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Chinchilla Facts

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Nutrition for Small Pets: Timothy Hay is Essential 
Nutrition Requirements for Small Pets by Species 
Cage Cleaning Tips for Small Pets 
carefresh Complete Chinchilla Food
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Chinchilla Facts

Chinchillas are named after a South American Indian Tribe, the Chinchas.
They are crepuscular, which means they become active at twilight, or dusk.
Pet chinchillas have a long lifespan; they can live up to 22 years in captivity.
When scared, some chinchillas give off a smell similar to burnt almonds.
Chinchillas have strong back legs that allow them to jump very, very high.

Chinchillas are special animals. They are native to, or found in, the South American countries of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. They live in the Andes Mountains at altitudes up to 16,500 feet. Humans would not enjoy living at this height. The ground is rocky and few plants grow. The air can also be extremely cold. Chinchillas are members of the rodent family. They are related to guinea pigs, rats, mice, squirrels, beavers, and porcupines. They communicate with a series of chirps, peeps, and cackles. They also make a "kee-kee-kee" sound when they are scared or angry. Long-tailed chinchillas are the most common pet chinchilla. Their scientific name is Chinchilla lanigera. This name means, in part, "wooly," because of their soft fur. Like other rodents, they have teeth that continually grow throughout their lifetime. Therefore, their diet should consist of large amounts of Timothy Hay. This aids digestion and helps wear down their teeth. Other foods should include special pellet diets made just for chinchillas and fresh water. They also enjoy small pieces of fruit or single raisins.

What Is It Called?
Common Name Technical Name
Father Buck
Mother No name, though some
people call them "Does"
Baby No name
Group Colony
Chinchillas Around the World
Language Name for Chinchillas
French chinchilla
German chinchilla
Italian cincilla
Spanish chinchilla
Hungarian csincsilla
Polish szynszyla

The Most Common Question About Chinchillas

Why is my chinchilla's fur so soft?

Chinchillas have very thick and soft fur. Some people believe the fur of a chinchilla is the softest of any animal in the world. Interestingly, their fur is so thick that parasites, such as the fleas and ticks that may harm other pets, have much difficulty getting through the hair to the skin. But you should still have your chinchilla regularly checked by your veterinarian. The reason your chinchilla's fur is soft is simple. Chinchillas have between 60 and 80 hairs per hair follicle. In contrast, humans have only one - maybe two - hairs per hair follicle!

To keep their fur soft, clean, and healthy, chinchillas need frequent baths. But chinchillas do not take water baths like you might. Instead, they bathe in a special dust. This is a finely ground powder made, preferably, from mountain pumice or volcanic ash. Your chinchilla will twist, roll, kick, and dig in the sand to bathe. It is good for your chinchilla but even more fun to watch! But care still needs to be taken. Since your chinchilla's eyes are so large, constant exposure to their bathing dust could cause unnecessary eye injuries. The best way to let your chinchilla bathe is to place his dust bath into his cage 2-3 times a week for a 20-60 minutes a day.

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