By Roderick Balgobin
Owning a pet chinchilla is a lot of fun! Chinchillas definitely come with their own personality, many of which are quite comical. Chinchillas are part of the rodent family and related to guinea pigs and porcupines. Physically they resemble rabbits, but with much shorter and rounder ears. They are typically most active during dawn and dusk periods, though they can be fairly active during the night. Chinchillas generally weigh 1.1 – 1.8lbs. Grey is the standard or most common color of fur, but now many breeders offer white, beige, black and even sapphire, although not very common.
Handle Carefully! Chinchillas need to be handled carefully and if squeezed too tightly, they will nip you in defense, so always best to supervise children with these pets.
Home Sweet Home
Chinchillas are considered a very low maintenance pet, which is great for new pet parents. When looking to add a chinchilla to your home make sure you take into consideration that a chinchilla needs a large cage to live in. Is there enough room for the chinchilla to exercise, in and outside their cage? A cage for a chinchilla should be at least 2 ft wide by 4 ft in length and 2 ft high. This will enable your pet to a have nice covered hiding space and they can still walk around if they want to.
Food For Thought
For feed, it’s best to use chinchilla kibble. Timothy Hay is also vital for chinchillas, it provides them with the fiber they need for optimum health and helps with their ever-growing teeth! Little Friends, Kaytee and Oxbow offer timothy hay in various sized packages from 24 ounces to 96 ounce bags.
In terms of treats, it’s best to stick to treats made for them, as too much sugar and fresh fruit or veggies can be dangerous. The best treat for a Chinchilla is dried rose hips which are high in Vitamin C. A chinchilla should have a sugar intake that is less than 5% of their diet. Depending on the age and activity of the chinchilla will determine how much or many treats they should have, but in general treats are best a few (3-4) times a week, depending on sugar content of treats.
Chinchilla should never have: Watermelon, acidic fruits, corn, chocolate, dairy of any kind and certain vegetables. Chinchillas are vegan.
Drink It Up!
It is best to use a drip water bottle that can clip on to the side of the cage. Leaving a dish of water by their food bowl can cause their fur to become wet and chinchilla fur doesn’t dry well. A 12 to 16 ounce bottle would be adequate to keep attached to their cage. Change their water every day to keep it fresh and cool. There are a wide selection of water bottles available for small animals; a favourite is the top fill bottle which makes adding fresh water much easier.
Keeping It Clean
The best way for a chinchilla to clean itself is by having a dust bath. A dust bath container should be separate from their hiding place. For the dust bath, it’s best to have one centimeter of dust and works well when lying on its side so it is easy for the chinchilla to enter and exit. The dust bath allows your pet to take off all excess oil and dirt, leaving their fur shiny and fluffy. Chinchillas really get into their dust bath, it’s a lot of fun to watch
When it comes to bedding, it’s best to use dried pine shavings. Avoid cedar and orange as the high resins and oils are harmful to chinchillas. There is a wide assortment of pine shavings in various sizes. A chinchillas bedding is essential as it absorbs chinchilla’s urine and should be changed twice a week. Chinchillas do not need paper bedding, and it could be bad for them if ingested.
Chew toys are a must have as chinchillas’ big orange teeth never stops growing! Without having the proper chew toys, the teeth will continue to grow which will eventually lead to the chinchilla not being able to eat and other health issues. Pumice, wooden sticks and wood chew toys that hang from the top of the cage are great as this leads to exercise and the grinding down of the teeth.
A common question from people who just adopted a chinchilla is what the temperature should they be in. It’s best to keep their environment around room temperature. If a chinchilla gets too hot, their ears begin to turn bright red, which could be a sign of heat stroke.
From being quirky to filling your heart with warmth, they will always keep you on your toes for 12 to 20 years.