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How Do I Care for a Chinchilla?

Chinchillas are native to South America.
Chinchillas enjoy the occasional raisin.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
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The chinchilla is a type of rodent which is indigenous to the South American continent. While many people enjoy keeping these animals as pets, proper care is important, especially considering that a chinchilla can often live to be around 20 years old. Proper feeding is of special importance when keeping this animal as a pet. It is also important to provide adequate caging and plenty of room for exercise. Chinchillas require dust baths instead of water baths, so it is important to learn how to do this properly.

The diet of a chinchilla should include a combination of high-quality grass hay and special pellets which are designed specifically for the dietary needs of this animal. This special pet should never be given regular tap water due to the risk of disease. Instead, filtered or purified water should always be used. Treats should not be given more than a couple of times a week and should never be larger than the size of a raisin. Some acceptable treats include rose hips, oats, and raisins.

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Proper housing and bedding are essential when caring for a chinchilla. The cage should provide plenty of room for exercise and be made from wire in order to ensure proper ventilation. The spaces in the caging should be small enough so that the pet can not accidentally get the feet caught in between the spaces, potentially causing injury to the animal. The bedding should be made from Kiln dried pine or aspen. Cedar bedding should never be used, as it is prone to cause respiratory distress in these sensitive animals.

A chinchilla that is kept as a pet needs adequate exercise. Supervised play time outside of the cage is ideal whenever possible. There should also be safe exercise equipment inside the case. These animals love to chew, so nothing made of plastic, or any other material which could be chewed through, should be left inside the cage. Owners who are unsure about the safety of particular types or brands of equipment should consult a veterinarian or a reputable chinchilla breeder for more information.

Bathing the chinchilla is important, but unlike other animals, this pet should not be bathed with water. Instead, dust baths should be taken a couple of times per week. Most pet stores carry the dust needed for this purpose, although scented dust should be avoided. This delicate pet should only be allowed to bathe in the dust for about 15 minutes at a time.

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