Chinchillas as Pets

Do chinchillas make good pets?


Darn right they do! But they are not for everyone. Chinchillas are excellent choices for apartment or condo dwellers. They also do very well in a residential home. Chinchillas are curious and love to keep an eye on their humans, but they don’t always want to be held. Especially until they trust you.




What kind of exercise do chinchillas need?


If given an appropriately sized cage, chinchillas do not need exercise outside of their cage. This is especially true if you have other pets like cats and dogs, chinchillas will feel safest inside their cage. This is because in the wild they are the prey of foxes and birds of prey.




What is the safest way to provide outside the cage exercise?


This definitely takes some thought to offer chinchillas safe exercise outside of their cage so it is good you are giving it some thought. Your home can be a place where chinchillas get themselves into quite a bit of trouble. First, chinchillas love to chew! This will include your baseboards, the drywall on your walls, it can be deadly if they happen to chew a power cord. Secondly, chinchillas love to hide. They will go under all types of furniture, they will also climb into an even better hiding spot once under a piece of furniture, like up into your mattress or couch. They will climb up through the backside of a dresser and into the drawers. They will become nearly impossible to recapture should this happen. As you can see, if you choose to offer outside the cage playtime, it must be a very controlled, supervised, and safe environment!




How long and often can I offer playtime outside of my chinchilla cage?


As mentioned above exercise time outside the cage is not necessary to keep your chinchilla healthy. But should you decide to exercise them, use the precautions above to ensure a safe environment. Play time can be offered 15-20 minutes every other day for adult animals as long as the environment is maintained at a temperature under 72 degrees Fahrenheit. CAUTION: Young animals under 6 months, should not be allowed to have exercise time outside of their cage. Young animals have difficulty regulating blood sugar levels and temperature. They can easily have a major glucose drop or die from heat exhaustion




How long do chinchillas live?


Typically chinchillas live 8-12 years, and it is not uncommon for a chinchilla to live as long as 18 - 20 years. This is an animal that could be a huge commitment for you and your household.




I want a young chinchilla to bond with me, how soon after birth can I get a chinchilla?


It is important for a young chinchilla to not only drink its mother’s milk but also learn how to be a chinchilla from its mom and dad. Parents will teach them how to take dust baths, eat hay and chew on chew blocks, as well as things like manners. Chinchillas ware weaned around 7 - 8 weeks of age. But just because they no longer look to mom for food, does not mean they are ready for adoption. Reputable breeders will want to keep them a couple more weeks just to make sure they will thrive in your home. Weaning is a very stressful time for babies, and reputable breeders will wean them with a littermate and watch them until they are about 12 weeks old. This gives your new pet every opportunity to thrive. A good breeder will handle the baby to ensure you have a tame baby. From birth, the young kits are weighed each week to ensure they are gaining weight and growing, this continues during this weaning few weeks as well. Everything is purposely done to ensure your new pet has a great start to life and will continue to live a long and healthy life in your home.





Nutrition & Treats

What do I feed my new chinchilla?


The diet is easy but is also one of the complications that can cause an early death. Chinchillas can live their entire life on a 16-17% protein rabbit pellet (about 2 tablespoons a day) and a handful of good quality hay every other day. This is all they nutritionally need. However, owners tend to want to give treats. Treats like a piece of rolled oats or a cheerio can be great training tools and limited to one or two a day will not hurt them. This is a way to get your chinchilla to come to you, if they can expect a treat when you open their cage door. Chinchillas should NEVER be fed fruits or vegetables, including raisins, these products can cause high glucose levels, teeth issues, or can easily cause bloat due to the fermentation in their gut. Bloat can lead to an early death.




What kinds of toys can I give my chinchilla?


There are hanging chew toys that you can purchase from reputable suppliers. It is important to ensure the supplier lists the type of wood used in the toy. Kiln dried pine is a good wood to give them. Other favorites are Apple or pear wood twigs as well as kiwi twigs and cuttings. All wood must be pesticide-free and must be washed and dried before giving it to them, to ensure there are no bird droppings or other harmful materials on the wood. See our list of safe woods in this section. Anything made of plastic should be avoided. Chinchillas will chew the plastic and there is a risk of damaging their digestive tract.




Can I harvest my own wood chews


Absolutelu, it is the most economical way to go. If you have an apple or pear tree and want yo process cuttings, this is a perfect way to supplement. Just make sure the wood is pesticide free, allow it to dry if freshly cut - no green just under the bark. Then boil it for 20 minutes to clean it. Then place it in the oven on the lowest temperature unitl it is dry




Why do chinchilla need wood?


Chinchillas loike many rodents, have teeth that constantly grow. For good teeth health they need safe woods to chew on to keep their teeth ground down. Their hay and pellets also help with this, but kiln dried pine or appla or pear wood are great for this purpose.





Health

Do chinchillas get fleas?


This is definitely one of the advantages of a chinchilla as a pet. Due to their dense fur, pests like fleas and lice cannot penetrate the fur, therefore these pests are not a problem.




I have heard that chinchillas get ringworm, is this true?


Chinchillas can get a type of ringworm more commonly called fungus? It manifests itself as a spot of fur loss that is red and scaly. These usually appear on the nose or face first and can spread to the genital areas as well. The good thing is that it is very easy to treat with a tablespoon or two of an athlete’s foot powder (containing tinactin) in their dust bath. Within two weeks generally, the redness and flaking is gone and the spot starts growing more fur.




Do chinchillas need vaccinations for anything?


No, they do not.




Can a chinchilla be litter box trained?


Chinchillas typically urinate in one corner of their cage, so training them to use a litter box can usually be done. However, they leave droppings wherever they go and this is actually a good thing as it is an indication that they have very healthy digestive that is moving food through it. Chinchillas have a digestive system similar to a rabbit or a horse and if a high in fiber food does not constantly flow through the system, your chinchilla can quickly become very ill.





Caging

What type of cage will I need?


A chinchilla cage can be very simple to very elaborate. They do not need a huge cage, but they do love having a ledge or two that allows them to be above the floor of the cage. The movement of jumping from ledge to ledge or from floor to ledge provides good exercise for them. The cage wire should be 1 inch by 1/2 inch, definitely not larger than 1 inch by 1 inch, Caution: if you intend to raise babies, newborns can escape if the wire is 1 inch by 1 inch




What type of bedding should I use?


An absorbent kiln dried pine shaving is best. It keeps odors to a very minimum and absorbs the urine. Never use a paper based product as when they eat it, the paper can expand and cause an intestional blockage




Do chinchillas smell?


For those of you who have had rabbits or guinea pigs who are animals with strong urine, this is a good question. However, chinchillas do not have the same strong smell. If their cage is cleaned once or twice a week you will most likely not notice an odor at all except the fresh smell of their shavings or hay.





Miscellaneous

Where can I find a reputable breeder?


Visit the breeder directory on this web page for a listing. Most of our breeders will offr a contract so you know exactly what to expect. Our breeder members want to provide you a perfect chinchilla pet, so they will work with you to make the right selection for your home. Our breeders will also offer to take the animal back if it does not work out for you. Our breeders offer so much more, they will be there to help you with any questions and help mentor you through the experience with this unique new pet!