Are you ready for a chinchilla pet?
Chinchillas are part of the rodent family; they originated in South America, they are almost extinct because people hunt them for their coats, they can live in high elevations and like the slopes of the Andean Mountains in Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia.
Several hundred chinchillas can live together in a cave; these creatures are affectionate and curious, they like to cuddle and love to be held by their owners. Anyone considering getting a chinchilla as a pet should know these ten things about them.
1- Their Teeth Grow Continuously
The teeth of the chinchilla can grow between 2 and 3 inches each year. The upper and the lower teeth need a proper alignment. If the teeth are not aligned, they will not wear down correctly; this can cause the teeth to overgrow, if this happens, the chinchilla may cut their tongue, cheek or lips.
They can have trouble eat or stop eating to lose water; they can also paw at their face which can lead to infections, if the teeth become too large care from the vet is needed. To help make sure the teeth wear correctly, give the chinchilla untreated wooden objects to chew on.
2- Chinchillas Are Herbivores
A chinchilla needs a diet high in fiber, and they get this from grass hay. Until the chinchilla is nine months old, it can eat alfalfa in addition to nursing. When the chinchilla is an adult timothy hay is the best option. Alfalfa is too high in protein which can cause obesity and bladder stones. Chinchillas also need a tablespoon of commercial chinchillas’ pet food as well as fresh vegetables.
Low calcium greens such as lettuce and collars are good as well as a small number of apples and berries can be given to the chinchilla, if the chinchilla eats too many vegetables, they can get diarrhea. Please do not give the chinchilla sugary items such as dried fruit or yogurt drops and seeds which are high in fat can lead to gastrointestinal issues, they also need fresh water every day.
3- The Fur Is Very Dense
Chinchillas can have 60 hairs per each follicle, and their fur is thick which allows them to retain their body heat. The coat is the main reason why humans hunt them. The fur is soft which makes it nice to cuddle.
4- Dust Baths
In South America, the chinchillas will roll in volcanic ash to stay clean. Pets need a dust bath around three times a week; this will help remove oils. They should have a cardboard box that has three inches of dust in the bottom. There is a complete dust bath kit that you can purchase online or at any reputable pet store.
The chinchilla can roll for around 15 minutes and then the box should be cleaned; they also like to roll around in the dust. The dust should be changed every two to three weeks or when there are visible clumps.
5- They Release Fur To Escape From Predators
When the chinchilla is not handled correctly or if they are stressed, they will release their fur to escape; the skin is not damaged during this process. The hair will come back, but it can take several months. They should be handled with care, one hand should be under the body and another around the base of their tail. Do not grasp the chinchillas as they will release too much fur. If a restrained is needed their body should be wrapped in a towel.
6- Chinchillas Are Nocturnal
Chinchillas become active in the evening. They can adapt to the schedule of their human. They should be allowed quiet time during the day and allowed to sleep. There should be a wheel in their cage so they can exercise. They like to run at night so keep this in mind before getting a chinchilla as a pet.
7- They Live Long
If cared for properly a chinchilla can live for around ten years. Some have lived up to 20 years. A person should make sure they can care for it for this amount of time.
8- They Are Quick And Agile
They like to run and need space. Their tails allow them to have balance. The cage should be at least 4X4X3 and should have several levels so they can run and up around. They also need some hiding place. If you have more than one chinchilla, they need an even bigger space. If getting multiple chinchillas, they need to be raised together or they will fight. Unless they are neutered opposite sex, chinchillas will have many babies. The cage should be in a quiet area to reduce stress.
They love to chew, and wire mesh cages are better than wooden cages. Galvanized wire should be avoided since it contains zinc which is toxic when ingested. The mesh needs to be narrowed, so their feet do not get stuck in the bars. The floor of the cage should be covered with Plexiglas, so their feet do not get stuck. It is also easy to clean. Paper-based bedding should be put under the cage to absorb the urine and the feces. The bedding should be cleaned daily, and the cage about once a week.
Avoid wooden shavings as they can irritate the stomach if ingested. The chinchilla should be allowed out of the cage daily so they can get some exercise, but they need to be supervised. They may chew on electric cords and other dangerous items if they are not properly watched.
9- They Can Get Heatstroke
Chinchillas do not like warm weather. They do best where the temperature is under 68 degrees. They cannot stand temperatures above 80 degrees as they can get heatstroke, they will collapse, and they also cannot tolerate humidity.
This can be life-threatening, and they need to be taken to a vet for a freshwater bath and will need intravenous fluids. They should not be kept outdoors where there are extreme variations in temperature. If the temperature is too cold, they can get frostbite.
10- They Will Need Vet Care
The chinchilla will need yearly checkups for their teeth and weight, for this reason, you may want to also consider getting pet insurance. Older chinchillas may suffer from teeth impaction and need to be treated by the vet. It is essential to have the weight and teeth checked out every year. Chinchillas are loving companions, but they will need the care to stay healthy. If you are looking to get a chinchilla as a pet be sure to