Chinchillas are a rather unusual pet for most people, but they can be wonderful little companions if you’re not bothered by having a relatively high-strung creature as a pet. They’re a bit like squirrels in their quirky, active natures, but they don’t emit any loud or obnoxious noises, they don’t develop any unpleasant odors, and they have relatively long lifespans, so they’ll be with you a while. You will also love picking them up and holding their luxuriously soft fur. Here are some of the things you need to consider if you’re going to make a chinchilla your next pet at home.
Getting the Right Cage
You could make your own cage if you have those kinds of skills, but most likely you’ll want to buy one online, or simply go to the local pet shop and pick one up. The only real characteristics you need to allow for are making sure that it’s roomy enough to accommodate your new pet, and that it can be comfortable when it’s looking to relax.
As a general rule, it would be better to get a bigger cage than you think you need because they’re very active little creatures that do a lot of climbing, jumping, and running around. It’s a good idea to purchase a cage that has several levels to it and is taller than it is wide.
Once you’ve got your cage picked out, you should figure out where in the home you’re going to position the cage, so that the temperature is right for your new pet. Obviously, you should not place it next to a door or a window, because temperatures have a tendency to fluctuate in those situations.
If you can situate your cage in a spot that has a steady temperature between 60 and 75°, that will be just fine. Don’t allow the temperature around the cage to exceed 80 degrees, or it will be subject to heatstroke, and humidity should be kept below 60%. If you see your chinchilla’s ears starting to turn red, that’s a telltale sign that overheating is in progress.
Installing Cage Bedding
Some woodchips are harmful to chinchillas, so it’s very important that you get the right kind of bedding to put at the bottom of your chinchilla cage. Avoid any kind of bedding that includes cedar or conifer chips. The ideal chips to use for your chinchilla cage are those which are non-treated, preferably of a type like Appletree, Willow, Birch, or Aspen. At least once a week you should clean out your chinchilla’s bedding, and replace it with some fresh material.
Accessories for the Cage
One of the first things you should buy as a cage accessory is a large wheel because exercise is very important to the chinchilla’s health. Most of the time, it will be sleeping through the day and will be more active at night, so it will be best if you have some kind of appropriately sized den for them to sleep in throughout the day.
Little plastic dens are perfectly all right, and you can even make your own by just poking a hole in the side of a container that’s large enough for them to pass through. Make sure to include a few chew toys and a few sticks for your chinchilla to chew on, because their teeth require constant gnawing in order to keep them correctly sized.
Food for your Pet
Chinchillas are unable to digest most kinds of green plants, and they don’t do well with protein or fatty foods either. In fact, the only kind of food that a chinchilla really does care for is hay, so if you can supply them with some fresh timothy each day, that will be all they really need.
If fresh timothy is not readily available all the time, you can also supply your chinchilla with hay pellets in a bowl, and they’ll be munching on these contentedly throughout the day or night. If you want to mix things up briefly sometime, you can give them a treat consisting of lettuce leaves and nothing else.
It’s better that you don’t mix up their diet much at all, because even small variations tend to give them digestive problems. In short, feeding your chinchilla is going to be one of the easiest aspects of its care, because there isn’t really anything that they like to eat other than hay.
The first thing you need to know about chinchilla baths is that you should never get your chinchilla wet because their fur is so thick, it’s literally impossible to ever get it dry again. Since this is the case, fungi can start growing in their fur, or it can begin to rot away.
If you happen to accidentally get your chinchilla wet, you should dry it off immediately to the best of your ability, making sure that you use both towels and a hairdryer which blows no heat.
The chinchilla baths that you purchase in a pet shop actually hold dust, which is necessary to soak up the oils and dirt which are on their skin and on their fur. Most chinchillas will do this at least a few times a week on their own if you leave the chinchilla bath in place in their cage, but some enjoy it so much, that they’ll do it several times daily without being prompted.