Chinchillas as pets

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Chinchillas as pets

What is a chinchilla? Chinchilla facts you need to know Handling your chinchilla Chinchillas are intelligent, fascinating and loveable creatures and they make good pets for adults and older children.  They can be quite shy and timid but with patience and gentle handling from a young age they can become very tame.  They are sensitive to rough handling and quick to take fright so they are not recommended for younger children. What is a chinchilla? Chinchillas are native to the barren, rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains in Chile and were discovered by the Spanish explorers in the 1500s.  They were named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore their dense, soft, velvet-like fur to keep warm in the cold mountain climate.    Chinchillas look a little bit like round, plump squirrels.  They are typically between 10 -14 inches (25 – 36 cm) and their bushy tail is 3 - 6 inches (7.5 – 15 cm) long.   Chinchillas have strong hind legs which are adapted for leaping, large ears, big eyes and long stiff whiskers.   The usual coat colour of chinchillas is grey but other colour variations have developed and these include:  white, black, brown, tan, beige, ebony, violet, and sapphire, and blends of these.  Patterns are velvet (chinchillas that are darker on top but with a lighter underbelly) and mosaic (patched). On average a pet chinchilla lives between 15 – 20 years, although if they are well loved and looked after they can live for longer. BackTo Top Chinchilla facts you need to know The chinchillas natural habitat is rocky terrain in the harsh windy and cold slopes of the Andes Mountains at elevations of 3,000 – 15,000 feet (900 – 4,700 metres) above sea level.  They live on the sparse, dry vegetation, seeds, shrubs, cacti, berries and grasses.   Chinchillas are very agile and can jump up to 6 feet (1.8 metres) in height (pet chinchillas have been found on the tops of fridges and curtain rails!). Pet chinchillas need a lot of space so their cages are large and roomy. View our Chinchilla Products section for our range of chinchilla cages and accessories Wild chinchillas live in rock crevices or holes and can sleep whilst squeezed into very small spaces.  Chinchillas are highly social and they can live in colonies of more than 100 individuals.  As they are so sociable it is best to keep them in single-sex pairs or groups raised together from a young age as they can become miserable and lonely when kept on their own. Chinchillas are crepuscular which means that they are more active in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk and sleep during the day.  Dont worry that you wont see your pet chinchilla in the daytime – they will wake up when they hear your voice or at feeding time, especially if you have a treat for them! Chinchillas are well adapted to their mountainous environment.  Their exceptionally dense fur keeps them warm and insulated against the cold. Chinchillas are very sensitive to high temperatures and can develop heat stroke very quickly as they can not sweat like humans. Ideally pet chinchillas should be kept at a room temperature between 15 – 20ºC.   Chinchillas need regular sand (or dust) baths to keep their coats healthy and free from grease. Your pet chinchilla should have a dust bath several times a week for about 20 minutes or so.   Visit our Chinchilla products section for our range of dust baths and chinchilla grooming accessories Chinchillas are able to lose large patches of fur (called fur slip) as a defence mechanism against predators.  This can sometimes happen with pet chinchillas if they are roughly handled. Chinchillas need a high fibre diet (they eat mainly hay) and shouldnt be given foods that are high in sugar (such as fruit) or fat as this can lead to illness. Visit our Chinchilla products section for our selection of foods for your chinchilla BackTo Top Handling your chinchilla When you bring your chinchilla home leave them for a day or two before handling so that they can get used to their new surroundings.   Before you start to handle your chinchilla let them get used to your voice.  Then introduce your hand so they can become used to your smell.  You can encourage your chinchilla by offering them a treat and see if they will take it from your hand.  Try stroking your chinchilla softly. Once your chinchilla has become used to you, gently pick them up with one hand supporting their bottom and one hand over their back.  Hold them close to your chest but dont hold them too tight.  If your chinchilla sheds their fur this is a sign that you are holding them too firmly and that they are distressed. When your chinchilla is used to being handled they will soon become docile.  They especially like to be scratched under the chin and behind the ears! BackTo Top