20 Things You Should Know Before Adopting a Pet Chinchilla

Anytime you decide to bring a new pet into your home, you should always do some homework first. Chinchillas make great (and super cute) pets, but there are some things you should know beforehand.

If you think one of these fluffy little furballs might be right for you, read on to be sure.

20. Chinchillas can be skittish.

While most chinchillas do grow accustomed to being handled, they often start off relatively resistant. It usually takes some time for them to become used to regular interactions with others.

19. They take time to adapt.

Introductions to humans and to other chinchillas. It’s often best to start with just one. Chinchillas can have a hard time adjusting to life with an unknown companion.

18. Chinchillas like it somewhat chilly.

These cute little critters are quite heat intolerant. If you live in a warm climate, you’ll need to be sure you can keep your fluffball a comfortable temperature. Chinchillas should not be kept in an environment any warmer than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).

If you don’t have central air conditioning, this may not be the pet for you. Likewise, if you prefer to keep your home warmer than 75 degrees, you might want to reconsider a chinchilla.

17. They are a long-term commitment.

You’d best be prepared to take care of your little fluffball for a long time. Chinchillas can live to be as old as 15 to 20 years.

16. Do you have allergies?

Chinchillas may not be the best option for allergy sufferers. While the animals themselves are considered to be hypoallergenic, the things they need can cause issues for folks with allergies. Not only do they need hay, they also have to have dust baths.

15. They may never be as cuddly as you’d like.

They look super cuddly, considering they’re like living balls of fluff. However, cute as they may be, many chinchillas aren’t into being cuddled. Some never adapt to being handled at all.

14. Chinchillas are crepuscular and nocturnal.

They typically sleep during the day and are most active at dawn and dusk. Of course, many pet chinchillas are most active in the wee hours of the night and morning.

13. They aren’t great pets for small children.

Chinchillas are hyperactive and can also be quite high strung. While they can and sometimes will play with humans, they are not a great choice for young children.

12. Adopt from a reputable breeder.

While you may find chinchillas at some per stores, purchasing from them is often not the most ideal option. Finding a reputable breeder helps ensure you receive a healthy pet. Look for breeders with recommendations and verifiable feedback.

Most good breeders will let you visit them and see their setup. Chinchillas from breeders are also a lot more likely to be better socialized and used to being handled.

11. Choose a quality food.

Not all foods are created equal. Oxbow Essentials and Mazuri Chinchilla Diet are good, high-quality foods you can feel safe feeding your fluffball. Chinchillas have sensitive digestive systems, so it’s essential that they receive a properly balanced diet. They are not at all good at processing rich, fatty foods.

Pelleted foods are highly suggested. With mixed feed, you sometimes have to worry about them picking out only their favorite parts. You’ll also want to supplement your chinchilla’s diet with plenty of fresh hay. (We personally like Small Pet Select 2nd cut Timothy.)

10. Selecting a cage.

Chinchillas need a large wire cage with ample vertical space and solid floors. The bigger the cage, the better. Cages should also be kept away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

9. Picking proper bedding.

Shredded pine or aspen is a fine bedding, though some people simply choose to use fleece. Cedar shavings should be avoided as they are toxic to chinchillas and can cause serious health issues. Some people also choose to use recycled paper pelleted bedding.

8. Other things you’ll need.

Chinchillas need several things to be happy and healthy. You’ll need a house or a fleece cube, a metal exercise wheel, and chinchilla-safe chew toys. You’ll also need a gram scale for weighing your chinchilla, since it’s important to keep tabs on it.

Weight gains and losses are one of the best indications of health issues that otherwise might go unnoticed.

7. About that wheel…

Your chinchilla’s wheel should be 14 inches or larger and should not have a center spoke. Most people use large metal saucer wheels, though they can be noisy. Keep in mind that chinchillas are mostly active at night. If you’re a light sleeper, you might want to seek out a quiet wheel.

6. Selecting safe chew toys.

Chinchillas love – and need – to chew on things. Properly processed sticks, kiln dried pine, and lava or pumice rocks designed for chewing are all good options. Chew sticks mostly come from fruit trees like apple, kiwi, pear, and others.

You should, of course, make sure these come from a safe, organic, pesticide-free source.  Certain branches, like birch, are toxic, so always stick with things you know are safe.

5. Chinchillas need dust baths.

Chinchillas also need 2-3 dust baths every week, so you’ll need supplies for that as well. A bath house is the best way to go, with a quality dust like Blue Cloud dust.

4. Avoid fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds.

There are a lot of foods that Chinchillas just simply shouldn’t be given. And even safe treats should be given in moderation.

3. Picking safe treats.

Some treats that are okay to give your chinchilla are plain cheerios, goji berries, and dried flowers. Of course, they should be safe, edible flowers. Dandelion, red clover, mint, hibiscus, and rose hips are all considered to be safe treats.

2. Find a vet beforehand.

Not all vets are equipped to treat small pets like chinchillas. Be sure to locate a suitable veterinarian before bringing one home. Most major cities have specialists that can see small and exotic pets. They are, however often more expensive than other vets.

Always be prepared for the unexpected. While serious health issues aren’t commonplace, they can happen, and they can be quite costly.

1. Online help is always available.

There are numerous online groups dedicated to chinchilla ownership. If you’re a Facebook user, consider joining one or more of the popular ones. Chinchillas-R-Us is also a helpful resource.