Skip to content
Best Exotic Pets

Chinchilla

Chinchilla exotic pets

Choosing a Chinchilla: What You Need to Know

With a fur coat that feels like velvet, a chinchilla is the star of the rodent runway. It’s easy to see that there’s no competition in the style department: the chinchilla is the best-dressed animal around.  In fact, the chinchilla has the densest fur of any land mammal. But if you’re exploring the possibilities of having a chinchilla as a pet, you are definitely not thinking about fur coats. So you want to know if the chinchilla is good to have as a pet, one that will bring you delight for years to come and you’re eager to learn what you need to do to make sure that you provide the perfect home for your new pet.

You’ve noticed that chinchillas are just so adorable that you can’t resist the thought of having one for your very own.  As is the case when deciding on a pet, it’s important to know more about these creatures; it’s not like having a dog or cat. Instead, because a chinchilla is defenseless, it’s entirely dependent upon its human.  They’re intelligent and they interact with people, but there are certain guidelines that must be followed if you’re going to keep your chinchilla happy and healthy for a long time to come. There’s a lot to know about having a chinchilla as a pet, and after your questions are answered, you’ll be ready to take care of the new furry addition to your household.

Is A Chinchilla Good To Have As A Pet?

Chinchillas actually have some features that make them more desirable than traditional house pet. For one thing, because they don’t have sweat glands, they don’t have an odor.  They’re peaceful in nature (although if they are alarmed or sense danger, be warned because they do have sharp teeth!)  Chinchillas have a dense undercoat that keeps away the fleas and mites.  They’re sociable and they interact with people. After a rough day, petting your chinchilla and enjoying the texture of that soft, velvety fur against your hand is a great way to relieve stress. They do require special care and it’s important to make sure that they don’t get overheated. But once you’ve made the decision that a chinchilla is a pet for you, you can learn more about the things you need to do to provide a healthy, safe environment for your pet.

What Is A chinchilla’s Lifespan?

You might be surprised to learn that for such a small animal, the chinchilla’s lifespan can be from 15-25 years! In some ways, that depends on the care and affection that they receive.  If you provide proper care, then you can look forward to having your chinchilla for a long time.

chinchilla - exotic pet

How To Choose The Right Chinchilla Cage?

Because a chinchilla can jump as high as six feet—that’s right, your little chin is a regular Olympian when it comes to altitude—you might want to consider a multi-tier cage. If your pet is excited, he’s going to jump even more, so a large cage that allows for those high-flying acrobatics is a good idea. Now, if your pet is still a baby, she won’t need as much height, so a single-tier cage is best when the chinchilla is young.

A couple of sheets of newspaper can be placed at the bottom of the chinchilla cages and should be changed every day. But if you opt to use litter instead, make sure that you don’t use red cedar litter, which contains toxic ingredients.  Pine sawdust is best. Whatever litter you use, be sure to change it daily.

What Are The Advantages Of A Large Chinchilla Cage?

A large cage gives the chinchilla lots of room in which to play. Remember that chinchillas are very active. They love to scurry around their cages, exploring every nook and cranny.  Multi-level cages offer even more space for exploration.  A cage that has a large bottom pan that keeps the bedding inside will keep the living area tidier while allowing ample space for your pet’s activities.

Choosing a Chinchilla Exercise Wheel

For instance, you’ll want to include the right chinchilla exercise wheel for your exotic animal, because your chinchilla is not a sedentary pet. The dimensions of the cage should be at least 24 cm wide and 18 cm high at a minimum because a large chinchilla cage provides the space not only for your pet but also for the accessories that will keep your chinchilla from being bored. He loves to move and jump around, and exercising keeps her from getting bored.  A 16-inch chinchilla wheel will be the perfect size for your pet. Make sure that the chinchilla wheel is made of a material that’s safe, preferably metal, possibly wood, but never plastic.  Chinchillas are chewers and it won’t be long before they manage to chew through a wooden or a plastic wheel. Naturally, a chinchilla will try to chew a metal wheel, but he’ll quickly realize that metal won’t work for his chewing and he’ll give it up.  Plastic won’t be able to withstand a chinchilla’s chewing; that’s not only going to destroy the wheel, but it can also damage the chinchilla’s stomach lining, so avoid a plastic wheel. The chinchilla exercise wheel needs to be completely solid; that’s so that your chinchilla doesn’t fall through a hole or get its leg stuck.

But what do you do if your pet isn’t paying any attention to its nice, new chinchilla exercise wheel?  Don’t panic; your pet isn’t going to turn into a cage potato; chinchillas are naturally active.  Try putting a small amount of its dust on the wheel so that your pet will be enticed into getting on the wheel. Once she discovers that the wheel moves, she’s going to be delighted.  You can put a treat on the wheel, and slowly begin to turn it. Your chinchilla will be tempted by the treat, jump on the wheel to get it, and the next thing you know, he’ll be running and sprinting, just like you want him to do.

What Exercise Wheel Accessories Should I choose?

Even though chinchillas don’t bathe in water, they do need to drink a lot of it, so a water bottle is an important accessory for your chinchilla cage. Chinchillas are at risk of becoming overheated, so two water bottles are recommended for keeping your pet in optimum hydrated health. This is also true because chinchillas are susceptible to getting kidney stones; making plenty of water available will flush out their kidneys and keep the stones from forming. Once again, avoid plastic when choosing a water bottle; in fact, glass is recommended.  A glass water bottle with a flat back hangs perfectly outside the cage.

Because a chinchilla should eat hay every day, you might want to include a hay rack as one of your chinchilla cage accessories. Recommended grass hay includes orchard grass and Timothy grass.  While you can use pressed cubes of hay, you should include loose hay as well. Hay provides added nutrients to the diet and it also keeps their teeth healthy.

Chinchillas sometimes like to play hide and seek, with the emphasis on hiding.  Having a hideout gives them a chance to relax, hide from view, and relieve stress. If you choose a ceramic hideout as one of your chinchilla accessories, you’re giving your pet a hiding place that stays cool. Remember that overheating is fatal for chinchillas, so ceramic helps with temperature control.

Do Chinchillas Like Hammocks?

They most certainly do! Chinchillas can use the hammock for hiding, climbing, playing, snuggling, and yes, even for sleeping.  Because chinchillas are so active, a hammock allows them to indulge in their playful habits as they explore their home and find new ways to amuse themselves. A chinchilla doesn’t need a bed to sleep in, but a hammock, that classic symbol of leisure, has a much more versatile purpose in a chinchilla cage.

What Is a Chinchilla Dust Bath?

The dust bath is a counterbalance to the naturally oily nature of a chinchilla’s skin. Chinchillas don’t bathe in water. In order to keep their fur clean, they like to roll around a few times a week in special dust made of pumice. If your chinchilla was back home in his native Andes, he’d be rolling around in volcanic dust in order to keep his fur clean and silky. Fortunately, your chinchilla pet doesn’t need to be near a volcano in order to maintain his fur health.  A chinchilla has as many as 60 hairs per follicle; compare that to the one hair per follicle of a human and you can see why a chinchilla needs a little extra care to stay clean. With that many hairs per follicle, clumping can be a problem, causing irritation to the skin. But with a sufficient number of chinchilla dust baths, your pet’s fur will stay clean and free of clumps.

The “dust bath tub” should be big enough so that the dust doesn’t end up all over the place; a foot long by six inches deep and wide is just right.  You can purchase a plastic container and that’ll work, although there are dedicated chinchilla bath houses that come with a spherical bottom and a top that’s shaped like a roof. You can also use a glass fishbowl. The advantage of a dedicated chinchilla dust bath house is that it often can be hooked up outside the cage. Also, the dust stays inside.

A chinchilla benefits from having a dust bath two or three times a week. More than that runs the risk of drying out her skin. You prepare the bath by filling the container two inches deep with the dust. Then put your pet inside the container.  The chinchilla will take it from there! He’ll roll around in it, and while he’s playing, he’s getting clean.

A chinchilla dust bath needs to be changed at least once per week. You’ll know the chinchilla dust bath is overdue for changing if you see the dust clumping or looking less than fresh.

What Is The Chinchilla Habitat?

The natural environment of a chinchilla is the Andes Mountains of South America.  There are two kinds of chinchillas:  short-tailed chinchillas live in northern Chile, northwestern Argentina, and southern Bolivia; long-tailed chinchillas live in northern Chile. However, the best chinchilla habitat when they’re a pet is to keep their cages in a room that’s not any more than 30 degrees Celsius, with circulating air. It’s very important to make sure that the chinchilla doesn’t overheat; overheating can be deadly. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death among chinchillas, so you’ll want to pay special attention to the temperature of the room or area where you keep your chinchilla.

chinchilla - exotic pet

What Color Is The Chinchilla?

The natural color of a chinchilla is a yellowish gray that allows them to blend in with their natural environment and stay safe from predators. However, over the past 80 years, the colors have diversified. As a result of breeding, there are even purple and sapphire blue chinchillas. You can also find beige, black velvet, and white chinchillas. A mosaic chinchilla is white, with another coloring such as gray or silver in their fur.  It may have spots or tipping in its fur.  As you can imagine, the range of colors that is possible through cross-breeding means that there are more than 200 variations of colors for chinchillas.

What Do Chinchillas Eat?

The chinchilla has a delicate digestive system. They can eat certain fruits like apples, dried apricots, and raisins, but they’re better off if their diet consists of granules that are designed for chinchillas.  They need to eat hay every day. The health benefits of hay for a chinchilla’s diet are amazing! Because chinchillas have overgrown teeth that would continue to grow throughout their lives, they need the hay to keep their teeth trimmed. Also, eating hay keeps them from becoming overweight or getting diarrhea.

Finding a Chinchilla Vet Near Me

Whether you buy your chinchilla from a breeder or a pet store, ask them to refer you to a vet that’s nearby.  It’s likely that they already have built up a relationship with a local vet who treats chinchillas, so they’ll be able to give you a recommendation.

You can also go online to search for a vet who treats small animals. Chinchilla forums will give you valuable insights and information into selecting the right vet. When you find a vet, don’t be afraid to ask them about their professional experience in treating chinchillas. Will the vet know how to recognize and treat tooth root impaction, a condition where the teeth grow into the chinchilla’s jaw?  The condition is easy to treat if it’s caught early so you want to make sure that the vet you choose will know what to do. Since you’ll be taking your cute exotic pet to the vet annually to have your pet weighed, you can take the opportunity to stay ahead of any potential problems.

Some signs of illness that you need to be alert for in your chinchilla include drooling, balding, difficulty eating, facial discharge, panting, and mucus on the droppings.  If your chinchilla is unconscious or has been in too much heat, take your pet to an animal hospital.

Chinchilla Bedding

The purpose of chinchilla bedding is to absorb the urine and keep the odor and mess to a minimum.  But because chinchillas have sensitive feet, the bedding needs to be soft.  Paper shavings and Aspen shavings are a couple of good options. However, be aware that pine shavings can cut your chinchilla’s feed, and cedar shavings are also to be avoided.

What to Look For in a Chinchilla Carrier

When you’re taking your chinchilla to the vet, or with you on a trip, you’ll need to make sure that your exotic animal is contained within a comfortable carrier that’s the right size. That means that the carrier is roomy enough to allow the small pet to move around, but not so large that your pet is at risk of being injured because it has enough room to jump around.  Ventilation is important so that the chinchilla can have enough air and will be comfortable; remember that chinchillas are at risk if they’re overheated.  Your best option for a chinchilla carrier might even be a cat carrier or a carrier for a small pet.

Keeping a Comfortable Temperature For Your Chinchilla

Overheating is the number one health risk for chinchillas, so you’re going to want to find a cool location without humidity in order to keep your pet in the best health. Your chinchilla is not an animal who handles the heat well. They should be in a room where the temperature is kept below 65 degrees, with less than 55% humidity. You can maintain control over the heat and humidity by purchasing a 2-in-1 hygrometer; they cost around $10, so for a minimum investment, you’re providing maximum comfort and house-health for your chinchilla.
Now that you’ve learned how to keep your chinchilla happy and healthy, you can look forward to many years with your best exotic pets.