Chinchillas in nature can be found at elevations between 9 and 15 thousand feet along the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains in western South America. These highly social cuties come in an array of colors, including gray, ebony, white, beige, violet and sapphire and make engaging companions. They have a wide range of vocalizations and can jump up to 5 feet.
Typical chinchilla appearance and behavior
- Chinchillas have an inquisitive and gentle nature and a lot of energy. They can be very shy if not socialized properly. A well-socialized chinchilla likes to be cuddled and carried.
- Chinchillas are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk
- Chinchillas have very thick (approximately 60 hairs per follicle) and soft fur that will come out easily if they are restrained by their skin
A large, multitiered habitat with ramps and shelves to rest on is recommended because chinchillas love to jump, climb and play. A habitat with a minimum of 2’x2’ of floor space should be provided. Wire habitats for optimal ventilation with a solid bottom are required to protect their feet from developing pressure sores on their soles. Provide the largest habitat possible with the space between the wires being no bigger than 1 inch. Plastic habitats are not recommended, as chinchillas can easily chew through them with their sharp teeth.
Building your habitat
Chinchillas acclimate well to average household temperatures, not to exceed 80°F, as their thick coats make them prone to overheating, which could lead to fatal heatstroke. Be cautious of extreme temperature changes. Their habitat should never be in direct sunlight or in a drafty area.
- Bedding - 1-2 inches of bedding should be placed in the habitat. Proper bedding includes high-quality paper bedding or crumbled paper bedding. Paper-based bedding is preferred, as it is digestible if eaten. Ingested wood shavings can cause an intestinal blockage and should be avoided. Cedar-based products are also not recommended, as the oil on cedar can cause skin and respiratory tract inflammation
- Décor - Chinchillas like to hide and should be provided with hiding places in their habitats to feel secure. Commercially available hide boxes, some of which are made of edible materials, are ideal for chinchillas to seek shelter in
- Toys - Chinchillas should have an exersaucer or solid wheel in their habitat in which to run to get exercise. Wheels should be solid inside to prevent tiny chinchilla toes and legs from becoming entrapped