Cheeky Chinchillas - Frequently Asked Questions About Chinchillas


Here you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
For more information please visit the appropriate pages on this site, using the menu to the left and/or above.

The health section is only a guide, if your chinchilla is not well, you must see your local vet

Where do chinchillas come from?

Chinchillas originate from the rocky mountain range of the Andes in South America. Discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1500's, they were named after the Chincha Indians, who killed them for food and made clothing with their fur. Later introduced to Europe, their soft luxurious fur became very popular and was sought after so much, it nearly caused their extinction, as literally millions of chinchillas were killed for their pelts. It is very distressing to know that it takes well over a 100 chinchillas just to make one coat!

Today, hunting the wild chinchilla is banned and they are protected by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Animals. Mr M.F. Chapman, is responsible for the domestication of the chinchilla. He worked as a a mining engineer in Chile. In 1923, after finally getting permission from the Chilean Government, he transported 11 chinchillas to California. They bred successfully and were originally sold to fur ranches and then later sold as pets. It is more than likely that most of our pet chinchillas today are descended from Mr Chapman's original eleven

How big is a chinchilla?

They are about 12 inches (30cm) long when fully grown. The female is usually larger than the male.
Chinchillas can weigh between 500 to 700+ grams. This is a rough guide as their weight can vary quite a lot.
See Size

Are they cuddly like rabbits?

All chinchillas are individual and have their own character and temperament. Some like to be held more than others. However, they are very inquisitive and will happily jump on to you and investigate. From experience, I would say many would prefer to stand on their own ground and be gently scratched around the head and body. They will nibble you on the hand in return - this does not hurt.
I would not suggest a chinchilla as a pet for a young child.

Is a chinchilla right for me?
Chinchillas need a lot of your time, every day. They like attention, particularly if you are keeping one on his own. They also need time out for a run in a safe and secure 'chin-proofed' area of your home. It is extremely important that you understand the need for correct feeding and care.
Again, I would not suggest a chinchilla as a pet for a young child.

How do I make friends with my chin?

Sometimes it can take a while for a chinchilla to get used to you, especially if he hasn't been handled very much. Also, some chins seem to like being held more than others.
But persevere, they need time to get used to you and they need to trust you and feels safe and secure.

Start by placing your hand in the cage and letting him smell you.
When he seems more settled, provide a safe area in your home to let him have a run.
BUT remember, chinchillas will try to chew almost anything.....
If you let your chinchilla out of the cage for a run, it very important that you provide a 'chin-proofed' area.

Apart from the damage he might do to your furniture etc, plastic, paint, varnish, glue can be toxic to chinchillas and could cause serious problems, even death if they ingest any of these substances.
Not to mention, of course, electrical wiring etc
Always supervise him - they can jump quite high and they always want to be where they shouldn't be !!!

NEVER leave him alone for a moment.

Chins are curious and he will probably jump on to you and investigate. Try not to move too suddenly and do not grab him. If you try and grab a chin they will shed their fur, basically as a means of escape, this goes back to their origins, when they would escape from predators.

For more information see General Care

How do I hold my chinchilla?

Hold your chinchilla close to you and support him well with both hands so that he feels secure. He will not be happy if he is held in mid air, or dangling down. Some like to be held more than others.

How much do they cost?

Chinchillas vary in price depending on their colour, quality and where you buy them.

A Standard Grey, just for a example, might cost 30-50 from a private seller and 80+ in a pet shop.
These are just approximate prices as they vary so much.
Different colours and 'show' chinchillas can cost hundred of pounds.
A Rescue chinchilla usually only requires a donation.

Where can I buy one?

You can buy from a Breeder, a Pet shop or a Rescue Centre.

Pet shops are usually the most expensive AND you can't always find out about their background.
It's always a good idea to find out as much as you can about the chinchilla you buy, as some health problems can be passed on genetically.
So, for this reason, it's quite a good idea to go to a reputable breeder, as they should be able to tell you about the parentage of the chinchilla a few generations back.

HOWEVER, if you are wanting a 'pet only' chinchilla, there are many in Rescues - not all are ill and badly treated - some are there simply because their owners can no longer look after them.
The rescue might not be able to tell you a lot about the chinchillas' backgrounds ... BUT the good side, is that you will be giving a chinchilla a much needed home.

Why not visit a local Rescue Centre and provide a forever home for a chinchilla in need :-)
For more details UK Rescue / Breeding UK / Rescue Overseas / Breeding OS

Can I keep just one chinchilla?

It is fine to keep one chinchilla on his own, but you most give him plenty of attention and provide plenty of stimulation in the way of suitable chinchilla toys etc. Remember they are nocturnal and are therefore more active during the evening.

What sort of cage do I need?

Make sure that the cage is big enough. One chinchilla can be kept in a cage approximately 90cm high x 61cm wide x 46cm deep. Cages should remain indoors unless kept in a purpose built, secure outer building. He/she should also have a run outside of the cage for approximately one hour each day. Chinchillas do not like a lot of noise so the cage should be placed in a quiet environment that is well ventilated but not draughty. During hot spells of weather, make sure the cage is shaded from bright sunlight and that there is a constant flow of cool air.

What do chinchillas eat?

Chinchillas require a high fibre diet which helps to keep their digestive tract healthy.
Their diet should consist of good quality pellets and hay. Hay is very important as it provides fibre and it is also good for chewing and grinding, which helps to keep their teeth trimmed down.
I give each of my chinchillas approx 2 tablespoons of chinchilla pellets, fresh hay and water every day. The amount of pellets given can vary, some chins may eat more, but I find this amount is ample for my own chins. You must also provide additional, suitable items he can chew.
For more detailed information see Feeding

How many treats can they have?

Chinchillas, like all animals, love a treat and it would be very easy to give them too many. But remember, a chinchilla's digestive system cannot tolerate too much sugary food, so limit the amount of sweet treats.
An example of a treat would be; a small raisin, a small piece of apple (size of a raisin) or maybe a dried rose hip, which is high in vitamin C. Treats should only be given occasionally - perhaps 2 small treats a week.

A much better alternative would be to buy some dried, healthy treats e.g. The 'Boredom Breakers - Naturals' range that provide a selection for chinchillas. These can be found in the larger pet shops or on line.
There is also another range by Herbal Farm, again, you can buy these at larger pet stores or on line.
Do not use 'our' dried vegetable that might contain additives.

A sunflower seed or half a peanut now and then will probably not harm, but it is best to avoid them altogether as they are high in fat. Chinchillas do not have a gall bladder, which means any foods containing high levels of fat are bad for them. The gall bladder is an organ which contains bile, produced by the body to break down fat during the digestive process. As chinchillas do not have a gall bladder, eating treats containing high levels of fat might build up fatty deposits which could cause liver damage.

For more detailed information see Feeding

How long do chinchillas live?

Chinchillas can live for up to 20 years, although their average life span is about 12-14 years.

Can I let my chinchilla have the run of the house?

The short answer is NO. Chinchillas will try to chew almost anything. For this reason they can not have the run of the house like a dog. When you let your chinchilla out for a run, make sure that there is nothing that he can damage or hurt himself on. Do not let him near any wires/electrical equipment and remember, paint, varnish and plastic are toxic to chinchillas if they ingest it. Also, let everyone know when your chinchilla is having a run. There have been many incidents where chins have been stepped on.

How often do they have a sand bath?

They usually like a bath at least once a day, but do not leave the sand bath in the cage because if it is used too often, their coats will become too dry.

Can 2 males or 2 females live together?

Yes, but they must be introduced slowly. This takes time and perseverance and sometimes they will not be happy to be with another of the same sex. Some chins love all other chins, but some do not.

How can I look after my chinchilla's teeth?

It is VERY important to look after their teeth. Chinchilla's teeth should be yellowish in colour. They are open-rooted and grow all the time. The incisors can grow 2 to 3 inches in a year. So, as well as providing a healthy diet, you must provide items he can chew on too. Along with pellets and good quality hay, provide items such as bark bites, cholla rings and other suitable ‘chewable’ items, which are available in reputable pet shops or on line. Apple twigs are also good, but they must be free from any insecticide etc. Untreated pine is safe, as long as it does not contain any phenol oils etc. Phenol oil is part of the sap that is left in the wood after a quick drying process has been used. Do not let them chew plastic or the varnish/paint work as this can be harmful to them. Calcium and vitamins are important too. Cuttlefish is a good source of calcium and you can also buy calcium powder to sprinkle on pellets. Rose hips are a good source of vitamin C
If you suspect your chinchilla is having any problems with his teeth or appears to have difficulty in eating always see your vet.
For more detailed information see Health

My chinchilla has started biting his fur. What should I do?

There are various reasons for this. Some owners believe it could be genetic, others believe it is due to stress, poor diet, noisy environments or boredom. It is not considered harmful to the chinchilla but will spoil the chin's appearance. Make sure your chinchilla is in a quiet, well ventilated but not draughty environment. Chinchillas are sensitive to stress and noise, so approach him in a quiet way, handle gently, provide active stimulation and suitable toys to distract him.
For more detailed information see Health




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