Chinchillas originated in the Andes mountain range of South America. The Spanish explorers called them 'Chincha Indians' in the 1500s. They hunted these animals for food, and used their soft fur to keep themselves warm during winter. Soon, this breed started spreading in Europe, and they gradually became popular pet animals.
Chinchillas can grow up to the size of rabbits and have thick, soft fur. They love to gnaw at things, as they have to keep their teeth growth in check. They love chewing up everything; wires, chairs, paper, cardboard, etc. Chinchillas can be kept indoors at all times, as they do not get attracted to any smell outside, and their thick fur cannot get fleas. They also do not cause allergy in people, and are highly sociable.
They are perky, excitable, and quick animals. They have a boisterous, inquisitive nature, and they never make loud, disturbing noises. They require a low maintenance pet care. But they have a very short attention span and are a bit edgy. They don't like hot weather and high humidity. They have the ability to sweat, and if the surrounding temperature is too high, they may suffer from heat stroke. You can choose them from a variety of fur colors like silver-gray, white, beige, ebony, and sapphire. The females are larger than the males. They have a long pregnancy term of about 111 days.
They can be kept in a wire cage with dimensions of ½" x ½". You can keep your pet on a sheet that is full of pine shavings. These shavings make a wonderful base, as they love to dig in it. Do not use cedar as flooring.
You need to feed them daily with pellets, hay, or even desert grass. They cannot digest fatty or high protein foods. You can feed them raisins, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. The quantity of fruits should not exceed more than 1 or 2. They eat very little food, so avoid overfeeding, as they may suffer from diarrhea or diabetes. Clean water should be given daily in a glass bottle that is attached to the cage side.
As their fur is full of lanolin, they can be bathed in dust. Hence, make sure you buy chinchilla dust at a pet store. You need to pour the dust in a container and place this in its cage for 15 minutes.
They are very active animals, and they love to play with and climb on things. You can keep some wheels or shelves in their cage for their merriment. Make sure the wheel is safe so that there are no chances that it will break its leg or cut its tail accidentally. You should take it out for an hour-long exercise daily.
They need to be handled very gently from a young age, as they can become quite tamed. Mostly, they don't like to be held or cuddled. They are active especially at dawn and dusk. Thus, keep them in a quiet area during the day, and be consistent with their feeding time. You should buy them when they're about 10 weeks old so that they quickly get used to the frequent handling and petting. Otherwise, they grow up to be aggressive and less sociable. Do not allow them to run free around the house, as they will chew everything within their reach.
You can train them with food treats like raisins. They recognize its scent, and you can use this foodstuff to make it come closer to you. Cup your hand as a cradle, and coax the chinchilla with raisins in the other hand. Once it begins to trust you, it will hop onto your hand and shoulder. It will play with you and allow you to pet it.
Chinchillas as Pets for Kids
They are a kind of long-term pet, and they need consistent handling. Thus, keeping them as pets for kids is not a wise idea. Also, they tend to be stressed with a lot of activity and noises, and hence, are not a good choice for a highly active child. They are very small and fragile creatures that need to be handled with care, and tight squeezing may make them bite the handler. Thus, if you are sure your kid can handle the chinchilla well, and give it a consistent, long-term commitment, you can buy them as pets.
Good care will ensure a healthy, lovable, and friendly chinchilla as a pet. Make sure you buy this animal from a renowned and recognized pet shop. People who are in the business to make quick money may try to sell you a sick animal. Hence, be sure you buy a healthy one, and also ensure that the pet shop has a good reputation. You can share many wonderful moments with this rodent, once you both build an inseparable bond.