Chinchillas make great pets for older children and adults. They’re easy to look after, friendly and inquisitive. With plenty of care and attention they can become very tame. Chinchillas are timid by nature and are very sensitive to rough handling so they’re not suitable pets for very young children. As they’re crepuscular, chinchillas sleep throughout the day and become active in the evening. Keeping chinchillas as pets is a long term commitment as they can live between 15-20 years.
Just like rabbits and guinea pigs, chinchillas perform a digestive system called caecotrophy to extract as much goodness as possible from their food.
Chinchillas are a very social species and should not be kept on their own. Keeping them in single sex pairs provides them with companionship and it means they can snuggle up with each other at nap times. Make sure you buy/rehome them at the same time as they’ll already be friends. It can be difficult to introduce chinchillas to one another later on.
Chinchillas are very active and need lots of space to exercise so buy the biggest cage you can afford. Ideally, the cage should have several levels or shelves to allow your pets to bounce around their cage. As chinchillas are enthusiastic chewers, a wire mesh cage is essential to ensure that they can’t chew their way out, but with a solid floor so their feet don’t become sore. Provide a bedroom or a space where they can snuggle up – a nesting box will help them feel secure.
Position their cage away from direct sunlight, radiators or draughts. Chinchillas don’t like high temperatures and can suffer from heat stroke which can be very serious if not treated quickly.
A chinchilla marble is great for keeping your pets cool in warm weather. Cool the marble in your fridge and then pop it in their cage for a long-lasting cool spot.
Excel Chinchilla nuggets will provide a good basic diet for your pets alongside constant access to good quality Excel Feeding Hay. If you need to change their diet, introduce the new nuggets slowly, over a period of 14 - 28 days, phasing out the old food completely. This gradual introduction will allow their digestive system to become accustomed to the new food.
A supply of good quality feeding hay, such as Timothy Hay, should always be readily available in your pets’ cage. Hay provides essential fibre and helps chinchillas to digest their food. It also helps to grind their teeth down, preventing them from growing too long and becoming painful.
Chinchillas always appreciate treats but it is important to ensure that they are low in sugar and fats. Dried fruit can have high levels of sugar and other items like sunflower seeds are high in fat so should be strictly rationed. Many chinchillas don’t tolerate fresh greens or vegetables, so if greens are offered this should be in very small amounts.
Secure their feeding bowl onto the cage or provide heavy earthenware bowls to avoid them being tipped over. Remove uneaten food and ensure that their feeding bowls and bottles are cleaned and refilled daily.
Chinchillas have lots of beautiful, thick and soft hair (not forgetting those beautiful bushy tails!). Their hair follicles contain more than 50 hairs whilst humans have around 1-3.
Having a good insight into the biology and behaviour of your Chinchilla can help you to understand your pet better.
The easiest way to entertain a chinchilla is to keep more than one – they’re very sociable pets and will keep each other company. Providing toys and stimulating natural behaviour by hiding treats around their cage will keep them amused and stimulate natural feeding behaviours.
In addition, branches and shelves allow your chinchilla to exercise by jumping around the cage. Chinchillas love to chew, so provide lots of chinchilla-safe wooden blocks or natural toys.
Regular, daily playtime out of the cage is essential but make sure it’s safe to let your pets out as they’ll chew anything in sight. A small pet playpen is useful as you can keep an eye on them whilst they play.
When you first take your chinchillas home, give them a day or two to get used to their new surroundings without being disturbed. You should then start talking to them so that they get to know your voice. The next step is to introduce your hand into their cage and perhaps offer a treat.
Over time you’ll be able to stroke and gently pick them up. You should hold your pet close to your chest and facing you with one hand over its back and one hand supporting its bottom. Hold your chinchilla firmly but gently so that it feels secure. It’s important that you handle your pets regularly to develop their confidence and maintain your relationship with them.
Chinchillas do wriggle a lot but they’ll soon become docile and will enjoy being handled. They’re very sensitive to rough handling and may occasionally bite. If your pets start to shed their coats, this is a sign that they’re either distressed or that you’re holding them too tightly.
Chinchillas are clean pets. Replace soiled bedding daily and clean the entire cage thoroughly once a week using a pet-safe disinfectant.
A healthy diet and hygienic conditions will help to keep your chinchillas in good health but there are a few potential problems that you should be aware of.
As with all rodents, chinchillas’ teeth grow constantly so it’s important to provide constant access to quality feeding hay and safe wooden toys or mineral stones for gnawing on.
Chinchillas like to keep their soft fur clean and love a good dust bath! It may seem unusual but bathing in special chinchilla dust is a vital part of their grooming routine. Place a chinchilla bath filled with chinchilla sand in their cage and leave it in for about five or ten minutes at a time. Your pets should bathe several times a week to keep their coat shiny and clean. If you leave the bath in their cage as they may use it as a toilet. This is fine as long as you sieve it daily and change the sand once a week.
Regularly grooming your pets with a soft brush or comb will strengthen the bond between you and will help to keep their coats in good condition.
Chewing toys and feeding hay are an essential part of your pets’ dental routine and should always be available as they help to prevent overgrown teeth.
Vitamins can be added to your pets’ food or water. Probiotic supplements can help to maintain healthy digestion and relieve stress. Getting used to their new surroundings can be stressful for your chinchillas so consider buying probiotic supplements before you take them home. Hay is essential to aid digestion and it’s also good for your pets’ teeth.
Groom your chinchillas once a week to keep their skin and coats healthy and to strengthen the bond between you and your pets. Regular grooming can also help to highlight health problems.
Clean your pets’ home thoroughly once a week using a pet-safe disinfectant.
All pet owners have a responsibility to look after and care for their pets. If you’re thinking about having chinchillas as pets, learn as much as you can about how to care for them beforehand. You should take your lifestyle and household into account when deciding whether you can offer them a good home. This leaflet explains chinchillas’ basic needs so you can decide if they’re right for you…
If you have a question, please email us or call us on 0800 413 969. Our dedicated consumer care team are available to answer any questions you may have. If you are concerned about the immediate health of your pet, please seek the advice of your vet as soon as possible.Email us