Whether Chinchillas make good pets is an essential question to ask before deciding to get one. Or several. Besides, any pet is a big commitment, and these rodents, in particular, are known for having unique requirements. But what are they like to own, who are they best for, and what must you have to keep them? Here is all you need to know.
So, do Chinchillas make good pets? Chinchillas can make amazing pets for the right person or family. They are very independent and don’t need much attention. Despite the fact that they don’t generally like to cuddle, they are affectionate, can form close bonds with their owners, and are cute, gentle, low-maintenance pets.
While they do not need much attention, they still require proper care.
And you’re making quite the commitment if you do eventually opt to get one (or several).
These rodents can live for up to twenty years, so be aware of the significant commitment you’re taking on!
But as with any pet, there is so much information to consider that it can get very confusing trying to figure out what’s what.
We are here to help you find out everything you need to know about Chinchillas as pets.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
What Are Chinchillas Like As Pets?
Chinchillas have become very popular as pets as they are lively, fun, and sweet. They are cute, gentle, low-maintenance pets. Chinchillas are also clean, not very vocal, and unlike some other pet rodents, their scent is pretty innocuous.
While they are curious creatures and love being out of their cage, they are also quite skittish. Particularly when you first bring them home.
But in time, and as they get more confident in their surroundings and your car, they will begin to wear their hearts on their sleeves (so to speak).
When they are happy, they smile, wag their tails, and run around bouncing off the walls (known as “wall surfing”).
When the two of you have properly bonded, your Chinchilla may wink at you when you speak, showing you that they are content.
It is also pretty easy to tell when they are feeling afraid or stressed – they run back and forth in their cage, start to chew their fur, or hide away all the time.
If you find that your Chinchilla is stressed, or you want to help them feel comfortable in their new home, you can play some relaxing music to help them keep calm. No death metal, though!
If you start when they are young, with some time and patience, they will let you hold them gently and will be quite social.
You need to spend time with them so that they feel comfortable around you.
But once they are properly socialized, they may begin to enjoy being held and perhaps allow a cuddle or two.
They do not like feeling restrained and love to run, climb and jump around, so the more you are able to let them out of their enclosure, the better.
Chinchillas do need lots and lots of exercise, mind.
As they are nocturnal, they are most active either early in the morning or evening – so this is something to consider.
And as they will mostly play at night, make sure that your Chinchilla doesn’t share your bedroom; otherwise, a good night’s sleep will be out of the question!
Who Are Chinchillas Best For?
Chinchillas are best for adults, particularly those who are out of the house all day or cannot commit much time to their pets during the daylight hours.
This is because chinchillas are crepuscular and nocturnal animals, meaning they will be sleeping during the day while you are at work and active at dusk or dawn.
There is plenty of time for you to come home, unwind and have a little playtime when your day is finished, though.
This schedule allows you to go out during the day without feeling guilty for not spending enough time with your Chinchilla.
This can work well for some people.
That being said, Chinchillas are not recommended as pets for children.
You must handle a Chinchilla properly and gently, as they have what is called a “floating ribcage.”
They are very fragile, and any rough handling can be dangerous for them.
This may also end up being slightly unpleasant for you, as they may bite if frightened or mistreated.
Another reason Chinchillas are not good for children is their life span. We know it seems counter-intuitive for a long life span to be a negative thing, but remember that circumstances change quickly, especially with children.
They may want and love a Chinchilla now, but their focus changes so quickly as they grow, go off to school and move away from home.
A lot can and does happen in 20 years!
As an adult, however, this can be a huge plus.
You will have companionship for many years if you want to and are able to commit.
Here’s another thing to consider.
Chinchillas are good pets for you if you have allergies.
They do not produce any dander, so people rarely have an allergic reaction to them.
However, you may have a reaction to the hay they eat or the dust from their dust bath.
If you don’t have allergies to hay or dust, then a Chinchilla is a good fit for you – as long as you like rodents.
What Do You Need To Keep A Chinchilla As A Pet?
To keep a Chinchilla as a pet, there are a few key areas you need to focus on and ensure you provide: diet, housing, and regular grooming.
A Chinchilla’s diet needs to be well-balanced, but luckily this is not difficult at all.
Their dietary needs are pretty simple – pellets, good quality hay (called Timothy hay), clean water changed daily, and small amounts of safe fruits (like grapes) and vegetables.
Most importantly, no chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol (all those things that make our lives worth living!) as these can cause diabetes or other serious medical conditions.
As long as you avoid anything with high amounts of sugar or fat, you’ll be fine.
When considering what type of cage to buy, bear in mind how active they are.
Get a cage that has many levels so they can run, jump, and climb to their heart’s content.
Your cage must have a solid bottom to protect its feet from slipping through the wires.
Buy high-quality bedding for your Chinchilla – they deserve the best!
Crumpled paper, wood shavings, or shredded paper are perfect.
You should get them the biggest cage possible as the more space they have, the more they can play and the happier they will be.
You will need to keep your Chinchilla clean.
Luckily all you need to do is provide the bath, and they will do the rest.
Remember not to get your Chinchilla wet.
They have lovely, soft silky fur, but it is very dense and extremely difficult to dry.
If they do get a little wet, it’s not the end of the world.
You can dry them off with a towel to prevent any fungi or mold from growing.
They use dust baths – containers filled with dust that you can buy from a pet shop.
Just pop the bath in their cage and let your Chinchilla roll around for 15 to 30 minutes before removing it.
Do this twice a week to stop oils building up on their skin.
Finally, you will need to get your Chinchilla some toys.
They will use the toys not only to play with but to keep their teeth filed down.
Their teeth don’t stop growing, so they need to be kept under control by chewing on hanging chew balls, chewing sticks, or wooden toys.
Other Considerations For Potential Owners
Chinchillas are small rodents native to Andes mountains in South America. It comes as no surprise that they have very particular needs and requirements that you must ensure are met as an owner.
Let us now take a closer look at some of these.
Because Chinchillas cannot sweat, their environment must be carefully controlled.
Your Chinchilla can easily get heatstroke if they are subjected to temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) or over.
Be careful when choosing where to put their enclosure; nowhere near direct sunlight and drafts are a no-no.
Their cage and toys must be disinfected at least once a week too.
You may need to change their bedding more often, but make sure to spot-clean wet areas every day.
By giving your Chinchilla lots of love and attention, a balanced diet, and a nice, clean home, you can prevent most illnesses or injuries.
However, despite our best efforts, things happen, and you need to know what to look out for.
If their coat has lost its shine, they have diarrhea, won’t eat, or are lethargic; then your Chinchilla may be ill.
You will need to get them to a vet asap as symptoms of illness such as dehydration can set in quickly and might be fatal.
Chinchillas do best as a single pet, but you may be able to keep two at the most.
While two Chinchillas are fine, you need to be careful with the pairing.
Firstly, you don’t want them to fight – as is the case with two males.
Secondly, you don’t want to come home one day and realize that you are suddenly a not-so-proud parent of quadruplets.
Opposite sex pairing can quite easily result in breeding!
So when it comes to getting them a companion, it’s better to get one of the same sex.
And there are benefits in doing so.
They are social animals, and if you aren’t going to be around as much as you thought you were, it’s great for them to have a friend to interact with, after all.
When it comes to picking up and holding a Chinchilla, there are a few rules to remember.
The right way to pick them up is with one hand under the body and another one under the hind legs.
There are a lot of websites out there that say you should hold onto the base of the tail and pick them up that way.
However, experts strongly warn against this.
Not only can it be very stressful for your Chinchilla, but they will shed the fur in the area where they are being held and run for cover.
This is a defense mechanism that they employ to prevent being caught by predators.
If you have pets already, you need to be wary of getting a Chinchilla.
They are natural prey for animals like dogs and cats, so unless they are all accustomed to each other, you may have a few problems, to say the least.
Finally, remember that every chinchilla is unique.
You may get a Chinchilla who loves cuddles and adores sitting on your lap.
You may get one who refuses to let you pick him up or touch him at all.
Generally, they have lovely natures.
For example, male Chinchillas assist females with responsibilities like babysitting, and if for some reason a female cannot nurse, then another female steps into the breach.
A lot depends on temperament and personality, so be prepared for anything.
So do Chinchillas make good pets? Ultimately you need to look at your lifestyle and what you want or need out of a pet.
If a Chinchilla sounds like the perfect pet for you, go for it.
Like with any animal, there are pros and cons.
But hopefully, this article has given you a bit of an idea as to whether a Chinchilla is for you.
Are you still researching for potential pets? My other guides may be of help:
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.