Although they were once trapped as a fur animal, bringing them to the brink of extinction, chinchillas have emerged as highly social, lively pocket pets that feel deliciously silky to the touch. In its Andes mountain home, the chinchilla's dense coat was more than a luxury, since it kept off fleas and other pests as well as the cold. Sadly, its beauty was its curse. Both species of Chinchillas are now critically endangered in the wild. At one point, the Short-tailed Chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla) was even suspected of being extinct.

Fortunately, these animals are good breeders in captivity, and it appears that the availability of farmed chinchillas has relieved some of the intense pressure on this genus. Most, if not all, of these farmed chinchillas will be domestic descendents of the Long-Tailed Chinchilla, Chinchilla lanigera. Some sources even claim that all chinchillas farmed in the United States go back to a group of 11 Long-Tailed Chinchillas imported in 1923. In any event, domestic breeding has allowed the development of larger animals in many colors.