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IMG_0040The Chinchilla is among one of the most exotic and probably one of the most prized of the rodent family as pets. In this blog post we will be discussing Chinchillas! The post will include animal husbandry, common illnesses and diseases, special requirements and what they are like as pets.

Chinchillas are native to the Andes mountains in South America, making them very robust little critters. They often live in colonies and they are named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who like the Chinchilla once wore its dense, velvet-like fur. The name of Chinchillas can be translated to “Little Chincha.” Chinchillas are well known for the fur, anyone who has the privilege to touch one knows just how soft and warm it can be, this fur helps them regulate their natural body temperature (along with dust) because unlike us as humans, they do not sweat.

Chinchillas are active little creatures, requiring extensive exercise in and out of their cages. Like most other rodents, their teeth will continue to grow, and therefore they will require all sorts of blocks and woods to help keep them from growing to long. Living in colonies means they require daily interaction from their owners, and because of their unique fur coats they require a dust bath (which can be purchased at most pet stores), this dust bath not only helps clean the fur, it also helps regulate the body temperature by mimicking the way we can.

Chinchillas require a special diet, they cannot efficiently process high protein or fatty foods meaning sunflowers, most seeds and raisins are off the market. A high-quality hay based diet with specially made pellets or Chinchilla food will meet all the dietary needs for the Chinchilla. They also aren’t big drinkers, so it is doubtful you will witness them drinking as frequently as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters.

Chinchillas also have fantastic hearing, making them sensitive to loud and disruptive noises. For this reason most experts will tell you that they don’t make great family pets, and aren’t good for children. A family that is well prepared, however, and understand the need of their animal can maintain a perfectly healthy Chinchilla without the problems that often result to their sensitive loud behaviours. This behaviour includes weight loss, heart attacks, plucking and aggressiveness.

People are often surprised at how large a Chinchilla can reach, as such they should have a large enough cage for them to run and play around, and enough toys to keep their paws and teeth busy. They are also fragile animals, and also quite quick, another reason why they aren’t particularly good for children under the age of 8. Children who aren’t careful often get bitten and aggressive behaviour in the Chinchilla can develop.

Despite this seemingly dominating nature, Chinchillas make wonderful pets for the right homes. Like most mammals, they are capable of having multiple and individual relationships with all members of their “colonies” making each relationship in the family unique, rich and rewarding on its own. They are often quite affectionate, and enjoy been cuddled despite their energetic natures, they bond closely and readily with their members of the family–making them loyal and loveable creatures.

Chinchillas also happen to be nocturnal creatures, this means they are active at night, they are often considered more active during the hours of dusk and dawn, and during these times it isn’t unusual for them to “bark.”

Chinchillas, for a rodent, have a large “vocabulary” to express various emotions. One of the most common of these vocabulary is what we like to call barking. Barking, as you might imagine, is similar to that of a dog, and usually signifies excitement, or like birds, a call to their family. Be prepared for this barking during dusk and dawn at peek hours. They are also known for spitting, hissing, grunting, chirping and other similar noises.

Chinchillas have a dark history, something that most owners don’t know about, and that is the fur industry. They are well known for their fur, and they are highly sought out for their velvet-like, soft furs to make into jackets, boots, mittens, hats and other clothing items. Chinchilla fur-farming can be traced right back to the 16th century. Due to fur farming, the numbers of Chinchilla have diminished, but due to certain laws implemented 19th century, their population has risen and it is now quite rare to find their fur on the market.

Overall, Chinchillas make wonderful pets for the right families, and are unique, exotic and fascinating animals. As pets they are affectionate, loveable, playful and curious. They have a wide vocabulary for a rodent, and express themselves in very unique ways. They require a dust bath to help regular their body temperatures, and to keep themselves clean, and in the right families they will make a wonderful addition to these homes.