Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents and belong to the family of Chinchillidae. Native to the Andes mountains of South America, these rodents are friendly pets for humans. Since they are small, they are also counted under pocket pets. They can live up to a minimum of 10 years but if taken good care of, they might live for more than 5-10 years.
There are two species of these rodents, Chinchilla chinchilla and Chinchilla lanigera. The former species have shorter tails and ears, thicker necks and shoulders than the latter ones. Both are covered with thick and soft furs for which they are hunted to the extent that they are considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Things to remember while purchasing chinchillas
If you are going to be a new pet owner, then you must consider these points when you go to rehome a pet for the first time.
- Make sure you have done good research and have enough knowledge about chinchillas.
- A four-month-old is believed to be an appropriate age to domesticate chinchillas.
- They are young at that time and can be trained to adjust to your family and the environmental settings.
- Chinchillas are generally active and energetic when they are awake.
- If you are looking for a calm chinchilla, then read their behavior carefully while buying.
- Initially, they might be shy but eventually, they'll get used to you.
- Look for chinchillas that are in good health with shiny fur and bright eye. Check that the chinchilla you are taking home doesn’t suffer from diarrhoea or any such problems.
- The breeder or shop owner from whom you are purchasing chinchilla should be able to clarify all your questions and help you in many ways.
- Chinchillas are social animals and they might suffer loneliness. So it is highly advisable to buy two of them. You can adopt both mother and the child, any other members of the same family or if you buy two chinchillas from different family then you’ll have a hard time creating a bond between both of them.
Rehoming two chinchillas from different families require some training to ensure both of them settle peacefully with each other. You will have to provide both of them with different rooms in different cages to give them their personal space.
Then gradually you may attach their beds and observe if they are good with that. When they start enjoying each other's company, then you may decide to put them together in one cage. It might take a little time to get these little pets to adjust to the environment but once they are fully settled, they will bring a lot of joy to your life.
Housing of Chinchillas
There are so many things that need to be taken care of to provide comfort to the new pets in your home.
Firstly, the room temperature
Chinchillas belong to hills and are used to chill environments. Moreover, their thick fur keeps them warm throughout their life. Therefore, it is not at all recommended to place them in hot temperatures.
The room temperature where the chinchillas will stay, must not exceed 80° Fahrenheit or 27° Celsius. Also, they should not be exposed to direct sunlight for a long time.
The cage of chinchillas
Chinchillas love to play most of the time and hence, spacious and tall cages with ladders, platforms, and shelves will be required for them to move and play freely.
A wire cage is mostly preferred because they would chew anything that they get. Wire floor is good for cleaning but it might hurt the feet of chinchillas so it is advised to cover them with wood. Bedding should also be of good quality. Any type of soft shredded paper will do good for chinchillas beds. A nest box made of wood should also be provided.
You can also place hay in cages. A wheelchair of 15 inches in diameter with ball bearings should also be made available for them to exercise.
Other than these, you may provide them with appropriate toys to play such as blocks of wood that will keep them engaged as well as satisfy their teeth.
Make sure you clean and disinfect the cage frequently. Change their bedding weekly and keep their surroundings as neat as possible. Remember to keep the cage in a peaceful area of your home since chinchillas sleep mostly during the day. Feed them timely and avoid any changes in their routine. It might upset them.
Chinchillas should never be bathed in water. These rodents take a dust bath that cleans their fur and keeps them shiny. Dust suitable for chinchillas is readily available at pet shops. It should be deep for chinchillas to take full advantage of the bath. They can bathe twice a week for 15-20 minutes. Change the dust frequently.
What to Feed Chinchillas
A diet full of fiber, proteins, and vitamins is recommended for chinchillas. There are many chinchillas food available at the market. Pellet food can be given considering that chinchillas are picky eaters, they’ll eat whatever they like in mixes and leave the rest that may lead to poor health conditions. Supply them with fresh green hay and chlorine-free drinking water regularly.
A fresh slice of vegetables can also be given to chinchillas but should not exceed 10℅ of the diet. Chopped carrots can be used as treats but since they are high in sweet, they should be given very often. Their favorite treats include raisins and sultanas.
Behavior of Chinchillas
Chinchillas are very enthusiastic animals. They hop, jump, run around, climb up and keep playing all the time. They are nocturnal which makes them active during the night while they prefer to rest in the daytime.
Well-socialized chinchillas are open to cuddling and being carried but the young chinchillas might not like to be touched frequently though they can change this nature overtime when they will be able to trust you fully. Till then, they show their gestures in different ways. They might just sit on your shoulder, play around you or just sit and stare at you.
They enjoy chewing anything they find. You'll have to ensure that they don't end up chewing electrical wires or any such dangerous things in your house. Provided that they are active players, make sure you alter the things in your house to provide them with a safe environment to play.
Health conditions of chinchillas
Just like us, these little furry creatures also need to be taken for regular health checkups. Chinchillas might fall sick, lose weight, overgrow teeth, suffer from diarrhea, become lazy, have breathing problems, and many more. If you witness any of these symptoms, you must immediately take them to the vet.
Over time, pets become a part of your family. An unconditional and boundless relationship is formed between both. It takes time but if you be patient and gentle with them, you will surely win their hearts.