13 May 2014

All About Chinchillas And How To Look After Them.

care of chinchillas

Do chinchillas make good pets? 

When I first set up in practice in the UK chinchillas suddenly became very popular as pets and were quite expensive to buy, however the craze has passed now and I see less of them, but they are still around.

Chinchillas are small rodents belonging to the Chinchillidae family, they are almost the size of rabbit, in the wild they are found in the Andes Mountains of South America. There are two different species of chinchilla, Chinchilla Lanigera and Chinchilla Brevicaudata. Although they look almost the same the tail and ears of Chinchilla Brevicaudata are shorter, and its shoulder and neck are broader. The Chinchilla Lanigera species can be kept as pets, their standard color is grey but they can also be found in ebony, beige and other colours.

The life span of chinchillas is about fifteen years, but when kept in captivity some even been known survive till twenty or more years. They are vocal animals and make noises varying from squeaks and barks to chirps, they make these noises to express their moods. They use a sweet chirping sound to attract another chinchilla for mating and they bark loudly when they get aggressive or scared. Chinchillas are social animals and so can be kept together in groups, this in fact is probably the best way to keep them. Obviously when keeping chinchillas of the opposite sex in groups they should be neutered unless you want babies! A group of same sex chinchillas also does well, except that there is a chance of them fighting when a younger or older member is introduced in the group.

Chinchillas are very playful animals so they should have toys in their cage to occupy them, branches are good for them to climb on and they also appreciate wood to chew. Temperatures should be maintained below seventy-seven degree Fahrenheit because chinchilla don't have sweat glands and can have problems regulating their body temperature. Since the animals are very active they should be made to spend at least half an hour a day outside their cage to exercise and run round the room. They clean their fur many times a week by taking dust baths. A container filled with special chinchilla sand should be kept in their cage for bathing purposes, I was fascinated to watch my own pet chinchillas rolling and playing in their sand baths. By the way conventional water bathing is inappropriate for this species.

As far as feeding goes chinchillas shouldn't be given a sweet and fatty diet like nuts and fruits for example as their digestive system is very delicate and specialised. Their main diet should be commercial chinchilla pellets and loose hay, however I used to give mine raisins sometimes as an occasional treat.

I said earlier that chinchillas are an endangered species in the wild the cause of this that they were killed on a large scale for their superb soft feeling fur. Although thankfully nowadays the wild species aren't hunted for their fur I am sad to say that the domestic species are especially bred for this purpose.