Chinchilla 101 ‐ Basics Of Having a Chinchilla
With their adorable faces and perky characters, they make very good home pets other than dogs and cats. In their natural habitat, chinchillas live in the mountains. They were residents of the Andes Mountains of South America. Chinchillas are social animals. They love to have other chinchillas around them. So it's best to adopt a pair of chinchillas rather than one.
It's super exciting to adopt a chinchilla, but before doing that, you should think thoroughly whether you're able to care for them for their whole life. A chinchilla can live up to 15-20 years in captivity, which might be longer than you think. Below are the things to consider before bringing a chinchilla home.
Things to consider
- Cost - Raising a chinchilla is not cheap, a chinchilla can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. You'll have to buy them a cage, food, toys and other supplies to keep them happy and healthy. You'll have to take them to the veterinarian when they are sick. Simply put, you have to have stable incomes to sustain their living.
- Time - Another consideration is time. Chinchillas are a herd animal. They need companion. Will you be working long hours and don't have time to care for them or play with them? Are your family members able to look after them when you're at work?
- Care - Chinchillas are delicate animals who need a lot of care. It will take a lot of effort and time to ensure they have a happy and healthy life. Are you the kind of person who really care about their health, they living conditions, and their happiness?
If you are determined to have a chinchilla and are sure you will be a responsible pet parent, read on to lean the basic knowledge of having a chinchilla. Make sure the supplies below are already prepared before bringing a chinchilla home.
In the wild chinchillas move up move and down a lot and are constantly jumping around. (Fun fact: Chinchillas can jump up to 5-6 feet!). As a result, they need a tall cage for them to exercise and run around in.
Get a cage of at least 4 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 3 feet across. The bigger the better. Some chinchilla owners may put them in cages that are only only 2 feet in height, which we wouldn't recommend. The reason for a spacious cage is that chinchillas are active animals in the wild, hopping, jumping, and climbing is in their DNA. They need enough space to exercise their body. Also, they can get very excited suddenly and run around like crazy. We should give them enough space to run up and down to burn off their excess energy to keep them healthy.
Chinchilla are crepuscular animals which means they sleep at daytime and are active during the night and dawn. In order not to wake them up during daytime, locate the cage in a quiet place where noises from human conversations can't reach.
Keep bright lighting away from the cage. Strong lighting can affect their sleeping and may make them sick. But don't leave them in a pitch dark area either. The ideal brightness for them is a dim light from a lamp.
Below are the supplies you need to put in their cage:
- Hiding areas -- Chinchilla can get stressed out easily. They can be very stressful the first week you bring them home because they don't know you and are in an environment they're not familiar with. Buy some little boxes and put them in the cage for them to hide in when they don't want to see people and just want to be on their own. Other situations like a thunderstorm can also scare them.
- Bedding pads -- This is the "floor" of their home. Choose a soft material that they will feel comfortable with. Click here for more information.
- A tray for potty breaks -- Chinchillas tend to choose a corner in the cage to relieve themselves. Put a tray with substrates in it for them to pee and poop in. Watch the video below to learn how to better potty train chinchillas
- Toys -- Make sure they have a lot of toys in their cage, especially if you have a lone chinchilla, to keep them busy and stimulate their mind. You want to have toys made of different materials and have different textures. Chins will chew on them to keep their teeth healthy. They have to chew every day to prevent their teeth from overgrowing. They might like a particular toy very much but not the others. Buy plenty of toys for them to try out to see which toys they love. Check out the video below for some toy ideas:
- Exercise wheel -- You'll also need to buy a good exercise wheel for them. Chinchillas love exercise wheel. Get a big and sturdy wheel made of high-quality materials that won't hurt the chinchilla. A wheel of at least 15 inches in diameter is recommended. If the wheel is too small there is a possibility that it may hurt their spinal cord while running. Never buy a mesh wheel, as the chinchilla's paws may get stuck and be ripped off. Also don't buy a plastic one because most chins chew plastics and plastics are toxic to them. Opt for a exercise wheel made of high-quality alloy. Although the price might surprise you, it's 100% worth it because your chinchilla will fall in love with it and it's safe.
- A lot of ledges -- Chinchillas need them to jump around in the cage. Some people think ledges are optional but we think they are a necessity in the cage. A LOT OF THEM.
- Food and water -- Chinchilla eat dry hays and pellets as their main food sources. These two types of food should be available to them all the time. But you don't want to put too much food in their cage because your chin can't consume them all before the food absorbs the moisture in the air and become mouldy. Ask your breeder how much food they eat per day and set the food up accordingly.
- Chinchillas need fresh cold water every day. A bottle with a tube to hold the water is recommended . Change up the water and clean the bottle every other day to make sure the bottle is clean and fresh water is available. If you use bowls to contain water, the water may splash out when the chinchilla is drinking it.
Chinchillas do best at 60 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Never let the environment gets too hot. Chinchillas are not able to sweat like human can, they can get overheat and suffer from heat stroke easily. Put a few pieces of cooling tiles and rocks in their cage to let them cool down if the environment gets hot. They will love to sleep on them.
Hay and pellets are the most important foods for chinchillas. There should be good quality hay and pellets available to them all the time 24/7. Look for hay that has a mix of brown and green color in them, and make sure the hay is dry. Hay of long strands is recommended, it's good for their teeth and most chins enjoy chewing them.
Treats for your chin is optional. It's a great way to bond with them. But keep in mind that treats should only be given to them in moderation. It may be tempting to give a lot of treats to your chinchilla as you would with dogs, but too many treats can lead to health problems. 3 times a week is recommended. While a fat chinchilla may look cute, it's common sense that too much body weight is not good for health. Look for treats high in vitamin and low in sugar and fat, such as raisins and carrots.
Click here to check out what food chinchillas can and can't eat.
4. Grooming and Hygiene
Chinchillas groom themselves regularly. Not much extra grooming is needed. Their fur doesn't need to be brushed and their toenails will wear down naturally. Never bathe your chinchilla in water. Their fur is dense and it's hard for it to dry properly. Fungus might grow on the fur. Instead, use a dust bath to clean their body. A dusk bath is a bath where chinchillas clean themselves by rolling in a layer of special sand called blue cloud dust in a bowl. Grease and dirt will be absorbed by the sand while rolling in the sand. Warning: Your heart will melt when you see them roll in the sand!
5. Can I let my chinchillas out of the cage
Yes, you can. No one animal like being kept in a cage for the whole life, so do chinchillas. You should let them out of the cage from time to time to stimulate them. But they should only be allowed to stay at a room that is chin-proof. There are many potential hazards your little cutie can get into, make sure the room is well chin-proof before you let him out of the cage and run free.
6. How to chin-proof the room
As a good rule of thumb, the fewer the objects there are in the room, the safer it is for the chin to roam free. The room could be the laundry or the bathroom or a room in the basement. Living room is not recommended as it's too big and there is too much work for you to chin-proof. Do the following to chin-proof the room you choose:
- Close the door of the room. If he escapes outside, you're going to have to play hide and seek with him.
- Close all drawers, cabinets, cupboards' doors.
- Take away carpets. Chins love to chew, carpet is one of their favorite. The fabric of carpets is toxic to them and may get stuck in their digestive system when ingested.
- Take away wires and cords. Chinchilla eat plant roots in the wild, they will definitely enjoy eating these new "plant roots" they've never seen in their life. Damaged wires and cords can lead to fire accidents. Be extra careful of them.
- Close the lid of the toilet. Chins love to jump into the toilet.
- Beware of any crawl space between or underneath furniture. For instance, the space underneath a couch and the space between the washing machine and the wall. Your chin will hide in these areas. It can be difficult to lure them out of the crawl space once they're in there. You can either seal off the space by placing cardboard flaps in the entrance to the space, or move the furniture to another room.
- Tidy away pads or paper or any materials that absorb water. You chin will pee and poop everywhere. Store your important notes and journals in a drawer where he can't reach.
- Take away anything made of wool. The fabric can get stuck in their stomach.
- Close all windows
- Make sure no water puddles are found in the area. As mentioned above, Chinchillas can get into trouble when they get wet.
Supervise your chin at all times. Even if you've chin-proof the area it doesn't mean it's completely safe for them. Sometimes danger can present itself in ways you couldn't imagine. Your chin will be especially excited when out of the cage, he will run around and touch everything like crazy. So don't get lazy on the preparation work before letting him out. You won't have time to chin-proof the area when he is already out of the cage. Remember, chinchillas chew a lot. Removing anything that's vulnerable to their bite is one of things you have to keep in mind all the time when having a chinchilla.
7. Sickness in chinchillas
Bite wounds, heat stroke, bloat and diarrhea are common sickness found in chinchilla.
- Bites wounds often occur when chinchillas bite each other when they are put together. Or when other pets in your household, such as dogs and cats, bite your chinchilla. Bites can be serious to chinchillas in many cases. Sometimes their thick fur will make it difficult for you to get notice of the wounds. Take your chin to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect that a bite wound is present on their body.
- Heat stroke often occur when chinchillas are exposed to high temperature . Chinchilla can't sweat like we do, so make sure they are kept at temperature between 60 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't put them under sunlight.
- Bloat and diarrhea are common symptoms found in animals due to a variety of reason including food poisoning, large amounts of gas in the stomach, or bacteria infection. Check if the color of the stool of your chinchilla to see if they are solid and if it contains blood stains.
Click here for more information about chinchillas' health. If you suspect your chinchilla has any underlying health issues, don't hesitate to take him to a veterinarian.
The information above is just the basics of having a chinchilla. Make sure you do enough research before adopting one. They are delicate animals and need a lot of care. They can't talk like we do, so you need to learn to observe their body language and know what they are expressing. Click here to learn about different chinchillas' behaviors and body language.
Although caring for a chinchilla is not easy, the reward you will get when they become friends with you and run on your lap will be priceless!