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Chinchillas: what to know when rearing them?

The chinchilla is a gentle-footed animal whose beauty and softness of fur leaves no one in doubt. These animals are not only beautiful but also interesting – they can be watched for hours. these rodents do not require much care, but it is not the same as that of rabbits or hamsters. So what is important to know about keeping chinchillas?

Chinchilla behaviour

The chinchilla is not a very social animal, but affectionate behaviour can be taught. If socialised from an early age, the pet will become a “hand-held” pet that you can hold in your hands and watch TV or do other activities. It is important to know that you should not squeeze your pet too hard when picking it up – a harder squeeze can lead to broken ribs. Chinchillas, unlike rats, cannot be taught fun tricks and do not usually learn to defecate in a cage in a crate. Although human attention is not always appreciated as much as they would like, some chinchillas will stumble when they hear their owner’s footsteps returning, or even turn their cheek for a scratch. However, chinchillas always enjoy the company of their owners, so you won’t go wrong if you decide to keep two chinchillas instead of one.

Setting up a chinchilla home

A cage of about 60x60x60 cm may be sufficient for one chinchilla, but if you are keeping two chinchillas, the cage should be more spacious. chinchillas do not come from the plains, but from the Andean mountains, so you will not go wrong with a cage that is taller than wide. The cage should be equipped with ledges and shelves for the pet to climb on, and it is advisable to include a food bowl and a water bottle. Line the bottom of the cage with sand, sawdust or other bedding, but avoid pine or cedar shavings (which contain aromatic substances and oils that are dangerous for chinchillas). Clean the cage at least once a week, and check the cage floor every day for dampness.Chinchillas should not be bathed in water – this can be disastrous for them. However, they do like to scrub in the sand, so put a low container of chinchilla-specific sand in the cage 2-3 times a week.

Chinchilla diet

In the wild, chinchillas eat plant roots, tree bark, grass, hay, fruit, berries, etc. It can be quite difficult to ensure a complete diet for a chinchilla kept at home, so it is best to choose a special chinchilla food. It is advisable to feed the chinchilla twice a day, ideally at the same time every day. It is important to know that the chinchilla needs to be fed hay every day, and occasionally it can be treated to a variety of treats. The chinchilla will really enjoy dried fruit (apples, papayas, etc.), unsalted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and nuts. Treats should only make up a very small part of the total diet, so it is best to give them only once or twice a week and in very small amounts. The chinchilla is a relatively small animal, so just one nut or a couple of seeds will be enough. If the chinchilla gets too many treats, it will get fat and then, if the diet is not complete, it will have a negative impact on its life expectancy. Unfortunately, many chinchillas survive only 3-5 years due to malnutrition, whereas in the wild their lifespan is 3-4 times longer (home-reared chinchillas can live up to 16 years).

Dental care

A chinchilla has 20 teeth: 4 front incisors and 16 molars. The colour of the teeth can vary from bright yellow to red-orange. This colour is due to the enamel of the teeth, which is rich in iron, calcium and phosphorus. If the colour of the teeth is not bright, it may indicate that the chinchilla is not getting enough minerals. Like other rodents, chinchillas need to chew regularly, otherwise their teeth will become too long and will have to be shortened.

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