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Chinchillas

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chinchilla photo chili

Chili (photo reprinted with permission)

Mike Phillips

Scientific Name:

Chinchilla lanigera

Life Span:

Chinchillas typically about 15 years, but 18-22 years is not uncommon.

Size:

Body length about 10-14 inches; tail is another 5-6 inches or so.

Temperament:

With gentle handling from a young age most chinchillas will become quite tame and bond closely with their owners, although sometimes they do not like to be held or cuddled. They are very active and playful. Chinchillas can be kept singly, and usually will do fine as same sex pairs especially if they are litter mates or introduced at a young age.

Habits:

Chinchillas are largely nocturnal so will be most active at night. Sometimes they are called crepuscular, meaning their activity peaks at dawn and dusk. In any case, they should be kept in a fairly quiet area during the day. They prefer a consistent routine for handling a feeding times and may be stressed out by changes to their routine. Since they are so active and playful, chinchillas need a roomy cage for exercise as well as daily playtime. Warm temperatures are more of a concern for chinchillas than cool temperatures, so care must be taken that pet chinchllas do not become overheated.

Feeding:

Chinchillas require a lot of roughage, and the diet should mainly be made up of a good quality grass hay along with pellets made for chinchillas. Treats should be given in moderation (one teaspoon per day in total). The digestive system of chinchillas is fairly sensitive so any diet changes should be gradual. For more information see Feeding Chinchillas.

Cages:

Chinchilla cages must be large, and multi-level cages with platforms, ramps, and perches are ideal. For more information, see Cages for Chinchillas.

Dust Bath and Toys:

Along with regular access to a dust bath, chinchillas need a variety of toys to keep them busy and active, especially items for chewing to keep the incisor teeth in good condition. See Dust Baths for Chinchillas and Toys for Chinchillas for more about these necessities.

Handling and Taming:

You must be gentle and consistent to gain the trust of a chinchilla. Find out the steps to taming chinchillas in How to Tame a Chinchilla.
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