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The Fantastical World of Chinchilla Ownership

There are a few things to keep in mind before you decide to adopt or purchase these adorable little creatures. Chinchillas have the softest fur in the world, but they don’t typically tolerate petting and cuddling for very long. They’re also incredibly fast and chew and crap on everrrrything. They churn out hundreds of little poops a day. Did I gross you out? Hopefully not, because, as a result, a regular cage cleaning (at least once a week) is what you have to look forward to.

Chinchillas thrive on a pellet-based diet that’s high in fiber (a large bag of Mazuri should last you quite a few months). You also want to offer lots of fresh Timothy Hay. The fresher, the better. You may, on rare occasion, offer a piece of an oat or a dried fruit for a treat. Any deviation from this and you’ll have an incredibly overweight chinchilla and risk irritating its highly sensitive digestive system.

Chins are also susceptible to overheating, so in the heat of the summer, you may have to turn on the AC to keep them comfortable.

We own two females. Meet ChiChi and ZoZo.

We had ChiChi first and I knew she was aching for a companion. When ZoZo’s owners posted an ad on Craiglist, I fell in love with her. You can tell ChiChi wasn’t handled much by her previous owners. She’s got a grumpy, energetic personality. She zooms across the room and popcorns off the walls as if she’s spring-loaded. We’ve had her since October and she’s slowly warmed up to us. Bonding with Chinchillas takes time. I don’t know what traumas ChiChi may have experienced, but I suspect that’s why she is still cautious around us.

ZoZo is happy-go-lucky. She’s more slow and calculated. We have a large two story cage (Critter Nation) and, during the introductory process, we had to partition off the bottom so ChiChi wouldn’t rip ZoZo to pieces. The first night, we heard incessant barking. We gave it a few weeks and ChiChi finally accepted her. Now they sleep on top of one another and groom each other with little nibbles. It’s incredibly heartwarming to watch.

You’ll also want a steady supply of chews and a hideout. You’ll want thick chews and a well constructed hideout so they’ll last longer. I have apple chew sticks on hand, which I call Chinchilla crack because the instant you break a stick in half in front of the cage, they are literally up on their hind legs with their noses pressed against the cage! Chinchillas also need dust baths. Some say Chinchillas need to bathe daily and in separate baths. Our chins bathe daily to every other day and in the same bath. It’s comical to see them both trying to tumble at the same time. Sometimes the chins get too comfortable and poop or pee in the dust, so let them tumble and take it out.

Next, please don’t buy those balls or small wheels for the Chinchillas. There is a reputable seller who makes the “Chin Spin” that I highly recommend so that your Chinchillas can exercise comfortably and without injury. If you’re balking at the price, then maybe you should think about getting a different pet.

That covers the basics. While I would certainly love to add more Chinchillas to our family (especially a baby one, for the full experience), these two keep us busy for now.

Any questions, feel free to ask — and if you have Chin-babies already, I’d love to see some photos!

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