The Chinchilla: Adopting and Raising a Chinchilla at Home

 The Chinchilla: Adopting and Raising a Chinchilla at Home

The chinchilla, a wild animal from South America, has been bred since the beginning of the 20th century, primarily for its silky fur. For fifteen years, he has been a pet. While it doesn't take up a lot of space, raising a chinchilla at home does require some care and attention.

  • Size:                    25cm
  • Weight:               500g
  • Life expectancy: 10 years
  • Gestation period: 112 days


Origin and characteristics of the chinchilla

The chinchilla is a herbivorous mammal. From the rodent family, it is native to the arid highlands of the Andes Cordillera in South America. In the wild, the chinchilla, a very skillful animal that is very well adapted to its hostile environment, has practically disappeared, hunted down by man for its fur. Bred in the United States in 1923, the chinchilla made its appearance in Europe in the 1950s. Lively, playful, agile, and graceful, the chinchilla has become a pet in its own right. As a rodent, the chinchilla has the particularity of having very sharp incisors which grow throughout its life and which it must be able to use to continue to feed. Its size can vary from 3.5 centimeters to 1.30 meters for the largest species.

How to take care of your chinchilla?

As soon as your chinchilla arrives at home, the person who will have the role of the master must immediately take care of him. Like most animals, the chinchilla indeed recognizes as his master only the person who takes care of him every day. For him to adapt as well as possible to his new home, it is recommended not to grab him by force for the first few days. You have to gradually get him used to your hand so that you can feed him directly. You need to speak to him in a calm, reassuring voice so that he has complete confidence in you and feels safe.

The chinchilla is a fragile animal. You should never squeeze it hard but rather put it on your hand or arm. Also, don't pull on his hair or his ears, you could hurt him badly. It is better to avoid trips to the chinchilla. Very attached to his habits and his place of life, he will not appreciate a change of place, a source of stress for him. The chinchilla is extremely sensitive to its hygiene. It can't stand water, but it needs "soil", a kind of clay soil in which the chinchilla rolls around to wash.

What habitat for his domestic chinchilla?

A chinchilla must have its cage, which must be placed in a temperate room of your house, without direct sunlight. Prefer metal cages to vertical bars to prevent your chinchilla from getting hurt. In addition, its closure must be effective because if its locking system has no more secrets for your chinchilla, it will succeed in opening its cage very easily. Also avoid all wooden cages and accessories, some of which, such as plywood, oak, or fir, are toxic to chinchillas. The animal must have a cage high enough to be able to jump and climb its favorite activities. Remember to have accessories on several levels in his cage to allow him to climb.

What to feed your chinchilla?

The main food of the domestic chinchilla is hay. It allows him to facilitate his intestinal transit and to wear down his teeth. Hay should be coarse, first cut, and dry. Avoid hay containing pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are very harmful to the health of the chinchilla. You will find suitable hay in pet stores or equestrian centers. A single handful per day, preferably in the morning, is sufficient. You can also opt for special chinchilla pellets with mixed seeds (1 tablespoon per day).

Chinchilla health: what you need to know

The chinchilla is a fairly robust animal but certain symptoms should alert you to its state of health:

  • hair loss: to be distinguished from a normal loss in reaction to stress (defense characteristic of the chinchilla), the loss of hair in patches can be due to a serious deficiency in food.
  • fungal infections: they cause hair loss around the muzzle, eyes, behind the ears, at the end of the front legs, and around the genitals. These fungal infections must be treated carefully, especially as they can infect humans.
  • fur-chewing: the chinchilla gnaws part of its fur and causes patches all over its body. It is a behavioral disorder due to nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, stress, a change in habits, noise, humidity, or poor hygiene.
A lively animal, the chinchilla is also often subject to fractures. But it is the digestive problems that affect him the most. Diarrhea, constipation, infectious enteritis caused by stress, a change in its environment, or a disturbed diet, are the primary causes of chinchilla mortality.

Reproduction of the domestic chinchilla

Reproduction of the domestic chinchilla is very difficult for an individual. Having a male and a female in the same cage causes major health problems for chinchillas. The female must not indeed have more than 2 liters per year so as not to weaken her. However, separating a couple of chinchillas is a source of great stress with all the consequences on their health that this can have. In any case, to reproduce, a chinchilla must be at least 1 year old and weigh more than 550g. The chinchilla's gestation is 111 days. The number of young per litter is not high, 1 to 3 at most.

Specific problems affect chinchilla reproduction:

  • abortions or mummified fetuses: the first are due to a state of stress of the chinchilla and the second to its poor state of health.
  • difficult births: if they are rare, they can lead to the death of the chinchilla.
  • those related to consanguinity: reproduction between chinchillas brothers, sisters, parents-children, is not recommended because it can lead to the birth of malformed babies and serious difficulties for the female during birth.

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