Having a Pet Chinchilla

Average in size and cousins with gerbils and hamsters, chinchillas are loved by many for their playful personality and rich fur. Their coats are known around the world for their rich feel. Compared to humans with only one hair per follicle, chinchillas have approximately 60 hairs in each follicle. Pests stay away from their dense coats or else they suffocate. Their fur is known to be the thickest among land animals. Due to human interest in their coats, chinchillas were close to extinction at the turn of the century since it takes up to 100 chinchillas to complete just a single coat. Eventually, American biologists gathered live specimens to help preserve the species, farm it for the growing fur trade, and domesticate it as pets.

Wild chinchillas are mostly colored grey, but as they grew to be well-liked as pets, breeders have managed to produce more colors. There are varieties in white, a mix of white with grey and black spots, brown, and even violet and blue. Caring for their fur is perhaps the most important aspect of chinchilla care. In their natural environment, chinchillas wash their coats by taking dust baths in fine volcanic ash. Moisture can be dangerous for them as their skin is vulnerable to fungal infections. This is why pet chinchillas should never get wet. Rolling in dust helps them remove excess oil, dirt and moisture from their skin. Chinchillas can be bathed in dust more than once a week. Too much bathing eventually dries out their skin.

Wild chinchillas gather in groups known as ‘herds.’ Chinchillas care for each other, they warn other on dangers, groom each other and mate when together. For chinchillas of the same gender, having them stay together peacefully in a cage with enough space is possible. Though a single male can be housed in a cage together with other females, having two males among an all-female group can be problematic as they can fight over them. Though they socialize in groups in their natural habitat, housing many chinchillas in a smaller space may not be a good idea because they get territorial and can fight each other over space.

Domesticated chinchillas compared to their wild counterparts have weaker digestive systems and require a more specific diet. In the wild, they are mostly herbivores, feeding on seeds, plants, and the occasional insect; and such a diet can only irritate your pet’s digestive system. Not to worry. There are safer food options for chinchillas available in pet shops. This is usually hay that can be fed regularly. Treats such as sugar-free cheerios and clean dandelion leaves may also be fed once a day. Be careful that you keep them free from sugar because this can be dangerous causing them to get too fat or even develop diabetes. For drinking, a water bottle is a better option compared to a water dish. Dishes get dirty easily and can get your pet chinchilla coat wet.

Chinchillas make for adorable and endearing pets. They have different personalities, and may vary in size and color. It’s amusing to watch them move about since they have a penchant for climbing and leaping. With a little patience, you can also train them to do several tricks as well. And scientific research has proven that petting soft pet fur produces a calming effect on the owner. Lastly, chinchillas are very easy to care for. Except for the dust that can fly around while they bathe, having them is really trouble-free.