Owning a pet as uncommon as the chinchilla may sound enticing. After all, who can resist the charm of this small, adorable rodent? These soft, irresistible balls of fluff have captured the hearts of many pet owners. With all the chinchillas you may have seen online or in real life, you could be wondering: What’s it like to own a chinchilla?
Just like every other animal, there are both pros and cons to owning a chinchilla pet. Here we compare these factors in depth, so you can be absolutely sure if this precious creature is the right pet for you.
Pros of Owning a Chinchilla
Other than their incredibly soft fur, there are many reasons why chinchillas make great pets.
Chinchillas have a long life expectancy. Wild chinchillas, on average, live between five to thirteen years old, depending on how uncertain their environment is. Their domestic counterparts can live for much longer!
On average, domestic chinchillas can live up to twenty years old, sometimes even more. Chinchillas can even live significantly longer than cats and dogs, which only have an average life expectancy of 15 years. Of course, there are cases wherein chinchillas don’t live up to five years of age, but this is often due to neglect, poor nutrition, or illness.
While it’s certainly a perk, be aware: this means you’re committing to this pet for the long haul. A solid chunk of your life will be spent with this fluffy companion. If you’re prepared to dedicate as much as two decades to an adorable creature that will certainly return your love, they may be the ideal pet for you.
When compared to most pets, chinchillas are rather low maintenance. Because of their especially unique fur, healthy chinchillas are free of odor and are particularly resistant to fleas or mites. With proper care and nutrition, chinchillas often have no need to visit the vet.
Of course, there is still a bit of maintenance that you may need to undertake. Cleaning your chinchilla habitat, adding toys, replacing beddings, and providing baths are tasks that should be completed every week. Refilling food and water are daily responsibilities; a chinchilla’s food bowl and water bottle should never be empty. They also need thirty minutes of play time every day to keep them active.
Can Be Left Alone for Long Periods
Chinchillas are known to be social creatures, meaning they often need another chinchilla to keep them company in their habitat. However, this doesn’t mean that you always have to be around! Chinchillas tend to be more introverted; other than just a few minutes of play every day, they barely need any human interaction. As long as they have food in their bowls and water in their bottles, chinchillas will be happy to dig and run around all on their own.
This makes chinchillas a wonderful pet for active owners. They can be left to their own devices for long periods. Compared to a dog that needs a regular, daily walk, chinchillas don’t take up much space or time. So if you’re the type of person who can’t keep an eye on their pet regularly, a chinchilla may be the right pick for you.
When it comes to cleaning, most pets can be a handful. Poop and urine can be particularly foul, and there’s nothing quite like coming home from a long day to a house that stinks!
Chinchillas still create a mess, of course, but because of their size, it can be easy to clean their messes. As a matter of fact, healthy chinchillas produce an almost odorless urine. They do poop a lot, but their poop is easy to clean up.
There are also ways for you to make clean-up much easier. Absorbent bedding can make clean-up much faster. A cage with a pull-out bottom is also an excellent choice for those who want to be more efficient in clean-up.
Chinchillas don’t even need water to clean themselves up. Instead, chinchillas take dust baths. They do this by rubbing their fur against this special dust to keep themselves clean. While the dust can get everywhere if you’re not using a deep enough bathhouse or dish, cleaning spilled dust is far easier than cleaning spilled water.
Cons of Owning a Chinchilla
There are many advantages to picking a chinchilla over other animals, but there are downsides to it as well. If you’re planning to own a chinchilla, consider these cons to see if you are up to the challenge.
Their sensitivity to temperature can be the most significant downside. It dissuades many people from owning a chinchilla. Because they do not sweat, chinchillas should be housed in an area at just the right temperature, so that they won’t freeze to death or die from a heat stroke. In most places, you will need to have air conditioning for your chin. Additionally, chinchillas should not be held for too long, so as to avoid overheating.
Here are some signs of overheating in chinchillas:
- Rapid or shallow breathing.
- Bright red tongue and gums.
- Bright red ears with engorged blood vessels.
- Rapid pulse (heartbeat above 125bpm).
- Rectal temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lying on their side, not responsive.
Because of their fur, chinchillas are sensitive to humidity. Their fur is very dense, making them soft to pet – but also ensuring they retain any moisture or water they encounter. As such, it’s recommended to have a humidity level of about 40% to 60%. Because of this sensitivity, chinchillas will also need to be given special dust baths.
Chinchillas have a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. While they can be given treats, chinchillas should not be regularly fed food that contains high levels of sugar and fat, such as fruits or vegetables.
Here are some foods that are safe for chinchillas:
- Plain shredded wheat.
- Dried goji berries.
Because they’re rodents, chinchillas will chew on everything. Make sure that they don’t have access to objects that are toxic, especially plastic. There are times when you will need to let your chinchilla out of their cage for some exercise, but in these cases, make sure to keep a close eye. They could end up destroying furniture, consume something toxic, or become stuck in a crevice.
Chinchillas are crepuscular, which means that they are most active during dawn or dusk. If you are a light sleeper, sleeping in the same room as your chinchillas may not be the best idea.
With proper care and nutrition, you may rarely need the services of a vet. However, when you do, a general veterinarian may not be able to help you. Because they are classified as exotic animals, you will need to find a vet that specializes in exotic animal care. This could be difficult to locate, and specialized vets will also charge more money for their services.
With all that said, however, it’s still important to have a vet you can call quickly. Chinchillas are sensitive creatures, and there may be times wherein you need to make a quick phone call to ensure the safety of your pet. If you suspect that your chinchilla may be sick, call your veterinarian right away.
Depending on the animal you choose, owning a pet will always have its pros and cons. Hopefully, this handy guide can help you weigh whether you have the resources to get your own pet chinchilla. If you do choose to buy one, however, you’re sure to find them incredibly rewarding!