|Native to South America, chinchillas (Chinchilla lanigera) are small rodents “found in rocky, arid areas in the mountains” / Photo by: Trurl66 via Wikimedia Commons|
Native to South America, chinchillas (Chinchilla lanigera) are small rodents “found in rocky, arid areas in the mountains,” wrote Lianne McLeod of pet platform The Spruce Pets. Chinchillas have an average lifespan of 15 to 22 years. They have a 10- to 14-inch body and their tail adds another five or six inches.
These rodents are energetic and playful. If gently handled, most chinchillas grow to be quite tame and forge a strong bond with their owners. Don’t expect them to be held and cuddled like your pet dogs and cats because chinchillas have their own love language. Chinchillas can be kept singly, although same-sex pairs are fine too, especially if they are introduced to each other at a young age or are littermates.
Behavior and Temperament
They are largely nocturnal. Chinchillas are also called “crepuscular,” which means their activity “peaks at dawn and dusk.” During the day, your chinchilla should be kept in a “fairly quiet area.” Your pet prefers a consistent routine for handling. Hence, it’s possible for your pet rodent to be stressed if you change its routine. Your pet should be kept in a spacious cage since chinchillas are playful by nature. It needs daily exercise and playtime.
To earn a chinchilla’s trust, you must be gentle and consistent. Chinchillas have fragile rib cages, so it’s important to handle them with care, according to pet supplies store Pet Co. It takes time before it gets used to your hands, especially when you are handling an older chinchilla. Some chinchillas don’t like to be held that much. In fact, they’d rather explore or climb on you rather than be restrained by your hands. If you manage to handle and interact with your pet, then it will make your relationship extra rewarding.
If you own a timid chinchilla, you can train it to get used to being handled by being slow-moving, calm, and patient. Don’t worry, it will respond. Just give it time.
|They are largely nocturnal. Chinchillas are also called “crepuscular,” which means their activity “peaks at dawn and dusk.” During the day, your chinchilla should be kept in a “fairly quiet area" / Photo by: ligiera via Pixabay|
In the wild, a chinchilla’s fur is used to protect it from the elements. But in captivity, their fur makes them vulnerable to overheating. Take this into consideration when deciding where to place your pet rodent in the house. It is recommended to place its enclosure in a cool, quiet area of your home. During the summer, monitor the temperatures to ensure that it is not over 25 degrees Celsius.
The cage should be large, tall, and multilevel, complete with platforms, perches, and ramps. You can get a cage that has shelves and ladders to allow your chinchilla to climb. Wire is the best material for cages. Avoid plastic cages and accessories as chinchillas can chew and destroy them easily.
The minimum floor space should be about 24 by 24 inches. You can cover the wire floor or shelves with wood to give your chinchilla’s feet a break. The tray can be lined with pine or wood shavings—avoid cedar and hardwood shavings. Housing other small animals in the cage is not recommended.
Chinchillas must be fed with “high-quality, chinchilla-specific food” or else their health will be compromised. Fresh pellets, hay, and water should always be available. Try to look for pellets that are 16 to 20 percent protein, 2 to 5 percent fat (low fat), and 15 to 35 percent fiber (high fiber). You can feed them with a limited amount of fruits and vegetables each day, but these should not exceed 10 percent of your pet’s diet. Unconsumed fruits and vegetables must be removed from the enclosure within 24 hours.
Treats should be given in moderation, at least no more than one teaspoon a day. Note that a chinchilla’s digestive system is “fairly sensitive.” Therefore, any change to its diet must be introduced gradually.
|Chinchillas must be fed with “high-quality, chinchilla-specific food” or else their health will be compromised / Photo by: Max Pixel|
You need a variety of toys to keep your chinchilla entertained and to maintain the condition of its incisor teeth. Pesticide-free blocks of wood and tree branches make great chew toys. Some wooden parrot toys and willow balls and rings are also good choices. Avoid purchasing small and plastic toys since these could be ingested by your chinchilla. You can provide a pumice block to keep its teeth trim.
Wheels provide excellent exercise but your pet may not use it unless you introduced the toy “at a fairly young age.” Try to look for a 15-inch wheel “with a solid running surface.” It should have no cross supports like those seen in wire wheels.
Signs of a Healthy and Unhealthy Chinchilla
A healthy chinchilla should be alert, active, and sociable. Its breathing should be unlabored. It should have clear eyes and healthy fur. A chinchilla should be eating and drinking regularly when it’s healthy. Another clear indication of health is if it walks normally.
On the other hand, if your chinchilla starts to lose weight and hair, it’s a sign that you have to take it to a veterinarian. Other red flags include distressed breathing, lethargy, skin lesions, overgrown teeth, diarrhea or dirty bottom, and eye or nasal discharge.
Chinchillas make wonderful pets due to their playful and energetic nature. It can be a rewarding experience if you develop a strong bond with your pet. But it also entails responsibility, and a big one at that.