A chinchilla is an amazing animal to keep as a pet, but they are also a big responsibility as these need lots of care. Therefore, you need to make sure you are fully aware of the needs of a chinchilla before committing to becoming an owner and you also need to make sure you have all the equipment needed to care for these creatures properly. This guide for first time chinchilla owners gives you all the information and tips you need to decide if a chinchilla is the right pet for you and to fully prepare for keeping a chinchilla for the first time.
A Brief on Chinchillas as Pets
Chinchillas have many strong points that make them excellent pets. Not only are they extremely cute, they are also entertaining to watch and develop a good bond with their owners. However, they also need lots of care. You must feed a chinchilla twice a day, give it fresh water, and clean it out. They also need regular handling and you must keep them in cool areas. One of the downsides of keeping chinchillas is that they sometimes bite, and this is something about which you should be aware, especially if you have children.
Where to Buy Chinchillas and What Breed/ Type is Best to Buy?
You can buy chinchillas from either a pet store or directly from a breeder. However, buying from a reputable breeder is a better option.
Pet stores sell chinchillas for commercial purposes and are often more concerned with making a profit than on the welfare of the pet. They may not have a clear understanding of this type of animal to offer you the right advice before you buy the chinchilla and they may not know its history. Another problem is that the pet store may have got the chinchillas from a breeder that is not reputable. This may mean that the animals have unrecorded health problems.
A reputable breeder can show you the chinchilla’s parents and will know the health history of the chinchillas. They will have a good understanding of caring for this type of pet and can offer you sound advice before you decide to buy. Some will also put you into contact with people who have brought chinchillas for them before as a form of recommendation.
There are three breeds of domestic chinchilla and the differences between these are in their appearance, and not in their personality traits. Therefore, which breed you choose is predominantly a case of personal preference. It is important to note that if you buy more than one chinchilla and you are mixing males and females together, it is better to keep chinchillas that are all the same breed.
Should You Buy a Male, a Female, or Pairs?
The benefit of keeping just one chinchilla is that you do not need to worry about fighting and aggression. If you plan to buy only one chinchilla, you must decide whether to buy a male or a female. Both genders are very similar in their disposition when kept alone, so it doesn’t really matter which you choose as they both make suitable pets.
Chinchillas are sociable animals and live in colonies in the wild. For this reason, many people choose to buy a pair. While this is beneficial for social reasons, you must think carefully about whether to have two males together, two females together, or a male and a female together.
When pairing a male and female together there are two concerns. The first is that the chinchillas will breed, and you should only breed chinchillas if you have good knowledge of chinchillas. First-time owners should not breed these animals. The second issue is that the female will often attack the male when they are in season to prevent mating. You can prevent both these problems by separating the chinchillas when the female is in season, but this means you will need enough space for two cages. When the female is not in season, a male and female pairing will generally get on well.
A female pairing will generally get on well together. However, this relationship can change over time. Hormonal changes in females can make them aggressive towards other females and they may attack their cage mate.
With male pairings, the relationship can go either way. They may get on well or they may fight aggressively. The main cause of fighting is when they are trying to claim dominance. This is less likely to happen if you have an older male chinchilla living with a younger male chinchilla. Therefore, if you want to have a male pairing, it can make sense to have one male first and then introduce a younger male after your original chinchilla has matured past puberty.
How to Identify Gender
It is important to know the gender of your chinchilla, especially if you have more than one. Females are usually larger than males, although this is not always clear until they are fully grown. You can also check their genitalia. If you look in the area around the chinchilla’s anus, a male has a gap and you may also see its penis hidden in its fur. The female does not have a gap around the anal region.
How Many to Buy?
As a first-time chinchilla owner, it is best to only keep one or two chinchillas. This is because you will not have the experience needed to keep larger numbers and to understand the psychology of chinchilla behavior when kept in mixed groups.
Must-Have Items to Keep Chinchillas in Your Home
As a first-time chinchilla owner, you must fully prepare for the arrival of your chinchilla. This means buying all the essential items you will need to keep your chinchilla safe, comfortable, healthy, and well fed. Some of the items you will need to buy include the following:
- A pet carrier- You will need a pet carrier to bring your chinchilla home. This will also come in useful for vet appointments in the future. You do not need a special chinchilla carrier as any small pet carrier is fine.
- Cage- The cage is probably the most important item you need to buy for your chinchilla as this is their home. You must buy a large cage with multiple levels that has plenty of room for activity.
- Bedding- There are many different types of bedding available. These include recycled paper pellets, wood shavings, paper, and corn cob. Some chinchilla owners also use old fabrics as these are washable and you can reuse them.
- Dust bath- Chinchillas clean themselves in a dust bath several times a week. This is an item that you must buy for their cage.
- Bath dust- You must fill the dust bath with bath dust for your chinchilla to clean itself. This is available online or from pet stores.
- Nesting box- This is somewhere that your chinchilla can sleep or hide. Wild chinchillas nest in holes in tree bark and a nesting box replicates this environment.
- Water bottle- Chinchillas need a clean supply of water to drink. Therefore, you must buy a water bottle that attaches to the chinchilla cage.
- Hay- The main source of nutrients for a chinchilla is hay. You must top up their supply regularly and remove any bad or moldy hay as this can make a chinchilla ill. Hay is available online, from pet stores, or from agricultural supply shops.
- Hay holder- A hay holder keeps the hay separate from the bedding for your chinchilla to eat. This stops it from spreading around the cage and getting contaminated from the chinchilla’s bodily waste.
- Chinchilla pellets- These are another important source of nutrients for chinchillas. You can buy chinchilla pellets from most pet stores or online.
- Wheel and toys- Chinchillas are active and playful animals that need things to keep them entertained. While a wheel is the most popular option, there are many other chinchilla toys from which you can choose to give your chinchilla a source of entertainment.
- Woods- Having woods inside the cage is something that your chinchilla can use for gnawing. This will wear down their teeth and reduce the risk of overgrowing.
How to Introduce Your Chinchillas to Their New Home
It is essential that you prepare everything before your chinchilla arrives in their new home because if you are arranging things around them, it will increase their stress levels. Once you have put your chinchilla into its cage for the first time, you should leave it to settle for a few days before taking it out for handling. It can take a chinchilla time to adapt, so patience is the key. Avoid repeatedly taking it out of the cage to show them off to visitors to your home. When your chinchilla has settled, you can take it out for handling and begin to develop your bond. Most chinchillas are happy about being handled when they have become accustomed to their owner.
Welcoming a chinchilla into your home for the first time is an exciting time. Before you commit to this pet, it is vital that you fully understand its care needs so that you can make sure your pet is well looked after when you become its owner. You should also have all the things you need to keep a chinchilla safe, healthy, and comfortable before you bring it back to your home. Giving your chinchilla time to settle into its new environment will help to reduce stress for your chinchilla and to develop a good bond with your new pet.