Chinchillas are an odorless rodent that has a compact body with small limbs, large eyes and ears, long whiskers, and a fluffy tail. They weight anywhere from 400 grams to 800 grams and females tend to be larger then males. Their average life span is 10 years. Chinchillas are quiet, shy, and they rarely bite.
Chinchillas are very active and require a large, multi-level cage. They are also active chewers so their cages should be made from metal. Chinchillas can easily hurt their feet or limbs if they get caught in the wire flooring, so a majority of the cages floor should be solid. Be sure there is a “hideaway” spot and shelves in their cage. They are active and love to jump around and climb on items. They love to chew on and play with toys, be sure their cage has plenty of toys to play with. Wheels are a good source of activity outside of their cage. Look for a wheel that is a solid piece of plastic with small slits in it for airflow. When looking for bedding for the base of their cage chose a shredded or pelleted paper product, aspen, or wood shavings. Cedar shavings can be irritating to their skin.
A dust bath should be offered for 5-10 minutes every 24-48 hours. Use commercial dust made for chinchillas. Keep the dust bath clean and free of waste; remove it when your chinchilla is done using it.
Litter Box Training
It can be done and it takes some time. Watch where your chinchilla is going now and place the litter box there. Also place a few droppings in the box; this will help your chinchilla understand what the litter box is.
Chinchillas originate from the dry, cool, Andes Mountains. High temperatures, high humidity, and direct sunlight should be avoided. Ideal temperatures should be kept between 50-60ºF and should not go over 82ºF. Humidity should be kept at 40% or less. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 80ºF can result in heat stress. Treatments include cool water baths or fluid therapy by your veterinarian.
Chinchillas need a high fiber, low energy diet in order to prevent enteric (digestive) problems. A tough and fibrous diet helps to keep their open-rooted teeth (continuous growing teeth) trimmed. Timothy hay should be offered at all times along with a small amount (1-2tbsp) of chinchilla pellets daily. Fruit and a small amount of greens can be offered as treats. Some examples of treats would be raisin, dried banana chips, yogurt, and unsalted sunflower seeds. Avoid breads, cereals, and nuts. If you are planning on changing your chinchilla’s diet, it needs to be done gradually. Fresh water should be offered daily in a water bottle mounted to the cage.
Heat stress, dental problems, limb fractures, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and fur ring are common health concerns with chinchillas. Valley Veterinary Hospital recommends yearly examination with a veterinarian.