4 minutes reading time (736 words)

Chinchillas as pets - Part 1

Chinchillas are gaining in popularity as pets across the globe, and while most chinchilla owners are responsible and educated about their pets, there are some who are sadly lacking in knowledge about these sweet, wonderful creatures. Ignorance of their special needs can result in the injury or death of the animals. With this two-part article, I hope to keep that from happening to someone's beloved companion. Part One will address the selection of a chinchilla as a pet, and how to prepare his new home; Part Two will cover important feeding and health issues.

chinchillas short tailed chinchillaDescription

: Chinchillas are some of the cutest little animals to be found. They are most commonly gray, with more and more color mutations becoming available, such as violet, ebony, sapphire, mosaic, and so many more. At first, they are odd to look at, as they do not really "fit" into any category of animal, but their little faces and big ears are quite pleasing, and their size is easy to manage. They look a bit like a rabbit/squirrel cross, and they are usually roundish and plump, with thick, smooth fur. They are long-lived, as long as twenty years or more.


A chinchilla who has been raised with gentleness and love is a sweet, pleasing little creature. He will learn to call to his human companions and beg for a treat, or to be let out of his cage. Chinchillas may fight with other chinchillas, however, so it is important to introduce two chins and observe their behavior before allowing them to live together unsupervised.


I would recommend locating a reputable breeder to buy a chinchilla from, not a pet store. You cannot know where a pet store chin comes from or what the state of his health may be, and you could wind up with a very sick animal, especially since most pet stores do not provide proper or adequate housing and diet for their stock animals. A breeder will also be able to provide you with helpful information about the care of your new pet.


: Chinchillas should not be kept in 99 percent of the commercially available cages marketed as "chinchilla cages." They are unsafe and far too small for an active chinchilla. Chins love to jump and climb, and they require a large amount of space in which to do that. A cage that is large enough to simply hold the chinchilla is too small for it to remain healthy. Invest instead in one of the many high-quality cages sold by such companies as Quality Cage or Martin's, or you can even build your own chinchilla paradise. It's not hard, if you or someone you know has a little woodworking skill.

Your cage should include shelves at several levels for the chins to jump onto, but no ladders are needed, and can cause injury. A chin should have at least one house in his cage to sleep and hide in. If it is made of wood, he will chew it, so it will need to be replaced from time to time.

No part of your cage that can be reached by curious chinnie teeth should be made of plastic. Plastic will be chewed, and if ingested, can cause injury or death.

Provide a soft hammock for your chin to cuddle in, and plenty of applewood sticks, cholla wood blocks, and other inexpensive chew toys. As with all rodents, chinchilla teeth grow continuously, and need to be worn down. Chew toys will help to keep their teeth in good shape.

Also provide your chin with a large running wheel. Chins love to run, and it helps to keep them fit and prevent boredom.

There are many ways to customize your pet's habitat with toys, wheels, places to hide, etc. Use your imagination, but make sure everything you give your pet is safe for him.


Chinchilla cages should be  bedded with pine or aspen shavings. Cedar contains oils and chemicals which can kill a chinchilla, and recycled newspaper bedding can be ingested and cause internal impaction.

Bedding must be kept clean and fresh. Chinchillas produce a large quantity of tiny feces, which accumulate quickly. Their bedding should be changed every couple of days, and their cage and toys sanitized regularly, and replaced as needed.

Look for Part Two of this article, where you will learn how best to care for your new pet once you get him home.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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