Chinchillas as a Pet – Facts and Characteristics

chinchillasChinchillas got its name from an indian tribe in The Andes mountains which used to hunt the chinchilla for its fur to use as their clothing. Its name means ‘Little Chincha’. They are also known as crepuscular rodents due to them being more active at night or being nocturnal.

Where Did Chinchillas Come From?

Chinchillas originally lived in high altitude of 914 to 4572 meters or between 3,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level at The Andes Mountain Range in South America. Because of this, they developed very soft dense fur which the Chincha Tribe hunted them for.

3 Different Types Of Chinchillas

Lanigera ChinchillaBrevicaudata ChinchillaCostina Chinchilla
• The most common in pet industry
• Slim neckline and head shape
• Have long tails
• Original colours are light grey to brown
• Found in the middle ranges of The Andes Mountains
• Has a stockier appearance
• Has rounder body and face with ‘puggish’ look
• Fur is longer and wavier
• Have denser fur with a brownish sheen
• Found in the highest and coldest parts of The Andes Mountains
• The smallest type of chinchilla
• Looks more like a rat with longer tails and ears than other chinchillas
• Have shorter fur
• Have a high-strung personality
• Found in the lowest levels of The Andes Mountains
• Not found or rarely found in the pet industry

Chinchilla Facts – Up Close And Personal With the Chinchilla

Life SpanThe average life span for a chinchilla is a whopping 10-12 years. Very long for a rodent though some can even live up to 20 years.
WeightAt birth, baby Chinchillas only weight 35 grams and gain about 1 gram a day until they reach maturity at 8 weeks or more. Female Chinchillas are typically heavier than males at 500 to 700 grams while males are only 500 to 600 grams.
TeethChinchillas grow their teeth non-stop for life! They have a total of 20 teeth composed of 4 incisors and 16 molars. They do not have canines because they are herbivores.
Gestation periodIt can vary from 105 to 128 days although the average is 111 days.
Breeding maturityA Chinchilla can start to breed as young as 8 weeks old but for breeding, it is better to wait until your female Chinchilla is more than 4 or 6 months so they are more mature and can care for their Kit better. A Kit is a baby Chinchilla.
Other Chinchilla Facts on breedingA female’s oestrus cycle is about every 30 to 40 days on average but can span 16 to 69 days. A female can go in heat even right after giving birth so it is important to take away the male Chinchilla from the female’s cage just before she gives birth. More so, baby Chinchillas or Kits can go sexually mature at 8 weeks, so they need to be separated from their mom and sisters at that age too.
Heart rateAverage heart rate is 100 beats per minute.
Body temperatureJust like humans, the average is about 35.5 C to 38 C or 96 to 100 F
PredatorsFoxes, owls, hawks, snakes, and mountain lions. Some Andean tribes also ate Chinchillas (just like some European people still eat rabbit meat today).


Chinchillas Characteristics

Chinchillas Have Big Round Eyes

The eyes can differ in color varying from red, ruby, and black though the eyes are under-developed because they are nocturnal animals. A healthy Chinchilla has bright eyes with no sign of weepiness or discharge.

Chinchillas Have Long Whiskers

The whiskers are long because the eyes are under-developed and they use the whiskers to help guide them around their environment and create a sort of mental map as to where things are placed or located.

Chinchillas Have A Bushy Tail

Normally, the tail can range from 3 to 11 inches and can cover up to one-third its body length which has an average 12 inches. The weird thing among the Chinchilla facts is that, the tails are firm and stiff 24 hours after birth and must be handled gently and not grabbed by the tip or else it can break off.

Chinchillas Have Large Ears

Their huge ears have a hearing range of 125 Hz to 16 Hz according from Miller, 1970; Heffner & Heffner, 1991 and extends from above their head which gives them very acute hearing. Because of these Chinchilla facts, they can easily be startled and frightened by sudden noises. It is why a proper cage placement must be chosen if you have one as a pet.

Chinchillas Have Short Forelimbs And Strong Back Limbs

The fore limbs is used for feeding and the long and strong back legs are used for jumping and moving around. In the wild, Chinchillas are very active creatures who can jump up to 6 feet in the air (take note of this if you planning to get one as a pet).

Chinchillas Are Herbivores

They eat only roots, seeds, leaves, berries, fruits, grass, bark, and alfalfa in the wild. In captivity, they can eat pellets but it is best if this is supplemented with hay. The pellets are usually made from soybean, molasses, wheat, hulled oats, alfalfa, and with added vitamins and minerals plus some coarse hay.

Chinchillas Have Soft Dense Hypoallergenic Fur

They well known for this characteristic, and one of the first uses for Chinchillas are actually to hunt them for food and clothing. Their fur is so dense that among the Chinchilla facts available, it is what is highly characteristic of them and them alone. It is known that they have 80 hairs per follicle compared to humans which only have 1-3 hairs per follicle. It is what helped them survived in the very cold and harsh Andes climate. Their fur is so dense that fleas and parasite cannot go through it, making a Chinchilla a very clean pet. They do use dust baths to clean their fur in the wild. A coat or clothing made from Chinchilla fur is a highly prized item among the tribes that lived in Andes before, and up to this day, Chinchilla coats are a luxury item which is perfect for gift giving because it is also hypoallergenic and does not shed.


Are Chinchillas Good Pets?

Chinchillas are social animals who are playful, intelligent, loveable, and inquisitive. They all have individual personalities and character which develop with proper care. They are very fast, loves to hop and leap around and are used to living in large colonies with up to 100 individuals. They are easy to care for and have nice personalities which thrives on interacting with others of its kind or even with humans!

If you like Chinchillas, then it is helpful to keep a note of the Chinchilla facts above to know more about Chinchilla care before you search for a Chinchilla for sale.

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