Since chinchillas are active pets, it’s advisable to keep them in enclosures instead of cages and they like to sit on solid items, such as fruit branches or wooden shelving. A wooden box in the enclosure will enable chinchillas to sleep or hide and wooden blocks will help keep their teeth trim. Toys can be added for additional stimulation.
Chinchillas don’t like a lot of noise, so enclosures should be situated in a quiet, shaded location with good air circulation; chinchillas can’t sweat so therefore, temperatures above 25°C can lead to heat stroke.
Chinchillas don’t require bedding. They’re happy to sleep in their wooden box or on a shelf and cages should be cleaned out daily.
They clean their fur by taking sand baths, often daily, in special chinchilla dust containing sand or fine pumice. After a chinchilla has taken a bath, it’s advisable to remove the sand as, if used too often, their coats will become too dry.
Chinchillas have very sensitive digestive systems. Fibre rich diets such as hay-based pellets and loose hay will help digestion and maintain healthy teeth. A very occasional treat of a raisin, small piece of apple or grape can also be given, but overfeeding may lead to diarrhoea. The easiest way to feed your pet is with a complete food specifically for chinchillas, which provides all the nutrients in the correct amounts and proportions.
To make the most out of nutrients consumed, chinchillas also eat their own caecotrophs (soft faeces). Water must be accessible at all times and bottles are often easier to keep clean.
Dental problems are a major health issue for chinchillas. They need to eat fibre and grind their teeth on wooden blocks to wear down their continuously growing teeth. If teeth don’t get worn down enough this can cause drooling and lack of appetite. Your vet will be able to advise you on your pet’s teeth.
Neutering female chinchillas is recommended to help prevent unwanted litters and behaviour such as nesting, aggression and mood swings. It’s also advisable to neuter male chinchillas to prevent aggression. Your vet will be able to advise you on neutering your pet.
Regular exercise is important to keep chinchillas fit and prevent boredom, which could lead to behavioural problems. It’s therefore advisable to play with your pet for at least half an hour a day.
It’s advisable to ensure that your hands are clean and dry before handling chinchillas as dirt, grease and sweat will damage their fur. If a chinchilla feels threatened it will face you and, if grabbed, its defences include shedding clumps of fur to help escape. Holding a pet too tightly may burst blood vessels in its ears.
When you remove a chinchilla from its cage, gently pick it up and hold it loosely.
A chinchilla can be housed with others and males and females can get along well, although they must be spayed or neutered. Chinchillas should be introduced to others gradually and younger pets are more accepting of others.
Regular health checks
Your vet can carry out a 'nose to tail' MOT. You can play a role too by following the guidelines below to keep an eye on your pet’s health and help him to stay in tip top condition and live a long and healthy life:
Rub your hands over your chinchilla’s body including his head, legs and paws to check for any lumps or bumps or anything stuck in his pads
Check your pet’s nose, eyes and ears for any irregularities. Your chinchilla’s nose should be moist, the corners of his eyes should be free of discharge and his ears should be clean
Regularly examine your chinchilla’s teeth for signs of dental problems
Monitor your pet’s weight by running your hands over his ribs and backbone. If he is losing weight or is overweight, it’s advisable to take him to the vet