Considerations before getting a Chinchilla
Chinchillas can make lovely pets for the right owner, however they are a big commitment and are not the right choice for everyone. Listed below are the Top 10 Considerations before getting a chinchilla. This is just an brief overview and each point links to important further information on each topic - just click on the green links throughout to find out more.
1. Long lifespan: Chinchillas can live up to 20 years, making them a longer term commitment than the average dog! Consider where you'll be in 20 years from now, what life changes you may go through and if a chinchilla fits into that plan. Even with the best intentions, external factors such as moving into rental housing may mean you're unable to keep chinchillas there.
2. Regular playtime: chinchillas enjoy plenty of out of cage time, which whilst can be very rewarding for the owner as well, it can become a chore if you're the type of person who prefers to go out or just sit down and relax in the evenings. Take a step back and decide if you have time to supervise playtime for minimum of an 45 minutes most nights and if this is something you'll still want to do for many years to come.
3. Expense: chinchillas are fairly expensive to buy and their care, particularly vets bills, can prove very expensive. As they're classed as exotics, any vets treatment will be more expensive than many other animals'. This can easily amount to £/$100s, so you must ensure you have access to this type of money if your chinchilla gets sick. Suitable cages and accessories can be more expensive to buy, often pet shop accessories marketed for chinchillas are actually unsafe so you will need to use specialist online retailers. Air conditioning can also be expensive to install and run.
4. Keeping your chinchilla cool: Chinchillas need to be kept in a cool room to avoid fatal heatstroke, with the temperature not exceeding 21 degrees/70 fahrenheit. This means you will need air conditioning, even if you live in countries such as the UK where this isn't commonplace. If you already have air conditioning it will be more expensive to run, as you will need to have this on at all times and not just when you are home. If you don't have air conditioning you will need to buy and install a unit and ensure your property can be set up for this to work.
5. Large cage free from plastic: As a minimum your chinchilla's cage should be at least 64 x 61 x 91cm (25" x 24" x 36"). The bigger the better though, chinchillas need both horizontal space to run as well as some height to climb. Please ensure there are no drops more than 40cm/16”, as chinchillas can seriously hurt themselves if they fall. The cage must be completely free from plastic, this causes fatal internal blockages when ingested. Only toys/shelves made from safe wood, metal or non pill fleece or other approved chinchilla safe materials should be used.
6. Chinchillas typically don't like to be held and their bite is painful! whilst there are definitely exceptions, chinchillas do not generally liked being handled, nor for too long. They overheat easily, are often too lively or just not comfortable with being picked up. Unfortunately many chinchillas are re-homed just because they won’t allow their owner to hold them. Like any other animal, chinchillas can also bite if they're scared or annoyed. With their big teeth this can be very painful and draw blood! If you are looking for a cuddly pet who's happy to be handled and petted, then chinchillas are not generally the best choice.
7. Expect mess in your home: Chinchillas poo almost constantly, far more than guinea pigs or rabbits for example. Whilst their poos are very small and a similar size to mouse droppings, they will inevitably end up on your floor, even with regular cleaning. Expect hay, pieces broken off the chews they require and fur around your home. Females in particular may spray urine at you if they feel threatened. Again many people re-home chinchillas because of the mess they cause in the house.
8. Most pet shop accessories & toys are unsafe: Unfortunately buying supplies for your chinchilla is not as simple as just calling into your local shop. A lot of the accessories marked for chinchillas are totally unsuitable for them. Many are made of plastic which is toxic to chinchillas, the treats are often not from the safe list, exercise balls are extremely dangerous and the wheels they sell are too small for chinchillas. Be prepared to buy supplies from specialist retailers which can be more expensive. A comprehensive list of these can be found here.
9. No interaction with other species: Chinchillas must not come into contact with any other different pets you may already have. This is not just limited to cats and dogs but also any reptiles and other small animals, especially rats and rabbits. As well as the risk of injury, other species can carry diseases/bacteria that whilst isn't harmful to them, can be very dangerous to chinchillas.
10. Be aware of False information: Unfortunately there is a lot of incorrect information when it comes to chinchilla care, with pet stores, ill informed owners and irresponsible breeders being some of the main sources of these.
Chinchillas must have an adequate sized cage free from plastic, regular playtime, not have any fruit, vegetables, nuts or seeds nor be not be taken outside or put in exercise balls or harnesses, which are all very dangerous.
Any information to the contrary is either due to lack of knowledge or wanting to make money above the chinchilla's best interests.
Vector Graphics with thanks to Freepik