Chinchillas are a relatively unexplored pet option for many, which make them quite interesting for exotic pet owners who enjoy a challenge. And as with any pet, education is the key to good care.
First, chinchillas are crepuscular, which means they are most active around dawn and dusk, and will be asleep most of the day. They enjoy a regular schedule, preferably one in sync with theirs – early breakfast and late dinner.
Rated as “intermediate” in care level by Petco, chinchillas come with a price tag of about $90, making them a bit more of an investment than hamsters, guinea pigs, or rabbis.. This is probably another reason for their rarity as a household fixture. They are both a financial and an educational investment. It is difficult to keep a healthy chinchilla “by accident.” They require extensive exercise, which means an awesome and interesting cage with a large wheel; their teeth grown continuously and need to be worn down, which means wood and very specific types of branches; they lack the ability to sweat, which means they are prone to heat stroke; they require pumice dust baths to absorb oils and dirt in their fur, which means actually purchasing dust; and they have a very sensitive stomach and must be fed with extreme care.
The prior care-list paragraph requires much more detail to be practically useful, but is noted in brief for an overview of the extent of care. If nothing on this list sounds appealing, this is not the pet for you. However, if you are willing to meet this list of requirements, it also comes with a list of I-love-my-unusual-pet perks.
Chinchillas have an amazing vocal range.
• Chinchillas bark when they are scared or annoyed and sound surprisingly like a little dog.
• Chinchillas chatter adorably and casually in quiet conversation when they are moving about.
• Chinchillas scream when they are startled or hurt.
• Chinchillas chirp/squeak with happiness when they are enjoying themselves.
Chinchillas are extremely playful and entertaining to watch.
• Chinchillas love to hop and “popcorn” similar to rabbits.
• Chinchillas are extremely agile and can run circles around you, which can make them hard to catch when exercise time is over!
• Chinchillas can stand up on their hind legs and use their front paws as hands, which is often done to eat or clean their whiskers.
Chinchillas enjoy their food tangibly, which makes meal time fun.
• Chinchilla eat pellets similar to rabbit pellets.
• Chinchillas love small amounts of treats – oatmeal, raisins, bananas – this makes them very trainable.
• Chinchillas will often eat their food with their front paws and lick their lips while doing so.
Chinchillas feel amazing. There is a reason their fur is prized for coats.
• Chinchilla fur is soft and dense – where humans have 1-3 hairs per follicle, chinchillas have up to 80.
• Chinchilla fur density prevents flea or parasite invasion because their skin is so well protected.
• Chinchillas are virtually odorless and keep themselves extremely clean.
• Chinchilla fur density means they can survive in extremely cold temperatures.
• Chinchillas have soft fuzzy pink feet with blunted nails.
Overall, chinchillas are fabulously fluffy intelligent creatures with gentle personalities who have a lot to give with the proper care investment. If you are considering an out-of-the-norm small companion, a chinchilla may be the pet for you.