Small Mammals & Exotics

Exotic Pet Corner: Chinchillas

Chinchillas are curious friendly animals which make excellent pets. They are relatively easy to care for, do not normally bite, and do not produce significant odors. They enjoy climbing and can scurry about extremely quickly, and can jump up to twenty inches! Chinchillas have large rear feet, round bodies, large ears, and a tail like a squirrel. They are actually part of the rodent family.


Chinchillas should be kept in cages when not directly supervised. They should be housed individually, and the cage should be at least 3ft x 2ft x 2ft. Cages can be purchased at a pet store or built from wood and mesh wire. Plastic should be avoided as well as sharp edges or corners. Pine litter should be used as cedar is toxic! These animals should be provided climbing areas, a dust box, and a sleeping box. The environmental (ambient) temperature is very important and should be kept between 50-68 degrees farenheight. Temperatures over 82 can be fatal! Too much humidity can also cause problems, so try to keep the environment dry at about 40% humidity. Drafty or stagnant air conditions can be very dangerous, so a well ventilated area is best. An outside pen can be used for a few hours daily during moderate weather conditions.


Commercial pellet diets are available, but should not be over fed! Chinchillas need unlimited amounts of timothy hay at all times. A frequent problem is obesity which causes many secondary problems. For this reason no more than two tablespoons of pellets should be fed daily. Pellets should be purchased in small quantities so they are fresh. Even though feed mixtures with sunflower seeds and peanuts are sold for chinchillas, the seeds have a high fat content and should be avoided. Treat foods such as raisins or other fresh fruits or vegetables may be fed, but no more than one teaspoon daily. Be certain fresh water is always available. Chinchillas should be provided with things to chew to help wear down their teeth. A piece of white pine, untreated fruit tree branch, or commercial chew block.


Chinchillas are easy to care for once some basic knowledge is obtained. Dogs cats and ferrets are naturally aggressive toward chinchillas, seeing them as prey. They are most active at night, but may play during the day also. They should be in an area when nocturnal activity will not disturb other family members. Gentle patient attention may be needed to tame nervous individuals. They should be handled and given attention for at least 30-45 minutes each day. They are difficult to litter train, so this should be considered during the time they are allowed to wander. Chinchillas should not be bathed with water, dust baths should be provided several times per week. This can be a commercial chinchilla dust, or one cup bird grit, and one teaspoon talcum powder. The dust bath should not be left in the cage.

Chinchillas can be afflicted with many of the same problems and diseases as other pets. They will readily chew household items! They should be examined by a veterinarian familiar with them at least one to two times per year. Many of the problems we see are due to poor husbandry. We are happy to provide information to current or prospective owners. Please contact us through our website or by phone.


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