Chinchillas are quickly becoming a popular pet because they are unique, interesting animals and, let’s face it, they are cute! Chinchillas are mostly nocturnal, though some chinchillas will behave more like crepuscular animals, meaning that they are active at dawn and dusk.
Caring for a chinchilla is a little bit more difficult than caring for your average pet because of their unique habits, so be sure to research chinchillas and how to care for a chinchilla before deciding that you want one as a pet. Remember that chinchillas will be most active at night, and also shy away from being cuddled or held at most times. This makes them a good pet for an adult that wants an independent animal, not a child who wants a cuddly friend.
One of the main parts of caring for a chinchilla is creating an environment for your new pet that is comfortable and meets its basic needs. Chinchillas are skeptical and timid by nature, so you’ll want to place the cage that you buy or make in an area of your home where there is not much traffic. Also try to keep your chinchilla away from areas where there are frequently other pets, or children. The cage should contain a sleeping box, litter box, food, water and ideally a solid exercise wheel. Chinchillas are also naturally inclined to like temperatures that are cooler than 75 degrees, so keep your chinchilla in a cool room in your home.
Chinchillas mainly eat pellets, much like rabbits or guinea pigs. You should buy the specially formulated chinchilla pellets instead of feeding your chinchilla rabbit pellets though, because rabbit pellets tend to make a chinchilla gain extra weight. Chinchillas eat only when they are hungry, so you can leave pellets in the cage without worrying about overeating. Also provide a hay cube for them to nibble on at their leisure. Chinchillas also love seed mixes, so provide your pet with about a teaspoon of seed mix a day as an extra treat.
Since you can’t bathe chinchillas (they don’t like water, and water would wash away their natural protective oils!), you’ll need to purchase a dust bath. This special dust for chinchillas should be placed in a bowl and set in your chinchilla’s cage about once or twice a week. Dust bathing too often will dry out the chinchilla’s skin, but not dust bathing enough will cause the chinchilla to get greasy and oily. Dust bathing is normal for chinchillas, so leave the bowl with dust bath in its cage for about 30 minutes, twice a week in the evenings. Increase or decrease how often you offer your chinchilla the dust bath based on how their coat and skin looks. Also, it’s fine to reuse the dust for several bathings, as long as you scoop out any particles or waste before using it again.
Remember that although chinchillas are not overly affectionate animals, they still do like to be a part of the family, play with toys and get exercise running around in a hallway or bathroom that you make chinchilla friendly. You’ll have to build a trust and a level of comfort with a new chinchilla, but after it gets used to you being its owner, it will open up to being held more often.