Sadly, due to their soft and beautiful coat, chinchillas have been bred and farmed for their fur. However, with PETA and other activist groups saving chinchillas daily, there are many needing forever homes. Whether you rescue a chinchilla or purchase one from a pet store or reputable breeder, these quirky and shy rodents have different characteristics and needs that make them an ideal pet for some, and not so for others.
The Benefits of Chinchillas as Pets
Are Chinchillas Hypoallergenic?
Due to their soft and thick fur, chinchillas are believed to be hypoallergenic. Their dense fur does not shed as readily as other animals, meaning loose dander is kept to a minimum; ideal for allergy sufferers who have a pet-shaped hole in their lives.
Chinchillas Like Attention
Although shy, as chinchillas bond with their owners, they love being social and interacting. They have distinguishable personalities and, if roaming free, will happily snuggle up in front of the television with their owner if given half the chance. Just make sure the atmosphere is calm and quiet as they can be skittish, stemming from their roots as a prey animal.
Looking After Multiple Chinchillas
As a herd animal, homing two or more chinchillas together can drastically improve their quality of life. They are happiest when part of a group and many chinchilla owners who were having issues with a lone chinchilla, solve any problems by introducing a new friend to the family. Just remember to never house male and female chinchillas together.
Are Chinchillas Smelly or Unhygienic?
Unlike the somewhat pungent odour that some rodents can emit, chinchillas are very clean and their dense coats mean they are often parasite free. They keep themselves well-groomed and are fanatical about personal hygiene.
Some owners are often shocked by the amount they poo. However, their pellets are odour-less and dry, making them very easy to sweep up and get rid of.
Chinchillas Are Ideal for Small Homes
Whilst you may need to chinchilla proof some rooms of your home, a chinchilla enclosure doesn’t have to be huge. They spend most of their time in their cage grooming, relaxing, or sleeping. They get the majority of their exercise from being able to have access to a large space to roam. Whether this is your utility room or chinchilla-proofed lounge, keep an eye on your chinchilla as they enjoy being outside of their home.
The Negatives of Chinchillas as Pets
How Long Do Chinchillas Live For?
Whilst this should be considered a blessing and not a curse, chinchillas live for between 12 and 20 years. Having a pet in your life for this long is extremely special, allowing you to bond immensely. However, some chinchilla owners aren’t fully aware of the commitment they are making when welcoming a chinchilla into their lives. If you cannot commit the time, do not get a chinchilla.
Chinchillas Are Not Ideal for Young Children
Being incredibly shy and prone to anxiety, chinchillas tend to suit quieter households made up of older children and adults. Although they like to spend time with their owners, it has to be on their terms. Chinchillas do not like being handled or cuddled unless they initiate it. Therefore, they are not ideal for younger children who want to interact regularly with their pet.
Chinchillas and Vets
Considered an exotic pet, there are not many veterinarians that are specialists when it comes to chinchillas. Whilst they can obviously draw upon their expertise and textbooks to help you look after your chinchilla, bear in mind that things can take a little longer compared to if you had a dog or a cat.
Chinchillas hide their illnesses very well; many prey animals obscure any signs of weakness. Diabetes and dental problems are two health areas where chinchillas can fall foul, so keep an eye on their diet and monitor their teeth as much as possible without distressing them.
Chinchillas Are Expensive
To buy, chinchillas tend to be upwards of £100. Whilst this is relatively affordable, setting up their home can cost around three times this figure. Chinchillas have complex living needs, need a place to sleep and hide, multiple things to chew, safe ledges, special dust for baths and all the other bowls and water bottles that come with purchasing a new pet.
Are Chinchillas Messy?
Whilst chinchillas are scrupulous groomers and virtually odourless, they do tend to kick and flick hay, bedding, and faeces outside of their cages. They aren’t doing this to be naughty, they simply move and dig (just like a hamster) which causes mess outside of the cage. Whilst everything is dry, it is very easy to hoover up, but it is definitely a lifestyle factor to bear in mind.
Is a Chinchillas the Pet for You?
If you are considering a chinchilla as a pet, make sure you absorb all of the point above. Do your research before bringing one into your home and make sure you can give them the life they deserve. Don’t be afraid to talk to ask your local pet shop for advice, or reach out to breeders and ask them questions.