Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents native to a stretch of the Andes Mountains, approximately 600 miles long and 200 miles wide, that runs along the western coast of South America . Their range is from sea level to 15000 feet. They have never migrated from their native territory.
After almost being hunted to extinction in 1910 Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru passed laws which prohibit the hunting, trapping and killing of chinchilla and the selling of their pelts. In the early 1920’s the first chinchillas were caught and shipped to the U.S. and that began the chain of events from which came the pet chinchilla .
There are 3 different types of chinchillas , lanigera, large and chunky, brevicaulda, slim and smaller, costina, smaller again. The true color is grey but many mutations have been developed over the years such as , black velvet, ebony, beige and whites, just to name a few.
Chinchillas can live 10-20 years with proper nutrition , exercise and good genes.
Unlike most rodents chinchillas are born fully furred , eyes open and bouncing around the cage with in hours of birth. This requires 4 months gestation to complete development inside the womb.
Chinchillas eat mostly hay to keep their ever growing teeth worn down. Along with a good quality pellet and fresh water and a chinchilla should live a healthy life. Anything else should be considered a treat and fed sparingly.
Chinchillas can have small amounts of unsweetened cereals such as Shreddies ,Cheerios, and old fashioned oatmeal ,plus a scattered piece of dried fruit. Extra vitamin C and calcium will also help keep those gums and teeth in good health. You can buy readily available products from your pet store or vet, crush tablets and sprinkle on their feed and treats or offer items such as alfalfa hay now and then just to increase their intake.
Chinchilla love to chew so provide them with lots of chew toys, their most favorite chew treat is a dried apple twig.
Chinchillas are nocturnal but do not mind being awake during the day. They are creatures of habit and will conform to your routine in time. They like to know what to expect next.
Each chinchilla will require at least 2 square feet of cage space. The cage should have shelves , and huts made from safe woods. Chinchillas can not digest plastic. They also need sometime out of the cage to exercise. The bathroom makes a great place as it’s small and well contained. Chinchillas can squeeze thought the smallest of places and are very fast, so play time needs to be in a chinchilla safe area with no wires, nooks and crannies.
A solid wheel no less than 15 inches in diameter will be a welcomed toy by most chinchillas. As are common house hold items such as tissue boxes, cracker boxes, cup holder trays and paper towel rolls. Just make sure to remove any plastic or tape. Chins like to hind in tubes and huts and will chew on just about anything.
Cages should be tidied daily and cleaned once a week.
When holding a chinchilla grasp the base of the tail tight to the rump with your 4 fingers around the tail and your thumb on it’s back. This way you are in control should your chin decide to jump, leap or spin.
Chinchillas never need their nails trimmed and should never get wet. If it does make sure to towel and blow dry it completely. They can get a fungus similar to athletes feet when their skin is wet.
Chins secrete an oil from their skin to keep their fur healthy, but require a dust bath in a commercially prepared dust found at most pet store, to keep the oil under control.
Chinchilla are very smart and can be conditioned to do certain things like get back in their cage, come when called and, and even play fetch with a beanie toy. They will do just about anything for a treat or dust bath