Looking after your chinchilla

Chinchillas make perfect pets for busy adults, students and school learners. They sleep through most of the day and are active at night, so fit in nicely with work schedules. Generally speaking they don’t need a lot of attention, but if well cared for they can live for up to 20 years. So how do you keep them in peak health? Read on to see how best to care for your furry friend.

 

 

1. Feed him well

Chinchillas are vegetarians. It is important that they are not overfed, and that they are fed the correct food. Chinchillas require a special kind of pellet feed to keep them healthy, and it is important that they are fed with this specific food, not rabbit or guinea-pig pellets (as some people may suggest!). It is advised to give your little pet no more than 50g of pellets daily, especially when the pellets are of good nutritional value, but your vet will be the best person to guide you on this. Chinchillas further require some roughage to feed on to keep their digestive system healthy, and this comes in the form of hay. Bear in mind that it is necessary to change the hay regularly, even if your chinchilla has not finished eating that particular portion.

It is not recommended to feed a chinchilla seeds, nuts or most fruits. You can of course give your rodent friend a treat, but be careful not to overfeed. Suggested treats include a piece of carrot or apple, or a piece of dry Weet-Bix once a week.

2. Keep him clean

Chinchillas clean themselves in dust baths. It is therefore advised to take your pet out of his cage and place him within a secure and closed off location in a pan of specialised sand. Chinchillas will instinctively know what to do when placed in this sand bath. This method of cleaning is absolutely essential for chinchillas, as the sand helps to clean the excess oil from their skin.

It is important to use the correct sand in these dust baths to ensure the optimal health of your chinchilla. The three options for suitable sand include sepiolite dust, pumice dust or a natural absorbent clay. Sepiolite dust is considered best as it contains less silica than the other two options. Silica is a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer. Also ensure that the dust you use is textured with larger sand particles as well as just the dust. The dust penetrates the thick fur of the chinchilla and the larger sand particles help to get rid of loose hair.

3. Give him space

Your chinchilla loves space, but opt for a wider cage rather than a taller one. The perfect size would be somewhere in the region of 800mm (width) x 600mm (height) x 500mm (depth). Ensure also that the cage is made of sturdy steel and has a solid base.

Make sure that your rodent friend has a lot within his cage to keep him occupied. For example, safe chew toys and plenty of hay will keep your pet entertained. Wooden ladders and platforms are also highly desirable additions.

Be sure to place the cage out of direct sunlight, as a chinchilla is unable to sweat to cool himself off. Also, as chinchillas are nocturnal, it is best if they are kept in a quiet place so that daytime activities in your home will not wake them, and any night-time activity of the chinchilla will not wake you! As long as a chinchilla’s cage is kept clean, there should be minimal odour from the cage as chinchillas’ urine does not have the strong smell of other rodents’ urine.

4. Keep him in good health

These rodents are, for the most part, healthy pets and don’t need vaccinations. They seldom get sick, but when they do it’s usually as a reaction to their food. They have dense fur that prevents them from having any ticks and fleas so don’t need protecting against these, but a dust bath is still necessary a few times a week for the chinchilla’s health.

Feed your pet once daily and ensure that they have fresh water available throughout the day. Keep in mind that a chinchilla’s teeth never stop growing, thus it is a priority for the chinchilla to have chew toys, preferably wooden ones. Short teeth aid in maintaining your pet’s health and having a well-functioning digestive system.

Clean the cage once every fortnight and replace the hay within the cage on a regular basis. In case of any problems arising, ensure that you know a vet in the area who works with these animals to avoid any confusion if your pet should become unwell.

5. Don’t forget the TLC

Finally, you need to give your pet as much love as possible. Take your chinchilla out of his cage and give him interactive playtime, for at least an hour every day. Chinchillas are friendly, loving and intelligent animals and a healthy chinchilla will bring you lots of joy!

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