Chinchilla Care Guide

Whether you already own a chinchilla or are considering adopting one, it is important to understand their needs.

Responsible pet owners should understand how to care for their pets. Chinchillas make great pets, but they do come with unique needs.

If you don’t know exactly how to care for a chinchilla, don’t stress. We’ve created the ultimate Chinchilla Care Guide to help you in this process. This guide is packed with everything you need to know about taking care of a chinchilla.

So, ready to learn all about chinchilla care? Let’s get started!

Chinchilla Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Chinchillas are small round rodents. They typically have thick grey fur and long tails. Adult chinchillas can grow to be 10-inches long and weigh 1.5 pounds. They have large ears, short legs, and long whiskers.

Chinchillas also have large front teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives.

Behavioral Characteristics

Chinchillas are relatively calm creatures. But, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. They might fight, bark or squeal. Additionally, chinchillas will slip their fur to escape an attacker. During this process, they will release a patch of fur. Don’t worry, the fur will grow back.

Chinchillas are crepuscular, which means they are most active during twilight hours. During these times, they are often very loud and active.

Wild chinchillas live in packs to protect themselves from predators. Pet chinchillas often prefer living with a companion chinchilla. But, it may be best to introduce chinchillas slowly, to avoid initial fights. Once they are acquainted, the chinchillas will enjoy socializing.

Housing Needs

Chinchillas need plenty of space to run and jump. Also, chinchillas prefer to live in pairs, so you need a cage that can accommodate two chinchillas.

Look for a wire cage that is at least 16″ x 18″ x 16″. Cages with multiple levels are very appealing to chinchillas. Make sure the floor is solid or covered in shredded paper, as a wire floor could hurt their feet.

For bedding, chinchillas prefer shredded paper. Avoid wood chips because chinchillas can easily cut themselves on the edges.

The cage needs to include:

  • bedding
  • water bottle
  • food bowl
  • hay
  • toys
  • exercise wheel
  • areas for hiding

Chinchillas get stressed when their cages are dirty. So, plan to clean and replace their bedding weekly. Also, their food and water containers should be cleaned on a regular (sometimes daily) basis.

Grooming

Chinchillas have thick fur that can’t get wet. If their fur gets wet, it is very difficult to dry. Wet chinchillas have trouble regulating their body temperature. This can cause them to develop devastating health conditions.

But, chinchillas still need to get clean. So, they use dust to clean themselves.

In the wild, chinchillas use fine volcanic ash for their dust baths. You can purchase a similar material for your pet chinchilla.

Chinchillas should take dust baths 2-3 times a week. Simply place a shallow bowl of dust in their cage. Your chinchilla will roll around in the dust. Allow them to bath for 10 minutes. Any longer could cause their skin to become too dry.

You can recycle the dust for future baths. Once the dust starts to clump or look discolored, you will know it is time to throw it out.

Diet and Exercise

Diet

Chinchillas are herbivores. Their diet mostly consists of plants and hay. In general, their diet should be high in fiber and protein. Fat should be limited for chinchillas. They have a sensitive digestive tract and have difficulty digesting fatty foods.

In the wild, chinchillas mostly consume bark and grass. Pet chinchillas should follow a diet of hay and chinchilla pellets.

Occasionally, you can give your chinchilla a treat. The best treats for chinchillas are low-fat foods like carrots, celery, and grapes. But, these treats should be given sparingly. Many fruits and vegetables contain a lot of moisture, which can cause a buildup of gas in chinchillas.

Chinchillas are known to eat their own droppings. This process, known as coprophagy, allows them to extract more nutrients from their food. Since they have trouble digesting, this process gives them a second chance to get nutrients from their meal.

Chinchillas also need access to water. Make sure to have a water bottle in their cage. This should be cleaned on a regular basis.

Exercise

To stay healthy, chinchillas need regular exercise. They like to run and jump. They should be given time outside of their cage to explore and exercise. During this time, make sure you monitor your other pets. Although chinchillas can coexist with cats and dogs, they can still terrorize your chinchilla.

You can also provide an exercise wheel for your chinchilla. This is an easy way for your chinchilla to exercise inside their cage. Make sure the wheel is safe and made from a solid material (not wire) before placing it inside the cage.

Socialization

In the wild, chinchillas live in herds. These groups can contain up to 100 chinchillas. Living in a herd helps protect chinchillas from predators.

Pet chinchillas don’t need to live in herds. But, they prefer to live in pairs. Consider adopting a pair of same-sex chinchillas. This will allow for socialization but prevent any potential fights or unwanted mating.

If you have to introduce chinchillas, make sure you follow the proper procedure. Chinchillas need time to get acquainted before sharing a cage. First, keep them in separate cages in the same room. This will help them get used to the new smells. Next, allow them to play together outside of the cage (make sure you supervise this play time). If all goes well, you can soon let them share a cage.

Health

Chinchillas can face a variety of health issues. It is important to find a veterinarian capable of treating chinchillas. Within 48-hours of adopting your chinchilla, bring them to a vet. The vet will conduct a routine health screening to confirm that your newly adopted pet is healthy.

After the initial vet visit, you still need to bring your chinchilla to the vet on a regular basis. Chinchillas don’t need vaccinations, but they can still experience many health issues.

Common chinchilla health issues include:

  • Dental Issues– Chinchillas have large front teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. They use chew toys or bark to wear down their teeth. But, if they don’t have access to these materials their teeth will grow to an uncomfortable size. This can lead to oral disease and other health issues.
  • Heat Stroke- Chinchillas are from the Andes Mountains, which is a colder climate. Since their fur is very thick, pet chinchillas can easily overheat if they are kept in a warm room. Keep your chinchilla in a mild environment. If they look weak or collapse, take them to a vet right away.
  • Ringworm- Chinchillas are common carriers for ringworm. If your vet diagnoses ringworm in your chinchilla they can also prescribe a medication to treat the issue.
  • GI Issues- Since chinchillas have trouble digesting many foods, they can easily experience GI Issues if they are fed these foods. Take your chinchilla to the vet if you notice any signs of GI distress.

If chinchillas are fed a proper diet, have plenty of time to exercise, and visit the vet regularly, they can live anywhere from 8-20 years.

Adoption Process

Before adopting a chinchilla, make sure you research the breeder or pet society you are adopting from. Always adopt from a reputable source.

You should receive a health certificate when you adopt your chinchilla. Make sure you don’t leave without one. And, as mentioned earlier, take your chinchilla to the vet within 48-hours of adoption to confirm their health status.

Most likely you will have to pay an adoption fee. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $150-350 to adopt your chinchilla.

The Complete Checklist

Ok, do you feel ready to adopt and care for your own chinchilla? Review our complete checklist to make sure!

Shopping Checklist:

  • Cage
  • Bedding
  • Hiding Shelter
  • Chew Toys
  • Hay
  • Food Pellets
  • Appropriate Treats
  • Multiple Water Bottles
  • Food Bowls
  • Play Toys
  • Exercise Wheel

Health Checklist:

  • Find a vet
  • Schedule the initial visit
  • Plan for routine vet visits
  • Make sure their living space is an appropriate temperature

Behavioral Checklist:

  • Keep other pets away from chinchilla when chinchilla are out of their cage
  • Decide about adopting multiple chinchillas
  • Place their cage in an area outside your bedroom

Final Thoughts

Ok, you’ve made it through the checklist! How are you feeling?

It is a lot of information. But you need to be prepared before adopting a new pet. Hopefully, this guide helped you learn more about caring for a chinchilla. Once you learn the basics, you will have a great time with your new pet.

Most of all, remember to spend time with your chinchilla. They enjoy socialization, so take some time to play with them throughout the day. Be patient if they seem apprehensive at first. They need time to get to know you.

Do you have any questions about chinchilla care that we didn’t cover in this post? Let us know in the comments below!

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