Written by Dr. Clayton
Chinchillas are a member of the rodent family, and they originate from South America. Most pet chinchillas are farm-raised as they are nearly extinct in the wild. They are sought after as pets for their highly intelligent personality, cute little noses and velvety soft hair coats. They can make great pets in the right hands, but you need to do your research before making an impulse buy. Most people cannot offer them what they need for optimal health and longevity. Here are a few reasons you should think twice before getting one:
- They need a lot of exercise. They are nocturnal and therefore tend to make a lot of noise at night. They also require a large living space with multiple levels. A standard rabbit/rodent cage will not be sufficient.
- They are messy. Unlike rabbits, they are not easily litter trained and will poop everywhere. They also require regular dust bathing, which in itself is a messy activity.
- They are a long term commitment. They can often live into their early teen years.
- They are not recommended pets for children. They have brittle bones that break easily and can lose large clumps of hair if not handled properly.
- They are a prey species. They are often stressed with other predator type animals living in the house (i.e. dogs and cats).
If after reading this you still think you would like to have a pet chinchilla, here are some tips to keep them happy and healthy:
- They love junk food! Things like raisins and cheerios should only be given occasionally. Their diet should consist of hay, more hay, some leafy greens and more hay (avoid alfalfa).
- They should have a solid bottom cage bedded with hay, a good quality wheel to run on for exercise and things to chew on, including deer antlers or fruit tree branches (avoid maple).
- They naturally live in groups. They do best in same-sex groups of two to three. Females are likely to kill males, so they should not be housed together.
If you have any questions or concerns about having a chinchilla as a pet, contact us for help.