Chinchillas are great pets, but how much do you actually know about them?
Here are a few fun chinchilla facts for those who own, or those who just want to learn more about, these adorable pets.
Chinchillas have the softest fur
Chinchillas possess the softest fur of all animals on land, which is one of the reasons they’re so beloved as pets. Around 50 to 80 hairs grow out of a single follicle in their coats.
Compare that to human hair, which grows only one or two strands per follicle, and you can see why their coats are so dense! Overall, their fur is 30 times as soft as human hair, making it the most luxurious thing you can pet in captivity or the wild.
Chinchillas don’t take baths with water
Instead, they take baths with dust. No, not just any dust; this dust is specifically made for chinchillas to remove oil, dirt, and excess moisture from their coats.
Volcanic rock or ash is condensed by many pet brands to develop this highly fine and moisture-wicking dust, capable of bypassing their dense fur and cleaning their skin. If they were to use water, their thick fur would hold onto the moisture and grow mold. Yuck!
In the wild, they rely on volcanic ash in their native South American habitat, or sand derived from special rock to clean their fur. It’s an enjoyable activity for the chinchillas, and it’s adorable to watch them do it, too.
Chinchillas use their fur to get away from predators
And they do it in quite a bizarre manner. Chinchillas can do something called fur slip, which is when a chinchilla releases clumps of hair when threatened or attacked. It may be alarming for owners, but this doesn’t hurt the chinchilla in any way, other than the stress that the threat may have caused them.
Luckily, the amount of fur isn’t excessive, so they can easily regrow it and return to their plush, beautiful selves.
Chinchilla’s teeth grow continuously
Because they are rodents, chinchilla teeth continue to grow, even if they have reached maturity. Talk about growing pains! Because of this, chinchillas tend to have a lot of problems due to their teeth.
To make sure that chinchillas keep their teeth as healthy as possible, they constantly need access to hay. Chewing on hay can help smooth down the tooth, to make sure that it stays at a comfortable length. In the wild, they achieve this with grass, twigs, and the occasional crunchy cacti they find while foraging.
Chinchillas are nocturnal
Nocturnal means that chinchillas are more active during the nighttime, and sleep mostly during the day. This helps them avoid the high South American temperatures that exist even in the Andes Mountains, which can scorch the landscape during the summer times. By tucking in and sleeping through these bright hours, they lower their body temperatures and stay cool.
Their nocturnal nature makes them perfect pets for those who are not home during the day to keep an eye on their pets. For light sleepers, however, this can mean that you’ll be woken up by your active chinchillas!
Chinchillas are crepuscular
Other than being nocturnal, chinchillas are crepuscular, too, which means that they’re most active during dusk and dawn. In the wild, chinchillas wake up by the setting sun, take their dust bath, and go forage for food among the shrubs. They may take another bath as the sun rises, and go back into their dens to sleep the day away.
In the wild, this not only helps them stay cool, but also avoid predators that may wait until complete darkness to begin hunting.
Chinchillas have a long lifespan
With enough care and nutrition, chinchillas can live up to 20 years. That’s almost twice the lifespan of cats and dogs! However, due to predators, climate changes, and human hunters interested in their fur, a wild chinchilla may live only five to ten years.
Chinchillas can overheat
In their natural habitat in the Andes Mountains, the chinchillas have evolved to be exceptionally resilient to cold weather. Unfortunately, this makes them susceptible to heat and humidity. Chinchillas should never be placed in temperatures higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they love cold weather and won’t mind if you crank the AC – within reason.
Chinchillas are endangered
As much as their fur has won the hearts of many, their fur also puts them in danger. This ultra-soft, albeit small, pelt is highly sought-after for gloves, ear-muffs, and other accessories in fashion. Sadly, illegal hunting has decreased the number of chinchillas in the wild, and the loss of their habitat leads to the continued decline of their numbers.
Now you know some fun facts about your favorite furry friend!