Family: Chinchillidae Black Velvet Chinchilla Picture Black Velvet ChinchillaChinchilla lanigeraPhoto © Animal-World
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I bought a Chinchilla two days ago. The first night at about 11 PM, I move him out for a walk inside my room. After a while he suddenly started shaking. It seemed... (more)  mmtakn

   Chinchillas have great appeal, like cuddly little "balls of fur". Their exceedingly soft, dense coat has more fur per square inch than any other known mammal!

Chinchillas have the finest fur of all the mammals which makes them very soft. They are very clean with no noticeable odor and their dense fur keeps lice, fleas and other parasites from taking up residence!

They make good pets and are very lively. Keeko loves to go outside in the long grass (on a leash) to jump and play. Pippin is actually Keeko's father! Pippin likes to be left alone more than Keeko, probably because he was in a breeding situation for several years.

   The average lifespan of a Chinchilla is 8 - 10 years, though in captivity they have been known to live up to 20 years.

For information about Small Animals and their care visit:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Small Animal

   See other Chinchilla color varieties below:

Geographic Distribution
Chinchilla lanigera
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  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Chinchillidae
  • Genus: Chinchilla
  • Species: lanigera
Chinchilla Dust Bath

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A Chinchilla Taking a Dust Bath

My Chinchilla taking a dust bath; thats how they keep themselves clean and mat free. Enjoy:)

Scientific name: Chinchilla lanigera, Chinchilla brevicaudata

Background:    The Chinchilla was named after the South American Chinca Indians .by the Spaniards in the 1500's. There are about 6 species in the Chinchillidae family and all are found only in South America. Originally they came from the Andes mountains in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. Presently, they can only be found in the mountains of Bolivia.
   The Chinchillas seen today are the descendents of 11 little critters brought into California by Mathius F. Chapman in 1923 to be bred for their fur. All species have dense beautiful fur. The importance of the Chinchillas in the fur trade led to intense harvesting and today they are a relatively endangered as a wild species, though there are over 3,000 Chinchilla ranches in the United States raising the domestic species.
   There are two types of domestic Chinchilla, the Chinchilla lanigera and the Chinchilla brevicaudata.

Description:   Chinchillas are adorable animals with long ears, large eyes and bushy tails; they are also rodents.Their tail looks like a squirrels' tail and accounts for about one third of their length. The chinchillas' body is 22.5 - 38 cm (8 3/4 - 15 in) long. The tail is 7.5 - 15 cm (3 - 6 in) long. They can weigh anywhere from 18 to 35 ounces.
   The Chinchilla Lanigera is distinguished by a more pointy face, a longer tail, and a more slender body, while the Chinchilla brevicaudata is thicker in the neck and shoulders and has a shorter tail. Visually the C. lanigeria looks larger, but the stockier C. brevicaudata is actually a bigger Chinchilla. It is mostly thought that the pets are of the C. lanigera species.
   The hind limbs of the Chinchillidae are longer than their forelimbs, and the animals are good at running and leaping; they are also good climbers.
   Today there are different colored domestic chinchillas including blue-grey, white, beige, black, violet, and mosaic. Keeko and Pippin are called grey chinchillas.

Environment:    An indoor enclosure makes a perfect chinchilla home. In the wild where the ground is suitable, they dig burrows, but otherwise they shelter under rocks. The cage needs to be large enough for your pet to stand up on it's hind legs without bumping it's head, as well as being large enough to put in a little sleeping hut for the animals privacy (a cardboard box works great for this), a place for food and water dishes, and also have space for running around. Use absorbent bedding material on the bottom.
   Provide a good soft bedding that is clean, non-toxic, absorbent, relatively dust free and easily acquired. Use a natural bedding since the chinchilla will probably eat some of it, and make sure it doesn't contain paint, lacquer, or varnish resins! A good bedding is a pelleted litter which is is non-toxic, digestible, and draws the moisture inside leaving the area dry. Other litters include wood shavings and corncob. Avoid cedar or chlorophyll impregnated shavings as they have been associated with respiratory and liver disease.
   Chinchillas are a colder climate animal and cannot tolerate high heat. Keep the cage in a draft free place with a constant temperature between 60 to 80 degrees. Remove the animal waste everyday. Once a week change the bedding and disinfect the cage with bleach, rinsing it well.

Care and feeding:    Provide a water bottle with fresh water daily.
   Chinchillas feed on available vegetation in the wild, including roots and tubers. They sit up to eat, holding their food in their front paws. Their cheek teeth grow throughout life.They should be fed a Chinchilla pellet which provides most of their nutritional needs. Use a crock for its food as they are difficult to knock over and spill and they are hard to chew. They can be fed occasional greens, and they love dried bananna pellets for a treat.
   Chinchillas must be given access to a dust bath (available at pet stores) at least once every few days. Chinchilla teeth grow continuously so to keep them trim you must provide a block of wood for the chinchilla to chew on.

Grey Chinchilla Picture "Keeko"
Regular Gray Chinchilla - "Keeko"

Social Behaviors:    Social animals, they live in small family groups which are part of larger colonies of 100 or more. It is better to keep pairs or families in captivity.
   Chinchillas are very sensitive and highly suseptible to stress when introduced to a new environment or new companions. Introduce anything new slowly, giving them time to examine it before making a permanent change. When frightened they will shed hair as a defense.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Female Chinchillas are larger than males and are agressive toward one another. They breed in winter, usually producing two litters of 1 - 6 young. the gestation period is 111 days, and the young are suckled for 6 - 8 weeks.

Common health problems:    Here is what most breeders recommend for common health problems:
      Diarrhea: give the chinchilla shredded wheat. Those little cubed 1" square ones work great.
      Constipation: Feed the chinchilla raisins.
      Runny eyes: Use a boric acid rinse. This may be a sign of other problems or infections, so if it persists for more than a day or two take your pet Chinchilla to a veterinarian.

Availability:   Although kind of a specialty pet, you should be able to find a breeder or a pet shop that can order a Chinchilla for you if they don't keep them at all times.

Common Chinchilla Color Varieties

Black Velvet Chinchilla

Violet Chinchilla
Black Velvet
Mosaic Chinchilla White Chinchilla
3 Photos © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Shana Giron

Lastest Animal Stories on Chinchilla

mmtakn - 2011-04-11
I bought a Chinchilla two days ago. The first night at about 11 PM, I move him out for a walk inside my room. After a while he suddenly started shaking. It seemed like he couldn't breath. Then I saw some water coming from his mouth. It was like a gel. He puked little bit. Closed his eyes slowly. Then frozen for 2-3 min. long. I thought he died. After 3 min he started jumping like nothing happened. Next day, on the same hour he repeated it again. Same events one by one. Is there anyone knows the reason, or had the same situation?

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-04-12
    Weird. Is there possibly something in your room that he quickly injests and then throws up? Animals can be allergic (very toxic) to some things us humans don't pay any attention to. Scented candles, Febreeze, aerosoles, perfumes etc. Big list and a chinchilla isn't a big fella.
  • Deidra Lashan Gunn-Knight - 2011-07-07
    I know this is pretty old, but sounds like your chin had a seizure. Some have them pretty often, but any chin can have them if they hit their heads or something. If he still does that, take him to a vet--if that's not possible, let him chill out in his cage, with only hay for a few days. No play time.
  • Elenor Lamb - 2012-08-16
    I'd agree with the seizure theory. I would take him to the vet as soon as you could just to be sure. There maybe something in his food thats too fancy or not good for him.
  • Primo - 2012-09-26
    It can take years, Chinchillas are prey animals they don't for the most part liked to be handled, petted, cuddled or any of that. This is the reason so many people get disappointed that haven't known this before getting their chinnies. Take lots of time to talk with your chinchillasoftly, never yell, give little scritches, be patient,  and most of all let them be the boss. Let them come to you , letting them be adventurous is the key in gaining their trust. Good luck.
  • Lydia - 2014-05-27
    Either ate something poisonous, or he's overheated.
  • Anonymous - 2014-09-17
    I agree with the seizure because I have seen a chin have a seizure it sounds like what I saw scary right
  • delanie - 2014-09-17
    you should take it to the vet but do not say any thing to it so it does not get scared
Susan - 2005-07-15
Hello. I have enjoyed looking at the pictures you have of chinchillas. Chinchillas make wonderful pets. Rabbit cages are really not suitable for chinchillas, as chinchillas need enough height to climb and jump. An appropriate chinchilla cages should have at least 2 levels (more are desirable) so that the chinchilla may jump from level to level. Store purchased cages are generally not suitable for chinchillas as they are usually too small, too short, and made of plastic. Chinchillas like to chew and will chew up plastic shelves, plastic clamps, etc ... which will not only destroy your cage, but will also make your chinchilla sick. The best thing to do is to make your own chinchilla cage; you just have to make sure that all wood used to create a cage is untreated by chemicals and pesticides. Chinchillas will also chew wood, so the majority of the cage should be constructed from wire. Wire mesh cage bottoms are not acceptable for chinchillas. A chinchilla can catch a toe or toenail in the wire bottoms and end up with a broken leg. Cage bottoms should be covered with some kind of soft bedding. Aspen shavings or CareFresh bedding are the most appropriate choices. Pine can be used, but only if it's kiln dried, so as to remove the aromatic oils. If your cage only has 2 levels, your chin will need lots of exercise; an exercise wheel is a good choice, but only if it is of solid construction. Again, an open mesh wheel can catch the toes or toenails of a chinchilla, causing broken limbs. I would encourage anyone interested in owning a chinchilla or anyone who already has a chinchilla to do more research on the proper care of these unique animals. Also, if you are in the market for a chinchilla, please consider a chinchilla rescue before purchasing one from a pet store. Many animal shelters have abandoned chinchillas available for adoption.

  • lee - 2014-03-28
    Hello sir we want to breed, but I do not know where to buy, if possible, please tell me. My email: I am sure to give you a reasonable price, thank you very much.
shannon walker - 2012-06-02
I like this site. I am planning on getting a chinchilla. They are great pets and with me being a teenager it is good for me to take responsibility. It has really helped me with some advice.

  • Charlie Roche - 2012-06-02
    I am glad - have fun.
K Noack - 2007-07-23
Last month we were on the blist of a heat wave, here in Rochester New York even. We kept the Chinnies indoors for the duration. It was so hot they just layed in the bottom of their cage for most the duration. Something above changed and the weather began to improve. First, a few days of light to moderate rain, temperature decreased to the 70's, and the humidity was down to the 50 percentile. That was just fine for all of us, including the chinnies. The weather was partly cloudy at early hour in the upper 60's, I set them outside in the shaded area. Two hours later it wasn't so shaded but the temperature was still only 74. At that time I noticed two of the furballs real excited about something and I assumed it was they were just trying to get out of the cage. I again observed the temperature was at 75 degrees F. I monitor the temp with a calibrated thermo-couple to +/- 1 degree F tolerance. 20 minutes later My wife and daughter were in agony. They found all 4 chinnies past out, one was also due in the next weeks. The outside temperature was about 78 degrees. So we thought it was something unexplainable. We took them to the animal hopspital only to find that we would need a biopsy. Well the end result was they all died but one. The mother, with young, sadly didn't make it. These little charmers have been the dearest little pets. Yes they can bite from time to time but never serious. All but one was lost. After calling around, we learned from a rancher, original rancher where they were bought from, that ultraviolet radiation did the trick. Even the animal hospital was unaware of ultraviolet radiation. Every living life form has its means to control body heat, as perfect as these critters may seem, they have one strong set back, heat stroke:

The symptoms (human) of heatstroke include:

Fever (temperature above 104

Ozzysmom - 2007-04-14
Chinchillas are the sweetest animals! However they are not for everyone. Chins are gennerally not "cuddle pets" that want to sit on youre lap, they are however sweet and bond well with their owner. Chinnies are, however, not the best pets for every one. They have strict dietary requirments and need large cages of at least 2x2x2 feet, 2x2x3 is better. They need fresh chincilla pellets with NO treats mixed in, and fresh timothy hay, every day. If the food has treats in it, the chinchilla will push the pellets out and only eat the treats. They should get no more then 2 raisins a day, or a small amount of dried rose hips, cranberrys, or apple. Chins need out of cage exercise every day, unless the cage is at least 2x4x4 feet, and even then they need exercise at least 3 times a week. Chinchillas are less then ideal pets for young (or under 9) or irresponsible children, however their are exeptions. Chinnies tend to nip at fingers to test how tasty they are, which some times frightens young children. When buying keep in mind that chins live 10-20 years if well cared for. Also keep in mind they are delicate, so dont grab them.

Jessica C. - 2006-01-17
i use to have two chinchillas although the female died due to severe constipation caused by her giving birth too much. If you want to keep a female and a male, you must consider if you want them to mate or not, because once they start they won't stop! I only knew the first time, the other 3 times were surprises, basically you can't see whether they are pregnant or not.

Another tip is, when the female has babies, be careful when you are putting food in, the female may take it as a hostile move towards her babies and squirt urine at you, and don't think she'll miss, cause they have deadly accuracy! It also smells extremely bad so be extra careful when feeding them.

Chinchillas are actually quite safe to keep, if handled properly, they won't bite you at all as they are quite docile although you should be aware that baby chinchillas will bite quite hard as they are unsure of whether your hand is food or not.

Sometimes if you can close off an area, you can let your chinchilla out for a while, but make sure there isn't an small space where the chinchilla can go into and make it difficult for you to retrieve it.

Occasionally you can feed them grapes and small (very small) pieces and oranges, they also like apples, but sometimes if they are like my chinchillas for example, they may have favorites as in my female (I miss her so much!) she prefered red grapes while my male preferred green grapes. How absurd is that?!?


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