Chinchilla Facts for Kids & Everyone Else


Listed below are some informative facts that can be used to enhance your knowledge about chinchillas or even help you in your decision to welcome one into the family.

Originally native to the Andes Mountains of South America, chinchillas are members of the rodent family that are found in the wild and often kept as pets as well. For a time, chinchillas were even nearly driven to extinction due to the demand for their extremely soft fur in the fur trade industry. Even today, the numbers of chinchilla in the wild are still critically low.

With their mild, friendly temperaments and preference for being social, these cute little animals make great pets for kids and adults alike.

General Facts about Chinchillas

Chinchillas are typically pretty small, normally weighing in at an average of 1 to 2 pounds. The average chinchilla size is about 9 to 15 inches in length, but their tails add on another 3 to 6 inches of their overall length size.

There are currently two different chinchilla species in existence. One named Chinchilla Chinchilla (yes, you say it twice!) which is typically found in the wild; this species has a shorter tail and ears and a thicker neck and shoulders. The other is named Chinchilla Lanigera; this species is the most commonly known and domesticated.

Chinchillas closely resemble other rodents like guinea pigs and porcupines; chinchillas share the same shortness of forelimbs and longer, thicker back limbs. Chinchillas have very dense, soft fur and long bushy tails. Their fur ranges in a variety of different colors such as gray, beige, tan, black or white. Chinchillas have large, rounded ears and eyes placed on either side of their heads.

A chinchilla’s long tail. Photo credit: Guérin Nicolas

Even though chinchillas have large, round eyes, their eyesight is still very underdeveloped. Chinchillas use their long whiskers to “see” and feel things around them which allows them to navigate better.

The lifespan of a chinchilla is typically about ten years in the wild and 15 years when kept in captivity, but many chinchillas have been known to live for up to 20 years. The oldest on record lived 28 years and 94 days.

Where Do Chinchillas Live?

The natural habitat of chinchillas is located in the Southern part of South America; the Andes mountains to be exact. Wild chinchillas live in places that reach up to 9,800 to 16,400 feet in elevation. Due to the locations of their natural habitats they can withstand temperatures of up to 23 degrees Fahrenheit; they will, however, suffer from heatstroke and even death in temperatures that reach over 80 Fahrenheit.

Chinchillas in the Wild

As very social animals, chinchillas dislike living alone, thus preferring to live in large colonies of about 100. Wild chinchillas make their homes in small holes and rock crevices on the mountains in which they inhabit.

Chinchillas have many natural predators, including large birds, snakes, felines, skunks, and canines.

Due to their natural habitats being rocky, mountainous areas, chinchillas can jump from very high places; some even reaching about 6 feet. They use their tails to help them balance as they move about their rocky homes.

Because chinchillas are the natural prey of many other animals in the wild, over time they have developed a technique called “fur slip”; not to be confused with regular shedding. Whenever they feel threatened, chinchillas can shed large chunks of their fur, effectively leaving them able to escape their predators. Chinchillas have also been known to spray urine on their attackers as a defensive mechanism.

Chinchillas can also breed all-year-round, running from November to May in the Northern hemisphere and from November to May in the Southern Hemisphere. The gestation period for chinchilla offspring lasts 111 days, which is much longer most animals in the rodent family. Because of the length of the pregnancy, chinchillas are born fully covered in fur, with their eyes open. Most chinchilla litters only consist of 1 to 2 offspring.

Females are typically the more dominant gender, becoming aggressive towards other female chinchillas and often males as well during mating. Female chinchillas are monogamous; meaning they only have one mate throughout their entire lifespan, whereas male chinchillas have been known to have many mates.

Facts About Chinchilla Behavior

Why Do Chinchillas Bark?

Chinchillas communicate with each other using a plethora of different sounds to indicate many different emotions. They bark, chirp, grunt, and squeal.

Barking noises tend to indicate that a chinchilla is feeling threatened or afraid. Chinchillas also make barking noises to warn others of an impending predatory threat.

Heres an example of a chinchilla barking:


Their hearing range is very similar to that of a human, though their large ears are still a little more sensitive to loud noises than ours are, they do not hear as well as dogs or cats.

Chinchilla Eating Habits

Chinchillas are technically classified as omnivores as they sometimes (although rarely) eat insects and small bird eggs in the wild. Their usual diet is mainly herbivorous and consists of things like plants, leaves, seeds, and fruits. As pets, a chinchilla’s diet is best limited to good quality grass, hay, and chinchilla pellets.

Like hamsters, mice, and many other rodents chinchillas eat sitting on their haunches, holding their food between their front paws.

They also digest their food twice, after the initial pass through the digestive system, their food is excreted then re-ingested, and the normal digestive process is repeated once more.

Are Chinchillas Nocturnal?

Chinchillas are nocturnal creatures; they prefer to sleep and rest during the daytime and become much more active at night. Because of their preference for sleeping in small holes and crevices, chinchillas have become accustomed to sleeping upside down; they can also sleep on their sides or upright as well.

Do Chinchillas Shed?

Chinchillas have the softest fur of any other land mammal; their fur is very dense which repels many parasites. They grow 50 – 80 hairs out of each individual follicle, unlike humans who only grow 2 – 3.

About every three months or so chinchillas will slowly shed their fur the same way humans shed their hair. It is important to remember that though the amount may seem alarming, chinchillas do have more hair, and thus will lose more of it. The chinchilla shedding period can last, roughly, up to two weeks; after which the chinchillas will grow their hair back, starting at the head then moving back towards the rest of the body.

This type of shedding is different from “fur slip” which is a defensive mechanism.

Can Chinchillas Get Wet?

Chinchillas should not be put in water for any reason. Chinchilla fur is so extremely dense that it takes a very long time to dry it out after getting it wet.

Instead, chinchillas take “dust baths” to help rid their body of dirt and oils. “Dust baths” consist of the chinchilla playfully rolling around in a dry shampoo that effectively cleans them.


Here’s a a Chinchilla taking a sand (Dust) bath


Facts on Chinchilla Care

Due to they’re mild-mannered, social behavior, they make great pets for older kids and families to have. They are also relatively easy to maintain.

Making sure your chinchilla gets lots of exercises is very important. Chinchillas are very active and need lots of space to run around and play; it is not wise to keep them contained for long periods of time.

They also require lots of toys and objects to chew on to control the overgrowth of their teeth. Like rabbits, chinchillas have teeth that are constantly growing, and if they are not maintained, they can overgrow, making it generally painful for them and sometimes impossible to eat. Getting your chinchilla pumice stones, chew toys, and pieces of safe wood are ideal.

Because of their preference for being social, it may be wise to get two chinchillas instead of one. Chinchillas that live in solitary often become overly attached to their human owners and begin to need constant attention and often become very difficult to deal with.

Chinchilla Prices: How Much Do Chinchillas Cost?


Wondering how much a chinchilla costs? Chinchilla prices can vary greatly depending on where you get your chin from. Besides the cost of the chin, you should also take into account the setup costs, including getting basic accessories and a cage, as well as the day to day costs of owning and taking care of a chin. This post will help you get an estimate by listing prices of chinchillas and that of the supplies you will need.

So How Much Are Chinchillas In Total?

It will cost about $548 to get everything set up (including paying for perishables for the first time) and an additional $93 every three months. Here’s the breakdown of the costs:

Chinchilla X2 $150 No
Proper Cage $200 No
Hideout $15 No
Exercise Wheel $60 No
Water Bottle $30 No
Chew Toys $5 Every 3 months
Quality Hay & Pellets $60 Every 3 months
Dust Bath $8 Every 3 months
Bedding $20 Every 3 months
Total Set-Up Costs* $548 No
Total Recurring costs $93 Every 3 months

*Note: Total set-up costs include buying perishables for the first time.

The above are just estimated costs in regular day to day situations. Your chins may cost more or less depending on prices in your area. Also, in emergency situations where you need to visit a vet or if your chin comes down with a health problem, you may have to fork out a few hundred dollars for each vet visit.

How Much Is A Chinchilla?

How much chinchilla costs can differ greatly depending on whether you’re getting it from the pet store, from a reputable breeder or a chinchilla rescue. Chins are sometimes also available for adoption or purchase from individuals through craigslist or similar sites. The color or type of chinchilla can also affect its price, with rarer chins costing more. Below is a table of estimated prices depending on where you get your pet from. But don’t make a decision based solely on prices – you’ll want to ensure your new pet is healthy and problem-free too.

The prices below are for a single chin but remember that chinchillas do better when they have a companion, so you should ideally be getting a pair of chins of the same gender.

Pet Store $150+
Breeder $75 – $200+
Rescue $75 – $200
Craigslist & Ad Sites Free – $200
Premium Auctions $200 – $3000+

Pet Store

Pet stores usually have Standard Chinchillas at around $150 or more and are usually the easiest to get access to. However, I wouldn’t really recommend getting one from a store since you would not be able to know where your pet came from and its genetic history.


Chins from a breeder usually range from $75 to $200 or more depending on the mutation and quality of the chin. A reputable breeders is a great place to get a chinchilla as a good breeder will have healthy, well-socialized chinchillas that are less likely to develop problems later on. On top of that, you would be able to get advice on your new chin from someone who is knowledgeable about chinchillas.


If you’d like to give a rescued chinchilla a new chance at life, a rescue would be a great place to get one at $75 – $200. You may be wondering why rescues even charge an adoption fee, but this goes towards helping other abused or abandoned chins. The downside to getting a chin from a rescue is that your knowledge of your new pet’s history would be limited to what information the rescue was able to obtain and there’s no guarantee your chinchilla would not develop problems later on.

Craigslist and Ad Sites

Chinchillas are sometimes put up for adoption or sale by individuals on classifieds. The chins may be entirely free (sometimes even with their existing cage and accessories) or come at a fee. Due diligence is necessary if you wish to get your chin from such web sites and as with getting a chin from a pet store, you risk getting a chin with unknown genetics, and that may have health problems.

Premium Auctions

Chinchillas from premium auctions are very high-quality chins that are usually used to improve a breeder’s existing stock or for someone who fancies show-quality pets. These are very expensive animals and can cost anywhere from $200 to upwards of $3000.

Colored chinchillas are usually more expensive than standard ones. Photo credit: Kjersti Holmang

Other Costs of Keeping a Chinchilla

Besides the chinchillas themselves, you will need to purchase a cage of a suitable size which could cost around $200 to $300. Within the cage, you’ll need to have the following accessories:

  • Hideout made from wood or ceramic: Your chins will need a hideout to sleep in. Plastics are not recommended as chins may chew and ingest it, causing blockages in the digestive system. You can get one for about $15
  • Chew toys: Chinchillas’ teeth grow continuously throughout its life, and you need chew toys to keep your Chins’ teeth trimmed. Otherwise, the chin could develop problems later on. A pack of safe, apple wood chews costs about $5 for ten sticks. You’ll need to replenish these from time to time.
  • A good quality, solid, metal wheel: A wheel is necessary for exercise to prevent obesity in your pet. This costs anywhere from $60 to $80
  • A bath house and chinchilla dust: Chins need to roll around in dust to keep their coats bright and clean. A bath house could be any non-plastic bowl that’s large enough for both your chinchillas. The dust can be obtained for about $8 for a 2.5lb jar and will last for months
  • Water bottle: Your chins need access to fresh water in a water bottle. A heavy-duty glass bottle costs around $30
  • Bedding: Bedding absorbs moisture and urine. They can be non-cedar wood shavings, recycled paper bedding, or even fleece. Fleece can be laundered and reused, so costs are minimal, but a large bag of wood shavings or recycled paper bedding can cost anywhere from $20 to $40.

Besides the above items, you will also need food for your chins. High-quality pellets and hay should set you back about $60-$80 for three months for a pair of chins. It is a good idea to buy hay in bulk to get better prices. If you do that, you’ll have to learn how to store the hay properly to ensure that your bulk hay does not go stale before you get a chance to give it to your chins.


Chinchillas are expensive pets to keep. Before you get a pair, it is a good idea to ensure that you have sufficient funds to allow for proper care for your chins. Hopefully, this article has helped you get an estimate of how much you need.

Chinchilla Colors: Beige, Violet & Other Types of Chinchillas

Chinchilla Colors

There are two types of chinchillas in the wild – the long-tailed and the shorted tailed chinchilla. In captivity, the long-tailed chinchilla has been bred to produce mutations of various attractive colors. Photos and videos (when available) along with descriptions of the different colors are shown below to help you identify your chin’s type or find out how some of these mutations are produced.

The Standard Chinchilla

Standard chinchillas are the most common types you’ll find in pet stores. It is also the color of wild chinchillas. Standards’ colors range from light gray to very dark gray, but all of them should have a crisp white belly. In Standards, the veiling (Chinchilla’s hair comes with bands, and the tip of the hair is called the veiling) is usually black or has a bluish tint. Any chinchilla without a mutation is known as a Standard.

Chinchilla Colors A Standard Chinchilla
A standard chinchilla. Photo credit: Niko smile

Is There A Black Chinchilla?

There isn’t really one type of chinchilla that’s classified under “Black.” If you are looking to identify a black chin, you may be looking at one of the following types.

Black Velvet

A Black Velvet Chin. Photo credit: Muchacho88

The Black Velvet Chinchilla has a beautiful black “cape” that goes from its face to the back of its tail. It also has a crisp white belly which contrasts sharply with the rest of its body. A Black Velvet is also known as a Touch of Veil Standard or TOV Standard chinchilla because it carries the TOV gene which produces the darker colored cape with a lighter belly.


An Ebony Chin
An Ebony Chin. Photo Credit: Benjamin Groß

Ebony Chinchillas are a popular mutation that can have anything from a light gray coat to a solid black one. However, instead of having a white belly like a Standard, the Ebony chinchilla has a light gray or black underbelly, and its hair tends to have a glossy appearance. Another feature of the Ebony is its slow growth – it can take up to 24 months to mature when other chinchillas take only 8 to 14 months.


A charcoal chinchilla is a rare mutation because it is a full recessive and requires both parents to carry the charcoal gene. In the US, the terms and Charcoal and Ebony are used interchangeably, but they actually have different genetic makeups and are considered separate in the UK and some parts of Europe.

The Violet Chinchilla

The Violet Chinchilla or Sullivan Violet first appeared in 1967 in Africa. As its name suggests has a violet hue to its coat and has a white belly. They have soft, fine hair which is prone to weakness. The middle band of a violet’s hair (also known as the bar) is white and contributes to its soft appearance. The Violet is a full recessive like the Charcoal and requires both parents to carry the violet gene.

Here’s a video of Lyla, a violet chin

The Sapphire Chinchilla

The Sapphire, like the Violet and Charcoal, is a rare, recessive mutation that is not easy to breed. The resulting chin has a pale blue coat and white belly fur. Its hair has a soft light blue underfur, a white bar, and a crystal blue veiling. Additionally, the chin has a light-colored tail with pink ears.

Here’s a video of a female sapphire chin with her two sapphire kits:


Beige Chinchilla Mutations

Beige chinchillas have dark beige to light beige coats with red eyes and a white belly. Beige chins can be either homozygous beige or heterozygous beige. Homozygous Beige chins have two copies of the beige gene, one from each parent while Heterozygous Beige chins have a single copy of the gene from one parent.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell whether your chinchilla is homozygous or heterozygous beige. One way to confirm is by checking their eyes – according to Jamie Higgins, a homozygous beige has light red eyes with a light ring around its pupils while a heterozygous beige chin has a solid color around its pupils.

A homozygous beige chin also tends to have a lighter coat while the heterozygous beige has a darker beige and sometimes even brownish coat.

A homozygous beige chin also tends to have a lighter coat while the heterozygous beige has a darker beige and sometimes even brownish coat.

Here’s a video of Happy, a homozygous beige chin


White and Albino Chinchillas

There are quite a number of white colorations of Chinchilla, and some of these colorations have red or pink eyes. Most of the time, when someone says they have an albino chinchilla, it is likely they have mistaken their Pink White chin for an albino as true albinos are very rare.

Pink White

Pink White chinchillas carry the beige gene and are mostly white although they can have beige patterns. They have light-colored ears, which may also be freckled. A Pink White chin with homozygous beige genes usually has light red eyes and is often mistaken for an albino.


White mosaic chinchillas have patches of white mixed on top of other coat colors or vice versa depending on the coat type of its parents.

Wilson White

A Wilson White chinchilla has a completely white coat with black ears. They also always have black eyes, unlike pink whites.

Wilson Whites have a lethal factor – offspring that carry both copies of the gene do not live – and should not be bred with one another.

This video shows a pink, white, mosaic, and Wilson white chinchilla. See if you can identify them:


Other Colors

The abovementioned colors are not the only available ones. New colors and mutations are continuously being discovered and developed. Some of the recent ones include:


A goldbar chinchilla has a champagne or golden coat with a white belly and red eyes. The first Goldbar was produced in 1995.

Blue Diamond

The first Blue Diamond chinchilla was born in South England in 2001 and is an extremely rare color arising from a combination of the violet and sapphire recessive mutations. Its coat is a soft ice blue. A Blue Diamond chin has to receive copies of both the violet and sapphire genes from both parents.

Here’s a video of a newborn Blue Diamond chinchilla kit:

Hopefully, this information will help you identify your chinchilla’s type. If you know of other mutations or have a photo to contribute, please feel free to leave a comment below

Additional References:

Chinchilla Lifespan: How Long Do Chinchillas Live?

Chinchilla Lifespan How Long Do Chinchillas Live

Introduction to the Chinchilla’s Lifespan

Chinchillas are particularly long-lived for rodents, outliving most of the other rodents that we keep as pets. So how long does a chinchilla live? An average of 10 years in the wild and even longer in captivity! The average lifespan of Chinchilla kept as pets are around 15 years since they are not subjected to predation or hunting and have access to veterinary care. With proper care and feeding, their lifespan can go up to 20 years or even more. Quick fact: The oldest chinchilla on record lived 28 years and 94 days.

Besides having a long lifespan, chinchillas also have a lengthy gestation period of 111 days and are born fully-formed, resembling miniature versions of adults. They are weaned at around 8 weeks old and reach their optimal breeding age at 8 to 9 months or later.

Domestic chinchillas can live 15 years or more. Photo credit: Jens Nietschmann


How Long Do Chinchillas Live in Captivity?

In contrast to the life expectancy of other small pet mammals such as hamsters (2 to 3 years), rats (2 to 4 years) guinea pigs ( 5 to 7 years), the longevity of Chinchillas is exceptional, making them great pets for people who are prepared to commit to a long-term animal companion.

However, not all Chins live to a ripe old age of 15 – 20 years in captivity. Chinchilla owners have reported their pets dying prematurely anywhere from a few months to under ten years. It is tragic because many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Whether a chin makes it to the age of 15 or more depends on a variety of factors. A chinchilla can die a premature death from preventable causes such as improper care or nutrition, accidents, or not going to the vet early enough for a treatable condition. It can also die early from things that you have no control over such as bad genetics and untreatable conditions.

How to Improve the Chances of Your Chin Living a Long & Healthy Life

Too often, chins die early because their new owners were uninformed and did not provide the proper care required for them to thrive. The tips below will hopefully help avoid that and let your chinchilla live to a ripe old age.

Get Your Chinchillas From A Reputable Breeder

Acquiring your chinchillas from a reputable breeder whose chins are bred from a healthy lineage and reared in good condition is important if you wish to have a long-lived chin. Not all chinchillas are bred from healthy stock, and a chinchilla from an unknown source, pet stores, or amateur breeders may have genetic problems or may not have been cared for properly, reducing their potential life spans. If you go to a reputable breeder, you’ll not only reduce your chances of getting a chin with such problems, but also have access to someone who is knowledgeable about chinchillas.

Provide A Suitable Living Environment

A suitable living environment includes the correct-sized cage, chews to file down your chin’s teeth, dust baths, a hideout, and an exercise wheel. Educate yourself on the recommended requirements of a chinchilla’s cage and accessories. Products sold in pet stores “for chinchillas” are not necessarily good, appropriate, or even safe for them.

Chinchillas also require a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and low humidity – heat stroke is one way chinchillas can die easily so make sure you have air-conditioning for the warmer months of the year.

Proper Nutrition is Essential

Giving your chinchilla a proper diet is very important. Unlike many pets which thrive on a variety of food and treats, Chins do best when they are given a monotonous, boring diet of hay and pellets. Food that is perfectly alright for humans or other pets may be toxic for chinchillas. Many a chinchilla has suffered an untimely death because its well-intentioned owner gave the chin fruits or vegetables that were harmful for it. Know which foods are safe and unsafe for your chinchillas and keep their diets boring and safe.

Avoid Letting Your Chin Roam Free In The House

It is a bad idea to let your chinchilla roam free in your house. Electrical wires, houseplants, plastic bags, and even seemingly harmless furniture can cause an accident when a chin gets overly curious. There have been cases of chinchillas chewing on electrical cords, eating toxic houseplants, swallowing small objects, and getting into all sorts of accidents when allowed to free-range at home and these incidents have resulted in injury or death.

Your chins will need time outside the cage but not unsupervised. If you have to leave your chin in a room without supervision, the room will have to be chinchilla-proof. Some people like to create a play room for their chins that’s completely chin-proof.

Pay Attention To Your Chin’s Behavior

Chinchilla Environment ~ Chinchilla Proofing Your Home & Fixing Boredom
the chinchilla lifespan can be increased with proper care and attention Photo credit: Narisa


Chinchillas are great at masking signs of illnesses since any sickness or injury would make them a prime target for predators in the wild. Chins are able to hide their illnesses so well that in many cases, it’s too late to treat a chin when the owner finally realizes something is wrong. Familiarize yourself with your chin’s behavior and look out for changes in appetite, your chin’s poop, or for behavior that does not seem normal for your pet. You want to detect any illness early so you can get treatment for your chin as soon as possible.

Know Where Your Nearest Exotic Vet Is

Exotic vets may be better equipped to take care of your chinchilla. Photo Credit: MyFWCmedia


It may sound silly to look for a vet even before your chin gets sick but in reality, this is a very important detail that may save your chin’s life. If your chinchilla gets into an emergency situation or falls ill, you do not want to be scrambling for a vet at the last minute. Furthermore, going to just any vet near your home may not be the best for your chin since most vets do not specialize in exotic pets and may not have experience treating a chinchilla.

Most veterinarians have their own web page today so do a search and save the contact details of a few exotic vets near you. You can also ask for recommendations from fellow chinchilla owners, your chinchilla breeder, or the pet store.


The lifespan of a chinchilla is very long, and it can live 15 to 20 years, but because of improper care, not all of them reach that age. However, by acquiring your chin from a reputable breeder, providing a suitable living environment and proper nutrition, supervising your chin’s out-of-cage playtime, paying attention to your chinchilla’s behavior, and knowing where your nearest exotic vet is, you can avoid situations that may cut your chin’s life short.

It is my hope that your chinchillas will live long, healthy lives. Like the one in this video (according to its owner, this chin is 25 years old):


Tips You Can Learn Today To Help Your Chinchilla A Lifetime

Tips You Can Learn Today To Help Your Chinchilla A Lifetime

I’m sitting here watching Jasper jump and play, and I remembered back when I first brought him home. I didn’t know a single thing about this new little life I was about to be responsible for. I researched and learned everything I possibly could so that I could give him a healthy, happy home. What follows is some of the things I have learned about chinchillas.

Chinchilla Quick Fact Guide:

  • Average life expectancy is between 10-20 years. The oldest Chinchilla I have heard of was 27-29 years old.
  • Chinchillas on average weight from 550grams -1000grams.
  • Chinchillas can jump at least 3 feet high.
  • Chinchillas have very dense fur. Their environment must be kept under 75 degrees. They can overheat and die in warmer temperatures.
  • Chinchillas should be housed indoors. Also, many people ask if chinchillas can be walked on a leash. The answer is no. They can easily slip out of pet harnesses. Remember chinchillas are mostly fur and you can not tighten the harness enough for them.
  • Chinchillas do not take water baths instead they take dust baths. They roll in the dust bath to keep their fur clean of oils. Dust baths should be given at least two times a week or as needed. Use about a tablespoon or more per chinchilla.
  • Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime. It is very important that they have wooden toys or pumice stones to help wear their teeth down.
  • Use caution with toys: Run around balls are not a good way to have your chinchilla exercise. They can overheat in them causing a heat stroke. Wheels are great for a chinchilla, but you need to be careful which type you chose. Wheels should be solid (no wire) and fit securely to the cage. Not
    all toys in the pet store are safe. Please use good judgment when purchasing toys.
  • Chinchillas are nocturnal. They sleep during the day and are awake at night. Bedrooms are not always the best place to house a chinchilla for this reason.
  • Cage location is also a very important aspect. The cage should not be located under a window or direct sun light. The cage should not be under an AC vent or in any other drafts.

Chinchillas need a good diet to maintain their health.

  • Fresh Pellets: There are three that is superior above all others and that’s  Oxbow essentials, APD-Alffy Pellets (American Pet Diner) and Mazuri pellets. Please do not feed a chinchilla any type of small animal food. They need a diet that is made specifically for them.
  • Hay: Chinchillas love their hay. You can feed hay either loose or in cubes. Alfalfa and Timothy are great choices. Which hay depends on one what kind of feed you will use. For example, if you use the Kline diet, you will need alfalfa hay if you use Mazuri pellets you would need timothy hay.
  • Water: Chinchillas need a constant supply of water just like any other animal. Filtered water is best it eliminates bacteria and sediment from the water.
  • Healthy treats include rose hips, raisins, dried papaya, plain mini-wheats, cheerios, loose hay (orchard grass, oat hay, bluegrass), and dried cranberries. Do not feed your chinchilla fresh fruits or vegetables this can upset their stomachs or make the bloat.

Chinchillas are treat monsters. You must be careful when giving treats. Too many treats can cause health problems later on in life. Chinchillas can be given treats once they are 6mo old, no sooner. If you give the treats to young, it will upset their stomachs. Give treats very sparingly once or twice
a week. When giving treats only give two small pieces. When serving loose hay as a treat just give one small hand full.

So what is a chinchilla?

Chinchillas are a nocturnal animal of the rodent family; a male is referred to as a buck and a female as a doe. They are about 25 centimeters high and have large, thin ears shaped like those of a mouse, and long whiskers. Their general body shape is similar to that of a rabbit, and they have long back feet like a rabbit; their front legs are shorter, and their paws can be used as ‘hands’; their long furry tail is similar to a squirrels tail. On a standard chinchilla the body fur, which is beautifully soft and thick, is grey; but they are available in a variety of colors including black, beige, blue-grey, brown and white.

There are three varieties of chinchilla – Chinchilla Brevicaudata, Chinchilla Lanigera, and Chinchilla Costina.

Brevicaudatas were found at higher elevations (approx. 15,000 feet), they are larger animals, with a blunter nose and shorter ears and tails, pure Brevicaudatas show a brownish hue to their coats, and have more docile temperaments.

Costinas were found closer to sea level; they are smaller animals with a more pointy head and body, and longer ears and tails. Costinas are credited for contributing the blue hue found in a chinchillas fur; they are more highly strung than Brevicaudatas.

Lanigeras were found at approx 10,000 feet, their size and their characteristics fall midway between the Brevicaudata and Costina, and their original color ranged from bluish grey to a brownish color. The Lanigera is the domesticated chinchilla which is featured on these pages.

Where did they come from?


Chinchillas originally lived in South America in the Andes mountains, where they have been observed living in colonies at heights of up to 15,000 feet. When the Spanish pioneers discovered chinchillas in the 1500’s, they named them ‘chinchillas’ after the Chincas, who together with the Incas were one of the native people of South America.

Wild chinchillas live in colonies of up to 100 animals; most live in burrows however some make their home in crevices among rocks.

Unfortunately, wild chinchillas have become an endangered species. They were once found in Peru and Bolivia, but are extinct in those parts now, however populations of Chinchilla Lanigera can still be found in parts of northern Chile. In the past, they have also been found in the northwestern parts of Argentina.



The chinchilla was hunted to near extinction in the early 1900’s, and most of the chinchillas in the United States today are descendants of 11 animals brought to California in 1923. These animals plus their descendants were bred for their pelts.

Over the space of 40 years pelting farms spread across the USA – many such farms still exist, and sadly even today chinchillas are bred in large numbers for the fur trade both in the USA and elsewhere. At least 100 pelts are required to make one coat, and in 1992, a domestic chinchilla fur coat on sale at Elan Furs (Indianapolis, Indiana) cost $22,000. A wild chinchilla fur coat would have been more expensive! Chinchillas have also been used for medical research, but today they are also kept as pets.

The picture on the right is reproduced with the kind permission of Alecia who owns the copyright. The beautiful woman posing in front of the monitor is Iris – I don’t know the name of the animal wearing the dead chinchillas!

A quick word on chinchilla clubs

There are those who advise members of a chinchilla club/society to benefit from the information they can send to members, however, some chinchilla societies are pelting organizations. Examples of American societies which are pelting organisations are the Mutation Chinchillas Breeders Association (MCBA) whose stated purpose is to “provide instruction on the humane care of chinchillas in their production and to help commercially market and promote all types of chinchilla pelts and products”; and Empress whose stated purpose is to promote “breeding of chinchilla for production and processing of chinchilla fur”. An example of a chinchilla club that does not support pelting is a British club, The National Chinchilla Society – the NCS accepts overseas members.

In my opinion, good information regarding the care of chinchillas does exist and does not *have* to be obtained by joining pelting organizations. To join such an organization is to support it, i.e., to support the breeding of a chinchilla, which will live a short life before being killed and made into an item of clothing. Therefore before joining an organization, you may wish to check whether that organization is involved in pelting – if it is then it may be preferable to look elsewhere.

Other than joining a chinchilla club there are many good websites containing detailed and accurate information regarding chinchillas – after browsing a few, I’m sure most novice chinchilla owners will be able to discern which sites are best to use as a reference. Forums are also a good source of information, for example the British forum Chinchillas Unlimited (no longer active) has many members from around the world sharing their knowledge, and there are more than a few experts present to give advice to those needing it – the only thing asked in return is that visitors to the forum are polite when posting replies as young members are also present on the forum.



Things To Consider If Your Wanting A Chinchilla As A Pet


So why choose a chinchilla as a pet?

With such a large choice of pets around why choose a chinchilla? Maybe because you perceive them as cute and think they will not take up too much space? Below are the reasons for buying, or not buying, a chinchilla

Reasons you may not want to buy a chinchilla

  • You don’t have time to dedicate to him/her
  • You want an animal you can cuddle and pet – most chinchillas are not keen on being picked up/cuddled
  • You intend to always keep them in the cage and never let them run free (indoors) – chinchillas may be small, but they can be quite energetic, they need to exercise
  • You have small children. While this doesn’t mean you can’t have a chinchilla, they are not considered suitable as pets for children under 12
  • You don’t think you’ll have the time/patience to slowly win their trust – chinchillas can be extremely timid when they do not know you.
  • They don’t come when you call them (and they can’t fetch either).
  • They can’t scare away a burglar.
  • They poop whenever and wherever.
  • They like antique furniture (to chew).

Reasons you may want to buy a chinchilla

  • You have sufficient space for a good size cage, and you have the time to spend with them and supervise their playtimes
  • They are adorable and gentle creatures.
  • They require little attention, but they appreciate attention when shown to them.
  • They keep themselves very clean. In fact, they have no odor.
  • Their fur is so thick that fleas and ticks can’t live on them.
  • They are quiet.
  • They are easy to care for and can be left alone over a weekend.
  • Their food is very inexpensive (only about $1.20 per month).
  • They are nocturnal, so they are ready to play when you get home from work.
  • Many people who are allergic to most animals are not allergic to Chinchillas.
  • They are smart, curious and extremely entertaining.
  • Both you (and any children you have) will understand a small animals nervousness and will be gentle and patient
  • You are looking for a small pet which may enjoy a long lifespan (with some luck and your loving care)
  • You want a pet which will be happy left at home alone all day while you at work
  • You want a reasonably intelligent pet which can think for itself and has its own unique character
  • You have fallen in love with their gentle and inquisitive natures
  • You enjoy watching a chinchilla’s playful antics

Chinchillas and allergies

Most allergic reactions to animals are caused by an immune reaction to a protein found in the saliva, the dander (skin flakes), or the urine of an animal. Of these three, in the case of chinchillas, the urine is most likely to cause a reaction.

It does appear that the vast majority of people will not be allergic to chinchillas. I myself am allergic to cats, dogs, horses, and probably a few other animals as well, however, chinchillas do not appear to affect me – however, I have heard of a few people who do suffer a reaction. The hay (which the chinchillas should be supplied with), or their dust baths may also cause an allergic reaction.

Points to consider if you may be allergic:

  • Before buying a chinchilla try handling one. If you suffer an allergic reaction then you know it will affect you
  • Use chinchilla bath sand instead of dust to decrease airborne dust
  • Use hay cubes rather than loose hay to reduce airborne allergens
  • When buying loose hay, look for hay that says ‘Dust Extracted.’
  • Consider using a wire-bottomed cage with a pull out litter pan rather than have a cage with a solid bottom. Instead of the dust and allergens sitting in the bottom of the cage where the chinchillas will disturb them, they will collect below the cage where they will be undisturbed
  • Use newspaper in the cage/litter tray instead of wood shavings


Chinchillas and other animals

Many people who own chinchillas also keep cats or dogs and experience no problems. However, chinchillas can become stressed by other animals, for example, dogs nosing around the cage and barking at them, or cats trying to reach them. You need to judge for yourself how existing pets will react.

While it may not be a good idea to have dogs or cats in the room while a chinchilla is running free, many chinchillas will enjoy the company of a guinea pig.

Having said this, it has been known for other animals, e.g., dogs rabbits, etc. to pass on a disease they are carrying to chinchillas. While the disease may not affect the other animal, it can affect the more sensitive chinchilla. One example of such a disease is Bordatella.


Chinchilla Q & A

What do chins eat?
What other treats could I give my chin?
What type of cage should I get?
What is in a chinnie’s cage?
How much can I expect to spend on my first chin?
What about exercise?
Can I use a ferret leash on my chin?
What do you have against those exercise balls, anyway?
Can a chinchilla really die from being too hot?
What’s this I hear about chinnies and water?
What if my chinchilla gets abnormally dirty or gets wet by accident?

What do chins eat?
In all honesty, it depends on whom you ask. Different chin owners feed their chins different diets. A better question for me to answer is what do our chins eat! Our chins are given a constant supply of Mazuri pellets to eat throughout the day. They also have alfalfa cubes to chew on, though none of our chins seem to be particularly fond of cubed hay. In the evenings, they are given 1/2 teaspoon of rolled oats, a generous helping of timothy hay, and a treat. Treats can be a variety of things. We generally have raisins, bite-sized shredded wheat squares, horse cookies, and almonds. Once a week, each chin gets a small piece of dried papaya, rosehips, and a chewable Vitamin C. These are given in place of the traditional treats. Occasionally, we give Nutri-Cal in addition to a treat. Pregnant females are given calf manna, raspberry leaves, and an extra bottle full of cranberry juice and water.


What other treats could I give my chin?
Dried cranberries, plain Cheerios, dried apples, prunes, a half of a fresh or frozen grape, very small pieces of fresh or dehydrated banana, unsalted peanut in the shell, uncooked pasta… The list goes on! Remember, everything in moderation.


What type of cage should I get?
We have several different styles and sizes of cages for our chins. We started off with the wrong type of cage for our first chin. Of course, this can easily happen when you buy a cage from a pet store that has no real knowledge of what a chin needs. After doing even more research on chinchillas and cages, we quickly stopped using the original cage and got a new one. As a general rule, you should use a cage with wire flooring no bigger than ½” by ½,” if you have wire flooring at all. We recommend cages be at least 16″ (width) by 16″ (depth) by 16″ (height) for one chin. However, even bigger is definitely better! Having a slide-out pan can also save a great deal of time and prevents your chins from being in direct contact with the bedding or litter. If you are using a wire cage, it is important to provide solid surfaces for your chin to rest. This can be done with pine shelves and ledges or marble tiles, which also provide an excellent means for your chin to cool down. We recommend the  Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation Many people find that they can build their own wonderful chinchilla cages from a combination of melamine, pine, and wire. We just haven’t the time nor the energy.

Our Chinchilla Cages



What is in a chinnies cage?
Once again, that depends on the chin. We use and recommend Choco Nose No Drip Top-fill water bottles, and Living World Lock and Crock Dish. Each cage has a pine box for hiding and chewing. Each of our chins has pine blocks, lava rocks, pumice, and a few other toys to chew on. Chewing is very important for a chin’s health, as it helps to keep their teeth trim. Many of our chins have their own special stuffed Booda buddy. A few of the chins have cuttlebone. They all have ledges and levels to add to the fun of their cage. Chins like to jump and climb! Bedding or litter is also necessary. We use Living World Pine Shavings, which are inexpensive, softer on chin feet, and safe.



How much can I expect to spend on my first chin?
These amounts are low approximations for essential chinchilla supplies for one month. The actual price will vary depending upon the amount spent for any shipping and handling charges, buying in bulk to save future expenses, electing to purchase for different places or purchase different supplies, etc. This also does NOT include the cost of the chinchilla! You should expect to spend between $75 and $500 for a chinchilla, depending on color, background, age, etc.  Please consider adopting a chinchilla from a rescue rather than a pet store!

  • Cage
  •  Bedding
  • Water bottles
  • Food dish
  •  Food
  •  Hay
  •  Treats
  •  Toys
  • Bathhouse – Kaytee Chinchilla Bath House
  • Dust – Kaytee Chinchilla Dust

Your approximate total cost would be in the area of $181 for supplies alone.

Other items you may wish to purchase right away or could need in the future are listed below.

  • Ledges
  • Exercise Wheel
  •  Cuttlebone
  •  Nutri-Cal
  • Chewable Vitamin C
  • Calf Manna Supplement
  •  Oats
  •  Brush
  • Pine house
  • Chin-Chiller

Chinchillas are not inexpensive animals to care for. A great deal of time and money must be invested to ensure chinnies have happy, healthy homes and proper care.


What about exercise? Can I use a ferret leash on my chin?
While we would never use a leash on a chinchilla, chins do require exercise. Large cages with enough room to run around and play will certainly help, but nothing beats having playtime! Chin-proofing a room is necessary before any chinchilla is allowed to run around. Chinchillas are chewers. This goes for baseboards, electrical wires, furniture, and on and on. We’ve found that the most convenient way to get our chins to exercise is by allowing them an hour or two to run around the bathroom every evening. Chin-proofing a bathroom is fairly easy. Clean up is much more simple when the carpet isn’t involved. Urine can easily be mopped up or wiped up, or a litter pan can be placed in your chin’s “favorite spot.”


What do you have against those exercise balls, anyway?
We do not recommend the use of small animal exercise balls, such as the Giant Kritter Krawlers. It has been our experience that the lids on these come off easily, even when they have been securely locked into position. We have had chinchillas find their way out of these exercise balls on two separate occasions. If you must use these to give your chinchillas exercise, please use masking tape to prevent the lids from moving. Also, these Giant Kritter Krawlers can cause a chin to over-heat. Remember to take your chin out of the ball at least every fifteen minutes to prevent overheating and possible death. Another disadvantage to these exercise balls is that the chinchilla is trapped inside with droppings and urine. Feces and urine and become embedded in the chin’s coat. Regular and thorough sanitizing is necessary to prevent these exercise balls from harboring bacteria.


Can a chinchilla really die from being too hot?
Yes. Unlike humans and most other mammals, chinchillas cannot regulate their body temperature. Ideal temperatures are between 45º and 70º F with low humidity. Cages should be kept out of direct sunlight as well as direct draft. We keep our air conditioning set at 70º F during most months, as Arizona tends to have mainly hot months and short winter periods. Another way to keep your chin cool is to freeze smooth rocks and place them in the cages for your chinnies to lean against. This acts better than a frozen water bottle, as there will not be any condensation. You can also try unglazed floor tiles, smooth marble slabs, and chimineas.


What’s this I hear about chinnies and water?
Chinchillas and water DO NOT mix! It is fine for chins to drink water, of course, but it is not a good idea to have chinnies around an open water source. Chinchilla fur can be ruined by water. This is why we recommend the water bottles with no-drip valves. Instead of taking traditional baths, chins use special dust to keep clean. You can use chinchilla bath houses to keep the particles confined while chins are rolling around and having fun in the dust. We’ve found that these narrow entrances make a few of our chins a bit nervous. Instead, we use a clear, deep, plastic container with a lid that can be placed on top when the chinchillas are done bathing. This can be very messy, so we don’t recommend allowing chins to bathe around electrical equipment, such as televisions, computers, stereos, etc. Chins should be given access to dust baths approximately three or four times a week. You might consider placing the dust bath in the cage for a 15-minute period. We like to give them access to the dust bath during play time, as this takes place in the bathroom and, again, allows for easy clean-up. Having constant access to the dust bath can cause dry skin.


What if my chinchilla gets abnormally dirty or gets wet by accident?
Generally, anything in chinchilla fur will come out with the help of numerous dust baths. If, for example, your chin’s fur gets sticky from Nutri-Cal or takes on the color from a dyed toy, you can use unscented baby wipes to help clean them up. Take the dirty fur between a folded baby wipe and rub. Afterward, either give the chin access to a dust bath or rub dust on the wet spots by rubbing the dust into the fur.

If your chin has gotten wet and the water has soaked through to the skin, you will need to help dry the fur to prevent fungus. Since chinchilla fur is so dense, the fur will not dry completely on its own. Use towels and a drying set on cool to prevent overheating.

My Chinchilla Schedule

Chinchillas are very much creatures of habit. Chinchillas like routines and tend to be a little more happy and relaxed in an environment where a routine has been established. Routines also help chin owners to ensure that all of their duties have been performed in regards to chinnie care. We have set up a list of our daily, weekly, and monthly schedules in regards to our chinchillas. Generally, there are one or two days a week that the chinnies do not get external exercise (playtime), but these days are determined by our plans for the week and can change from week to week.

I no longer have rescued chins. I am down to just one. This is the schedule a friend of mine gave me and has been adopted by many breeders. So if you’re going to have multiple chinchillas, this schedule may help you.

NOTE: Before putting two Chinchilla’s together, please thoroughly read Introducing Chinchillas!



Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Playtime for Harold (10:00-11:00)


Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Dust bathes during the first 15 minutes of each play time
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Playtime for Harold (10:00-11:00)


Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Clean all cages (Done during each chinnies’ play time)
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Playtime for Harold (10:00-11:00)


Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Playtime for Harold (10:00-11:00)


Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Play time for Harold (10:00-11:00)


Thoroughly clean water bottles and food bowls (Done during the day)
Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Clean all cages (Done during each chinnies’ play time)
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Playtime for Harold (10:00-11:00)


Check water levels (Morning and evening)
Check weights (Done in the early evening)
Dust bathes during the first 15 minutes of each play time
Playtime for Clyde, Z, and Zeus (6:30-7:30)
Playtime for Koontz (7:30-8:00)
Fresh timothy hay in every cage (8:00)
Playtime for Avra (8:00-8:30)
Playtime for Henna upstairs (8:00-8:30)
One treat per chin (8:30)
Playtime for Krishna and Radha (8:30-9:00)
Change out pellets and give 1/2 teaspoon of oats per chin (9:00)
Playtime for Sage (9:00-9:30)
Playtime for Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli (9:30-10:00)
Playtime for Harold (10:00-11:00)



Generally, we give our chinchillas a bit of Nutrical (about the size of a pea) once or twice a week. We also throw out alfalfa cubes and replace them with fresh cubes a few times a week, depending on temperature and humidity. Cages are cleaned at least once a week. Chew blocks are given as needed. Cuttlebone is replaced as necessary. Pine shavings are cleaned from around the cages often. Any urine on the shelves and ledges are cleaned as needed.


Once a month, we take the cages outside and give them a thorough scrub down. Without the chins being inside them, of course! Once a month, stuffed toys are washed. Obviously, these toys are washed more often if they have become soiled.


Meet My Rescued Chinchillas






harold the chinchilla








hera our chinchilla as a pet





Kahli our chinchilla

Background Information

Krishna & Radha

The Story:

Krishna is one of the most popular deities throughout India. Krishna’s consort, Radha, is equally loved amongst the people of India. Krishna is considered to be the eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu. According to legend, Krishna was also heroic. He is alleged to have defeated numerous dragons and monsters, and, as predicted, he killed his half-uncle, the tyrannical King Kamsa.

While Krishna is divine, Radha was human. Radha was a cowherdess who once experienced divine love with Krishna. After they were separated, Radha yearned for reunion. Her longing is a metaphor for the human soul longing for union with the divine. The final reunion symbolizes the bliss of salvation.



Their History:

After Avra’s initial quarantine, an attempt was made to place her with some of the other girls (Bonnie, Hera, and Kalli). Unfortunately, Bonnie and Avra just could not get along. Avra was given her own cage, just above the girls’ cage, with a lovely pink hammock. She thoroughly enjoyed the single life.


Z and Mabel 

Their History:

Mabel lived most of her young life helping her mother to raise her offspring. She has a very sweet temperment and loves being around other chinchillas. Unfortunately, Mabel’s first mate, Sage, passed away in December of 2015.

Z is a very docile chin, always preferring to let the other chins be dominant. He lived with Clyde and Zeus very happily for several months.


Having a chinchilla as a pet is a huge responsibility, but oh so rewarding!

You may also want to read our post “Chinchilla Care Sheet