You’ve decided that you want one of these cute, amazing pets but there are things to consider before buying your first chinchilla.
Chinchilla ownership is slightly different from other rodents, their care level is different, and a chinchilla requires a lot of work, more so than say a hamster.
Grooming a chinchilla is very different from most other pets, where you may bathe a cat or dog with a chinchilla they have a dust bath which involves rolling in fine dust a few times per week. This is something chinchillas do in the wild and the process is designed to remove parasites from their fur.
Chinchillas shouldn’t get wet as this can cause fungus to grow on their skin, if your chinchilla gets wet you should dry it off as soon as you can. Small amounts of water that are dried off quickly shouldn’t cause issues, however.
You will need a dust house for your chinchilla to bathe in and the dust will need changing weekly. If your chinchilla runs around your home immediately after a bath they may get dust on your floors and carpets. This is worth bearing in mind but you can keep this to a minimum with a bit of pre-planning.
Chinchillas don’t have any requirements to be combed but some owners will comb their pet every now and then and this will help dust get to the skin easier which in turn keeps your chinchilla cleaner.
Dental treatment is also a must for chinchillas due to their teeth continuing to grow throughout their lives.
Room temperature is very important for chinchillas, after all, they originate from South America where the climate is warm in general but they live in the cooler mountainous regions.
The ideal room temperature is 60F-70F (15.5c-21.5c) and since chinchillas don’t sweat like humans do it’s difficult to cool them down. Fans won’t work, you will need an air conditioning unit if you live in a very warm climate.
You will need to ensure their cage isn’t in direct sunlight or near a window as this will raise the temperature.
Chinchillas overheat quickly and this can soon become fatal so room temperature and humidity are very important and should be taken seriously before buying your first chinchilla.
3.) Health Issues
Chinchillas like most pets aren’t without their health problems, as a result, vets bills need to be factored into ownership.
Some of the most common problems are:
Dental Issues– I touched upon this earlier, chinchillas teeth continue to grow throughout their lives and this results in various dental related issues. Their teeth are open-rooted and can grow as much as 2-3 inches per year. In the wild, this isn’t too much of an issue because they eat rough course foods that keep their teeth worn down enough so the growth doesn’t become a problem. Tooth infections aren’t uncommon.
Fur Issues– Fur problems such as ringworm and fungus are quite common in chinchillas. Dry flaky skin and bald patches are signs or ringworm or fungal infections. Fur chewing is something that can happen with chinchillas, this is when your chinchilla chews their own fur or a cage mate chews their fur. The end result is the same- loss of hair.
Heatstroke– Chinchillas struggle to regulate their body temperature as they don’t sweat, this can cause them to get too warm quickly if the room temperature gets too warm. Above 75F (25c) and your chinchilla will begin to have issues. A chinchilla with heatstroke requires immediate veterinary care, as this can be life-threatening.
Chinchillas are quite active and usually at night time, although they’re not nocturnal as such they do a lot of their playing at night time. They can be quite noisy and do like to swing, bounce and climb around their cage. If you are a light sleeper or want silence at night then a chinchilla might not be the right pet for you.
Chinchillas make a variety of different noises from a barking type sound to squeaks, again not ideal if you’re a light sleeper.
Chinchillas in the wild live in colonies so they do get along in pairs. Same-sex pairings can often produce fighting but this isn’t a given. Just like any other animal like a cat or dog some will get along in same-sex pairings and others won’t, chinchillas are no different.
5.) Other Pets
Do you have other pets in your household? If you do then think carefully before buying a chinchilla.
Some cats can get along well with chinchillas if they’re mild-mannered or if they’re introduced from a young age. If your cat is territorial or aggressive you will need to supervise them if you let your chinchilla run around the house. Cats will often hunt rodents as this is part of their genetics to hunt small prey.
The same should apply to dogs, you will need to supervise them.
You know your own pets better than anyone so it’s important to judge how they would take to a new furry friend in the house.
Time is also something worth considering, do you have the time for a new pet? Can you dedicate enough time to maintain and care for a chinchilla? Only you know the answers to these questions and you have to answer them honestly.
Don’t underestimate how much work a small animal can be, I would say, in general, a chinchilla is more work than your average domestic (short haired) cat.
Chinchillas make wonderful pets but they aren’t the most “hands-off” pet you can get. They have their unique requirements that will take up time and money.
If you have small children then this is something else to consider, will the chinchilla get the attention it needs or do you have the required time to take care of them.
I’ve often heard people say that chinchillas are ideal for someone who’s experienced with small pets specifically, rodents such as mice, rats, hamsters etc.
If you do decide to buy a chinchilla I’m sure you will have lots of enjoyment from these wonderful pets.