The Chinchilla

October 1, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Small Pets

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Chinchilla!

I have to admit, one of my all-time favorite pets has been the Chinchilla. I didn’t start owning them until I was in high school, but after I got my first one, I was in love! I have owned 5 Chinchillas since that first one! Many people who keep chinchillas as pets will attest to their wonderful pet qualities. A niche market for chinchilla fur also exists and chinchilla breeders around the world abound for this very purpose.

Chinchillas are believed by many to be wonderful and personable pets. Being very loving and curious, they can easily bond with their owners. They also love exercise and are quite active little critters! In general chinchillas don’t have much of an odor and are very clean. Although I would recommend chinchillas as pets, they do have some more stringent care requirements. I learned from my personal experience that chinchillas are quite fragile and do not do well with stress or extreme temperatures. They also require regular dust baths to keep their fur in good condition.

Chinchilla Background

Did you know that the chinchilla has the most fur per square inch of any mammal? About 60 hairs emerge from every hair follicle. Their fur is extremely dense and soft which makes for a very nice feel. Chinchilla pelts are desirable for this very reason and are used for many different garments. The chinchilla fur trade has been going on since the 1500′s and many breeders only breed for the purpose of selling their furs. Two varieties of Chinchillas are available in the United States for the most part. The Chinchilla lanigera is usually the pet variety, while the Chinchilla brevicaudata is usually the kind used in the fur trade.

South America is the native home of these little guys. Peru, Bolivia, and Chile originally housed Chinchillas in the Andes Mountains, however they are now found only in Bolivia. This is because of extensive illegal hunting. In the wild the Chinchilla is very endangered. Domestic chinchillas are doing pretty well, however, with thousands of chinchilla breeders in the United States. The term “chinchilla” came from the Spaniards, who gave them their name based off of the South American Chinca Indians who lived there in the 1500′s.

Chinchilla Housing and Care

You will most likely want to keep your chinchilla inside your house, especially if it gets over 80 degrees Fahrenheit in your area. Chinchillas have extremely dense fur and have no sweat glands, so they can easily overheat. You will want to be careful on that. Provide a large, roomy cage with non-toxic bedding. Stress can be a problem for these little guys, so make sure to provide a hiding area for him to sleep in and feel comfortable in. Keeping more than one together is also a good idea, because in the wild chinchillas are very social.

Food is pretty simple. You can offer them commercialized chinchilla pellets, which contain just about all their needed nutrition. Give occasional treats, either commercial treats or fresh greens or fruits. Their teeth grow rapidly throughout their lifetime and they must chew regularly to keep them trim. For this reason you will also want to provide chew blocks to keep their teeth healthy. Dust baths 2 or 3 times a week are also a must. Rolling around in dust and then shaking themselves off is how they keep clean. Because of their extremely dense fur, getting wet is not ideal for them. If they get wet and stay wet, their fur can become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. Not healthy!

The Chinchilla

Chinchilla Health Conditions

As I mentioned earlier, I know from personal experience how fragile chinchillas can be! Not only are they extremely heat-sensitive, they also cannot be dropped or played with roughly. One of mine fell from the top of his cage and broke his leg. I took him to a veterinarian and they sedated him and fixed his leg. But, the whole experience stressed him out so much that he refused to eat or drink anymore and eventually passed away.

Other relatively common health problems are diarrhea, constipation, and runny eyes or respiratory problems. These can be caused by their diet or environmental conditions. Raisins are good to help clear up constipation. Also reduce the amount of greens you are giving if your chinchilla has diarrhea. If the symptoms don’t clear up on their own in a few days you will want to take your chinchilla to a vet to determine what’s going on.

Finding a chinchilla for a pet should be relatively easy. You can look up chinchilla ranches online or go to your local pet store. Pet stores will either carry them or can special order one for you. Finding a local chinchilla breeder might be more difficult, but you will have a lot more choice on what type and color of chinchilla you get!

Are you in the chinchilla pet business, or the chinchilla fur trade business? What are your thoughts?

Jasmine Hinesley is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Animal-World’s Featured Pet of the Week: The African Pygmy Hedgehog!

February 17, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Small Pets

The African Pygmy Hedgehog

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The African Pygmy Hedgehog!

I decided to talk about a pet that is a little more on the exotic side this week. The African Pygmy Hedgehog! Many people who have owned these little critters will give you glowing recommendations of how great they are to keep as pets! While we did not carry Hedgehogs in the pet store I worked at, I did have a friend who owned one. I was able to regularly see and interact with her hedgehog named Dizzy! Dizzy was almost always asleep when I came to visit. This is because Hedgehogs are nocturnal. Sometimes my friend would wake Dizzy up just so I could hold her, and she would act very sleepy until she was allowed to go back and rest!

The African Pygmy Hedgehog Atelerix albiventris, is a small animal that can fit easily inside of an adults palm. They don’t make much noise or cause much odor. As long as you hold them regularly they will be unafraid and friendly towards you. They are a good pet for adults and children who are responsible. If you are a very busy person, a Hedgehog can be a great pet because they don’t need much attention. You can work or be out all day and not worry about them being lonely. They are solitary creatures in their natural habitats and only become active at night. They don’t need a huge environment or a lot of room to roam in, which makes them appeal to apartment dwellers as well.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs are part of the Erinaceidae family, which is the oldest living insectivore family. Yes, Hedgehogs are insectivores, not rodents. However they do not only eat insects. They will also eat many fruits, vegetables and sometimes even frogs or snakes or bird eggs. Their natural habitats are located in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Their preferred environments are fields, woods, hedgerows and gardens or farms. Although they are not native to North America, they were imported regularly until 1990, when importation of Hedgehogs was banned. Because of this ban, people came together to form the North American Hedgehog Association (NAHA). This organization was dedicated to the continued breeding and keeping healthy of Hedgehogs in North America.

Housing your African Pygmy Hedgehog is simple. They can be provided with a relatively small enclosure (with no wire bottoms) about the size of a rabbit cage. They love to have a regular place to sleep and “hide” so a sleeping hut or other cave type hiding place is a must! They will not feel at home or feel very comfortable without one! Provide bedding on the floor of the enclosure. Many Hedgehogs can be litter-box trained, so you may want to provide a litter box as well. Change out the bedding and thoroughly clean out the cage at least once a week to keep your Hedgehog’s home healthy. If you would like to keep more than one Hedgehog, it is best to keep two females in a large cage and to give them separate sleeping huts. Two males are much more likely to fight. Remember that in the wild Hedgehogs are solitary animals!

The care and feeding of domesticated African Pygmy Hedgehogs is also fairly simple. As a base, it is best to offer them a commercially prepared Hedgehog food, to ensure they are getting proper nutrition. In addition to this you can offer them small amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, and insects such as crickets and mealworms. They need fresh water daily too, and the best way you can provide this is with a water bottle.

The African Pygmy Hedghog is available almost everywhere in the United Sates. Some places require you to have a permit to own them, and they are illegal in California and Arizona.

Here is some additional information on Breeding Hedgehogs and on Common Hedgehog Health Problems. If you have more specific questions or concerns regarding these topics, these are good places to start.

Has anyone reading this owned an African Pygmy Hedgehog or had experience with them before? If so what do you think about them? Would you recommend them as a pet?

Thanks for reading!

Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Do Rats Make Good Pets?

December 13, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Small Pets

Pet Rat

When it comes to classroom pets or even pets for small kids, we think of gerbils, hamsters and sometimes guinea pigs. What about rats? Do they make good pets?

The last rat you may have seen could have been in a tray in your biology class stuck down with pins. But, rats are more complicated and fascinating than you may first think. You might even consider them as your new family pet.

The past has given them a bad image in people’s eyes. There was that thing in the Middle Ages and the bubonic plague but that can’t all be blamed on rodentia. Here are a few interesting facts you might want to know about rats.

Rat Facts both Interesting and True

1. Rats are clean animals – This might be refuted by their perceived history with humans, but actually they are very clean. Much like cats, they groom themselves. In their habitat, they are careful to keep their nest away from the place where they “use the facilities.” If you own a pet rat, it will make for easier cleanup if you provide a separate area for the facilities.

2. Rats are smart
– This is one reason that they make good research models. Pet rats can be taught tricks like running though mazes and how to jump.

3. Rats love affection – If you own a pet rat, they will always want to cuddle and be around you. Because of their intelligence, they are interested in everything. A rat would love to sit on your shoulder and watch you cook or even read a book. They will be your constant companion.

4. Rats can swim – Ever heard of following rats on a sinking ship? They will find the way out. What they don’t tell you is that they can swim farther than you can.

5. They can survive without water
– This doesn’t last indefinitely but they can survive for long periods of time without drinking water if none is available.

6. Rats like company
– They enjoy being with their owners, but are more social with another rat. Try to always have at least two pet rats (of the same sex). They would love more but you might not.

7. Rats don’t live long – Even at their best, their life expectancy is only a couple of years. During those years, you can experience a lot of fun from your pet.

Rats are better pets than their other rodent counterparts because they are clean and even tempered. They require a lot of attention but give back that love in return. If you are considering a pet for your home for young children, think about a rat. Just don’t own any cats at the same time.

Read Animal-World’s Guide to Pet Rats to learn even more about them!