How to Choose a Healthy Pet Chinchilla. How to Tell if a Chinchilla is sick.
Members of the rodent family!
Chinchillas are members of the rodent family. Their scientific name, (just in case you were wondering) is chinchilla lanigera. These soft and furry creatures were first found in the Andes Mountains in South America. Unfortunately, during the 18th century, people didn't want them as pets...they wanted them for their thick, soft fur! Thankfully, a law was passed that banned the hunting of chinchillas. The passing of this law prevented the chinchilla from becoming extinct. Though not as popular as say a dog or cat, the popularity of these little balls of fur has increased dramatically over the years. Today there are about three thousand chinchilla ranches through-out Canada and the United States of America.
Probably NOT Good for Children!
A healthy baby chinchilla weighs approximately 2 to 2.5 ounces at birth (that is tiny!). As an adult they should weigh 1 to 1.5 pounds. Females are usually larger than males (go figure!). They can grow to be ten inches long with a tail that can add another six to 7 inches to their length. When compared to hamsters or guinea pigs...chinchillas live very long lives! The average lifespan of a chinchilla is 10 to 15 years (there are even documented cases of some chinchillas living 20 years in captivity). It you want to get a pet chinchilla it is very important that you are willing to make a commitment to your pet! Pets are not disposable, therefore, you must be willing to care for your furry friend for the duration of its life. It should also be noted that chinchilla's can be VERY sensitive animals. They need to be handled calmly and gently at all times! They DO NOT react well to stress. For these reasons, chinchillas are NOT ideal pets for children.
Educate Yourself! Chinchilla Reference Books.
Selecting a Healthy Chinchilla!
Whether you purchase a chinchilla from a professional breeder or a pet store it is very important that you select a healthy animal that is comfortable when handled. So what exactly should you be looking for? First of all, a healthy chinchilla will have bright, shiny eyes (no signs of watering or discharge). Any type of discharge from the eyes, nose or even the ears is an indicator that the animal is probably sick (or has medical issues). It is also very important that you examine the chinchilla's teeth. Their teeth should be even (no matter whether their mouth is open or closed). There should be NO signs of drooling. Drooling or signs of a wet chin can indicate dental problems.
A healthy chinchilla should have a healthy body with no signs of obvious wounds, bites or hair loss. It would be wise to observe the animal that you wish to purchase as late in the day as possible so that you can observe how alert and active he or she is. Crying or struggling (to get away) when handled is an indicator that the animal has not been socialized or socialized properly. it is important that chinchillas interact with humans as early as possible so that they can develop social skills. A few weeks of handling, patience and some good old fashioned TLC should help ease a chinchillas fear of humans. There is a chance, however, that he or she will always be a bit people shy.
So there you have it...what to look for when purchasing a chinchilla. I always suggest to my friends before they adopt or purchase ANY type of animal that they do their research first! After all, you do not want any surprises. You want to know what you are getting yourself into so that you are ready and willing to properly care for your new pet. Nothing breaks my heart more than a pet that is returned to a rescue group or breeder. Oh...and by the way...YES, you can adopt a chinchilla! Simply do an internet search to find a chinchilla or small animal rescue group in your area! In my opinion, adoption is the best option!
Rescue Groups (just a few):
Chinchilla Rescue - Part of California Chins
You can also check with your local county or state run animal rescue and adoption centers as many people also surrender small animals.