or at least not bigger than half an inch apart. This will ensure that the baby cannot escape or get stuck or hurt trying.

If you have a cage with more than one level, it’s best to keep kits downstairs so they don’t fall and get injured.

Don’t get too frightened – baby chinchillas are very easy to look after if you follow our guidelines above. They need very little care and do not destroy furniture or shoes like puppies or kittens.

Best chinchilla names

Now, after we have covered most of the facts you need to be a good chinchilla parent, let’s consider some of the cute, silly and funny names for your new pet. You can use one on the list or maybe some names will inspire you to think of even cuter and funnier name to call your chin.

Here’s the list of chinchilla names we’ve compiled for you (in no particular order):

  1. Vinny the Chin
  2. Nibbles
  3. Pikachu
  4. Chile
  5. Furby
  6. Chilli
  7. Chinnie
  8. Chilla
  9. Poncho
  10. Chinchy
  11. Chinzilla
  12. Double Chin
  13. Killa
  14. Gizmo
  15. Chilly Willy
  16. Chewie
  17. Chingy
  18. Chino
  19. Chin Dynasty
  20. Dusty

And that’s all folks! We hope you enjoyed our article about these cute little furry bundles of pure joy – chinchillas! Happy parenting!

 

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