Life-span: 15-20 years
Adult size: Up to 1 foot
Adult weight: 1-1.5 pounds (500 – 800g)
Chinchillas are very active, so the bigger the cage the better. The minimum size for a single chinchilla should be 16 by 20 by 16 inches. A wire mesh cage is the most appropriate, to ensure the chinchilla does not chew its way out. There should be solid flooring as wire flooring can damage their feet. Glass tanks should not be used due to poor ventilation. The cage should have several levels for enrichment. Keep the cage out of direct sunlight, and away from heat sources, drafts, and areas of high humidity.
A hide area is essential, and may consist of a nest box, tunnel, or any other chew-proof place it can hide. Exercise wheels are an essential, and must have a solid floor. Chew-proof toys may be provided for further enrichment, with wooden blocks and chew-sticks to help keep teeth worn down. Provide ledges and branches for climbing. Avoid using wood found outside as it may be toxic. Dust baths are essential for your chinchilla at least twice a week to maintain their soft, plush fur. Commercial dusting powders and bins are available.
Pelleted or shredded paper makes a good bedding as it is safe to chew and absorbs liquid well. Pine or cedar bedding should be avoided as they can damage your pets feet, and the dust may cause respiratory problems. Dirty bedding should be removed daily, with all bedding being replaced at least once a week.
Chinchillas are sensitive to heat, humidity, and drafts. Temperatures above 78 degrees (25 degrees Celsius) should be avoided, and may cause heat stroke.
Avoid direct sunlight and brightly lit areas as Chinchillas sleep a lot during the day.
Chinchilla pellets should be fed, as they are manufactured to contain the correct amounts of protein, fat and roughage. Use a heavy bowl to prevent spillage. Clean, fresh hay should also be provided for extra roughage, and help wear down teeth. Ideally this should be provided in a hay rack. Salt blocks and Vitamin C supplements may be beneficial. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit should only be given occasionally as treats, as they are fattening.
Fresh water should always be available. This is best provided in a stoppered water bottle.
Chinchillas mature sexually around 8 months of age. Mating season is usually between November and May in the northern hemisphere. Injury is possible, so mating chinchillas should be supervised for safety. Gestation lasts around 110 days. A usual litter is born in the morning and consists of 2 kits, but may be as many as 6. Fathers may become aggressive, so regular supervision is advisable. Kits will eat solid food after about a week, but are dependent upon their mother for up to 8 weeks.
Regular time out of the cage is essential for exercise. Ensure nothing potentially harmful is within reach of the chinchilla. When your chinchilla first gets home, you should talk to it to allow it to become accustomed to your voice. Then introduce your hand into the cage offering a treat. Chinchillas should be held firmly but gently, close to your chest, with one hand on its back and one under its bottom. Rough handling may cause your chinchilla to bite, and will shed its fur if it becomes distressed. You should handle your chinchilla regularly.
For further information, visit http://chinchillacare.org/
If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk