With their big ears, thick fur and small size (they will grow to a foot long at the most), the appeal of chinchillas as pets is easy to see.
However, like any pet, they have their own set of requirements to keep them happy and healthy.
Tom Harford Columbia, an exotic animal lover who educates others about caring for exotic pets, offers some advice for caring for these cuddly but fragile creatures.
Not for everyone:
Chinchillas can be a suitable, educational and interesting pet for children, but not every child will be a good match for a chinchilla, Columbia cautions.
Chinchillas are fragile and their bones can be broken easily, so children must exercise care when handling them and should be supervised by an adult.
In addition, not all chinchillas enjoy interacting with people.
Dust baths and grooming:
“One of the best things about a pet chinchilla is how soft they are,” Columbia says. “Many people can’t believe how plush and silky their coats are.”
To keep their coats clean, Chinchillas need a dust bath at least once a week, according to Columbia.
You can do additional grooming with a brush but Columbia emphasizes that your chinchilla should not get wet.
Even a bit of water can cause the chinchilla’s fur to become tightly compacted and uncomfortable, and may also lead to problems with the chinchilla getting a chill or even fungal infections, according to Pets on Mom.com.
Treats and food:
Chinchilla pellets, available at most pet stores, provide an excellent source of sustenance for a pet chinchilla, Columbia notes.
However, treats, including fruits and vegetables, should also be provided in moderation.
Keep wood sticks and chewing toys available for your chinchilla at all times so their teeth do not grow too long, as their teeth never stop growing.
Hay should be available for chinchillas at all times.
When it comes to chinchilla habitat, things do not need to be as particular as they do with some other exotic pets, Columbia relates.
Chinchillas do not require a particular temperature, though direct sunlight and drafty areas should be avoided.
Because they are active creatures, chinchillas should have plenty of room in their cages to play, exercise and be stimulated.
The Spruce Pets website notes that chinchillas are curious love to explore, but may bite into objects to see if they are edible:
“The natural curiosity of chinchillas means that you should have a room that is thoroughly chinchilla-proofed before allowing time outside the cage, and close supervision is necessary.”
It is also important to note that chinchillas are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and being awake at night.
Columbia states that chinchillas can live for 10 years with proper care.