If you have found this site, chances are you are looking for information on caring for chinchillas. On this site we are including all the basic information on keeping pet chinchillas, if you want information on more specialised care, or breeding, use our contact page to get in touch with one of our rescuers for a more in-depth discussion.
A lot of people seem to think that you need to adopt a baby chinchilla to have a good pet, this is not the case at all!
Chinchillas are very long-lived critters, they will generally live to around 20 years if well cared for and as such they make great pets whether you adopt them at 10 weeks or 10 years.
There are no over-ruling benefits to adopting a chinchilla as a baby as apposed to an adult, for example...
Adopting a baby Chinchilla
You know who the breeder is.
Most breeders don’t care about the babies they sell after they have left their care.
You know how the baby has been raised, when it was weaned, what food it was weaned onto, etc.
You may not be given correct information.
You can meet the baby chinchillas parents.
The chinchillas you are shown might not be the parents, or they may have health problems that can’t be detected by just looking at them through a cage.
You can bond with the chinchilla while it is still little and watch it grow up.
It is a longer commitment having the baby from a young age as it will be with you longer than a chinchilla that is already a few years old.
Adopting an adult Chinchilla
You might be able to track the actual breeder down if the owner kept in regular contact, or even if they just know their name and another breeder knows them.
You may not ever be able to find out who the breeder is.
Even if you don’t know who the breeder is you can still get helpful advice from a chinchilla club, experienced breeder, or rescue.
You should always check the information given to you against as many sources as you can, don’t just accept it because it’s what you want to hear.
You’ll know what your new chinchillas favourite foods are, and its eating habits.
You don’t know what food the chinchilla may have been fed earlier in its life that may cause it health problems.
Most genetic problems have made themselves known before the age of 5 so if a chinchilla has any problems you should know about them before you adopt the chinchilla.
Some genetic problems can be ‘sleeper’ problems and not make themselves known until the chinchilla is “old” such as cataracts, these old age problems are generally not as serious though.
Remember 5 might sound old but when you think that they can live to 20 or more, it’s still got three quarters of its life to live! Generally "old" for a chinchilla is over 12.
Chinchillas love to run and jump, they are regular daredevils when it comes to large drops or jumps.
Chinchillas should ideally be housed in tall cages with multiple levels for them to jump between, solid ramps and shelves are fine but wire shelves, ramps, and ladders should be avoided due to the safety risk they pose to chinchillas delicate legs, feet, and toes.
Chinchillas will appreciate a variety of different textures to climb on, over, and through, including tree branches, rocks, hanging shelves or hammocks that rock when they jump onto them, and tunnels.
But, chinchillas chew like mad so make sure anything in their cage is easy to replace and, most importantly, non-toxic!
Avoid at all costs; Plastic, rat wheels, wire ramps and shelves, ladders, and placing the cage too close to heaters, drafts, or something they can pull through the bars.
Chinchillas should be fed, unsurprisingly, Chinchilla Food. Specially formulated chinchilla pellets are available from most pet stores, alternatively you can purchase them via one of the multitude of online pet stores.
It is important to note though that just because a food says it is for chinchillas doesn't mean it's good for them, I could give you a lump of pine bark and say it's chinchilla food and though the chinchilla will happily eat it, a diet of pine bark is not suitable to sustain a chinchilla for any length of time or keep it healthy.
An ideal *pet* chinchilla food should be hay based, 16-18% Protein, 20+% Fibre (fibre is the most important part of a chinchillas diet so must be a high percentage), 4% Fat.
The rescue itself uses and recommends Little Chintas Chinchilla Pellets and Little Chintas Chinchilla Treat Mix.
Treats should be kept to a minimum but fresh hay should be kept to a maximum. Chinchillas love hay for more than just eating and regularly redecorate their cages by pulling it all out of the manger and throwing it around at each other!
Don’t leave discarded hay in the cage too long as chins will pee on it and it will start to smell, usually within two days, so clear it up every morning and provide fresh hay. To stop chinchillas wasting hay only fill the manger part full so they are choosing to eat, rather than play, with it.
Most of the chinchillas re-homed through the Rescue will be on a specific diet and you will be instructed fully on the reasons your new pet is on this diet and if there are any special preparations needed.
Water should be provided for chinchillas in a small bottle, and changed regularly.
Unlike animals such as Rabbits, Chinchillas don’t drink much, average water consumption per day for an adult chinchilla is approximately 50mls.
Water should always be fresh, in a clean bottle, and contain no “floaty bits”. If you are on a town water supply it is best to let the water stand for 10 minutes in a bowl or cup before putting it into the bottle, this allows the more dangerous chemical additives to be released.
Chinchillas bathe in fine volcanic sand, not dust, not water, fine sand.
A chinchillas fur is so dense that if it were to get wet it would not be able to dry in an appropriate time frame and your chinchilla will die from hypothermia and/or fur fungus, this is not a scare tactic, it is 100% TRUE and otherwise healthy chinchillas have died because people ignored this advise.
If your chinchilla does get dirty and needs to be washed with water, make it a small “spot clean”, and dry them thoroughly with a towel and a hair dryer on the lowest temperature. Do not use the hair dryer for too long as you don’t want to over-heat your chin.
The most commonly available bathing material for chinchillas is “bath dust”, this is usually a very fine white silica powder, and while it can do the job of removing excess oils from a chinchillas coat it’s texture means it can get stuck in a chinchillas ears, eyes, or nose and cause them health problems.
We recommend Little Chintas Chinchilla Sand, as its texture is best for getting into the coat without getting caught in the ears, eyes, and nose as it can be shaken free easily unlike the silica “dust” that has a tendency to stick to eyes and nose causing a white discharge.
When working out the ideal temperature for any animal you must first study where it comes from, Chinchillas come from about 4000 metres above sea level in the Andes Mountain Range in South America.
At this level it is dry, and cold!
The ideal temperature for chinchillas is between 0 - 15°C, obviously this temperature is not ideal for your chinchillas human companions, thus most chinchillas are kept at the comfortable temperature of between 15 - 20°C which is fine for pet chinchillas.
Be warned, chinchillas have a very dense coat and temperatures over 25°C can be fatal. Your chinchillas should also NEVER be kept in direct sunlight as this too can cause them to over-heat, it also has the added disadvantage in beige chinchillas of altering their colour due to the reaction of oxygen/sunlight(UV)/fur.
Pairing, also called bonding, chinchillas is a delicate process and can be difficult to achieve if not done properly.
At the Rescue we believe chinchillas should be housed communally whenever possible, this is because chinchillas are social animals that thrive on companionship.
Despite some of the best intentions from owners chinchillas can often get left on their own for a while, you may get very busy at work, have a lot of studying to do, or any number of other things, and during this time a lone chinchilla will often get left in it’s cage alone for days, this can stress chinchillas to a point they will stop eating.
Keeping chinchillas in pairs or groups avoids this problem as your chinchillas will always have each other to play with if you can’t spend as much time with them. It also helps in the event your chinchilla may need to be rehomed.
Let’s face it, no one wants to think about re-homing their fluffy baby but sometimes it does become necessary, a death, birth, moving house, or country, or starting a new job, are all situations where it may become necessary to re-home your pets.
It can be hard for owners giving up their pets, and even harder for a lone chinchilla, who goes into an unknown situation, all without his or her best buddy, if chinchillas are kept in pairs the move does not become so scary for them as they have one constant to fall back on. This is also why it is a good idea to re-home your chinchillas with their normal cage too so the immediate scenery is familiar and smells like them.
We see a lot of people recommending that others keep chinchillas in male/female pairs, now while male/female pairs tend to get along best the sexes should NEVER be kept to together unless you are an experienced breeder and the chinchillas are fit for breeding. Chinchillas are perfectly fine to be kept in male/male or female/female pairs, but as always you can’t just chuck two chins into a cage and expect them to get along.
Most chinchillas leaving the Little Chinchas Rescue Ranch come in bonded pairs, these pairs will either be neutered male/female pairs or female/female or male/male pairs. If a chinchilla is rehomed by the Rescue solo it is probably because it does not get along with other chinchillas and you should not attempt to pair it up with another chinchilla without first discussing the situation with the rescue.
Chinchillas are very delicate health-wise, as well as water, high temperatures, very-low temperatures, cats, and occasionally dogs being bad for their health, there are a variety of genetic and hereditary problems also affecting them.
The most prolific problems in chinchillas are fur-chewing and liver failure.
Fur chewing is when, for no apparent reason, a chinchilla systematically nibbles away its own or its cage-mates fur. It can be as mild as nibbling one particular spot, or as serious as chewing the fur down to skin level and even occasionally taking out chunks of skin. This can be a problem of learned behaviour, boredom, pain, or lack of certain minerals in their diet (usually because they are not being fed a proper chinchilla diet).
Chinchillas that fur-chew should not be bred from as, not only can it be passed onto babies, it can actually lead to babies having post-birth deformities as fur chewing parents (usually mums) will chew off parts of the babies, usually ears, tail or feet.
Another common problem in chinchillas is neurological disorders, these can be hard to detect, and can on-set later in life, or may be prevalent from birth. Common signs of neuro disorders include but are not limited to; fits, seizures, muscle contractions that cause immobility or odd posturing, walking around in circles, falling off things, or falling over often.
Some health problems are age related and can be dealt with by changing your chinchillas living arrangements, for example, a chinchilla developing cataracts and going blind, should be moved to a cage where it won’t be able to fall off shelves and hurt itself. Chinchillas with cataracts can live just as happy a life as chinchillas that can see and don’t need to be put down just because they can’t see as well.
Malocclusion is considered the most serious condition to affect chinchillas, it is a genetic condition that results in the teeth roots being crooked which causes chinchillas teeth to overgrow, or grow spurs (long parts of the tooth that can’t be worn down by chewing). This condition if untreatable, or left untreated, is fatal, because the teeth grow to such an extent that they stop the chinchilla from being able to eat and the chinchilla will starve to death.
Liver failure is generally dietary related, due to a diet too high in fat or sugar. Liver damage/failure can also be caused by bacterial infections.