The Short-Tailed Chinchilla
Species: сhinchilla chinchilla
Chinchillas are native to the Andes mountains in South America, but they can also be found in other parts of the continent, e.g. in the north-west of Argentina and in the north of Chile. They live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are mainly found in the mountains and are very well adapted to life on the height. They are nocturnal animals and find their way in the dark perfectly. Their skeleton has a unique ability to shrink vertically, so chinchillas can squeeze in tight spaces between rocks.
Chinchillas range between 28 and 50 cm in size. They have big ears, short front legs and long, strong hind legs that make chinchilla an excellent climber and jumper. They have thick necks and, as the name implies, short tails. They have plush soft coat which is dense and nice to touch. Most often chinchillas are gray, but they can also be beige, tan, black and white. All their physical characteristics enable them to live safely in the wild. They have excellent hearing, and their vibrissa serve instead of the eyes – they help chinchillas to learn information about objects around them and even to measure the distance to the objects. They are agile and have very quick reaction.
Chinchillas take sand baths. Their ears have special membrane that protects them from sand.
Chinchillas hardly ever bite. They can have different personalities: some of them like being handled and exploring their owners’ hair, clothes etc. They can stay on people’s shoulders and heads for a long time.
But some animals cannot stand being touched. They can express their extreme dislike by trying to aim at people with a urine current. Often such displays occur aming the animals who grew up in farms and hardly had any contact with people. But you can try to tame them by letting them feel your care and attention.
It is recommended to provide a spacious cage for your chinchilla, at least half a cubic meter. They need a lot of room. The cage should contain some toys, shelves and other accessories for climbing. A tray with wood cuttings is essential. You need to change the bedding once a week, since chinchillas hardly smell. It is best to fasten a food bowl and a water bowl to the cage’s walls, since chinchillas are very active and can turn them over.
A bowl with sand for bathing is a must. You can set it yourself or buy it in a pet store. But it is not recommended to put the sand bath in the cage more often than twice a week for half an hour each time.
The most important thing is to provide suitable environment for your chinchilla. The ambient temperature should be between 20 and 25 degrees, and the air humidity has to be 50 – 80%. Don’t forget that heat can be lethal for your chinchilla.
The chinchilla is scared of loud noises, abrupt movements and other stressful factors. If you protect your rodent from them, your pet will become a member of the family for many years.
In the wild chinchillas don’t get varied diet due to their terrain. They eat plants which they can find in the mountains. Besides, they eat moss and sphagnum, various kinds of cacti and even tree bark. In best cases they can catch small insects.
In captivity it is enough to renew the chinchilla’s food daily. It can eat commercial grain mixes and pellets that you can obtain at food stores. It is strongly recommended to give your chinchilla fresh hay, oat, buckwheat and dried bread. You should add to the diet of pregnant females rose hips or hawthorn berries once a day. Fresh clean water is a must too.
Chinchillas, in particular pregnant females, can be picky. If they get tired of some food, they will simply throw it out of the bowl. In this case it is recommended to change the diet and return to the old food in a few weeks.
It is highly recommended to keep chinchillas in a pen. When they are out of their cage or pen, they have to be watched carefully. Problems with fur often occur.
Chinchillas often get diarrhea and problems with coat. They are very active and often get physical injuries, such as bone fractures and wounds. Some breeders report seeing their chinchillas having convulsions. They can be a result of brain problems, vitamin deficiency or some kind of nervous system injuries. Chinchillas are prone to infections. Chinchillas are easily stressed and then they can show physical symptoms and exhibit weird behavior.