Chinchillas can be great pets, they’re energetic and quirky and fairly low-maintenance when it comes to food and grooming requirements. If you are considering bringing home a chinchilla, it’s important to know how to care for your new friend before bringing them home.
Here are our tips for chinchilla adoption and preparing for their arrival:
Choosing a Chinchilla to Adopt
Before choosing a new friend to bring home from a chinchilla breeder, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs of a healthy chinchilla. Some common signs to look out for are:
Healthy skin & coat: A chinchilla’s coat should be shiny and soft without any patchy areas. Make sure to check for any wounds, sores, or scaly areas on the skin because it could mean the chinchilla has an infection.
Healthy weight: Sometimes a healthy weight can be difficult to gauge but a good way to check to see if a chinchilla is underweight is to softly feel around the backbone and ribs. If you can feel any bones, the chinchilla is underweight. An unhealthy weight could indicate malnutrition or a problem with their teeth. Overweight chinchillas have an increased risk for certain diseases and liver problems.
Normal droppings: Look for signs of diarrhea, mucus, or weirdly shaped droppings within the chinchilla’s enclosure. You’ll also want to make sure their backside is clear of droppings stuck in the fur because it’s a sign they are having trouble defecating properly.
Clear eyes: A chinchilla’s eyes should be bright and clear. Typical signs of an infection are watery eyes or discharge.
Correctly aligned teeth: You’ll want to check the chinchilla for malocclusion, a condition where their teeth don’t wear down properly and become misaligned, making it painful to eat. Drooling is a warning sign for dental complications.
Normal energy level: This is another sign that can be difficult to gauge because you might be visiting during nap time! Healthy chinchillas are active and like to jump so look for signs of lethargy, labored breathing, injuries, and disinterest in their environment
Temperment: Along with signs of health, you’ll want to look for a chinchilla with a compatible temperament to yours. Like people, some chinchillas are friendlier than others and some might have more demanding energy levels.
Where to buy a Chinchilla
Before picking out a chinchilla from a pet store, consider the store’s reputation. Do they bring in pets from “backyard breeders” or is the stock supplied by professional breeders or shelters?
Depending on your area, buying a chinchilla from a pet store can be more expensive than buying one from a breeder but it could be cheaper, too.
You’ll want to be diligent about checking the chinchilla over for any health concerns because animals from pet stores aren’t always kept in the best conditions or socialized very well.
A well-respected chinchilla breeder can be a great option for finding a chinchilla. Breeders are usually passionate about the animal they have chosen to breed and a great source of knowledge.
Of course, you will want to do your research prior to choosing a breeder because there are people out there who are more interested in your money than the animal.
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, look for testimonials from past customers, and make sure you can visit their chinchillas prior to purchasing.
Check local shelters and rescues – there is a chance that someone relinquished a chinchilla who is now in need of a loving home.
Adopting could be cheaper than a pet store or breeder, but more importantly, you would be getting a chinchilla out of a stressful situation and possibly saving them from being euthanized.
What You’ll Need
Chinchillas are active and are known to jump more than 6 feet, so you will want to look for a cage with at least two levels. Good choices are: Prevue Hendryx Black Feisty Ferret Cage, Homey Pet 3-Tier Chinchilla Crate, and Midwest Homes Ferret Nation Deluxe.
Pellets / Hay
Chinchillas need access to a small amount (2 TBSP) of dry pellets each day. You need to buy pellets that are specifically made for chinchillas to ensure the proper fat and protein content.
Some reputable brands are: Oxbow Chinchilla Deluxe, Mazuri, and APD. Hay makes up most of a chinchilla’s diet and should always be available. Suitable varieties of hay are timothy, orchard grass, and Bermuda grass.
You should avoid most treats because there is too much fat in most commercial treats and excess treats often lead to obesity.
The safest bedding you can buy is shredded paper. There are a lot of varieties to choose from at most pet stores and a lot of them now offer a long “odor free” guarantee.
This doesn’t mean you should clean the cage less, it just means you shouldn’t notice much of an odor. You need to avoid pine, cedar, cat litter, corn, and scented bedding because they are dangerous for chinchillas.
To add enrichment and encourage mental stimulation, your chinchilla should have access to toys in their cage.
This will help them avoid boredom and encourage the safe chewing needed to wear down their teeth. Always check to make sure toys are non-toxic and safe for chinchillas before putting them in their cage.
Hidey holes are important for when your chinchilla needs to rest and feel safe from predators. You’ll want to make sure your chinchilla will fit comfortably, and some people recommend having two doors because it might be more comforting for your chinchilla.
Chinchillas should never be bathed with water because it’s stressful for them and it would take too long for their thick coat to dry. Instead, you need to use a dust bath to remove oil and dirt from your chinchilla’s fur.
To do a dust bath you need to have a large container or commercial dust bath tub (purchased from your local pet store) and chinchilla dusting powder (also purchased from your local pet store). You just need to put a thin layer of dust in the container and your chinchilla will roll around to get themselves clean. Dust baths are needed twice per week.
Now that you know how to prepare for your new friend, you’re well on your way to becoming a great chinchilla owner and companion.
Remember, if you’re ever not sure about something regarding caring for your chinchilla, do a quick search online or ask someone who is knowledgeable about proper care.