A frequently asked question pet owners have after seeing cute YouTube, TickTock, or Instagram videos and photos is if chinchillas are good pets. The answer to this is always yes and no. It entirely depends on you, your family, and what your looking for in a companion animal.
Are you looking for an animal that is more interactive and can run around your home with little supervision? If the answer is "yes" then a chinchilla is NOT the right pet for your home. Chinchillas are rodents and can and WILL chew and destroy anything they can get their mouths on. They will chew and destroy exposed wire, baseboards, furniture, carpet, and even your walls. Providing a safe space for a chinchilla to "play" with their owner requires a special set up that is costly to put together, and takes time to put up and break down every day or requires a take over of a bathroom that needs proofed and modified heavily for safety.
Are you looking for an animal that likes to be held and likes to sit and cuddle? If the answer is "yes" then a chinchilla may not be the right pet for your home. Chinchillas are prey animals, so they are naturally averse to being "trapped" and held. They are, however, social creatures and with time and patience can become easy to handle even if they aren't the best snugglers. If you have time and patience to work with your chinchilla to create a bond and trust and learn proper handling techniques, then a chinchilla may be the right pet for you. We handle all of our chinchillas here at RDZC Ranch with no problems and this comes from years of experience and the use of proper handling.
Are you looking for an animal that can travel easily or can be left alone or under light supervision for a few days? Chinchillas require specific care and temperature controls. People who take week long or more vacations regularly in the summer months need to consider a good plan for someone reliable that can either house sit or regularly check on your chinchilla to monitor temperatures. Chinchillas can be trained to travel well, however, they are also sensitive digestively and without extra precautions they can easily develop bloat and/or GI stasis from the stress of traveling.
Should I get a male or a female chinchilla? Chinchillas are not sexually dimorphic, which means there is no obvious difference in physical appearance between males and females. So how do you choose between them? It comes down to personal preference and what you want from the few anatomical differences present. Male chinchillas do not have a true scrotum, so their testicles are held in their body cavity in their abdomen most of the time and only descend and become apparent when the chinchilla is too warm or resting comfortably. Males do have an incredibly long, extendable penis. When fully extended, it is, on average about 4.5 to 5 inches in length with some recorded as long as 6 inches in length. Because of this extensibility, the males need to do self care and cleaning regularly to prevent hair from tangling around the penis or to keep the penis clear of other debris. Usually, males like to wait to perform their cleaning routine until you have company. You will read on the internet that males require monthly hair ring checks. This is untrue. You can read more extensively on hair ring checks under our health and wellness page on hair rings. Females do go into estrous every 28-40 days (the variation is extremely high due to seasonal variance) and during this time you may see more mucous like discharge and moody behavior. Females are also the dominant animals in the colony, and have a special defense characteristic of being able to spray urine in a stream at rivals, unwanted male suitors, or any threat to the colony. Females can spray with accuracy up to 3 feet and the urine moves in a stream. Not all females will spray and this behavior is largely associated with defense, so getting a female does not mean you will be sprayed. Some males with shorter penises have also been known to spray, but it is extremely uncommon to have a male that can spray urine. So the choice between male or female comes down to personal preference and what you want to avoid dealing with for either sex.
Are you prepared for the temperature requirements? Chinchillas are from the high desert in the Andes Mountains of South America, which is a dry, arid, and cold habitat. Since wild chinchillas are nocturnal, they developed adaptations for preventing heat loss. Chinchillas have anywhere from 60, to sometimes 120 hairs per follicle. This is markedly different from a human with only 1-2 hairs per follicle and creates a very dense, heat locking coat of fur. Chinchillas only contain sweat glands in the palms of their hands and the bottoms of their feet, and their secondary cooling mechanism is to circulate blood into the large veins of their thin ears to attempt some heat loss. They cannot withstand high temperatures. Temperatures of 68 degrees have been known to send animals into heat stress. Exercise must be limited during warm months to prevent excess heat production from muscle movements. An air conditioning unit is a must have investment anywhere that temperatures will exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the year. There are no exceptions and we have seen a large upswing in over heating deaths with chinchillas as they become a more popular pet and people do not take into account this all important basic rule of chinchilla ownership.
Have you done your research?
Have you researched this pet and are confident you can provide a safe and loving long term home? If so, we are happy to help partner you with your new family member!
If the answer is no or you would like to browse more reputable resources, please visit https://www.sunshinechinchillas.com/bringing-home-your-new-chin to review safe and unsafe items. There is also a section on Sunshine Chinchillas' website that goes over commonly asked questions.
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