Chinchilla fur is one of the most valuable and rarest possessions in the world. In ancient times, the chinchilla is hunted not for its meat but for its soft and luxurious fur. Fortunately, there are now a number of organisations supporting its conservation. Are you planning to rear such a prized pet? Read along to learn more on how to look after a chinchilla with tips.
Chinchilla as pets
The Chinchilla has two species classification, Chinchilla lanigera (long-tailed) and Chinchilla brevicaudata (short-tailed). For a well-tended chinchilla, it can live up to 12-20 years. Let us decipher whether its behaviour can fit well into your lifestyle.
- A chinchilla is a nocturnal creature.
This is the reason why it is not the best choice for children. Its active hours occur during the night and can be really loud. It enjoys running, bouncing, and jumping on its cage.Trivia: The chinchilla can jump as high as six feet in the air.
Although it is nocturnal, most of the time it is crepuscular which means most active during dawn or dusk.
- A chinchilla is a nocturnal creature.
- A chinchilla is reserved (at first).
During your first interaction, this little fluff may not be as friendly and sociable as with the other rodents. Such behaviour can be corrected by proper training. It can be loving and loyal but not an ideal lap pet. It does not like to stay still for a long period of time. Remember that this is a pet with remarkable agility especially at night. On the other hand, it is more social when reared with other chinchillas. This is unsurprising considering that in the wild it thrives in colonies with more than 100 individuals. In general, its behaviour depends on its individual personalities. Some prefer to be the only ‘chin’ in the family while some like to have a pair or more.
- A chinchilla can be trained.
The chinchilla is said to have similar hearing skills with the humans. That being said, it is capable to respond and learn particular commands such as ‘roll’ and ‘sit’. However, training takes a lot of patience as it can be stubborn at times. Further, unlike with the other small caged animals, the chinchilla cannot be toilet trained. There is no specific area where they will withdraw its dirt. As such, the ideal cage should have a pullout tray.
As a herbivore, the chinchilla’s diet should include good quality food from plants. It needs high fibre, low fat and low sugar nourishment. When buying food from the pet store, be sure to check its nutritional content and choose the ones particularly made for the animal.
There should always be fresh water available at all times.
The chinchilla’s method of bath time is one of its notable features. It is vital in keeping the finest condition of its fur. Never use ordinary sandpit or sand from the builders because it might damage its fur and skin. Provide it with dust/sand made particularly for chinchilla’s dust bath. Follow twice or thrice weekly bath time. Just leave it off in their cage with prepared dust on it. It should last for about 20 minutes. Give enough amount of the dust about 10cm deep to enable him to roll around without any risk of injuries.
Chins are sociable. Thus, it is best to provide it with other chins for company. However, if there is none, you should have enough time to interact and play with it. With that, it can strengthen your bond and the chins would feel more secure in their cage.
You may provide varying treats to the chin but it should be appropriate for its diet. Just a tip, the chinchilla has a sweet tooth. However, feeding with sweets should be kept in moderation because it might cause health problems. Ideal treats are small pieces of carrot or apple.
Although you see the chinchilla mostly asleep at daytime, it is very energetic. It is best to provide it with equipment that would allow it to climb and jump within their cage. Include chewing toys to keep its teeth worn down and cardboard tubes or boxes as hiding areas when the mood sets in.
Cage and habitat
Create an interesting and exciting environment for your adventurous chinchilla. It is important to keep it happy and satisfied so that it will not get bored that might lead to some health problems.
- The right size
First, consider the size of the cage. Choose an adequate size where it can have areas to roam around. The minimum size cage for one chinchilla should be at least 16 inches in length, 18 inches in width, and 16 inches in height. If you cannot provide bigger sizes, consider buying a tall cage rather than the wider ones as this animal enjoys jumping.
- The right size
- The right materials
As a rodent, it is likely for a chinchilla to gnaw on anything reachable that includes rubber, wood, and plastic. As such, the right cage should be made of metal which animals cannot easily chew.
- The right spacing between bars
The chinchilla may look bigger but remember that it’s all fluffy fur that can easily be squeezed out of the cage. Pick the right cage that should not be more than an inch apart for an adult chinchilla and not more than 0.5 inch apart for the baby chinchilla.
- The right temperature
Note that the chinchilla has a very thick fur and is prone to overheat. Provide the best environment that should be in between 16 to 21 degrees Celsius and should not exceed 25 degrees Celsius. Do not place its cage where it is exposed to direct sunlight.
- The right bedding
The suitable bedding for a chinchilla requires a layer of wood shavings on its cage floor. Know that the chinchilla can be sensitive to chemicals and strong odours. As such, avoid pine or cedar wood shavings that can be a risk to its health.
Nutrition and Diet
This a herbivore animal that thrives in the wild through eating grasses, leaves, stems, roots, and twigs. As such, keeping it as a pet should be provided with a high fibre and low sugar diet. There are available formulated pellets throughout all pet stores.
Further, to have a variety of food to chew on, provide hay which is good for its digestive system and can maintain the length of its teeth.
Any food aside from pellets and hay should be given occasionally as treats. The chinchilla has a sensitive digestive system that cannot deal well with fatty foods or too much sugar.