If you've spent time browsing the Internet, you've likely seen pictures or videos of adorable chinchillas. These animals are lively and endearing, but do chinchillas make good pets?
What are they?
Chinchillas look like a cross between a rabbit and a mouse, but they belong to their own scientific family, called chinchillidae. They are roughly twelve inches in length, and have big ears and muscular legs for jumping. Their heavy coat of fur protects them from fleas and prevents dander, making them hypoallergenic and a good pet for people will allergies.
How does one care for a chinchilla?
Chinchillas have sensitive stomachs, so they need a specific diet to stay healthy. Chinchilla pellets and loose hay are available at most pet stores and online. Fresh water daily is a must, and occasional treats of raisins are acceptable.
Their constantly growing teeth mean chinchillas need objects to chomp on to protect their pearly whites. Chew toys like wooden sticks and pumice stones are great choices.
Chinchillas need a specific environment to thrive. Remember those powerful legs for jumping? Chinchillas need lots of exercise to stay healthy and happy. Shelves in their cage will allow them places to jump and climb. It is also important to hold and socialize with your chinchilla regularly.
Pumping blood through their large ears serves regulate body temperature and to cool the chinchilla off. Because they originate from a mountain climate, it is important to keep a pet chinchilla cool.
One of the more unique characteristics of chinchillas is that they clean themselves by taking dust baths. As a chinchilla pet owner, you can buy a special dust, that is like a fine powder. Place this dust in a bowl 3 to 5 times a week and allow the chinchilla to roll around. It is important to note that chinchillas don't naturally bath in water. Their thick fur will hold water close to their bodies and prevent them from drying properly. If you chinchilla does get wet, gently towel it dry.
So: Do chinchillas make good pets?
Chinchillas generally have a curious, energetic disposition. They don't normally bite unless they extremely scared or are being physically hurt, and they rarely make noise except for the occasional soft squeak. They're inquisitive, soft, and heart-warming. However, it is essential to remember that chinchillas need a certain environment, diet, and lifestyle to thrive. Owning a chinchilla is a rewarding experience, if one is willing to devote the time, patience, and careful attention necessary for a chinchilla to flourish.