Chinchillas are members of the rodent family, found in the snowy Andes Mountains in South America. They are nocturnal by nature but easily adapt to any play or feeding time. They weigh 1 to 2lb full grown and can live up to 15 years in captivity.
Chinchillas are mainly herbivores. A good diet should consist of mostly high quality hay (such as Timothy hay), commercial chinchilla pellets and fresh veggies given as treats. Different animals have different taste preferences but corn (still on the cob), sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli are generally liked. They should be provided fresh water from either a drinker bottle or water bowl.
Chinchillas should be housed in a large cage (usually wire that allows for better air circulation) with shelves and branches to climb on; a hidey-hole should also always be accessible. Solid wheels (not wire, they can get their toes stuck while running) provide a great source of exercise for your chinchilla. Chinchillas, like all rodents, have continuously growing incisors; providing them wooden blocks, bird toys, mineral stones, and willow balls allow them to maintain their dental health. Ensure that your chinchilla’s cage is kept somewhere cool and dry; chinchillas are prone to heat stroke at temperatures over 80oF. Chinchillas have thick fur and need special dust baths 3-4 times a week to maintain cleanliness. NEVER give your chinchilla a bath with water.
Chinchillas are very shy and can frighten easily. They have long memories; if something or someone frightens them, they often remember the event/object and will reject interaction until trust is regained. It is important to start slowly with new chinchillas and wait until they are comfortable in their new surroundings before picking them up. Never pick up or grab a chinchilla by the tail, the fur and skin on the tail will “shed,” this is called de-gloving and needs immediate veterinary attention.
Chinchillas, if provided with a proper diet and husbandry, are typically low maintenance animals; however, they can still suffer from some medical problems. Bites are common when introducing new chinchillas. It is important to only allow them supervised contact with one another and if a bite occurs, seek veterinary care. They can also suffer from bloat (GI upset), broken bones (especially their fragile hind legs), constipation or diarrhea, ringworm, and ear and eye infections. We recommend a yearly physical with your veterinarian to ensure your chinchillas health.