Chinchillas are deeply furred members of the rodent family, native to South America. They are close relatives to the guinea pig, and many people find their soft fur, lack of odor and clean habits quite attractive. As attractive as chinchillas are, they do not make ideal pets for everyone.
Chinchillas do not like to cuddle or be held. If you’re looking for a cuddly pet, look elsewhere. Young children may not understand this about a chinchilla, which looks so naturally cuddly. As well, chinchillas are highly excitable, and may not be a good pet choice for a highly active child. A lot of activity or yelling around a chinchilla can cause the animal to become stressed.
As members of the rodent family, one of the primary activities of chinchillas is gnawing to keep down the steady growth of their teeth. They will indiscriminately chew on everything including wires, baseboards, the bottoms of wooden chairs, and paper or cardboard boxes. Chinchillas can hurt themselves by gnawing on items that contain high amounts of resins or other chemicals. Chinchillas need safe chewing items to satisfy their gnawing needs. They also may require yearly dental care to keep the teeth from becoming too long.
The simple answer to this might be to keep chinchillas in their cages. However, chinchillas often require some activity outside of their cages. This means chinchilla-proofing a room, which can be a challenge. It’s also difficult to block a chinchilla from leaving a room since they can jump very quickly and very high, about five feet (1.52 m) in the air. Thus the average baby gate will not adequately prevent chinchillas from escaping a room.
Chinchillas are also nocturnal, which means hours of play usually occur in the evening, and into the night. If you are a light sleeper, a chinchilla cage in your room may not be a good choice. One should be able to provide activity choices for the chinchilla each night so it does not become restless. A helpful tool can be the chinchilla wheel, which will allow the chinchilla to exercise.
Chinchillas also need temperature controlled homes or cages since they are extremely susceptible to both heat and cold. Normally a home or cage should be no higher than 78 degrees F (25.55 C). Extended periods of time at temperatures even as high as 75 degrees F (23.88 C) can cause heat stroke in chinchillas. If you are unable to control the temperature via air conditioning, then you must buy a temperature-controlled cage.
Chinchillas live for about 10 years in the wild, and may live for up to 20 in captivity. Thus buying a chinchilla means a quite long commitment to raising it. Be aware of this commitment before deciding to get one.
Despite these special care issues, many owners of chinchillas enjoy these active and fuzzy rodents greatly. Other pets tend to tolerate chinchillas well, though this should be carefully tested and controlled. Though they do not make the best pets for younger children, a child over ten may really enjoy having a chinchilla as a pet. From their popularity as pets, clearly many adults also enjoy caring for chinchillas.