While a human only has one hair per hair follicle and even the softest rabbit has 50 hairs per follicle, a chinchilla can have up to 80 — their hair is so dense, parasites like fleas and mites can't even get through it to suck their blood. These little puffballs have been prized for their dense, soft coats since they shared their native mountains with the Chincha people who lived in the Andes before the Inca and for whom the chinchilla is named. The Spanish conquistadors who first arrived in the Andes in the s knew a marketable fur-bearing animal when they saw one, and from the moment Queen Isabella of Spain received her first chinchilla coat , chinchilla was the most valuable pelt in Europe.
But because a full-length chinchilla coat contains the tiny pelts of as many as individuals, by the 19th century, chinchillas had been all but hunted to extinction in most of their home range, and captive breeding programs began in an attempt to farm these valuable animals.
While chinchilla farms never took off, wild populations continued to plummet, and today both surviving species — Chinchilla chinchilla short-tailed chinchilla and Chinchilla lanigera long-tailed chinchilla — are listed as "critically endangered" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. But it turns out, while it's hard to find success in chinchilla farming, breeders found chinchilla make decent pets. To own a chinchilla as a pet, however, you do have to follow some rules:. It's true! Like the mogwai in "Gremlins," it's not a great idea to give your pet chinchilla a water bath.
Wild chinchillas take luxurious dust or ash baths to get clean, but their thick hair is ridiculously slow to dry, and they can get too cold while they're waiting around, damp for days.
Caring for my Chinchilla
Their hair can also become extremely matted, and a wet chinchilla is susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections on their skin. Instead, it's important to provide a dust bath for your chinchilla a few times a week. Just stick a pan full of store-bought chinchilla dust in its enclosure when they're most active during the evening. It's really cute to watch, and it will keep their coats clean and healthy. Because of their luxurious coats, and because they can't sweat, chinchillas overheat easily.
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In fact, the only way you know it's too cold for a chinchilla is if its water bottle is frozen. A cage with a minimum floor space of 24 by 24 inches is ideal. A wire cage is the most suitable with very little plastic as they will chew through this. Wood shavings or newspaper should be placed on the floor of the cage. A water bottle can be attached to cage for drinking from and a heavy ceramic food dish for the nuggets.
Blocks of wood, tree branches free from pesticide and some wooden toys are suitable for chewing and playing. Good greens would be broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, and peppers. Treat foods should be low in sugar, such as apples, pears or berries but in very small quantities.
Raisins can be given in strict moderation to avoid GIT upsets, obesity and dental issues. Provide a sand bath for your chinchilla once or twice a week. This should be special sand for your chinchilla, not ordinary sand. The bath should only be left in the cage for half an hour or so and then removed.
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The bottom of the cage should be cleaned daily and food dish washed. Chinchillas are fairly quiet, gentle animals that require very little care. If this happens, they'll need veterinary care to trim the teeth down and prevent them from causing them pain, which can keep them from eating and cause other health issues. Even chinchillas without malocclusion should be provided with a "chinchilla block" or pumice block, which will trim down their teeth when they chew on it, according to the Spruce Pets.
Young chinchillas should be examined by the vet on a yearly basis to check their overall health, according to NC State Veterinary Hospital, and older chinchillas with health problems will likely need to be seen more often. Chinchillas can also become sick, and NC State notes that they are good at hiding sickness, so if you should familiarize yourself with common symptoms, such as decreased appetite, lethargy, and sneezing or nasal discharge.
If you're considering a pet chinchilla, you should be prepared for a serious commitment, like any pet. Chinchillas in captivity can live up to 15 to 20 years , according to Animal Diversity Web.
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Chinchillas are beautiful and energetic pets, but they do require some special attention and a lot of patience. Watching a chinchilla bath is totally worth it though. Type keyword s to search. Today's Top Stories. The 17 Most Loyal Dog Breeds. Meet the Stars of "Welcome to Plathville".
Research reputable buyers ahead of time Chinchillas are considered an endangered species , and it is illegal to hunt and catch wild chinchillas as a result, according to National Geographic. Make sure to examine your chinchilla for patches of missing fur. JustAsLive Getty Images.
Make sure your chinchilla's cage is the right size and material. Watching a chinchilla bathe is a true site. Vadym Plysiuk Getty Images. Avoid feeds with loose seeds, nuts, or dried fruit Pornpimon Lekudom Getty Images.
Chinchillas can easily hide their sickness, so keep an eye on them.