Keeping Chinchillas As Pets
Chinchillas: Attractive, sociable and highly
active animals, Chinchillas need plenty of space,
time and attention.
They originate from South America and can live for
more than 15 years - so choosing one as a pet is a
long-term commitment. For this reason they are
considered an unsuitable choice as a child’s pet.
They need at least an hour of daily exercise outside
their cage and are at their most active during the
evening and at night. Chinchillas can be kept singly
but are happiest in same-sex pairs or groups.
Chinchillas bred in captivity should be kept
indoors as they can’t withstand extremes of
temperature. An ideal cage size for a pair of
Chinchillas is approximately 85 x 100 x 40cm. You
may also consider adding a separate run in the
garden or allowing your pets some daily supervised
exercise outside their cage. Chinchillas love
climbing, so place platforms, ramps, and perches at
different heights inside their cage.
Your Chinchilla’s home should be kept out of
direct sunlight and away from draughts.
A bed should be provided for sleeping and
snoozing – a wooden box or a dark tube filled with
shredded paper is ideal. The cage should be cleaned
once a week - a small litter tray can be provided to
help maintain a hygienic environment for your
Chinchillas are natural herbivores, surviving on
fibrous, dry vegetation in the wild. A specially
prepared Chinchilla pellet food makes an ideal core
diet for your pet along with plenty of fresh hay.
Very small quantities of fresh vegetables may also
be given as an occasional treat – be careful as they
can cause stomach upsets. The hay supply should be
replenished each day and ensure fresh drinking water
is always available. Like all rodents, a
Chinchilla’s front teeth grow continuously, so
provide them with something to gnaw on – a fruit
tree branch is ideal. Raisins or sultanas are
perfect to offer as treats to your Chinchilla.
Looking after your Chinchillas
Exercise & Entertainment:
Most active during the evening and night,
Chinchillas like routine and should be given at
least one hour of daily exercise outside their cage.
Evening is the ideal time for this as your
Chinchilla will be at its most active. They enjoy
climbing and playing with toys but ensure they are
supervised – they like to explore everything with
their teeth first!
With patience, Chinchillas can become very tame.
Using raisins or sultanas as a treat, you can gently
encourage your pet to come closer. Stroking it under
the chin will help it feel at ease although do not
try to catch it straightaway. You can pick up a
Chinchilla by supporting its body in your hand
whilst gently restraining it at the base of the
tail. Never pick a Chinchilla up by the tail – this
can cause serious injury. If your Chinchilla sheds
fur, this means you are handling it too roughly.
Keeping Chinchillas is a long term commitment and
they can breed quickly given the right conditions.
You should therefore seek expert advice before
considering keeping a breeding pair and only if
you’re certain you can find good homes for the
Tips for a happy healthy Chinchilla
Chinchillas can be kept alone but like most rodents,
prefer the company of their own kind. Two or more
Chinchillas of the same sex should get on well. If
males and females are mixed, males should be
neutered to prevent breeding. To introduce a new
Chinchilla, place them in separate cages within
sight and smell of each other, placing their beds at
opposite ends (as far away as possible). Swap their
sand baths over daily so they get used to each
other’s scent. Gradually move the cages and beds
closer together and after a week or so, they should
be happy to share the same cage.
A Chinchilla must be provided with a sand bath for
daily grooming. This is essential for keeping its
dense, luxurious fur in good condition. Chinchilla
sand is available from most pet shops and the bath
should be about 25cm deep with plenty of room for
the Chinchilla to move around. The sand should be
changed about once a week.
As with all pets, if you are worried about any
aspect of your Chinchilla’s health, seek veterinary
advice. For a healthy life, your Chinchilla needs
- A good balanced diet with no sudden changes
- Clean dry housing, cleaned once a week with
a mild disinfectant
- No extreme or sudden changes in temperature
- Water bottle and feed bowls cleaned daily
- Gnawing block or fruit tree branch to help
wear their continually growing teeth
- Daily 20 minute sand bath
- At least one hour of daily exercise outside
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