Chinchilla Facts and Information
Chinchillas come from a rodent family. To be specific over here; they belong to a South American rodent family. Having originated in the high, harsh, and windy climate of Andes Mountains in South America, they prefer to live in highly elevated areas (3000 to 15000 feet above sea level), where the weather is cool and dry, which should explain why they are blessed with thick fur.
Living in a highly elevated area gives them easy access to food that they need for survival. It also helps them avoid heat and predators by going underground quickly under the logs, bushes, or something along the same lines.
Of course, in highly elevated areas, it can get quite cold. Although chinchillas can bear freezing temperatures, they cannot tolerate temperatures higher than 80 F (27 C). They can get extremely stressed at higher temperatures. And in fact, extreme humidity and high temperature can cause them heat strokes.
This is why chinchillas are most active during dusk and dawn when the temperature is cooler. Unlike humans and other mammals, they prefer to sleep during the day, and dig homes in underground tunnels. Also, they live in the company of dozens or hundreds of other fellow chinchillas, and that makes them feel more secure than living in isolation.
Appearance-wise, some people say that chinchillas resemble squirrels. However, they are slightly more robust and larger than a ground squirrel. Weighing around one to two pounds, chinchillas can grow up to twelve inches in length. This measurement is without the tail. Even with the tail included, they are not longer than a foot.
Fun fact: female chinchillas are usually slightly larger in diameter than the male counterparts.
Their breeding season depends on their physical locations. It can run from May to November in the South Hemisphere, and from November to May in the North Hemisphere.
Believe it or not, a female chinchilla can carry her soon-to-be-born child for nearly 111 days before birth, which is pretty surprising for an animal of its size and stature.
Moreover, females can give birth twice a year, and up to six babies on each birth attempt.
Fun fact: Newborn chinchillas arrive in this world with fur and with their eyes wide-open.
Chinchillas are known for their soft and plush fur. They are almost thirty times softer than human hair, which should tell you how nice it feels to hold a chinchilla. Softness aside, their fur also saves them from predators because chinchillas have this uncanny ability to fur slipping in order to escape out of a predator’s hand.
Chinchillas do not prefer a solo existence. Even the wild chinchillas live in herds of 14 to 100 chinchillas. This helps them maintain a good social life. Plus, the herd mentality ensures that they do not fall prey to predators easily. They sleep under the rocks during the day time and set out to hunt food during the night when it’s much safer and cooler. As pets, they get along well with humans. That said, they are known to have a very short attention span. However, the good news is that they can be easily trained for a variety of different things.
The wild species of chinchillas are virtually non-existent in today’s age and time. They are known to be in existence only in some parts of Chile. Not surprisingly, the plight of their non-existence is internationally recognized. Subsequently, they are listed on the ‘endangered species list.’ That said, the domestic ones exist in large numbers. Of course, the habitat is not the same for domesticated and wild species of chinchillas. It changes quite a bit.
What are other things to know about chinchillas
Chinchilla as Pets
This trend started more than a hundred years back. Around thirteen chinchillas were domestically bred in California, which gave us this stock of pet chinchillas that we know today. That said, it’s not known to many that two species of chinchillas exist (Chinchilla chinchilla and Chinchilla lanigera). Chinchilla lanigera feature larger ears and longer tails.
Both these species make great pets, and their average lifespan is approximately twenty years, which is a remarkably long lifespan for an animal of this nature. Keep in mind that chinchilla lanigera is more commonly sold in pet stores that deal with chinchillas. That said, both species continue to thrive in the fur trade, which means that a lot of chinchillas are killed for their fur. Yes, many chinchillas are raised and killed just for their furs.
Do Chinchillas make Great Pets?
Yes, they do. But then, they are not meant for everyone, especially not kids. Given their small and fragile body, they need to be handled with great care. They tend to bite if they are squeezed very tight. On the bright side, they do not smell unpleasant like other rodents. And, they have an unusually long life. Plus, they are pretty low-maintenance pets. Ideally, they should be considered as pets when they are ten weeks of age.
Ideal housing for a Chinchilla
To make an ideal living habitat for a chinchilla in your own house, you need to provide the pet with a cage that’s large enough for the chinchilla to run, climb, and jump around a bit. Of course, the cage must be well ventilated as well. As such, the Michigan Humane Society suggests that caregivers provide a wire mesh cage with a solid floor to a domesticated chinchilla. Since chinchillas do not appreciate being caged together, individual cages should be provided if a person owns more than one chinchilla.
There are an estimated 10,000 wild chinchillas left in existence today. Therefore, a lot of conservation measures are taken to prevent the wild species of chinchilla from going extinct. They are also protected by law in their natural habitat. That said, chinchilla domestication is still gaining widespread popularity as this animal doesn’t cease to lose its popularity among pet owners.