Chinchilla Care Sheet
Chinchillas are native to the Andes mountain range in South America, where they live high in the mountains at altitudes of up to 14000 feet. Chinchillas love to have company and they live communally in the wild, forming large social groups known as herds.
One of the things that makes Chinchillas so appealing for animal lovers is their incredibly soft, velvet-like fur. Unfortunately lots of people think this fur looks better on a coat than on an animal, and the two remaining species of Chinchilla are now considered critically endangered as a result. In the last 15 years they’ve suffered a devastating global population crash of around 90%, and the third Chinchila species is already thought to be extinct due to hunting pressures. Domestic Chinchillas are most likely descended from one of the surviving species, Chinchilla lanigera.
Thankfully the Chinchilla pet trade is now almost entirely cut off from illegal hunting, and you can be quite confident that buying a Chinchilla from any reputable store or breeder won’t contribute to their problems in the wild.
If they’re treated right, Chinchillas can make truly wonderful pets. They’ve got the same sort of personality you might expect from a tame squirrel in the local park – quick and inquisitive, cheeky and agile. Chinchillas also have an exceptionally long lifespan compared to most small rodents (up to 20 years!), they don’t have an unpleasant smell or make unpleasant noises, and they’re even naturally hypoallergenic.
However, these animals are very highly strung and have to be cared for in just the right way. Chinchillas are easily stressed or disturbed and disruptions affect them badly, often manifesting with physical symptoms. Even small changes like an altered diet, food arriving at a different time to normal or even seeing another Chinchilla getting fed first can seriously distress a Chinchilla. They are also small and delicate animals, and they will bite if you squeeze them tightly – be careful with children.
Chinchillas also require lots of space, a huge amount of exercise, frequent dust baths and something to gnaw on at all times. Their teeth never stop growing, and dental work is often necessary. They also have to be kept within a specific temperature range (ideally 60-70F) and cannot tolerate high humidity.
Despite all of the above, Chinchillas are actually quite low maintenance pets, but only if everything is set up just right. They generally seem to be happiest with a strict routine and minimal disturbance.
Chinchillas certainly can be a little challenging on occasion, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more endearing small mammal. It’s impossible to spend time with these lovely little fluff balls without falling in love. If you’ve got the space, the time and the patience to give your Chinchillas what they need, they’ll prove to be marvelous pets that will be with you for many years.
Interested in getting a pet Chinchilla? Then check out our Chinchilla care sheet and make sure you’re prepared!