Caring for chinchillas

Facts You Need To Know Before Owning A Pet Chinchillas

Chinchillas are the domesticated descendant of a rodent native to South America.

Like rabbits, they have short forelimbs and long, muscular hind legs, but their ears are much shorter and rounder. Chinchillas have large, black eyes and bushy tails. They have four toes on each foot with thin claws on each toe.

Chinchillas are smarter than rabbits and can be taught to play with humans. However, they do not make good pets for small children due to their hyperactive and high-strung nature.

physical characteristics and overview

Adult size

  • 9 to 15 inches (23 to 38 centimeters) long. Tail is additional 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm)


  • 1.1 to 1.8 lbs. (0.5 to 0.8 kilograms)

Life expectancy

  • 15 – 20 years

diet and nutrition

Chinchillas are omnivores; they eat both plants such as grass and seeds and meat. They also eat insects. As picky-eaters, only feed your chinchillas with quality food made specially for chinchillas to keep them healthy. Avoid feeds with loose seeds, nuts, or dried fruit as chinchillas will pick out the parts of that feed that they like best, refusing to eat the other parts with essential nutrients. Chinchilla-specific pellets combine everything they need and do not allow them to pick and choose.

Chinchillas require a lot of roughage, and the diet should mainly consist of:

  • Good-quality hay
  • 1–2 tablespoons of chinchilla pellets per chinchilla daily
  • Small amounts of dried fruit and root vegetables


Chinchillas are nocturnal and are very active at dawn or dusk and sleep during the day. They make their homes by burrowing in underground tunnels or nestling in rock crevices. They are very social and are happiest as a group.

They are also tremendous chewers, which is why anything plastic should be avoided. Wooden blocks cardboard tubes and specially made chinchilla toys are best. Chinchillas will need to have items to chew on at all times to maintain their teeth from growing too long.

offspring and breeding

Once a female chinchilla becomes pregnant, she will carry her young for about 111 days before giving birth. Females have babies twice a year, giving birth to one to six babies each time.

Newborn babies known as kits are born with hair and with their eyes open weighing only 1.2 ounces (35 grams). The babies nurse for six to eight weeks.

Chinchillas at about eight months old is ready to have offspring of their own.


Chinchillas are covered in beautiful thick fur for a reason. Their geographical origins require them to withstand extreme cold weather of up to 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5 degrees C). While chinchillas can tolerate freezing temperatures, they cannot survive in temperatures higher than 80 F (25 degrees C); high temperatures and humidity can cause these rodents to suffer from heat stroke.

Ensure their housing is in a cool, quiet part of your house where the temperature does not get above about 25 degrees C. Keeping a thermostat will help regulate the ideal temperature in their housing.

Highly energetic by nature, chinchilla cages must be large, decked with shelves, ramps, and perches to allow them to climb. An ideal house is about 24 by 24 inches in height and length. A tall cage is best and the bigger the house the better. 

dust baths

Never bathe a chinchilla in water. They groom themselves with dust baths which are little boxes filled with chinchilla dust. Change dust baths every two to three weeks.

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