Is the Chinchilla right for me? (Part 1)

Chinchillas have a sweet temperament and are very intelligent animals.These furry creatures are for young and old

Chinchillas need interactive play time with their people for at least an hour a day
South American chinchillas are kept as pets all over the world. Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents and sleep for most of the day, being active from the twilight hours into the night. Chinchillas are suitable pets for working adults, students and high school learners. They are also fairly hypoallergenic, with few people experiencing an allergic reaction to them. The chinchilla is a long-lived rodent, reaching 10 to 20 years in captivity if he is properly cared for and fed correctly. Every chinchilla has his own unique personality. While they do become very tame and love attention, they do not like to be cuddled or held.

What do chinchillas eat?

Chinchillas are vegetarians. They have a simple digestive system and shouldn’t be overfed or placed on a very rich diet. Pellets should be of good quality. Don’t substitute with rabbit, hamster or guinea pig food. No supplements are necessary if you choose a quality, balanced chinchilla food with a range of vitamins and minerals. Depending on the food, chins require about 50g of pellets daily. Avoid nuts, seeds, raisins and most fruits. Fresh hay should be placed inside the cage daily. You can choose between teff, lucerne, eragrostis or oat hay. Occasional treats are fine, but only in moderation. A goji berry or rose hip makes a tasty treat. A small piece of apple or carrot can be offered once a week. Some chin owners also offer a small piece of dry Weet-Bix biscuit once per week.

Chinchillas love a dust bath

Allow your chinchilla time out of the cage, in a safe room and put down a pan of specialised chinchilla dust. Your chin will instinctively know how to use the dust. These dust baths are very important for chinchillas as they help to remove excess oil from the skin. You can choose between sepiolite, a natural, absorbent clay or pumice dust. Silica is a carcinogenic, so avoid sand with a high silica concentration. Only trace amounts of silicate is found in sepiolite dust. Texture is also important – the dust you choose should be a good balance of fine dust and small sand particles. Chinchillas have very dense fur so there must be enough dust to penetrate the thick fur. The slightly larger particles have the same effect as brushing and help to remove loose hair in the coat.

Chinnies as pets

In Europe and the United States, chinchillas are shown at club and national level. Currently, no shows are held in South Africa, but the Chinchilla Breeders Association South Africa (CBASA) is planning to host shows during 2014. Chinchilla lanigera (the long-tailed chinchilla) is the only breed available in South Africa. The standard chinchilla is grey and all other colours are mutations. Colours include white, beige, ebony (black), touch of velvet (black velvet), violet and sapphire. There are also various combinations of the mutations, giving even more colours. The royal Persian angora is a mutation with longer fur. Mutations are all weaker than the standard and should be bred with care and extensive knowledge to keep them strong.

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