What is a chinchilla?
Chinchillas, classed as exotic pets, are beautiful creatures known for their amazing fur and big, saucer ears. Chinchillas can live up to 20 years and can become very tame if socialised well. They are more active at dusk and dawn so their activity patterns may not suit all families. Chinchillas like company so are often in pairs or trios.
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Most active: dusk and dawn
Diet and nutrition
Chinchillas are herbivores so need a chinchilla hard feed; for example Science Selective, dried herbs, leaves and branches, a species appropriate seed mix and unlimited hay.
Hay helps prevent dental problems which can be common.
IMPORTANT: Chinchillas are prone to diabetes so avoid anything sugary.
Chinchillas can have small quantities of fresh vegetables, but these should be introduced very slowly. Click here to see the safe list.
Chinchillas require unlimited fresh water in a water bottle or in a shallow water bowl.
A mixture of 40% grass seed and 60% herb/flour and oil seed is suitable for chinchillas. Be sure to accustom your chinchillas carefully and slowly. Give each type of seed individually, weekly.
Accommodation and environment
The minimum recommended cage size for a chinchilla is 95 x 63 x 159cm.
Chinchillas must be kept indoors - they are very sensitive to temperature.
Chinchillas are sociable animals so can be kept in pairs or trios.
Chinchillas need a large cage to live in with multiple levels made of metal or kiln dried pine. They are avid chewers so cannot be housed in a plastic or wooden cage or they will quickly eat their way out.
Chinchillas are very temperature sensitive so need to avoid hot rooms, drafts and being near a window or they might develop heat stroke. A marble slab in the cage is a good way to keep them cool.
Chinchillas should have access to a solid surface exercise wheel, for example a metal TicTac wheel (min. 16 inches). Provide two wheels for larger groups. Not all chinchillas use wheels, however it is a good way to keep them entertained if they do.
Chinchillas need hides, huts and hammocks for sleeping but these needs to be an anti-pill fleece if made of fabric.
Chinchillas themselves don't smell, but the toilet area in the cage can have an odour if not regularly changed. They need access to a sandbath to help to keep their fur clean.
IMPORTANT: Chinchillas cannot get wet or be washed as it can make them become very unwell.
Out of cage time and handling
Chinchillas enjoy time out of their cage but it must be supervised to prevent any accidents such as chewing cables.
Chinchillas sometimes make little chirping noises when happy but are generally silent.
How to health-check your chinchilla
This video from Wood Green Animal Shelter provides some great guidance on how to give your chinchilla a health check.
The following seeds are suitable:
Grass seed: (e.g. crested grass, tall fescue, cocksfoot, ryegrass - only use goods from Germany to prevent foreign plants from being introduced into your native habitat! You can get these seeds at www.samenkiste.de , for example ).
Oilseed Negro seed, safflower, perilla, linseed, poppy, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, camelina
Herbal seeds: dandelion, fenugreek, fennel, dill, parsley, chervil, alfalfa, hay flower seed, wild flower seed, daisy seed, milk thistle.
Flour seeds can make up 10% of the mix.
Millet would be silver millet, Japanese millet, manna millet, plata millet, blood millet, Senegal millet, Dari, as well as amaranth, barley and quinoa.