Chinchilla 101 – Everything you Need to Know About Chinchillas!


Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents that are native to the Andes mountains in South America. They are also kept as domestic pets by lovers of small, furry animals. If you are thinking about getting a small pet and a chinchilla is one of your considerations, there are some things that you should know about this animal.

What Does a Chinchilla Look Like?

A chinchilla is very similar in appearance and length to a squirrel but has a rounder appearance thanks to its dense fur. AN interesting fact is that chinchillas have the densest fur of any land mammal.

Breeds of Chinchilla

chinchilla breeds

Credit: Wikiwand

Chinchilla chinchillaAlso known as the short-tailed chinchilla, this is an endangered species of rodent. It lives in the wild in the Andes Mountains in countries including Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. The numbers of these chinchillas depleted due to people using their fur for clothing. Keeping this type of chinchilla as a pet is rare.

Chinchilla lanigera- This type of chinchilla is also known as a long-tailed chinchilla, the common chinchilla, the lesser chinchilla, the coastal chinchilla, or the Chilean. It is this type of chinchilla that is usually kept as a domestic pet. It is native to Chile and Peru.

Types of Chinchillas

Most people who keep a chinchilla as a pet have a chinchilla lanigera. Of this breed of chinchilla, there are three types. These are:

  • La plata- Of the three types, this variety has the heaviest bone structure and best-developed musculature. They have a rounder appearance with a large head and a short dorsal line. It has short, round ears.
  • Costina- The most distinctive feature of this variety is its longer hind legs. It has an arched spine and a V-shaped head with a pointed nose. Its ears are longer than those of the la plata.
  • Raton- The raton has a similar body structure to the la plata but is smaller. It has a pointed nose, like the costina.

Common Characteristics

  • Fur and coloring- The chinchilla has extremely dense fur that consists of hair and not wool. The coloring of a chinchilla is in bands of black, gray, and white. Depending on how much hair of each color a chinchilla has, it will appear a different color. These range from silvery grays to lilacs.
  • Weight- In the wild, the average adult male chinchilla weighs between 13 and 17.4 ounces, while the average female adult chinchilla weighs between 13.4 and 15.9 ounces. Domesticated chinchillas are larger with males weighing up to 21 ounces and females weighing up to 28 ounces.
  • Length- The length of a chinchilla is approximately 10 inches and its tail is about a third of its length.
  • Tail- A chinchilla’s tail is covered in coarse gray and black hairs. The hairs exceed the length of the tail to form a bristly tip.
  • Ears- The rounded ears of a chinchilla are one of its most distinctive features.

Lifespan of Chinchillas – How Long do Chinchillas Live?

The lifespan of a chinchilla depends on its health and the care it receives from its owner. However, the average life expectancy of a healthy and well-cared for chinchilla is around 10 years.

Chinchillas as Pets

Chinchillas were probably first kept as pets by people living in their native South America. However, official records of them being kept as pets only date back to when they were first introduced to the United States. In 1923, a mining engineer called Mathias F. Chapman sought special permission from the Chilean government to bring 11 chinchillas to the United States. Almost all chinchillas kept as pets in the United States today are direct descendants of the chinchillas brought by Chapman from Chile. Although chinchillas have gained popularity as a pet, they remain one of the less common choices amongst rodents and small animals.

chinchilla havbing a treat

Why Choose a Pet Chinchilla?

There are many excellent reasons why you should choose a chinchilla. Just some of the reasons why you should consider choosing a chinchilla as a pet include:

  • They have the cute factor. Their ears and facial features combined with their amazing fur makes these creatures adorable.
  • Chinchillas are entertaining to watch. Two common personality traits of chinchillas are that they are playful and hyperactive. You will have hours of entertainment watching your chinchillas play.
  • They are very smart creatures. Research has shown that chinchillas are smarter than many other small pets, such as rabbits.
  • Although the personality of each chinchilla is different, they are generally loving creatures that develop a bond with their owner.

With so many interesting characteristics and personality traits, a chinchilla can make an amazing pet for many people. Each chinchilla is an individual in terms of its coloring, its features, and its behavior, and this makes them hugely appealing. They are best-suited to people who have experience of caring for smaller pets, so they can meet all this creature’s care needs.

About the author


Liz Flynn is a mum of four with a background in education. An animal lover, she has owned everything from dogs to tarantulas and animals of all sizes in between and loves to write about them.

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