Hailing from South America, primarily the country of Chile where they can be found living in the Andrean mountains, Chinchillas are adorable and active creatures. Hunted for their fur, the wild chinchilla is now critically endangered. However, without being hunted, these creatures usually live for 12 years, though some have been known to live up to 20, which means that for a pet they require a lot of commitment. But if you’re willing to invest the time, you will be blessed with a long term companion.
Due to their nocturnal lifestyle and because they require a quiet environment during the day, they’re the ideal pet for people who are more active in the evenings or are more active during the night.
Taking care of a Chinchilla
The larger and taller the cage the better as Chinchillas are quite active. A cage with a minimum floor space of 24 by 24 inches is ideal. You should provide a wooden nest box for your chinchilla to hide/sleep in, and runs or ramps to climb up to different levels of the cage. A wire cage is the most suitable with very little plastic as they will chew through this. Wood shavings or newspaper should be placed on the floor of the cage. A water bottle can be attached to cage for drinking from and a heavy ceramic food dish for the nuggets.
Blocks of wood, tree branches ( free from pesticide) and some wooden toys are suitable for chewing and playing.
Chinchillas are fibrevores, which means it’s absolutely necessary that they have a lot of fibre in their diet. This is provided by feeding a constant supply of good quality hay/ herbage, high fibre nuggets and fresh water. A chinchilla’s digestive tract is extremely sensitive, so greens should be kept to a minimum. Good greens would be broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, and peppers. Treat foods should be low in sugar, such as apples, pears or berries but in very small quantities. Raisins can be given in strict moderation to avoid GIT upsets, obesity and dental issues.
Provide a sand bath for your chinchilla once or twice a week. This should be special sand for your chinchilla, not ordinary sand. The bath should only be left in the cage for half an hour or so and then removed.
The bottom of the cage should be cleaned daily and food dish washed.
Chinchillas are fairly quiet, gentle animals that require very little care. They like to be held close to the body, one hand gently under the chest, the other supporting the hind end. Be careful not to grab the fur as this signifies an attack and Chinchillas instinctively defend themselves by throwing off hair. So if a predator tried to bite a chinchilla, it would release hair leaving the attacker with a mouthful of fur to allow the chinchilla to escape!