Chinchilla Facts

Part of the rodent family, chinchillas can be found across South America, especially along the Andes Mountains. They are known for their thick and rich furs. Interestingly, they live longer in captivity, reaching a lifespan of about 20 years. In their indigenous environment, they have been observed to live till only about 15 years.

At the turn of the century, chinchillas were almost hunted to extinction for their plush fur. To make one fur coat, it can take up to 100 chinchillas. To help keep their numbers from falling further, 11 wild chinchillas were actually captured and sent to the United States for breeding. Though one unfortunately died along the way, a kit was born among the specimens. These 11 specimens are most likely the ancestors of the chinchilla pets many have today.

Known to be nocturnal creatures, chinchillas are most active either at dawn or dusk. It is important to keep them in a calmer environment because they sleep mostly in the day. Noise and stressful sounds agitate them, and this goes without saying that it’s best to handle them calmly and gently. Pet stores do offer chinchilla houses that give your pet the necessary space it needs to hide and rest in during the day, shielding it from loud noise.

Chinchillas have interesting and varied personalities. Social, smart and curious animals, when tamed the right way they can make the most endearing pets. But as much as they differ in temperament, keep in mind that they don’t really change. The way they are in a pet shop will be the way they’ll be when you bring them home. They may be timid and nervous during the first few days, but they eventually get used to their new surroundings and the presence of their owners.

Earning their trust is important to tame them. Treats can only do so much to get their attention. Contact is also important. In the wild, chinchillas are always on the look out for possible predators. So, getting them used to handling takes a little patience. You’ll have to start slowly. Owners can start by gently persuading them to come closer to their hand. When holding them do so by using both your hands, raising the hand that holds the back end higher than the front. Eventually when they’re used to you, keep them close to your body often to help in getting them more comfortable with you. Take note though that they aren’t for everybody, especially for those with fur or dust allergies. Constant handling, especially by children, can irritate chinchillas.

Chewing is very much a natural trait for chinchillas. They need to chew often or nibble on something to help trim their teeth, keeping it healthy and out of the way. Instead of letting them chew on the cage or their food bowls, there are accessories available for this purpose. Though they don’t make sounds frequently, don’t be surprised that they can actually squeak or squeal. These sounds usually come about during feeding time or when they’re scampering about in their cage.

Having a chinchilla as a pet is very amusing and enjoyable. They like to scamper about, interact with their owners, and can be trained to do some tricks. They also have the softest fur that you can pet. Just like any pet animal, allotting time and patience for them is necessary. But don’t worry, because with chinchillas, taking care of one is fun and a cinch.