In the wild chinchillas live in large colonies, often with literally dozens of other chinchillas to interact and socialise with daily. If you are buying chinchillas it is strongly recommended that you have at least two, this enables them to interact with each other. If you do have just one for whatever reason, be prepared to spend a lot of time interacting with the chinchilla yourself. They can become very sad and lonely on their own and make crying, or whining noises.
Chinchillas look a little round in build, and you will be forgiven for thinking they are not agile creatures. In fact, chinchillas can jump almost 2 meters high and require a lot of space to run and jump around. If chinchillas are kept in spaces too small for their needs they will become unhappy and potentially ill.
A chinchilla cage should ideally have more than one floor, be very spacious, and have different apparatus for them to jump, climb and swing on. It’s advisable to take them out of their cage sometimes to get some exercise, but not everyone is comfortable with this. So make sure you have the largest cage you can accommodate.
It is not unusual for people to let their chinchillas run around their home to get some exercise and freedom. If you do this I recommend you never take your eyes off them as they have a tendency to chew wires, plants, and most other things they will come across.
Chinchillas have sensitive hearing, so providing a peaceful and quiet surrounding will make them much happier. Don’t have their cage in the main TV room, and if possible move them somewhere else while you hoover the room. Exposing them to constant loud noises will increase their stress levels and potentially make them ill.
You need to take care with the diet you feed your chinchilla. They have sensitive stomachs and require high quality nutrition. Most of their diet will consist of hay and pellets, these are easily obtained from any pet store and will provide most of the fibre and nutrients they require.
In the wild chinchillas have adapted to eating a diet high in roughage and vegetation. They are not accustom to eating fatty foods, feeding them rich foods can give them some serious digestive problems.
Loose food mixes are designed to give your chinchilla all the nutrients they need to form a balanced diet, keep an eye on them as they are prone to picking out certain bits of food they prefer more. If this is happening you should switch up to pellet food. This is a good way to deliver all the food content in bite size pellets so your chinchilla will eat it all.
Chinchillas live in very dry environments in the wild and have adapted not to need much water. You do not need to panic if you have not seen your chinchilla drink any water for a day or two, you do need to keep a bottle of fresh water available at all times however.
Make sure you sterilise the water bottle once a month to keep on top of any bacteria that may be building up, otherwise this can be dangerous to chinchillas.
Chinchillas’ teeth never stop growing so you will need to provide some wood or a pumice stone to help them trim their teeth. Failing to provide a way for them to maintain their teeth can result in some serious health issues, the teeth will grow into the insides of their mouths causing great discomfort.
If you already own or have owned one or more chinchillas you will know how soft their fur is. If you have never touched a chinchilla, you are in for a treat when you do. Their coats are very dense and incredibly soft to touch. Ideally you should comb your chinchilla with a pet brush once or so week. They are usually always accepting of this, and it is a good way to strengthen the bond you have with your pet.
Trying to bath a chinchilla in water will do damage to its coat. Chinchillas bath in dust/sand, you can buy the sand and a dust bath from a pet store and keep it in their cage. The chinchilla will instinctively know what it needs to do, and if you have not seen it before you are in for a treat. They literally roll around throwing dust everywhere, giving their coat a clean in the process.
Chinchillas like to keep their living space clean when it comes to choosing where to make a toilet. They tend to choose an area with some soft materials, you will have noticed this if you let them loose around the house – they nearly always pee on a nice soft carpet or rug. In their cage you can make an area with some soft hay in, there is a good chance they will use this as a toilet area. Clean it out as often as needed and you will establish a good routine, with a happy chinchilla.
Deciding to own chinchillas is not a decision to make on a whim. While they are not particularly difficult or demanding pets they do require daily attention if possible, and the more attention you give them the better your bond will be. As mentioned earlier, it is much more beneficial to chinchillas to have at least one cage-mate, having only one on its own is not advisable.
If you dedicate time and attention to your chinchillas you notice they will recognise you, and even come over to the front of the cage when you call them. Brushing their fur regularly will help them to become a lot more familiar with being handled, and they will happily sit on your lap while you watch TV.
Chinchillas have a lot of love to offer back to the right owners, they are loyal, affectionate and interested pets. It is easy to see why they become more popular every year in the UK and are gaining a lot more recognition.