Lively and adorable, chinchillas are an increasingly popular choice for people in the UK looking for a fantastic unique pet. It’s worth noting they live up to 15 years, need the company of other chinchillas to be happy, and are naturally nocturnal. If you feel you could care for an animal like this, here are some handy tips for first-time owners…
Housing your chinchilla
One of the most important aspects of chinchilla care is getting the temperature of their cage just right. Though they can survive in fairly cold temperatures, draughts can pose a health risk. They can also be vulnerable to heat stroke, so you should never keep their cage near a window that gets a lot of sun. Being quite large, you need to have a decent amount of space for them. For a pair, the minimum floor space of a cage is 1m x 1.5m, with a height of 1.3m, and shelves of varying heights. They should also be let out for carefully supervised exercise at least once every day.
Feeding your chinchilla
Chinchillas are herbivores native to South America, where they eat dry, low-hanging plants, grasses, and tree bark. Make sure the food you buy for them is high in protein and fibre, but low in moisture and fat. Foods high in fat will put them at risk of liver disease, and greens that are too moist will increase their risk of colic, or make them bloated. Muesli is not a good chinchilla food. To start with, get a nutritious pellet-type food, as these make it easy to ensure a balanced diet.
Cleaning your chinchilla
Though wild, chinchillas use fine sands in their natural habitat to keep their coats clean. You can give them the next best thing with a dust bath for their cage. Good-quality chinchilla dust is available from most pet stores. It’s expensive, but there’s a reason for this. Using ordinary sandpit sand or construction dust is too coarse for your pet, and if they use it, it can damage their fur and skin over time. Make sure the bath you use is large enough for a chinchilla to roll around in without hurting itself, and roughly 10cm deep.