Chinchillas do not get on well with being handled or touched due to them being so nervous and anxious, so if you are looking for a fluffy pet which doesn’t need to be handled much but are still very lively, chinchillas may be just the one for you.
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The chinchilla originated from the mountains of South America where they live between 9 thousand and 15 thousand feet above sea level.
They have become well acclimatised to the cold weather present in higher elevations and their fur has become extremely dense which helps keep them well insulated as the temperature drops.
Unfortunately, they are becoming more and more endangered as they are poached for their thick fur and meat.
As they live in the cold mountainous areas, their coat is designed to keep them protected from the ailments. This means that many farms will poach these sweet creatures and use them to make clothing.
As we are all aware, they are not the biggest creature in the world, so it can take up to 150 of them to make just one coat! Once this coat is made, it can be sold for up to £74,000.
It has since been made illegal to hunt chinchillas or trade their fur, but it can still be very difficult to monitor this due to the areas in which they are found.
Brown, Blue, Pearl Gray
Body: 9-14 inches Tail: 3-6 inches
Known to be lively, these rodents sure know how to run and jump. They can jump over 6 feet high and have been reported to jump on top of fridges so be careful next time they are out of their cage, or if the door is open. You don’t want to lose them as you may struggle to get them down from a perch.
If you are wondering when they sleep, they are crepuscular which means that they are active mostly at dusk and dawn and sleep in between.
Never allow them to live on their own as they are not solitary animals. This means that they cannot cope living without another chinchilla. They will become stressed which can lead to several health-related issues such as patches of fur falling out.
They can be kept in a mixed group, but bear in mind that if they are to live in a mixed sex and you do not want them to breed, you will have to have them neutered.
Like we mentioned earlier, they aren’t too keen on being handled as they are easily scared. If you want them to be accustomed to being handled, you will need to start this at a very young age.
Allow them to settle for a few days once you have brought them home and then you can start introducing it. Start slowly…very slowly in fact as it all needs to be done in their own time.
Allow them to get used to your presence whilst they are in the safety of their own cage before you start invading their personal space and entering their home.
Once you believe that they are becoming used to your voice, you can start to offer them treats out of your hand whilst they are in their cage but always allow them to make the first move and come to you.
Sometimes, they may just not enjoy being handled and decide they do not want any attention for the day. You must allow this and not force anything. They are very fragile and delicate little creatures so be always calm and gentle with them.
Chinchillas will rarely ever bite, but they may show their distress in other ways such as slipping their fur which means that they will shed patches of fur off their body. This is a clear sign of distress.
Due to them being very active creatures, their cage must be large enough to allow them to demonstrate normal behaviour.
We recommend a cage which is no smaller than 90cm(L) x 60cm(D) x 120cm (H) or around these measurements. This sized cage will allow a pair of chinchillas to be happy and comfortable inside.
Within their cage, they will need plenty of areas for them to hide in and they should be big enough for all of your chinchillas to curl up together if they wish.
As well as a box large enough for your chinchillas to all sleep in together, it may be ideal for them to have their own separate box too, in case they want their own space and privacy. This will avoid any UFC (Unhappy Fighting Chinchillas).
Cover the bottom of the cage with dust free bedding as well as towels or blankets to protect their feet but also soak up any urine.
Like most of our small, domesticated pets, they also love to chew and gnaw on anything they can find, including their wooden boxes where they sleep. To prevent this, treat them to some wooden chewing toys to keep them distracted and content.
One thing the chinchillas need a few times each week is a dust bath. This is quite literally a bath filled with dust.
You can purchase dust for them from most pet shops, but never use ordinary sand. Leave the bath in for 20 minutes each time before removing and emptying. This needs to be deep enough so they can roll around without injuring themselves.
Never bath them with water as this can cause hypothermia due to their coat taking so long to dry as it is so dense.
When it comes to feeding your chinchillas, it is important to know that they are herbivores and they require a diet which is high in fibre and proteins, but lower in fats and moisture. A deficiency of fibre will cause their teeth to overgrow and a lack of gut movement.
Pellets are a great source of food for them as this ensures that they are receiving all the nutrients which they require to maintain a healthy diet. If they are offered a mixed bag of food, you may often find them picking out the tastier bits and leaving the rest. Which can be a waste and they won’t be getting everything they need.
Hay is also required as part of their daily diet to help wear down their teeth and keep their gut moving. As a treat every now and again, they are allowed a slice of fresh fruit and vegetables such as carrots. Don’t make this too often as it can lead to diarrhoea.
Chinchillas can be great rodents to have as pets as they don’t need handling and they are quite happy in their cage with their friends. They can also be extremely entertaining to watch in the evening as they start to come alive and put on a show.
Offer them the right care and attention, and you will have an unusual pet for quite some time.