What is a Chinchilla?
The chinchilla, introduced to the US in 1923, is a South American rodent with amazingly soft fur. Their habitat is the cool high desert areas of the Andes Mountains where they had plenty of crevices in which to burrow and hide. They are active, practically odorless, parasite-free, and require little housing.
The fur of a chinchilla is very soft, dense, plush, and silky, unmatched by any other animal. When stressed, or lacking proper levels of fiber in their diet chinchillas will tend to chew their fur. They could also release tufts of hair as a defense mechanism. Their natural color is an attractive blue-gray or silver. They come in other colors such as beige, black velvet, white, mosaic, charcoal, ebony, pastel, brown velvet, and violet. Chinchillas are small, gentle, curious animals. Weighing about one pound and 12 inches in length from tip of nose to tip of tail, they are easy to care for and simple to feed, making them an ideal family member for 10-15 years.
Chinchillas require a dry bath, ground lava rock; called chinchilla dust, this dust cleans the fur of oils, dirt, removes dead fur, and prevents mats. A “Dust Bath Bowl” is used with about 1 cup of dust in it, put into the Chinchilla’s cage for 10-15 minutes at a time 2-3 times per week. This makes for a healthy happy Chinchilla.
Supplies you will need:
Provide a "hide-a-way" in their cage for privacy and for undisturbed sleep during the day necessary for lowering stress. Pine boxes and/or tubes allow your pet a place to get away in private. Exercise wheels are available for chinchillas. Be sure to find at least a 12" diameter wheel (w/o center bar) or 15"(w/ center bar) for their safety. Many are made of wire mesh, but the best are solid metal or plastic runners. Always secure them to the cage, you'd be surprised at how fast they can run! Also, APDpet has necessary feed and water crocks available.
Chinchillas are herbivores, which means they eat only plant material and need to have something moving through their digestive systems at all times. Young, growing, and breeding chinchillas eat Alffy Guinea Pig & Chinchilla complete pellet ration daily along with alfalfa and timothy hay. An average adult chinchilla will transition nicely to the Timmy Guinea Pig & Chinchilla complete pellet ration and eat approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons per day.
Feed APD timothy hay daily with APD pellets, Alffy Alfalfa hay occasionally, and your pet will be very healthy and happy. Always have fresh water available in a bottle. Critter Be Better Digestive Health can be given when necessary to help keep the gut flora active.
Treats and Teething:
Chinchillas are rodents and have ever-growing teeth that need gnawing materials. Hard, safe objects to chew on can be wood blocks, apple fruit twigs, rodent chews, manzanita pieces, or pumice stones, as well as our Timbo Smaks Cube and American Pet Diner’s Cookie Smaks. Commercial toys and chews are practical and decorative, your chinchilla will never get bored. Fruits and vegetables can be given moderately. They include raisins, banana chips with no sugar, papaya, pineapple, dried cranberry, sunflower seeds pumpkin seeds, peanuts,(in the shell and unsalted). Fresh fruits and vegetables are good, but watch the water content. Too much of a good thing results in diarrhea and or constipation. Your pet's droppings (feces) are always a good indicator that you are not loving them to much. Sticking to a balanced diet will keep your pet healthy.
A multiple level, wire mesh cage is a good house for chinchillas. An average size for one to two animals is 18W X 24L X 24H. Shelving can be either wire mesh or a solid surface of wood or sheet metal. Use recycled paper bedding material, APDpet offers Green Dreamzzz Bedding, so please don’t ever use cedar or redwood as they are toxic. The bedding should be spot cleaned daily and be changed on a weekly basis. An outside water bottle, or APDpet Feeding and Watering Crocks, a bowl for pellets, hay rack, dust bowl, tube or box to sleep in and some toys should be the basics to keep your pet in a happy home.
Very important: chinchillas prefer cool - dry, well ventilated household climates of mid range temperatures of 55 - 75 degrees. Keep cages out of drafts and direct sunlight as excessive heat is deadly. 85 degrees and above will kill chinchillas.
A chinchilla is a clean, curious, shy, yet very agile animal that responds well to affection and a soft voice. They are not aggressive by nature and are very trusting to a slow steady hand. As with any animal, avoid sudden changes, loud noises, and be consistent. You both will enjoy daily playtime and achieve the pet you always wanted. As with any rodent, when you are not in the room with them put them in their cage for safety.