Looking After Pet Chinchillas

Chinchillas were originally bred and kept for their fur, but due to being relatively low maintenance and having a cute appearance and affectionate personality, they are now becoming popular household pets. Chinchillas are easy to look after when you know the basics, we will cover most of what you need to know in this article. So whether you already own chinchillas or are thinking about owning some, there should be some useful information in this article for you.

What does a chinchilla need?

Food

The staple of a chinchilla’s diet is made up from pellets and food mixes that can be easily bought from pet stores. Chinchillas need a high fibre, low fat, and low sugar diet. This is easiest obtained through pre-made food mixes designed especially for them. There is a range of other foods you can feed them to give them a more varied diet, hay for example is recommended as it is good for them and gives them something to chew on.

Treats

Everyone loves giving their pets treats, right? Chinchillas do have a sweet tooth and enjoy a lot of different treats, however, you need to be careful as too much sugar can cause health problems. If you are trying to train or tame a chinchilla, offer some small pieces of carrot or apple as rewards/treats.

Water

You should always have fresh water available, a water bottle attached to the cage does the job.

Sand/dust

One of the most unique and endearing features of a chinchilla is its marvellous, soft coat of fur. In a slightly unconventional fashion they keep their coats in top condition by taking dust baths. It is important you buy proper chinchilla dust/sand from a pet store, this way you know there is no chance of them damaging their fur. You will also need to buy a chinchilla bath house, this is just a small enclosed box where they can roll around in the dust.

Two or three times a week put the bath house in their cage already prepared with some dust. Your chinchilla will instinctively use it when it is ready. You will see them kicking the feet and rolling happily around, this works the sand through their fur removing excess grease or oils. Remove the dust bath after it has been used, you can reuse the dust if you pass it through a sieve to keep it clean.

Toys/Accessories

Chinchillas are nocturnal animals, so while you may not see them doing much during the day they will be active while you sleep. They are agile animals that enjoy exercising and exploring, so adding some accessories into their cage that allow them to climb, jump, and investigate will benefit them.

As for chewing toys, cardboard tubes or boxes will be greatly appreciated. Alternatively you can buy specific woven hay chewing toys from pet stores.

Bedding

Unlike a lot of other rodents, chinchillas do not gather materials and make nests for themselves. This is probably because they have such a dense and warm coat of fur. So you do not need to provide a small box/housed area where they can nest in some shredded paper/materials, instead you just need to provide a layer of wood shavings across their cage floor.

Socialising

Chinchillas are very sociable animals, it is always recommended you have more than one so they have company all of the time. It is not always easy to introduce chinchillas once they are adults, so buying a pair that already lives together, or bringing up siblings is your best option. Also spending as much time as you can interacting with your chinchillas is time well spent. They are very responsive to owners spending time with them, you will strengthen your bond and help them feel a lot more comfortable in their cage.

Types of Cages

Wire cages

Dating back to when chinchillas were kept and bred for their fur they were kept in wire cages. The design of this cage made it into pet stores and is still sold today. It is a simple mesh box, with a pull out tray under the mesh floor to make cleaning out droppings easy. There are usually one or two wooden shelves inside for the chinchillas to rest on, and a flat surface for a food bowl.

The main advantages of these cages being that they are easy to clean, and inexpensive to buy. Also, chinchillas have a tendency to chew through cages with some plastic construction, it’s very hard for them to damage the wire cages.

The disadvantages of these old style wire cages being that they look rather dull, and are a bit boring and restricting for active chinchillas. You can customise some adjustments, but with a wide range of modern cages available it is often easier to buy a more interesting readymade cage.

Modern cages

Modern cages come ready prepared in a range of different materials and designs. You can buy a cage fully prepared with lots of different ledges and exercise accessories. It is advisable to buy as large a cage as you can afford and accommodate. This will give your chinchillas maximum exercise space, also buying a cage with a removable tray under the floor makes cleaning out a lot quicker and easier.

So, are chinchillas for you?

Chinchillas make for interesting pets, they can become very tame and friendly when they are familiar with their owners. Although they look very cuddly and have very soft fur they are not often willing to spend much time being fussed. They prefer to be actively exploring, or if stationary usually relaxing alone.

If you are taking chinchillas on as pets you should also be aware that they can live up to 20 years old. This is quite a commitment for a rodent, and something often overlooked at first by new owners. You should also be prepared for a lot of noise overnight, they tend to be fairly loud when jumping around their cage or scratching at things.

If you think that you can provide all of the essentials outlined above, are willing to put in the time and commitment, and are sure that chinchillas are for you. Take a look through the ad section here on Pets4Homes, or talk to your local pet store and see what there is available.


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