Chinchillas are unique in the rodent and small animal world. They look like a cross between a rabbit and a squirrel, have many features common on other rodents, and it’s hard for anyone to deny they are cute little animals.
They are not as immediately friendly and sociable as some other rodents, like fancy rats or mice for example. But with the correct training and some patients, chinchillas can become very loving and loyal. They will never become lap pets though, they do not like to stay stationary for long unless it is somewhere they have chosen themselves, making them a little bit stubborn but we must respect their freewill.
Chinchillas cannot be toilet trained as you can other small cage animals like a gerbil, hamster, guinea pig, ferret or rat. They will not choose an area of their cage as a toilet area. For this reason chinchilla cages often come with a pull out tray as the base, this makes it quick and easy to change the bedding.
You cannot train a chinchilla to respond to certain commands, such as ‘roll’, or ‘sit’ for example. They are stubborn when it comes to making them do as you wish, but this does not take away from how cute and endearing they are!
So, regarding the kind of temperament you are looking for in your pet, if you are looking for an obedient, trick learning companion to watch TV with, chinchillas are probably not for you. However, if you want a lovable, soft, loyal, cute pet, you can’t go wrong with chinchillas. It’s fun and entertaining to watch them jump around in their cages, they are incredibly agile and nimble, and are soft to stroke.
Chinchillas need a special diet, this is provided in a formulated pellets making it easy to inexpensive to keep them well fed. There are a few different brands to choose from, while there is not much difference between them sometimes a fussy chinchilla will prefer one over the other, so it is best to try a couple of different brands out if you can.
You should also make hay available to them in their cage too, they will not eat this quickly like food but rather graze on it. Hay is good for their digestive system and also helps maintain their teeth length.
Any extra foods outside of the pellets and hay should be given on rare occasions as treats. Their digestive system does not deal well with fatty foods or too much sugar.
It is nice to treat pets to tasty treats sometimes, and chinchillas love treats as much as any pet. You do need to be very reserved in the amount of treats you hand out though, chinchillas have delicate digestive systems and too much sugary or fatty food is bad for their health. Like a lot of rodents chinchillas cannot vomit or expel gas, so any foods that will cause a build up of gas can be fatal.
As for what makes the best treats, small piece of dried fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, apple and papaya are favourites, along with different seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. Alternatively there are quite a few options available ready made from pet stores, try and buy a small bag at first to make sure your chinchillas like it.
When looking for a cage to house your chinchillas you need a cage that is much taller than it is wide. In their natural environment in the wild chinchillas live happily in large colonies high up in the mountains, they enjoy having plenty of space to jump and climb. You should have at least two floors in the cage and a couple of ledges and accessories for them to climb on.
When it comes to suitable bedding, as with all rodents, never use pine or cedar wood shavings as this can be damaging to their health. Chinchillas are very sensitive to chemicals and strong odours, so be sure to use soft wood shavings that are safe for rodents and small animals.
You should clean out the cage once a week, checking mid-week for any damp areas that need scooping out to avoid any mould stating. Wipe down any surfaces and accessories with a safe disinfectant and place them back in, feel free to place items in a different position than before. Chinchillas are not animals that rely on familiarities, changing up the items they use to climb on can make things a little more interesting for them.
As mentioned earlier in the article chinchillas are not the most social of the rodents to humans, they are however a lot more social towards each other. They do not like being alone in a cage and can suffer if they are lonely. Keeping a pair is not much more work than keeping a lone chinchilla, they will be much happier and provide each other with endless fun.
Chinchillas are inherent chewers, their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives so they are always looking for something to chew on and grind down their teeth a little. You need to provide them with something to safe to chew on in their cage. Wood blocks or pumice stones are the typical choice, you can buy lots of suitable items from the bird section of a pet store.
If you want your chinchillas to have a happy healthy life you should avoid exposing them to any forms of stress, like; loud noises, strong odours and sudden surprises. If you are going to be spraying aerosols, or using hair dryers and hoovers in the same room as their cage, move their cage out the room to avoid stressing them while you are using any of these items.
Overall chinchillas make great pets for people of all ages and the small amount of work needed is more than worth it. There are plenty of owners support groups online if you want to make some friends or compare information regarding their care.