Unique Apartment Pets: Chinchillas

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Unique Apartment Pets: Chinchillas

Staff Writer · Nov 5, 2009

Of all rodents, chinchillas are among the most suited for life as apartment pets. Clean, relatively odor-free, hyperactive and lovers of attention, chinchillas can make excellent pets for apartment dwellers in the right climate.

Chinchilla Facts

Chinchillas are rodents whose temperaments are friendly and inquisitive, particularly when bred for domestication. Some facts about chinchillas include:

  • Chinchillas are nocturnal, which means that they’re most active at night.
  • Chinchillas are not a good pet for young children because they are delicate animals who can easily be injured if handled improperly.
  • The proper way to handle a chinchilla is either to hold out both hands in a cup formation and allow the chinchilla to crawl into your palms or to place one hand under its stomach, weaving your thumb around a front leg, and using the second hand to cup its bottom.
  • Chinchillas are very sensitive to temperatures; they can die if exposed to too hot (over 75 degrees, especially over 90 degrees) or too cold (below 50 degrees) temperatures. If you don’t live in a moderate climate, your apartment must have air conditioning and/or heating in order to keep the apartment suitable for the chinchilla apartment pets.

Chinchilla Cage

Although chinchillas can and should be allowed to roam around the apartment with supervision for a few hours each day for exercise, chinchilla apartment pets will spend most of the time in a chinchilla cage. The best chinchilla cage is a wire, multi-leveled cage that allows the chinchilla plenty of space to move around. However, the bottom of any wire cage must be covered with a hard plastic or wood surface to avoid food injury.

The chinchilla cage must also be lined with bedding made from materials such as aspen or dried pine (never use cedar) and include nesting materials such as small strips of cardboard, paper and tissues. The chinchilla cage should also have plenty of hard, plastic toys and ledges to keep the chinchilla active. Clean the cage thoroughly at least once a week.

Chinchilla Dust Baths

Chinchilla fur is kept clean, untangled and healthy via dust baths. In the wild, chinchillas roll around in the dust in their native South American environments to clean their chinchilla fur and as apartment pets, chinchillas still need to be able to take dust baths in order to be healthy. Purchase a special chinchilla dust bath mix from a pet store (avoid scented mixes) and cover the bottom of a large deep pan or bowl with the dust. Put your chinchilla inside and let her roll around and have fun in the dust for 10 to 15 minutes twice a week.

Feeding Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas require fresh, distilled water available at all times. Their diet should consist of chinchilla pellets (made from alfalfa or Timothy hay) and loose hay (alfalfa or Timothy hay; the opposite of the pellet ingredient). You can supplement the chinchilla’s diet with specially-formulated chinchilla treats or a raisin, but don’t give her treats more than once a day.

Chinchillas make excellent apartment pets for the apartment dweller. With an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years, they are among the most long-lived rodents and can provide loving companionship for many years to come.

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