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10 most essential tips for chinchilla owners
Chinchillas are small, usually grey- colored rodents, originating from the mountain range Andes in South America. They have very soft fur, short ears, long tail and are quite stocky. Nowadays they’re becoming more and more popular as pets.
Here are few basic facts that you should keep in mind before you get one. Their life expectancy in captivity can reach even up to 20 years! So think very thoroughly if you’re willing to devote such a big part of your life to a pet.
Since they’re shy and need very gentle handling, they’re not suitable for small children. Chinchillas are also not travel animals. If you want to travel, you need a reliable person who can take care of your animal during your absence.
In the following paragraphs I’m describing the 10 basic chinchilla needs from my own experiences, friend’s stories and literature.
Chinchillas are social animals
If you're planning to get a chinchilla, it’s a very good idea to get two or more. In the natural environment they live in big colonies so they need at least one partner to lead a life closer to their natural one. In case you nevertheless get only one, make sure you spend a lot of time with it and don’t leave it alone for a longer period of time.
A lot of space (if outside, always a shadow!)
These plump rodents, no matter how clumsy they look like, are very agile. Their back legs have very strong muscles and they can jump almost 2 meters high. A very essential thing in chinchilla’s life is a lot of space. Don’t cram it into a small cage where it has no space to run and jump. It will get upset, unhappy and will make sad, “crying” sounds. It might even get aggressive and bite you. If you’re not ready to adjust your apartment into a chinchilla home (which in my opinion is the best idea, if only you can), get it a cage that is big and high. Chinchilla cages usually have many stories. Different floors should offer it diverse places for training, relaxing, urinating …
If you keep it in your apartment, have in mind that they nibble at everything. Make sure you put dangerous things such as cables, poisonous plants etc. out of its reach.
If you intend to keep chinchilla in the garden (never let it run around freely, get a small fence or sth), make sure it has a shadow and temperature under 25 degrees Celsius, otherwise it may die of overheating in a short time.
These furry creatures have a precise and sensitive sense of hearing. Therefore they’ll be very disturbed by loud sounds or high frequencies. Try not to keep chinchilla in the same room where you hoover, dry your hair or anything of this kind.
Another important thing you should be really careful about is food. A perfect chinchilla meal should consist mostly of firbins such as hay, straw and chinchilla pallets. Fatty food like nuts should be given in very small quantities. Do not feed your chinchilla with chocolate!!! Once you start, you’ll find it hard to stop, because these animals love sweets. But keep in mind that it’s extremely unhealthy for them. Once or twice a week you can get it some fresh fruits or vegetables, but too much of it can cause diarrhea. The pet shops offer a wide array of dry foods for chinchillas. If in doubt, ask the sellers and don’t buy random products.
Fresh water from the rodent bottle
Chinchillas live in very dry regions. They don’t need much water. You shouldn’t worry if you don’t see your chinchilla drink for a whole day. Nevertheless FRESH water should always be accessible to them. Baby chinchillas are used to sucking their mother’s milk, so it’s easiest to get a bottle such as hamsters or other rodents use. Make sure you boil the bottle up every now and then (approximately 2x a month), otherwise a red algae can form on the glass and that can be deadly poisonous for your pet.
Something to nibble at
Another essential thing: a lot of wood and a pumice stone. Chinchilla’s teeth never stop growing, so you need to enable it to trim them down. And they do trim them; they munch and nibble almost all the time. Pine wood, some sticks and cones will make them a lot of healthy fun as well.
Sometimes chinchillas bite their owners. If you get a baby chinchilla with no traumatic experiences and treat it nicely, this, although, should not happen. Also, the females are gentler and less aggressive than male, so consider your choice very well.
Chinchilla fur is very special and highly prized. You will hardly find something softer than it. But to keep it like this, you need to comb it regularly no matter the protesting. Once it gets clumps in its fur, you have a problem. Be especially careful when you pat it; your hands have to be clean and dry.
Chinchillas never go into the water. Having an idea to bath it is a very bad one. It can cause it a lot of stress and do damage to its fur. For that reason there is special sand for chinchilla baths. You can get it in every bigger pet shop together with the vessel. Change the sand once a month or more, if chinchilla happens to pee in it.
A soft »toilet«
Chinchillas require certain comfort. If you keep it outside a cage, you’ll notice that it’s keen on peeing onto soft material which can be a problem if you have costly carpets and furniture. Some say chinchilla pees when it’s relaxed. Forcing it to pee on the newspaper might not have wished consequences. Provide it with a soft towel that you always place on the same spot. If kept in cage, it’ll urinate in hay. Change the entire hay and straw min. every two weeks.
A gentle and loving owner
Last but not least is a fond owner. If you’ve decided to get chinchilla(s), don’t forget it’s a being that has feelings and requires attention. If there’re two or more animals, they might not suffer much from your absence. But a single one can get sad and depressed. It will cry and weep in a heart-breaking way.
If you devote it a lot of time and patience, you’ll find out it’s an amazing pet. It’ll come to you when you call its name; you might even teach it a few other commands. Once you gain its trust, you won’t believe how much such a small rodent has to give. It’ll let you pat and massage it, comb its fur, carry it in your lap and will even follow you when you walk around. If you treat it with love, you will be paid back with so much gentleness, loyalty and affection not many people are capable of showing.