The Chinchilla

8 Questions about these fury bundles of cuteness

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he chinchilla is the kind of animal who can easily lead a person into temptation. Why? He is so adorable that once you meet one, you might not be able to resist getting one of your own. However, he does need special care and is not a suitable pet for everyone.


1. What do I need to know before I buy a chinchilla?

You need to know as much as you can about them before considering making a chinchilla part of your life. They are not naturally inclined to bond with humans, but with time and patience they can become affectionate and friendly. They also enjoy peace and quiet – your chinchilla won’t be happy if your household is busy and noisy. A good first step is to find out if there is a vet in your area who is able to care for your pet’s medical needs.

2. Are chinchillas good pets for children?

Chinchillas are nocturnal rodents, therefore they are mostly active in the evening and they can get very busy at night! As they prefer to sleep most of the day and are delicate little animals who do not like to be held, they are not recommended for young children.

3. What should I look for when I choose my chinchilla?

A healthy chinchilla can be identified by looking out for the following:

  • The eyes should be bright and wide open with no signs of discharge around them.
  • The ears and nose must be clean and dry, and should not have any bad smells.
  • Genital areas should be clean and dry.
  • He should have velvety fur with no mats or bald spots.


4. What should I feed my chinchilla?

Feed your chinchilla a consistent diet of quality chinchilla pellets. Never substitute these for rabbit pellets, as this can have dire consequences for your pet. He should always have access to fresh hay, eragrostis or teff, which will assist with digestion. Don’t give too many treats, and never give your chinchilla lettuce or other veggies, as these can be very dangerous for him. He should always have access to fresh, clean water, and water bottles should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent bacteria from growing inside them.


5. Does my chinchilla need exercise?

The chinchilla is an active little animal, and is also very curious. He will enjoy spending half an hour to an hour per day out of his cage to explore his surroundings and get some exercise. Decide on a specific time each day to let your chinchilla out, as they are creatures of habit. Also, always let him out under supervision, and make sure before you let him out that there is no place for him to escape. Their explorations are done with their teeth as well, so make sure that anything that is not okay for your chinchilla to chew on is out of his reach.

In terms of his cage, remember that he is active, and get a cage as big as possible to allow him to run around.


6. Does my chinchilla need a friend?

They are social and enjoy the company of their own kind. A pair of chinchillas of the same gender can become great friends. Avoid keeping a male and female together as they will breed, and if you are not an expert in this you will most likely end up with a nasty medical bill, not to mention bringing animals into the world who might end up unwanted.


7. How do I care for my chinchilla’s coat?

Chinchillas clean their fur by taking regular dust baths – you can provide them with chinchilla dust for this purpose. Take care not to get your chinchilla wet, as moisture in the fur can lead to the growth of fungi. If he does get wet by accident, gently and carefully dry him as quickly as you can.


8. Is there anything else that is important to know about my chinchilla?

They are extremely sensitive to heat, and should be kept in temperatures of between 18 and 20°C. Considering South Africa’s warm temperatures, you might have to keep your pet in an air-conditioned room. You can also help your chinchilla to cool down by covering one side of the cage with a wet towel, or by freezing water inside a container and putting this in his cage. Never leave your chinchilla in direct sunlight. Chinchillas can easily suffer from heatstroke, which can be fatal.


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