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Do Chinchillas Make Good Pets?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chinchillas are deeply furred members of the rodent family, native to South America. They are close relatives to the guinea pig, and many people find their soft fur, lack of odor and clean habits quite attractive. As attractive as chinchillas are, they do not make ideal pets for everyone.

Chinchillas do not like to cuddle or be held. If you’re looking for a cuddly pet, look elsewhere. Young children may not understand this about a chinchilla, which looks so naturally cuddly. As well, chinchillas are highly excitable, and may not be a good pet choice for a highly active child. A lot of activity or yelling around a chinchilla can cause the animal to become stressed.

As members of the rodent family, one of the primary activities of chinchillas is gnawing to keep down the steady growth of their teeth. They will indiscriminately chew on everything including wires, baseboards, the bottoms of wooden chairs, and paper or cardboard boxes. Chinchillas can hurt themselves by gnawing on items that contain high amounts of resins or other chemicals. Chinchillas need safe chewing items to satisfy their gnawing needs. They also may require yearly dental care to keep the teeth from becoming too long.

The simple answer to this might be to keep chinchillas in their cages. However, chinchillas often require some activity outside of their cages. This means chinchilla-proofing a room, which can be a challenge. It’s also difficult to block a chinchilla from leaving a room since they can jump very quickly and very high, about five feet (1.52 m) in the air. Thus the average baby gate will not adequately prevent chinchillas from escaping a room.

Chinchillas are also nocturnal, which means hours of play usually occur in the evening, and into the night. If you are a light sleeper, a chinchilla cage in your room may not be a good choice. One should be able to provide activity choices for the chinchilla each night so it does not become restless. A helpful tool can be the chinchilla wheel, which will allow the chinchilla to exercise.

Chinchillas also need temperature controlled homes or cages since they are extremely susceptible to both heat and cold. Normally a home or cage should be no higher than 78 degrees F (25.55 C). Extended periods of time at temperatures even as high as 75 degrees F (23.88 C) can cause heat stroke in chinchillas. If you are unable to control the temperature via air conditioning, then you must buy a temperature-controlled cage.

Chinchillas live for about 10 years in the wild, and may live for up to 20 in captivity. Thus buying a chinchilla means a quite long commitment to raising it. Be aware of this commitment before deciding to get one.

Despite these special care issues, many owners of chinchillas enjoy these active and fuzzy rodents greatly. Other pets tend to tolerate chinchillas well, though this should be carefully tested and controlled. Though they do not make the best pets for younger children, a child over ten may really enjoy having a chinchilla as a pet. From their popularity as pets, clearly many adults also enjoy caring for chinchillas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are chinchillas suitable pets for families with children?

Chinchillas can be suitable for families with older children who understand the need for gentle handling. These creatures are delicate and can become stressed or injured if handled roughly. It's essential to supervise interactions and teach children how to respect the chinchilla's space and needs for a harmonious relationship.

How much care and attention do chinchillas require?

Chinchillas require a moderate level of care. They need a spacious cage, daily exercise outside their enclosure, and a dust bath several times a week for coat health. Their diet should consist of high-quality pellets, hay, and occasional treats. Regular interaction is also important, as chinchillas are social animals and thrive on companionship.

Can chinchillas be trained to do tricks or use a litter box?

Chinchillas are intelligent and can be trained to perform simple tricks and behaviors with patience and positive reinforcement. They can also be litter box trained, which makes cleaning easier. However, training requires consistency and time, so it's a commitment that potential owners should be prepared to make.

What is the lifespan of a chinchilla, and are they prone to any specific health issues?

Chinchillas have a long lifespan, often living 10 to 20 years with proper care. They are prone to certain health issues such as dental problems, digestive disturbances, and heatstroke due to their dense fur. Regular veterinary check-ups and a well-maintained living environment can help prevent and manage these conditions.

How do chinchillas fare when left alone for extended periods?

Chinchillas are social animals and can become lonely and stressed if left alone for extended periods. If you have a busy lifestyle, consider having a pair of chinchillas for companionship. Ensure they have plenty of toys and environmental enrichment to keep them entertained when you're not around.

Are chinchillas allergenic, and how do they affect people with allergies?

Chinchillas themselves are not known to be highly allergenic, but their dust baths and bedding can contribute to allergens in the home. People with allergies should carefully consider this aspect and take measures such as using hypoallergenic bedding and maintaining a clean environment to minimize potential allergic reactions.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllThingsNature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon163485 — On Mar 28, 2011

To the person whose kid got bit by the chinchilla: Maybe your brat deserved it. Chinchillas don't bite to bleed unless they're mishandled and they give plenty of warning ahead of time with gentler nips.

They're not for younger people, since most children don't have as much understanding or empathy for an animal's feelings and need for space. They just see something cute and want to smother it.

By anon159625 — On Mar 12, 2011

A chinchilla is an extremely soft creature (you may never fully discover this; it depends on how much they allow you to pet them). I am the type of person who, yes, loves every single time my chinchillas do something. They adore when I take them in the bathroom (which is chinchilla-proof) and let them bounce off the walls.

When I bought them, I wanted a pet them like a cat that would sit on my lap and interact a lot. After four months, I have come to an understanding that these animals will *not* do that - they are timid and scared of everyone except me.

I am twelve, and considerably mature for twelve. I would recommend this pet for people fourteen and up, because even if the owner understands them, their *friends* are another story. If scared once, they will remember and be wary and cautious for a week.

When I first got them, one was not used to being in a larger cage. It could be set off at the slightest noise, and would bark all night. I would recommend you also make sure you are well off, as these pet's many needs add up and become more expensive than you'd think. Although these pets are more trouble than they are worth, I love my chins.

By anon145805 — On Jan 24, 2011

My kid just got bitten by a friend's chinchilla. Beware, they are rodents with large teeth.

By anon132747 — On Dec 08, 2010

A lot of people say how great chinchillas are and how amazing they are as pets. Well, my wife has two of them, I do not like them. I am not saying I want to injure or hurt them but they are destructive pets. They chew up everything. We have tried many many things to stop their chewing. We fill their cage with chew toys and have placed chew toys everywhere when they are out of their cage to no avail. All they do is find new spots to chew.

You can halt them in mid chew. bring a chew toy that they usually love or even a treat and they will eat it or examine it and go right back to chewing. They get into everything, they tear holes into the couch fabric, or crawl under things and refuse to come out. Now that being said, they adore my wife, and they are mildly affectionate to her because folks, be real: if you get a chinchilla expecting a fuzzy dog well, you just got a barking hamster.

Chinchillas are an amusing pet at first, unless you are the type of person who can sit there and think they are adorable every single time they do something. Well the novelty wears off very quickly.

Yes, they are acrobatic but usually it's just to get up to a new chewing spot. They are extremely easily frightened, and prone to mistrust. They are messy, leaving their droppings everywhere, they need special dust to clean themselves and it gets everywhere and if you get it in your eyes, it's like fiberglass.

They are more expensive than most, if not all other rodents, and there is no real justification for the payoff. Unless you are completely hang nailed into oh my, cute and fluffy, and that's all you want from a pet, then get a chinchilla. it will keep you enraptured for years to come.

For me personally, I would never own one. They are way more trouble then they are worth.

By anon132123 — On Dec 05, 2010

I am thinking of getting a pair of chins, but am unsure whether to get two female or one male + one female. I have read two books, both advise conflicting ideas. Please can someone help. thank you. --Marco

By anon115866 — On Oct 04, 2010

Forget this page. Chinchillas are wonderful pets. If you raise them and care for them, they are the most cuddly and social pets there are.

I have had my chinchilla for four years and he's absolutely wonderful. He's not hard to care for, he doesn't bite, he loves to be held (In fact, he jumps up in your hand if you hold it out to him) and petted, he follows you around like a little puppy and he knows just what to do to get attention.

The only thing you have to think about is simply to keep the room temperature around 25 degrees Celsius, as they are cold weathered animals. So between 20-25 Celsius is a good temperature.

They're good for people with allergies as well, and they're not really as sensitive as people think. Just make sure they have a big cage and get to run around a lot, as they do tend to have a lot of energy. There are plenty of good sites for tips on what chinchillas eats and so on. So look around a bit. More people should get a chinchilla.

By anon76545 — On Apr 10, 2010

Is it OK to buy one chinchilla to make them have a happy life or two?

By anon72033 — On Mar 21, 2010

i have not had a chinchilla before and I'm pretty active. is this a good environment for a chinchilla?

By anon67156 — On Feb 23, 2010

Chinchillas are so cute! I would just love to own one, but I have a question: are they hard to take care of?

By anon65544 — On Feb 14, 2010

i had a rabbit i had house trained to a litter box. is there any way to hous etrain a chinchilla?

By anon42640 — On Aug 22, 2009

I can be a very busy person at times. i do a lot of activities. would this be a good life for a chinchilla?

By anon36616 — On Jul 13, 2009

Doyou have to have a big cage or something small? do most chinchillas live for twenty years??

By anon36615 — On Jul 13, 2009

I want a chinchillas but first i want to know if they bite and do they need their toe nails trimed??

By anon24041 — On Jan 06, 2009

My chinchilla is very affectionate, loves to be held and will take food from my hand!

By anon19742 — On Oct 18, 2008

I have a single chinchilla and have had her for 2yrs. We got her from an owner that could no longer care for her because of age. She is very loving (she doesn't let us hold her) but shows she likes us by coming to us when we reach in the cage and loves to be scratched. She's very easy to care for and we let her run free in the house as long as we are home. She doesn't bite on much. When we first started letting her out she bit a little on edges but not more than one bite. But we started giving her a lot of chew things in her cage and she stopped doing it all over the house. Our daughter who is 5yrs old loves her to death. Our newest thing is she breaks out of her cage so we will start putting a lock on it i think.

By bigmetal — On Feb 06, 2008

i have a friend who has young children who has a pair of chinchillas. surprisingly, they are affectionate, playful, fun little pets! they got them very young, and held several to determine the friendliest ones of the bunch. her advice was to ask the breeder or pet store if they're handled very much, as this definitely helps to make them better pets. i'm thinking of getting a pair for my kids--they are quite a bit of work though.

By anon3317 — On Aug 23, 2007

Can you recommend any temperature-controlled cage for chinchilla? I am looking for one, but couldn't find any at the moment.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllThingsNature contributor, Tricia...
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