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Chinchillas are very cute little creatures, always on the move, busy doing something and they do make great pets but they are not really suitable for children. The reason being Chinchillas are very small and extremely fragile little animals which means they have to be handled with care. If a Chinchilla is held too tightly they will retaliate and bite. All too often, children have a habit of holding a pet a little too enthusiastically which could be a real issue with this cute little rodents.
However, of all the rodents commonly kept as pets, Chinchillas do boast a few great qualities over others with the first being they don't have what can be an unpleasant rodent smell. The second being they boast long life spans and if well looked after can live a very long time.
Chinchillas also boast wonderfully soft fur and although they are always busy and extremely inquisitive little critters, they are pretty quiet. As a bonus, they are pretty low maintenance too. However, Chinchillas by nature are highly strung and they boast short attention spans. The other thing you need to keep an eye on is the temperature because these little rodents don't tolerate hot weather that well and the same can be said of high levels of humidity.
Chinchillas are native to South America where they live in the Andes. In their natural habitat they can be found in rock crevices which is why they don't tolerate temperatures that rise above 78 degrees F or where the humidity levels rise above 40%. Females are slightly bigger than their male counterparts and amazingly, these little rodents can live anything from 12 to 20 years which means taking them on as pets is a long-term commitment.
These cute creatures come in lots of colours but the most common one is silvery grey. However, Chinchillas can be beige, white, ebony and sapphire in colour too and their fur is supremely soft. The gestation period of Chinchillas is also very long being 111 days with babies being fully formed and ready "to go" when they are born – much like guinea pigs.
You should never buy a Chinchilla from a pet shop because there is no guarantee that you will be purchasing a healthy pet. Also, Chinchillas need to have been handled from an early age otherwise they are not that friendly and if anything a little timid and sometimes frightened of people. By far the best place to source your pets is to contact a reputable breeder who socialises and handles young stock well from an early age.
As with all animals, the earlier a Chinchilla is handled and socialised the nicer and friendlier they typically turn out. It is in the first month that their characters are formed so it is really important they are handled and petted during the first weeks of their lives or they end up being very skittish and can even turn aggressive. Chinchillas should be re-homed when they are around 10 weeks of age so they have been given the chance of being socialised and to spend the right amount of time with their litter mates and mothers – this really does help with their confidence around people but only as long as the breeder has taken great care to ensure they've been gently handled.
It's really important to ask about both parents and if either of them has suffered from any health issues. Other things to look at when buying a Chinchilla includes the following:
It's really important to create not only a safe environment for your pets, but one that is interesting for your Chinchillas to live in too. You also need to make sure the metal used on cages is safe and that no toxic lead paint has been used on them. It is far better to invest in a more expensive cage than cut corners and purchase a cheap imported one. You have to remember that one of the things that Chinchillas love doing, and which they do extremely well, is to chew on things – they are more than capable of chewing their way out if their cages are not robust enough to keep them in!
By adding lots of cardboard boxes in their environment, you will be adding loads of places for your Chinchillas to hide but they will also enjoy destroying these too which is something that keeps them nice and busy. You should also add a dust bath which you can fill with sand. However, you should avoid placing anything made out of plastic in their environment which includes toys because if your pets chew on them, they may ingest tiny pieces which could be disastrous.
The floor of their cage has to made out of a solid and robust material and should never be just wire. The reason being that wire is very uncomfortable for your pets to walk on and would end up causing foot issues which includes suffering from arthritis. You should never use cedar wood shavings in a Chinchilla's cage either because it contain toxic chemicals which are very harmful to these little creatures.
Adding a wheel to their environment adds more interest for your pets who will love using it and as a bonus, going around on the wheel will help keep your pets in good shape and condition!
It goes without saying that cages need to be kept as clean as possible, so ideally this means a thorough clean out every two days. Chinchillas tend to do their "business" in the same corner and the best way to clean these out is to use baking soda which works extremely well.
Although Chinchillas are fascinating little rodents, they are not the ideal choice for children to look after simply because they are so very fragile. The other thing to consider is their short attention span which means they are not that good at interacting with people for long periods of time. However, as family pets, these lovely little creatures are a lot of fun to have around and will keep you amused for hours with their silly antics. Chinchillas boast very long life spans which can be anything from 12 to 20 years which means sharing your home with them is a long-term but full of fun commitment.
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