Caring for your Chinchilla
Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains of Chile in South America. They are medium-sized rodents with a peaceful, friendly nature that makes them ideal pets. They are active in the evening but are not purely nocturnal.
An adult chinchilla will measure about 25 cm long, excluding the tail.
The average lifespan of a chinchilla is 10-15 years.
Choosing & Buying your Chinchilla
There are many colours available such as light/medium grey, beige, black velvet, mosaic, silver and white.
Whichever variety you decide on, your chinchilla should be at least 8 weeks old but preferably 12 weeks of age when you bring them home.
A healthy chinchilla should be:
• Bright and alert
• Have no signs of discharge from eye, ears, mouth and nose
• Have a clean anal area
• Have a glossy coat with no bald patches and have no sores on the skin
• Should have no signs of breathing problems
• Should move around the cage easily
Housing your Chinchilla
Male and female chinchillas may be kept singly but if you wish to keep a pair they must be the same sex. They should be purchased as babies and introduced to their accommodation at the same time, otherwise they may fight. Accommodation should be as large as possible and be escape-proof.
Ideally the cage should be of wire-mesh construction with a raised wire-mesh floor to prevent the coat from becoming soiled. A removable litter tray placed under the floor will make it easier to keep the cage clean. This can be covered with shavings or cat litter.
Chinchillas love to climb and the ideal cage will have different levels allowing them to climb and keep them entertained.
The cage should be kept out of direct sunlight, out of the way of draughts and should not be in a damp area. Chinchillas will start to suffer if the environment temperature rises above 20°C, however they can tolerate the cold within reason.
A nest box with some hay bedding should be provided.
A chinchilla enclosure must be furnished with an interesting selection of natural non-toxic wood branches, shelves, pipes, and gnaw blocks of cuttlefish or mineral stone. Chinchillas become bored easily so it is worthwhile changing or moving cage contents on a regular basis.
Feeding your Chinchilla
Your chinchilla should be fed on a diet of specially prepared chinchilla pellets, which are long enough to allow your chinchilla to sit up and hold the pellet between its front legs.
It is also important to provide good quality hay ad lib to provide essential roughage.
A few raisins, dried fruit or a small piece of bread can be given as a treat, but only in small amounts fed occasionally. Any changes to the diet must be made gradually. Fresh water should be provided daily in a chew proof gravity feed water bottle.
Handling your Chinchilla
Chinchillas do not respond kindly to rough handling, but if approached correctly they will respond to gentle handling and rarely bite.
To allow your chinchilla to get used to being handled, first just place your hand into the cage and your chinchilla will then get used to you. Gently pick up your chinchilla with the whole body supported, by placing one hand placed behind the shoulders and the other hand underneath your chinchilla. Hold your chinchilla close to your chest with one hand holding the base of the tail gently but firmly.
Chinchillas can be allowed out into a chinchilla-safe room. Be mindful that they like to climb. Make sure that toilet doors are closed as they drown easily.
You should check your chinchilla regularly for overgrown teeth and nails. If you are worried about your chinchillas teeth or nails being overgrown, do not hesitate to contact City Vet on 061-419760.
Chinchillas have the densest coat of any land mammal with 60 hairs from a single root. To keep the coat in peak condition they should be supplied with a dust bath.
The dust should be filled to a depth of 5cm with chinchilla sand. The bath should be placed in the cage for 10 minutes each day while your chinchilla is awake. Your chinchilla will roll in the dust bath to clean his coat.
As a rule chinchillas are hardy animals that rarely become ill. Should you be concerned about your chinchilla’s health please do not hesitate to contact City Vet on 061-419760.
Grooming not only helps to keep your chinchilla healthy and clean but helps you to bond with your pet. Your chinchilla should be groomed at least once a week. Your pet shop will advise you on different types of brushing when buying your grooming utensils.