Chinchillas

Chinchillas

Monday, October 5, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department

Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains in Chile. Their native environment is cool, rocky and dry. They can live to be 10 to 20 years old, and are very agile jumpers. Wild Chinchilla populations are listed as endangered.

Housing

Chinchillas require a large, multi-level cage. Exercise is necessary in order to avoid abnormal and destructive behaviors. The cage should be made of an open, small-grade mesh material. High temperatures and high humidity must be avoided. Do not place in direct sunlight. 

Grooming

Chinchillas are naturally very clean and have little odor. The primarily tool in coat care for a Chinchilla is their dust bath. This should be offered for 10 minutes, every one to three days. Commercial dust is available.

Feeding

These animals need a high-fiber, low-energy diet. Their natural diet consists of various grasses, bark and leaves. Offer high-quality grass (hay-free choice) and small amount of pellets daily. Small amounts of greens and fruits can be offered as treats. Avoid breads, cereals and nuts.

Concerns

Their teeth continually grow, so they will need various materials for chewing. Chinchillas commonly use their mouths for exploring new environments. Because of this, play areas must be examined for any potential hazards. Chinchillas will also give small exploratory bites to their owner’s hands. These are normal and non-aggressive gestures, but they can cause some pain and surprise. 

Behavior

Chinchillas are primarily nocturnal, meaning they will be most active at night. They are highly social animals and will do best in small group housing or with plenty of human interaction. These animals do enjoy petting, but resist holding. When handling, support full body. 

A normal response for a chinchilla is to run away. Provide enough hiding places for them to reduce any potential stress. Keep them separate from other household animals, as they may view them as potential predators. 

These animals prefer a daily routine. Place their caging in a quiet area. However, they need plenty of opportunities for socialization with their human. 

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