Chinchillas originate come from the Andes Mountains of South America. Nowadays, they are rarely found in their natural habitat apart from Northern Chile. Humans hunted chinchillas, both short-tailed and long-tailed, almost to extinction for their thick, valuable fur. These days, it is considered a protected animal, and due to this fact their population started to grow considerably.
The Short-tailed and the Long-tailed Chinchilla
The Short-tailed chinchilla and the long-tailed chinchilla.
They live in burrows, are really agile creatures and are mostly active at night. This way, they manage to keep away from the predator’s watchful eyes. Chinchillas live in groups just like grey wolves and bald eagles, and they mate for life. There are different colored chinchillas, the most popular are, white, beige, grey and black.
If they are in their natural habitat, their diet consists of dry grass, roots and different types of seeds. Chinchillas are very small and fragile animals. They are animals of habit and they feed everyday at about the same time. They need to chew on something at all times, since their teeth grow continuously, thus they need a great amount of chewing. If their teeth are overgrown, it can be an obstacle when eating. Free range chinchillas can live up to 18 years, while in captivity they can only last up to 7-8 years.
What NOT to feed them?
When in captivity they shouldn’t be fed sugar, fruits or peanuts. Some people don’t consider the fact that chinchillas live in dry places, therefore live on a very dry diet. People often compare chinchillas to other rodents and feed them greasy foods and seeds and his may lead to illness and eventually death. Whereas guinea pigs and rabbits adore vegetables, chinchillas can barely tolerate them. This is due to their sensitive digestion system, causing them severe diarrhea.
Keeping chinchillas healthy
In addition when keeping a chinchilla as a pet, hygiene is of utmost importance. One should offer only clean water which should be available at all times, sterilizing their water pot from possible bacteria infection. Tap water is not recommended for chinchillas and an alternative should be distilled water. Any new food should be introduced in small amounts as any change in their diet can upset these fragile animals. A good tip for diet change would be to mix the old food with the new one as in this way, they can adapt to it more safely. Hay should always be available to chinchillas in captivity, since they need a great amount of fiber.
May not be suitable for everyone
Chinchillas are not the appropriate pet for people who have fur allergies and they also might not be the perfect companion for children either. The reason for this is that they have such fragile bodies and the fact that they can be easily scared away. Not to mention that they like to chew on things, since they need to keep their little teeth healthy. Apart from these minor inconveniences, chinchillas are wonderful pets, if only given the chance to socialize.