Acquired: Rescue / shelter organization
Tully, New York, United States
Posted Oct 23, 2016
Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains and were once spread throughout several regions. Due to over hunting, they are now only found wild in Chile. They live in colonies called “herds”, and thrive in high elevations around 14000 feet. Their name literally means “little Chincha” after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore the little animal’s soft velvet fur.
Modern day chinchillas are either kept at pets or grown on farms for their fur. As pet, they are a lot of fun and are moderately easy to care for.
They do not do well in warm climates, and become uncomfortable in temperatures above 75 degrees F. They lack the ability to sweat, so their environmental temperature must be monitored.
I rescued my chinchilla four years ago, and he’s about five years old. On average, chinchillas live to be 10 years old. A full-grown male weighs about 1 ½ pounds, with a female weighing slightly less.
Due to the type of fur they have, they bathe in pumice, or finely ground volcanic rock (found at your local pet store). It is important that they do not get wet, or if they do, that they get dried quickly and completely. Their fur will get moldy, and then they will get sick.
They have a few health concerns to monitor for, specifically eye infections or teeth problems. My chinchilla has gotten a few eye infections, and they usually clear up on their own within two days or so (any longer and you should take your chinchilla to the vet). During that time, I don’t let him bathe in the pumice dust, as that would further irritate it. It’s important to keep the cage consistently clean.
And since their teeth continuously grow, it’s important to provide chewing blocks or their teeth can get too long and start creating eating problems. A sign of this is if your chinchilla starts to drool.
Chinchillas are very high energy and inquisitive animals- they love to run, bounce off the walls (literally!) and explore spaces. They should be let out of their cage every day if possible. If not, you should provide them a running wheel, which you can find at your local pet store. They are not a great pet for a young child, as they have very delicate bone structures and must not get squeezed too hard. They also startle easily and can hurt themselves when they panic and run (usually into a wall). I would recommend 12+ for age appropriation.