Welcome to the second edition of our Small Animal Highlight Series: Chinchilla! Chinchillas are an ADORABLE option when searching for a Small Mammal pet. These guys are fluffy, silly, sweet and make wonderful pets when cared for and socialized properly. If you’re considering adopting a Chinchilla, take a peek below for the basic care instructions you’ll need to get started!
First and foremost, what the heck is a Chinchilla? Great question!
A Chinchilla is a small mammal in the rodent family. They are originally native to South America, but unfortunately are almost extinct in the wild due to poachers hunting them for their fur. Today, these sweet fluffballs are bred and raised commercially to protect them against such dangers. As with any breeder, it is important to do your research before purchasing or adopting a Chinchilla to ensure they are being bred and raised in humane environments. You’ll want to ask basic questions to find out if your Chin has experience living with other Chinchillas, if they were appropriately socialized around people, and if they have any health concerns. Chinchillas should have thick, full coats with no patches, and clear, bright eyes without any redness or discharge. If purchasing a Chinchilla from a breeder, it’s important to view their environment yourself to ensure they are coming from a clean habitat free of bodily eliminations and dirt. I can’t stress this enough: If you visit a breeder that gives you cause for concern, please contact your local Animal Care and Control! Like any animal, these fluffy fellows are generally shy in new environments but really come out of their shells and become goofy and active when they feel comfortable! Food is always a great way to earn a Chin’s trust, and you can become their lifelong friend simply by feeding them their favorite treats!
What should you feed your new Chin?
Most pet stores carry Chinchilla Pellets, which are specially designed to give the Chin a balanced and healthy diet. Generally, a tablespoon or two of pellets a day is sufficient for an adult Chin. These guys should also have access to a good quality hay (alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, or prairie grass), which is important to keep their digestive tract running well and their teeth clean and happy. They should also be supplemented with leafy greens and occasional treats of dried apples, raisins, or sunflower seeds. When you first get your Chin, I would recommend saving the “treats” for when you’re around, so they can begin to associate your presence with yummy food!
Where should a Chinchilla live?
Much like ferrets, these sweetie pies need a secure, open wire care with plastic on the bottom as to not irritate their little feet. They should have some kind of bedding, and can live with anything ranging from shredded or pelleted paper products, reclaimed wood pulp bedding (like Carefresh), or aspen or pine shavings, but it’s a good idea to avoid Cedar shavings. They can be active little guys so they should have multi levels to explore and lots of areas to hide and burrow when they feel threatened or scared. PVC pipes make great hiding spots and are easy to clean/disinfect! While these guys unfortunately don’t often take to litter training, it’s always worth a try! You can put a small litter box in the corner of their enclosure with appropriate bedding to see if they’ll use it. Like any other small mammal, they’ll need constant access to fresh water and their food bowl! Because Chinchillas are SO fluffy it’s important to help them regulate their temperature. They are actually quite susceptible to heat-stroke in temperatures over 80 degrees, so air conditioning may be necessary if you live in a particularly hot and humid climate. Be sure to check with your vet to ensure the temperature you have set up is appropriate for them.
Should you Groom your Chinchilla? Yes!
Chinchilla grooming is a little bit different from other animals because it comes in the form of a Dust Bath! This is a self-regulated ritual by the Chinchilla, and you can assist them by placing them in a container with about 2 inches of Chinchilla Dust (available at pet stores) every other day so they can have the opportunity to clean their coats. Because their coats are so thick and furry, they don’t have the ability to dry themselves should they get wet. Therefore, it is important to keep them out of water and provide their dust baths regularly. Dust bathing is as much a behavioral outlet as a grooming behavior and is very important in Chin welfare. If they aren’t given the opportunity to “bathe”, they can develop greasy, matted coats, and irritated eyes and respiratory systems.
What is Chinchilla Behavior like?
Chins are very sweet and social when they’re in the mood! They are generally fine living alone, but can be equally happy paired with a Chin of their same gender (as to avoid accidental breeding!). They generally enjoy interacting with one another and will snuggle and play when feeling social. Because they are prey animals, they tend to be very quick-moving and are not recommended for young children (under 10), as they can get spooked very easily. They appreciate being approached slowly, and enjoy pets and snuggles! Again, because they are prey animals, it is important to give them extra support so they don’t feel threatened when being picked up. Therefore, be sure to scoop them up from underneath their body and support their hind legs with your other hand, so they feel extra safe – rather than picking them up by a tail or a scruff which could cause fur loss and discomfort.
Does your Chin need to see a vet? Absolutely!
Like any other pet, Chinchillas should visit the vet for checkups and preventative care. Vets should weigh in on your Chin’s habitat and diet, as they can be prone to dental disease and Gastrointestinal issues. Most importantly, proper diet and care are essential to keeping your Chin healthy and happy!
So there ya have it: Chinchillas are adorable, fluffy, and sweet! They make fantastic pets for pet parents who are committed to keeping them happy, healthy, and safe and will reward you with endless love and snuggles!