Chinchillas are fun pets and they are complete fur balls. They belong to the rodent family and can live up to 22 years.
Native to South America, these small creatures have so much energy in them. They are most famous for their dust baths – they just love them! It’s their unique way of cleaning their fur.
Chins are nocturnal, so they are most active at night. And because they are rodents, they love to nibble on things all the time. However, they have a specific diet since their digestive tracts are sensitive.
Chins are not so expensive, with their cost ranging at only around $100 to $400. This depends on their color.
Chins come in more than 30 color variations! They can be different shades of beige, white, ebony, violet, tan, and chocolate. The standard color is gray with a bright white belly which is typically the cheapest.
On the other hand, the darker shades are the most expensive. They may also mutate to a sapphire color.
These variations are hard to breed because these colors rarely come out. Thus, the price.
Chins may also be short-tailed or long-tailed. Short-tailed chinchillas, aside from having shorter tails, have thicker shoulders and necks.
They almost went extinct because of their fur. Fortunately, they have been conserved and continued to be bred in captivity.
If you’re planning on buying one, make sure it’s at least 4 months old as it would be sad when taken away too early. Chinchillas might be more prone to health conditions if taken too young.
Adopt a Chinchilla
You can also choose to adopt rescued Chinchillas in need of a home. There are a number of Chinchilla rescue shelters in the US.
All you need to do is pass an application and wait for approval. Some shelters may have adoption fees of around $100. Others may not charge you at all except, perhaps for transportation fees if you’re not from within the area.
Although you will be taking care of older Chinchillas, this is a good option to save an animal’s life.
What Do Chinchillas Eat?
Chins are herbivores and they have a very specific diet. It should compose of 35% carbohydrates, 15% protein, 30% fiber, 4% sugar, and at most 3.5% fat.
The good thing is there are already a number of available of pellets made for Chins. It is recommended that they are fed with fresh fruits and vegetables together with commercial pellets.
As much as possible, they should eat fresh grass or hay in controlled amounts. They need fruits low in sugar too.
Vegetables such as carrots, celery, potato, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato are good for them. But they should not be fed rhubarb, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and peas.
When choosing loose feed or pellets for your Chins, make sure they are specifically made for Chinchillas. Again, their diets are crucial to their health.
One of the best dry food for them is the Oxbow Animal Health Essentials Deluxe Chinchilla Food, 25-Pound which cost around $39 to $48. They do not eat a lot and they should not be overfed. A tablespoon or two is enough.
Chins may also eat their own poo. But it’s nothing to worry about as it’s good for their gut.
In the wild, they will spend the day usually chewing on tree bark so that their teeth do not grow too long. Hence, they need a lot of chew toys and the wooden ones are the best.
Safe woods include willow, apple, poplar, and aspen branches. They cost less than $10.
They will also need vitamins and mineral supplements. Salt blocks can help with this and they are priced at $5 per 1-ounce block.
Chins need well-ventilated shelters as they do not do well in heat – they are prone to overheating. And because they are very active, they need a big place to run around.
They also like tunnels, wheels, and places to hide. They also love climbing around the place, so ladders are a plus.
Chins poop a lot and they are not easy to litter train. Although their poop and pee are usually odorless, you will need to clean their cages often.
Wire cages are best for these little darlings as they are easy to clean, durable, and allows proper ventilation. They won’t be able to chew on it too.
Just make sure they can’t squeeze their way out of it as they’re smart ones.
The cage floor should be a tray filled with wood shavings – just not cedar wood shavings. Avoid wire floors as they will be hard for the Chin’s feet.
This X-Large Living World Deluxe Habitat is what Pet Comments suggests which costs around $130. You may also want to consider the Midwest Cat Playpen which costs around $110.
You should also need a lot of extra wood shavings as Chins love to throw them out of the cage. This Living World Wood Aspen Shavings, 2500-Cubic Inch is one of the best wood shavings that you can find which costs around $17.
The cage should also be placed in an area with less human activity. Too much movement may stress out your Chins during the day.
It should also be put in a cool area because again, they do not do well in heat. Their coats are actually designed for the cold weather. Chinchilla Chiller Granite Stones can be placed anywhere in the cage to keep them cool and they cost around $23 for a pack of 3.
Cages should also have hanging water bottles as they need to stay hydrated all day round. This is not a problem as these bottles usually come with the cages when you purchase them. Just make sure they are not plastic or your Chins will chew them.
Chins can live alone, in pairs or in groups. Just make sure to monitor any form of aggression that may arise. If this happens, separate them as soon as possible so none will get hurt.
Chinchillas’ thick fur should be maintained and cleaned all the time. However, they cannot be bathed. In fact, they should not be wet at all as this will lead to infections that may be fatal to them.
To keep them clean, they need dust baths and they would need a bowl with dust inside the cage where they could roll around. The dust will absorb all the oils to keep their coats healthy.
Chinchilla dust is affordable. Kaytee brand offers $11 to $16 for 2.5 pounds of Chin dust which can go a long way.
Chinchillas are susceptible to respiratory and digestive problems. However, they are sometimes good at hiding their symptoms so you really have to keep an eye on them.
If you notice discharge from their eyes and nose, you should go see a vet. Do not wait for the symptoms to worsen as these may lead to more serious complications.
Other signs you need to be wary of is diarrhea, weight loss, and poor posture. You should also check their nails often too to avoid any infections.
If you notice their teeth are growing too long, they may need something to chew or nibble on constantly. If they are too long, you should go get them trimmed by your vet.
Chinchillas are also prone to bite wounds, skin problems, and heat stroke. When housed with other Chins, sometimes they attack each other.
If you notice this happening, immediately separate them and check them for any bite wounds. You have to look carefully as their fur is thick and you may miss out possible wounds.
Once seen, make sure to bring your pet to the vet directly for you to get the appropriate medication to avoid infection. Most probably, your vet will thoroughly clean the wound and prescribe antibiotics.
Chinchillas are also vulnerable to skin and fur problems. If you notice fur chewing, hair loss, and tangled hair, you need to go to the vet.
These may be signs of ringworms, dental problems, dietary deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and infections. If not treated immediately, this may lead to serious health complications and may actually be fatal.
Also, make sure the temperature is kept within 50° – 68° F or 10° – 20°C. Temperatures beyond 80° F will lead to heat stroke.
If you notice panting, open-mouth breathing, lying down, and lethargy, these could be signs of a heat stroke. Although Chins are from South America, they are native to the cool mountains.
This means they can’t stand hot and very humid conditions. When you notice these symptoms, bring your Chin to the vet.
Immediately, they will be cooled and hydrated. You can try to cool them yourself at home but be careful not to overdo it.
However, as long as you stick to their recommended diet and optimal temperature, you do not need to worry. They will live a long time if they’re kept as healthy as possible.
Are Chinchilla’s Good Pets?
Chinchillas are really entertaining. If you’re fond of small energetic creatures, they are perfect pets! Although they may not like to be touched that much, they can be trained to be comfortable with humans.
Chins are not hard to care for too. They are easy to maintain and are low-cost. As long as you do not have kids in the house, they are a perfect pet.