As for any pet, you should have prior information on how to care for one, before keeping it in your house. There are certain characteristics and conditions that are you required to know before keeping a chinchilla, in order to know whether it is a good choice for you or not. Some of the striking characteristics of a chinchilla are that, they are nocturnal, thus, most active during the nighttime, and that they live for about 20 years! You should also know that they have very weak bones, because of which they should not be handled by young children.
Temperature, Bedding, and Housing
The first thing is providing it with a comfortable habitat, which mainly consists of maintaining suitable temperature, and giving it proper housing and bedding. Chinchillas are very sensitive to high temperatures, and cannot survive in temperatures over 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have mistakenly kept your chinchilla in a temperature over this, you should immediately cool it down, otherwise, it can die. If, where you live is always over this temperature, you must keep it in an air-conditioned room. For emergency situations, where the chinchilla gets overheated, you can consider keeping Terra cotta pots or marble tiles in the freezer, so that you can place your chinchilla on it, if it's overheated.
As far as housing is concerned, they need to be kept in a small cage, usually 2x2x3 feet in size. The flooring should be taken special care of because their very small feet which might get caught in the flooring. A flooring that is ½x½ inch in dimension is perfect. The cage should be airy enough. Make sure there is no wood or plastic in the cage, as these substances are not safe for this pet. You must, however, keep plenty of toys in the cage, so as to let it chew on them to grind its teeth.
Chinchillas needs proper bedding, where you must ensure that cedar is never used for this purpose―it is very harmful for its respiratory system. Bedding that is recommended includes Aspen, CareFresh and Kiln dried pine. You must change its bedding at least once in a week. Here's a surprising fact―chinchillas do not stink, so in case you notice a bad smell, you should probably clean or change its bedding.
Food and Water
Special food like fresh and mold free alfalfa and timothy hay should be fed to chinchilla. Make sure that you keep toys and cubes of hay in its cage, so as to encourage chewing, since its teeth will be constantly growing. There are several varieties of chinchilla food available in pet shops. Whatever food you choose, make sure that you supply it fresh and in a consistent manner. Large amounts of foods are not at all needed for them. For the pet's dietary needs, feed it either once or twice a day, but try to keep the consistency. If you consider changing the food, make sure you gradually introduce it to its new food for a few weeks, by increasing the ratio of new to old.
As far as water supply goes, it must never be given tap water, as it might be harmful. Filtered or purified water is what you should be feeding your chinchilla with. Water that has been purified using reverse osmosis, is the perfect one for your pet.
Bathing, Health Care, and Other Factors
Unlike other animals, chinchillas require a dust bath instead of a water one! This is because, chinchillas originated from dry and deserted areas with no water. Thus, you need to give it a dust bath twice a week. Make sure that it is not allowed to take a dust bath for more than 15 minutes. Commonly used dusts include Kaytee, Blue Cloud, and Blue Sparkle, and are available on the Internet or in pet shops. Some of the dusts are also available in scented forms. You can use that once in a while, because otherwise, the fragrance in those dusts may harm your chinchilla's respiratory system.
For health care, ensure that there is a vet near your house who is highly knowledgeable about chinchillas. It is wise to take your pet to the vet once every month or two. A total health check up the day you get your chinchilla would be ideal. It helps in knowing whether it is healthy or not in the first place. It will also help you and your pet build a bond with the vet.