Chinchilla As a Pet: A comprehensive Guide For Beginners

Chinchillas are social animals and, if they have been regularly handled by humans since birth, they can be friendly and affectionate pets. They are playful and inquisitive, lively, and always moving around. Chinchillas are prone to chewing everything they can find and are prone to poisoning, so they must remain in cages when left unattended.

Because they are delicate and excitable animals, under most circumstances, they are not appropriate pets for a home with young children. However, having a new baby does not mean that you should get rid of your lifelong pet. Just set well-established boundaries between your child and your chinchilla, and make sure you both have enough space.

How much does it cost to own a Chinchilla in 2022?

Keep in mind, a chinchilla is not a low-budget pet, no matter how you look at it. Even if a friend gave you a chinchilla, you still have all the paraphernalia you need to buy.  And then there is the possibility of veterinary bills that will suddenly dwarf all those daily costs. But if you listen to any of the many chinchilla lovers, the fun of owning a chinchilla is definitely worth the cost.

Initial costs

First of all, you need to buy your chinchilla, so how much does a chinchilla cost?

For a standard gray chinchilla, it will likely cost you between $75 and $100 (£50 to £65). Other color mutations will be more expensive, some as expensive as $500 (£300).

For a good quality cage, expect to pay between $100- $400 (£60-£250). Remember, you cannot put your chinchilla in a small mesh box like the ones designed for a gerbil; they need room to move.

Inside the cage, you will need a minimum of;

  • Climbing ledges
  • Eating and drinking bowls
  • A wooden hut for living
  • A dust bath.

Other climbing toys or things like exercise wheels and tunnels will help your chinchilla avoid boredom.
Nothing you leave in the cage should be plastic, because a chinchilla will chew on everything it can reach, and plastic can be toxic.

Your basic initial cost will be similar to the following:

Chinchilla: $75- $500 (£50 to £300)
Cage: $100- $400 (£60- £250)
Habitat Toys and Accessories: $100 (£65)
The initial purchase of food and hay: $20 (£12)
Bathing dust: $8 (£5)
Litter: $10- $15 (£6-£9)

You should also be prepared for the possibility of visits to the vet.  A basic checkup with an exotic vet can cost roughly $100 (£65).

Monthly costs

The food a chinchilla eats is inexpensive: For a chinchilla, a monthly supply of alfalfa or timothy hay, supplemental pellets and treats, litter for flooring, and dust for dust baths probably won’t cost you much more than $35 (£20 ).

That’s enough of everything to last a whole month, after which you’ll have to go shopping again. While you can buy a few months in stock, it’s best not to buy more than that, because the food your chinchilla eats should always be fresh.

Where to buy a chinchilla

Where should you buy your first chinchilla?

The pet store, your most obvious option, is actually the most potentially troublesome. There is a wide variety of temperaments in chinchillas, and how friendly they are to humans greatly depends on their early conditioning.

Chinchillas in pet stores are often poorly conditioned and may have been left alone for a long time, resulting in extreme boredom that leads to fur biting (pulling on wool) and other bad habits. If you need to buy your first chinchilla from a pet store, be careful.

1. From the respected breeders

A better option would be to buy them from a respected breeder. It is recommended that you do a little research to make sure your breeder knows what he is doing and has given your chinchilla the care it needed.

Ask if the chinchilla has a pedigree, if you can see the parents, if the kits were handled daily (important to ensure friendliness as they grow older), what the chinchillas were fed, and if the breeder is a member of one of the main chinchilla breeders. groups like MCBA (Mutation Chinchilla Breeders Association) or ECBC (Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative).

2. Online classifieds or mailing list

Another option is to shop through online classifieds or mailing lists. However, do your research and be careful here. There are a wide variety of reasons someone can get rid of a chinchilla in this way, and you should make any dealings with your eyes open to potential problems.

A seller who examines you carefully, even as you examine him, is likely to have treated the chinchilla you are buying well. Someone selling to the first buyer they meet is less likely to have cared much about their pet. Keep in mind that the chinchilla may have a history of mistreatment and that you are unlikely to find out much of its history or even how old it is.

3. SPCA or Rescue centers

You can also find chinchillas often at your local SPCA (US) or Rescue Centers (UK). Some chinchillas in these places may be sick or traumatized by a history of mistreatment, but there are also many that were loved, beloved pets, and had to be abandoned when their owner’s circumstances changed.

Remember, chinchillas live a long time. The adoption fee for these chinchillas is typically less than it cost at a pet store, and you have the added benefit of knowing that you did a good deed and are giving a loving home to an otherwise “orphaned pet.” “.

How to choose your first chinchilla

Having a chinchilla is a long-term commitment; These little companion pets can live for more than a decade. Regardless of the problems your chinchilla brings, you will have to deal with them for a long time.

Every chinchilla is different, and much of the temperament and friendliness of the future is established while the chinchilla is still a kit. You may want to get a young chinchilla, about 12 weeks old. That way, the two of you will have the best chance of creating a close, almost inseparable bond.

When examining your potential pet chinchilla, pay attention to its general appearance. Fur chewing or patchy fur can mean that the chinchilla has been under mental strain, either from undue stress or from boredom. Drooling means that the chinchilla probably has teeth alignment problems, which is most often a terminal condition.

Look at the eyes too; They should not be pasty or watery, as this could indicate eye disease or malnutrition.

Observe how the animal responds to your presence or your outstretched hand; A chinchilla that has been mistreated will quickly drift away from you and you will have an uphill battle to earn their trust.

How many Chinchillas should you buy?

How many chinchillas should you start with?

There is no single answer to this question. The number of chinchillas that are ideal for you will depend on your budget, the amount of space you have, the time you have to spend with them, and whether or not you are interested in breeding.

For beginners, chinchillas are social animals. What this means is that they enjoy the company of their own kind, and if you buy just one, you will have to make up for what is lacking.

A chinchilla is not one of those animals that will have fun all day and night, eating, sleeping, and being perfectly happy in their own little life. If you do not provide companions, you must be willing to spend a reasonable amount of time each day simply playing and interacting with your chinchilla.

If you decide to buy two, you will have fewer worries when long workdays leave you little time to enjoy your pets, but you will need to make sure that your cage is large enough to give both of them room to run and be happy and active.

You will also need to be on the lookout for fights, disputes, or other problems that may arise between your pets. If you are not interested in breeding, two males or two females tend to have less trouble getting along than a mixed group.

However, if you are interested in having chinchilla kits in the future, choose at least one of each.

Remember also that chinchillas are very individualistic, so if you want more than one, you may need to check compatibility and proceed carefully with your introductions. Young chinchillas will be more open to a new cage mate than an older one, but if you make your first introductions sensitively, you can be successful at any age.

How to know which is male and which is a female chinchilla?

If you plan to put two chinchillas together in the future, it is very important to know which are male and which are female. It’s always better to verify this yourself rather than relying on what they tell you – reputable pet stores have been known to mislabel the gender of chinchillas.

To determine if a chinchilla is male or female, grasp the tail by the base and hold it while the animal is on all fours. The vaginal cone and the male penis look almost identical, but a female chinchilla will have her cone and anus very close. A male will have some bare skin between the penis and the anus.

Can chinchillas be kept with other pets?

Chinchillas should not be kept with other pets. Larger animals like cats and dogs should be kept away from your chinchilla’s cage, especially during the day when these nocturnal animals need to rest.

Remember, foxes, wolves, and cougars were some of the main predators of the wild chinchilla, and your little pet will classify the cat stalking along with the sideboard or the dog barking from the door as predators.

Chinchillas can be kept in the same house as other small caged animals, but you should never allow them to share a cage with any animal other than another chinchilla. The needs and temperament of various small rodents are very different.

Fine dust from your chinchilla’s dust bath can cause breathing difficulties for other small rodents, and those other animals, in turn, will likely prove dangerous to your chinchilla. Rabbit droppings, in particular, harbor bacteria that can easily be fatal to your chinchilla.

A possible exception may be the degu: in their original habitat, both chinchillas and degus occasionally share the same home bushes. Chinchillas sleep during the day and degus are diurnal, meaning that one is awake while the other sleep.

However, just because this works in the wild doesn’t mean it will work in a small, closed cage. In contained circumstances, the noise and activity level of the degu can stress the chinchilla when it is resting during the day, and the chinchilla’s activity can stress the degu at night. In some situations, overstressed chinchillas have killed their degu cage mate.

If you have a very large cage (several meters long) and can provide careful control, you can experiment with placing the two animals together. However, in general, it is better to keep the species separate.