first time chinchilla owner

Essentials for a First Time Chinchilla Owner

If you are thinking about getting a chinchilla then congratulations!

Chinchillas are great pets to have and have being growing in popularity since the 1960s.

Why chinchilla’s make great pets

The great thing about Chinchillas is that they are easy pets to look after.

They can be accommodated in most households without much difficulty and there are a number of reasons why this is true;

• They don’t need a lot of space

• They don’t cost a lot of money to look after

• They are quiet animals by nature and character.

• They are very clean creatures, and do not suffer fleas other parasites as they look after themselves well.

• They live quite a long time compared to cats and dogs so this needs to be thought through and is definitely a long term pet living up to 20 years.

• They can be fed easily despite the fact that they require specific dietary requirements which includes special food pellets, good quality hay and some fresh foods as well.

Keeping one or more chinchilla

Chinchillas are social animals and so can be kept together with others if you need without any problem. In fact they are best kept as a group as they keep each other company.

The fact that they are easy to look after makes them a great pet for a newcomer and just by adhering to some key principles, anyone with a responsible attitude can look after them.

They are becoming more available in pet stores however if you are looking for one in a particular colour then you may want to seek out a breeder.

If you are looking to take on a chinchilla then the best age to take them on is from 16 weeks old and so they are fully weaned.

The chinchilla should come from an environment where they are used to being handled by their owners.

It is important not to rush any decision to purchase a chinchilla as they may well be a part of your life for some time to come.

A health check-list for a new chinchilla

There are some things to check when getting your first chinchilla;
• Make sure that the chinchilla is healthy. Look closely at the environment that they are living in before you attempt to pick them up.
• Their droppings need to be firm and dry. If they are loose or runny then something isn’t right and it is often a sign of diarrhoea which is quite a serious condition for a chinchilla.
• If you do purchase a chinchilla that is unwell then it may be hard to get them back to full health if you are inexperienced in dealing with them.
• Check their temperament. They need to be alert, active, and bright-eyed. As nocturnal creatures they will be sleepy during the day but should be much more alert when dusk comes around. They will also wake up when they are picked up as well
• Young chinchillas are much livelier by nature where as more mature chinchillas are less agile.
• Check the condition of the fur. The fur of a chinchilla needs to be plush and standing out from the body. It needs to be soft in texture. If you find a chinchilla that has flattened hair then this is a sign that it is in poor health.
• Check their eyes and ears. They need to be bright and free of tears which is a sign that the chinchilla has been injured.
• Check their nose. Their should be no discharge and the chinchilla should not be sneezing at all.
• Pick up the chinchilla with the owner’s permission. When you handle a chinchilla it allows you to assess their weight and closely assess their health.
• Check their teeth. Their incisor teeth especially need to be examined at the front of their mouths. This can be done by pulling down the fur on their chin so that you can check their lower incisors. Next, place your fingers on eat side of their upper jaw to life up the skin and check that both pairs of their incisors are there and meet together without any problem. It may be apparent that a tooth has been broken of has deviated which will make it tricky for the chinchilla to eat their food as they would normally. If this happens, then they may lose weight and their body condition will worsen.
• Teeth problems can also affect younger chinchillas as well and if their teeth don’t meet together in the normal fashion, then they can quite possibly have a genetic condition that has affected their teeth. If this happens then they will need to have their teeth trimmed back regularly, perhaps every other month as it will affect their health otherwise. If you happen to take on a younger chinchilla with this issue then this can be quite a demand on your time and financial resources.

Where do I get a Chinchilla?

There are a number of places where you can get a chinchilla;

Internet sales

Chinchillas are often found for sale on internet sales boards such as Craigslist or Gumtree.

Please do take care if you decide to purchase from these places and use the check-list above to guide your decision making. You can often get a very good price on them but often the standard of care they have been given by owner’s can vary greatly.

Pet store

Chinchillas are often sold in pet store, however pet stores do vary in the quality of the animals they sell. Some pet stores place great care in their stock and have strict standards of care. Some unfortunately do not. This is why its important to take into account the points made above to ensure the chinchilla you purchase is of a good standard. Another point to consider is that pet store’s often mark up the prices of stock, and so it is not the cheapest place to purchase.


There are many types of chinchilla that end up homeless for a number of reasons.

One of the best places to get a chinchilla is an animal rescue.

Many go unloved and unwanted and so have to be taken by an animal refuge who will take care of it and give it the attention it really needs.

They will require a donation and will need to check the accommodation which you are providing for them. You are also more guaranteed that the chinchilla will have been treated well and cared for in an appropriate way.


If you are looking for a specific variety of chinchilla then a breeder is the best place to go. They can vary greatly in the way they have been cared for though, so do use the check-list to guide your decision making.

Do I get a male or female chinchilla?

When considering which gender of chinchilla to get then it is worth saying that there is not much difference between them. They are both equally friendly creatures and do not vary much in temperament.

Do I get one or two chinchilla’s?

Chinchilla’s can be kept on their own or with others.

If you are going to have two or more chinchillas together it is better to get a set of one gender unless you want to start breeding.

If you purchase a female and male from the same litter intending to breed them then this may increase the risk of birth deformities and will affect the size of the litter.

It is much better to see out chinchillas that are unrelated to live together.

If you are going to get more than one chinchilla, then it is better to get female chinchillas as they are less aggressive towards each other.

Also, if you feel you just want to start with one and then maybe add another in the future, start with a female as it is also easier to add another female than a male to a male. Males are much more aggressive and territorial to each other.

Can children look after Chinchillas?

Chinchilla’s make very good pets for older children who are responsible enough to look after them and take the initiative to care for them and meet their everyday requirements such as food, water, and cleaning.

However they do not make good pets for younger children and will need you to take responsibility for them.

The child will need to be taught never to allow the chinchilla out of their home without letting you know and not to take them outside where they can be in danger of being killed by a predator if they escape.

They also live for a long time, and so will out live their childhood, and so you will need a long term care plan for them.

How do I work out  a chinchilla’s gender?

As you can imagine, its important to determine the gender of a chinchilla as this can have ramifications for the future.

So to determine its gender, pick it up and turn them with their belly up.

The spacing between their two orifices close to the base of their tail provides the best means of working out their gender.

The ano-genital gap is relatively short in the case of females but is much longer in males. Once a male chinchilla is about three months old, the testes will become apparent as swellings in this intervening space.

With adult chinchillas, you can generally tell by looking at their appearance.

Mature male chinchillas are not as large overall as females and they have a head that is proportionally bigger.

What do I need to buy for a chinchilla?

There are some basic food and supplies for you to purchase for your chinchillas. Here is what you should purchase for your first chinchilla

Alfalfa or Timothy Hay – this needs to made available to your chinchilla at all times.

A bale holder – Something to hold the hay in place so they don’t eat the hay that they are sitting and sleeping on.

Chinchilla pellets – This is their staple diet and should be available for them at all times to nibble on.

Wood to chew on – As their teeth are constantly growing they need things to chew on. You can get wooden blocks or objects for them to gnaw on.

A large cage – They need a space to live in

A Water bottle – for them to drink out of and keep themselves cool. Chinchillas cannot cool themselves so need water available at all times.

A shelter – wooden houses are great for this so they can retreat to.

Wood Shavings – for an absorbent bedding for the chinchilla.

How to bring your first chinchilla into their new home

Once you have everything prepared for them, you are ready to place your new chinchilla into their new home.

It is best to leave them there to get use to their new home and explore their new surroundings to settle down.

Try and keep a watch over them to ensure that they have drunk the water and the food which you have provided for them.

A good practice is to mark the water bottle with a pen so you can tell how much they have drunk from the bottle.

Don’t be surprised if you chinchilla seems nervous at first. This is quite natural and it will take them time to settle down into their new home.

Make sure they have enough hiding places so that they feel secure as they known that they can retreat to them when they feel scared rather than being left to cower in the open.

Try and leave them undisturbed for the first few days whilst keeping a discrete watch over them to ensure that they are eating and drinking properly. You will also need to check that their droppings are normal as well.

Don’t try and change their diet in these first stages as it can trigger a disturbance in their digestion. Keep offering them food that they are used to and then at a later stage, you can start gradually introducing them to new foods.

After a few weeks, you will notice your chinchilla becoming more friendlier and accustomed to you as a result of spending time with them.

By spending time with them and giving them a good home, they will grow more affectionate to you and start to respond to your efforts.