The chinchilla looks like a mix of three different animals. It has the rotund body of a guinea pig, short rabbit-like ears, and a squirrel tail. This is a unique critter that is kept as a pet less frequently than cats and dogs. It has special needs and behaviour that make it a pet restricted to the experienced owner.
The chinchilla has a very sensitive stomach. This means that feeding it certain treats might upset its digestive tract, resulting in diarrhea and water loss. Being a very small critter means that digestive upsets can quickly progress to dehydration. You must be careful when feeding your chinchilla treats as many foods, like lettuce for example, will cause these upsets. Raisins are often a favourite amongst chinchillas; however, they should only be fed a maximum of one raisin a day. Stools should be watched to ensure that they still well formed. Treats that do not disturb the digestive system of your chinchilla should be given in minimal quantities because chinchillas can accumulate excess weight easily that can be detrimental to their health.
Chinchillas have very delicate bones. The chinchilla is often not fond of being held and cuddled but rather enjoys hopping about on the ground getting exercise then being held in one place. However, if you work with your chinchilla constantly and carefully, you may be able to build up its trust so that it will let you hold it. Additionally, they may thoroughly enjoy being scratched around the ears or under the chin.
Along with very fragile bones, the chinchilla has teeth that continuously grow. They need to constantly chew to keep these teeth short. If you happen to let your chinchilla hop around your room with a wire on the floor, there is a high probability that your furry pet will go to examine this wire and sink its teeth into it. This is not only an inconvenience for you because it now needs to be replaced, but more importantly, this can be very dangerous for your chinchilla, causing electrocution leading to an early death. Understandably, this is why is it absolutely essential to be certain that everything your chinchilla could chew is removed before you let it roam free.
The chinchilla is probably most well known not as a pet but because of its luxurious fur. Chinchilla fur is said to be one of the softest furs, and if you’ve ever petted a chinchilla or felt an article of clothing made from chinchilla fur, you will have to agree. Now what impact does this have on your pet? The chinchilla needs extra special attention to keep its supreme coat in ideal condition. They require a dust bath a minimum of a couple of times every week to maintain the silky softness of their fur. This chinchilla dust must be specially formulated and can usually be found in pet stores.
Moreover, not only does the chinchilla need dust baths to keep its fur in excellent condition, but they must also be housed in a proper environment. The chinchilla coat is amazingly soft because there can be up to 60 single hairs growing from only one hair follicle. The implications of this are that this dense coat keeps the chinchilla very warm, so it cannot tolerate heat very well. An ideal temperature for a chinchilla would be approximately 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you like to keep your house toasty, you might want to reconsider adopting a chinchilla, because they become very uncomfortable in temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and may suffer from heat stroke when the temperature reached a stifling 80 degrees.
If you are capable of handling the extra responsibility that comes with owning a pet chinchilla, there are many rewards to reap! The chinchilla is all about fun and games, and is an extremely curious creature with heaps of energy. It is unfair to your pet if you do not let it outside its cage for at least an hour or two every day. They love to run around, and will even leap off walls, and use you as a springboard to bounce off of. Chinchillas are very entertaining to watch, and when it becomes accustomed to your presence, will even enjoy hopping around on your body and a well-placed head scratch.
When properly taken care of, the chinchilla can make a wonderful pet, and have an exceedingly long lifespan compared to other critters that are kept as pets. A chinchilla is not a pet for everyone, especially not as a first pet for people who have never had pets before. Before you adopt a chinchilla please be aware of its special needs and make a promise to yourself and your new friend that you will take care of it for its entire lifetime of 12-20 years.
By Laura Platt – Pets.ca writer