Faster than a speeding bullet! Able to leap furniture in a single bound! Bounces from one surface to another effortlessly! That’s right – it’s a chinchilla! These adorable little creatures can make delightful pets for the right owner. Chinchillas have delicate skeletons and love to chew on things like electrical cords, so a safe environment is essential. Keep your chinchilla’s health on the right track with a healthy diet, lots of safe exercise, and regular veterinary care.

Biological Facts

  • Long-tailed chinchilla: Chinchilla lanigera
  • Native to the Andes mountain ranges of Northern Chile—live in rock crevices and holes on relatively barren slopes
  • Life span: 10-15 years average
  • Adult weight: 14 to 28 oz (400 to 800 gm) (females larger than males)
  • Very delicate bone structure—not an ideal pet for small children
  • Sexual maturity: 7 to 10 months
  • Gestation:105 to 115 days


  • Primarily active at night, dawn, and early evening
  • Fast, agile, active; good at climbing and jumping
  • Females dominant and more aggressive than males
  • Difficult to litter train
  • Very clean, virtually odorless
  • Highly social; should be housed in pairs or small groups whenever possible
  • Rarely bite; enjoy being petted, but may resist cuddling
  • Chew on everything (“Chinchilla-proof” all areas in the chinchilla’s environment to prevent injuries and escape).


  • High in fiber, low in carbohydrate, and low in sugar to prevent dental disease and digestive problems
  • No breads, cereals, or nuts
  • Free-choice quality grass hay, such as timothy, brome, and Bermuda grass
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of commercial chinchilla pellets daily
  • Small amounts of alfalfa or clover hay, dried fruit, and fresh vegetables as treats—feed treats sparingly to prevent obesity
  • Gradual diet changes to prevent stomach upset
  • Fresh water daily


  • Large, multi-level cage, with shelves for perching, plenty of room to run around, and cage floor of welded mesh wire with smooth areas for resting the feet
    • Place the cage in a quiet location and maintain humidity levels of 40% or less and a temperature of 50°F to 75°F (10°C to 24°C); temperatures greater than 80°F can be fatal
  • Nest box (one for each chinchilla) for sleeping and for shelter from aggressive cage mates
  • Wooden cage furniture, chew sticks, and pumice stones for chewing to help keep teeth healthy
  • Exercise wheel with a smooth running surface (to prevent injuries to legs/feet)

Preventive Care

  • Complete physical examination every 6 to 12 months
    • Consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic companion mammals if you have any questions or concerns about your chinchilla’s health
  • Annual fecal examination for internal parasites
  • Monthly examination of males for penile hair rings (see Common Medical Disorders)
  • Regular, supervised exercise in a “chinchilla-proofed” enclosure to prevent obesity
  • Dust bath for approximately 10 to 15 minutes at least 4 to 5 times weekly

Common Medical Disorders

  • Dental disease/drooling/problems eating
  • Eye irritation/conjunctivitis
  • Fur/skin disorders: ringworm (fungus), fur chewing, loss of fur
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, bloat, stasis)
  • Hair ring accumulation/constricting injury to penis (males)
  • Heat stress
  • Respiratory infections
  • Trauma