The Chinchilla is in the Mammal family (Mammalia). They are Rodents (Rodentia), and their family
is called the Chinchillidae (Chinchillas and Visachas). The standard gray is the natural color of a
chinchilla. However many mutation and mutation hybrid colors are being bred.
Chinchillas are nocturnal, which means they spend most of the day sleeping or napping. If there is
something interesting going on they will be more active during the day however. Because they
sleep during the day they need to be protected from a lot of noise and disturbances during this
time. The best time to play with your Chin is in the evening. They will sometimes be ready to play
with you in the late afternoon. Intelligent and mischievous. Chinchillas are very social and need
affection and gentling. When you first acquire your chin, it will tend to be shy and run, so you will
need to spend some quality time with it. Chinchillas very in temperament. For the most part, it is
very hard to make a high strung chinchilla calm or a mean chinchilla pleasant. Chinchilla
temperaments are mostly inbuilt. For the most part you get what you start with. Take this in
consideration when choosing your chinchilla. It is easier to assess an adult Chins temperament and
harder to tell with kits. For the most part they do not care to be handled or petted, however
when you gain their trust, they will hop up on your hand for a scratch behind the ear. Chinchillas
like to chew. It is a natural instinct that you will not be able to curve. Chewing is necessary to
keep their teeth filed down. Since Chinchillas spend most of the day in their cages it is important
to provide them with things to keep them busy. Placing new, clean cardboard in their cages for
them to destroy will give them something to do. Cardboard however, is not strong enough to do an
adequate job at keeping their teeth filed down. Also you need to monitor how much cardboard
your chin is digesting. If he appears to be eating a lot of the cardboard you need to cut back on
the card board play. Some Chins will allow you to hold them, although they generally do not like to
be held or cuddled. To hold a chinchilla use two hands, supporting their back legs in one hand,
and their front feet slightly higher than the back with the other hand. Hold them up against your
body to give them a more secure feeling. Be careful not to squeeze them to tightly. It is ok to
hold a chinchilla by the base of the tail for very short periods of time. Chinchillas like consistency
and do not like changes and being moved around. Chins have long memories, if they are frighten,
they will remember it and will reject whoever frightened them until their trust is regained. Chins
can be trained to some extent by consistently rewarding good behavior with a treat. They will
continue the behavior expecting the treat. Do not raise your voice to or frighten the chinchilla
unless it is for a wrong or dangerous behavior, like chewing electrical wires. Chinchillas will bite if
they feel threatened. Chinchillas do not make good pets for anyone who has allergies to animal fur
or dust. They do not always make the best pets for children, as they do not like to be held and
cuddled, but may be ok for an older child who understands the needs and temperament of the
chin. Chinchillas are sensitive to stress and noise, so approach them in a quiet way, handle gently
and provide them with active stimulation. Chinchillas make a variety of squeaks, squeals and odd
sounding barks. They do not make vocal sounds often, but rather the noises they make come from
their chewing and rearranging of the things in their cage. Since they are nocturnal, these noises
usually occur at night.
About the size of a small rabbit
Height: 12 inches (30cm.)
Weight: 1.3-4 pounds (0.6 - 1.8 kg.)
The female is usually larger than the male.
Please whatever you do, don't buy one of those small cages offered at the local pet stores, your
Chinchilla will be able to live for many years and with just a one time investment you can make
sure the life is a happy one. If you don't have the money build one, the Chinchillas don't care
how the cage looks. :-)
We really like the Midwest Critter Nation Small Pet Habitat, if you buy the two story cage, the
cage is very good quality and all you need to do is put up a plexy glass guard around the bottom.
It is not cheap, but will last you for a very long time. If you add a metal wheel and some wooden
shelves, you will make your chin very happy. Don't buy the Ferret Nation Cage from Midwest, it
was the first version of the cage they made and they since improved it with the Critter Nation
Cage and the new version is better for Chinchillas
Chinchillas must be kept in a wire cage or it will chew its way out and can easily overheat in
something like an aquarium. Be sure the wire is not painted or coated with plastic or the Chin will
ingest this coating. The wire mesh should have spaces no larger than 1-2 inches (2.6-5.1 cm.)
apart, ½ - 1 inch (1.3-2.6 cm.) if you are breeding. Some cages have wire mess bottoms with
pull out trays which make cleaning the cage easier. Mesh bottoms are not recommended for chins
because they have delicate feet and toes that can easily become caught in mesh of almost any
size. If you do have a cage with a mesh shelf, be sure the spaces between the mesh are no more
than ½ inch (1.3 cm.) apart to avoid leg injuries. The chins cage should be big enough to allow him
to get adequate exercise. They enjoy running around and playing and the cage has to be large
enough for this, especially if you do not allow your chin much time outside of its cage. A chinchilla
who does not get to run and play will be an unhappy chin. It is important to monitor the
temperature where your chin cage is being kept. In the winter months it should be kept in a draft
free spot. The ideal temperature for a Chinchilla is 68 degrees. One owner reports, "I keep mine
at a constant 58 and they love it. I find they are more active at this temperature than at 60 or
higher. They can stand it to just about freezing just fine." In the summer, if you do not have air
conditioning it needs to be kept in a well ventilated area. Keep the cage out of direct sunlight. In
the summer the chin should be kept in an area which is no hotter than 75°F (24°C) and caution
should be taken at temperatures this high. Anything hotter than this can cause your chin to
become ill. If the temperature goes as high as 86°F (30°C) your chin may be in trouble.
Measures should be taken to cool your chin down. Since chins don't sweat, blowing a fan at them
will not cool them off, it will just blow hot air around. Chins sleep during the day and it is not
wise to wake your chin up during this hot spell, because if he starts to run around he will make
himself hotter and may cause heat stroke.
Cage trays need to be changed once a week if you only have one Chin, more often if you have
more than one Chin in the same cage. If you have a cage that does not have a pull out tray it will
have to be cleaned more often. Many people in the pet community prefer fleece liners. Another
option is Kiln Dried Pine shavings or Aspen shavings. Avoid cedar bedding. If newspaper is used it
will have to be cleaned every few days as newspaper is not very absorbent and will begin to smell.
Shavings or newspaper can be used in the pull out tray or in the floor of the cage if you do not
have a pull out tray. Cages should be totally cleaned and disinfected once a month. The chin
should be removed from the cage during this cleaning. It is especially important to do this
thorough cleaning if your chin is sick. If kept clean, chinchilla cages have little odor. Chinchillas
tend to pee in one corner of the cage. This corner should have more bedding to help absorb the
waste. You can also sprinkle baking soda in that corner to help absorb any odors.
Chinchillas are pretty much odor free. They like to chew and they need things to chew on in order
to keep their teeth filed down. They should be given something to chew on such as Chin blocks (or
pumice blocks) which can be found at your local pet store. If a chin does not get enough things to
chew his teeth will grow too long preventing him from being able to eat. If this happens take him
to a small animal vet to get his teeth filed down. A chinchilla's coat can become very oily.
Chinchillas bathe in dust. They require a dust bath to keep the oils down. A special type of sand
which is extremely fine is used for the dust bath. This sand can be found in your local pet store
along with the bathtub. You can also use another medium sized container as the tub if you wish.
Normal sand should not be used as it has sharper edges and will bother the chinchillas skin. The
sand must be spot cleaned every day to remove dirt such as droppings, hay or urine, etc. It
should be completely changed once a week. Chinchillas are considered hypoallergenic because their
fur is so thick that they do not emit dander. Some people are allergic to their dust however.
Chinchillas need a constant supply of a high quality pellet (no treats included), hay
(timothy/brome/orchard grass/etc) preferably not alfalfa as their pellets are alfalfa based, and
water. For treats (only feed one small treat per Chinchilla per day) rose hips, cheerios, unfrosted
shredded wheat, rose buds, and whole wheat pasta are ok. Raisins, nuts fruits and veggies should
not be given as the sugar content in these foods is to high and can disrupt a chins microbial
balance. Any changes in their diet needs to be done slowly, mixing the new food in with the old.
Chinchillas should have a heavy dish that is not easily knocked over. A 2 inch (5 cm.) high ceramic
bowl will due nicely. You can also use medal feeders which attach to the side of the cage. These
feeders are nice because it avoids the chin from peeing in its food. Peed in food should be
changed right away. Water should be given in a gravity driven bottle with a medal spout that
hangs on the side of the cage. Since Chinchillas will chew, if the bottle is plastic, it should be
hung on the outside of the cage with only the medal spout sticking through the cage. If any of the
plastic is reachable by the chin, it should be protected with something such as wire mesh. Water
bottles should be changed and cleaned daily with soap to avoid bacterial build-up. Be sure to
thoroughly rinse the soap out from the bottle.
Chinchillas need exercise to be happy healthy pets. Your chinchilla will enjoy a large exercise
wheel if your cage is big enough to accommodate one. Take caution if you have very small babies
in the cage to make sure they do not get their feet caught in the wheel. If you do have very
small babies in the cage it is best to take the wheel out until they get bigger.
Even with a big cage a chinchilla should have at least an hour a day outside
their cage to run and play in a chinchilla proofed room. Remove all items that
could cause a potential danger to your pet such as electric cords, poisonous
plants and cleaners. Take care that your chin does not chew anything you do
not wish him to chew such as your couch! Any time spent outside the cage
should be supervised.
Up to 10-20 years - in captivity
10-15 years in the wild
Chins are prone to uneven teeth, overgrown teeth, spurs, fur biting, fungal infections, diarrhea,
constipation, heat stroke and seizures.
Male chinchillas are sexually mature at around the age of 5 months and females at about 8
months to 1 year. This does not mean a chin cannot get pregnant before this time however. When
females are about 6 months old they start to go into heat about every 25 to 35 days. A female
can generally have about 2 litters a year, giving birth to about 1 to 3 kits per litter. The
chinchilla's gestation period following a successful mating is about 109 to 120 days.
The Chinchilla originated from South America. In the early 1900's the Chinchilla was almost
extinct because they were killed for their fur. It takes 80-100 chinchillas to make a single fur
coat. In 1918 a gentleman by the name of Mathias F. Chapman was working in Chile when he saw
his first chinchilla. He set out to save them from extinction. Chapman and 23 other men spent the
next 3 years trying to trap the Chinchillas. Because they were so scarce they were only able to
capture 11. It took 12 months to bring these 11 Chinchillas down the mountain of Chile. They
took every precaution necessary so they would not lose any to the temperature changes they
encountered on the way down. During the shipment to the US one chinchilla died and a new one
was born. These eleven chinchillas were the beginning breeding stock for all of the chinchillas in
the United States today. By the middle of the 1960's, thousands of chins were being raised
throughout the United States and Canada. The name Chinchilla is Indian for "little chinta".