Chinchillas are clean, quiet, odourless and attractive rodents that have been bred and farmed for their soft dense fur. Historically, chinchillas lived in an area that included parts of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile, but today, colonies in the wild are known only in Chile.
They are quite shy and are more appropriate as pets for adults and older children. Typically chinchillas can live for 10-20 years.
Owning and caring for a chinchilla can be very rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility. Chinchillas have only been kept as pets for a relatively short time and experts are still learning about how best to care for them.
There is no one “perfect” way to care for chinchillas but certain essential needs must be met. It is up to you how you look after your chinchilla, but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all their needs.
Here’s what you need to know before considering one as a pet.
Chinchillas are highly social
- Chinchillas are highly social and in the wild live in colonies of more than 100 individuals.
Chinchillas need a high fibre diet
- Chinchillas’ teeth grow constantly. They need to eat lots of hay, which is abrasive, to help wear their teeth down.
Chinchillas have an unusual digestive system
- Food is passed through the gut and special droppings, called caecotrophs, are produced. Chinchillas eat these caecotrophs, allowing the food to be reingested.
Chinchillas sleep in the daytime
- Chinchillas are most active in the evening and at night.
See also our previous fact sheet on these little guys.