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 Animal of the Week: The Groundhog

February 3, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Small Pets

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

Photo Wiki Commons
Courtesy Reinhard Kraasch
Licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

In commemoration of Groundhog Day I figured that the Groundhog is the perfect animal to talk about this week! Although Groundhogs are not considered a normal pet, they are very well-known little animals. Groundhog Day falls on February 2nd every year and is traditionally a forecast of when spring will arrive. Groundhogs will hibernate throughout the winter and then pop up on Groundhog Day. The theory goes that if the groundhog sees its shadow then there will be 6 weeks of winter left. If it cannot see its shadow, then spring is just about to start! Of course, it doesn’t always work out this perfectly, but it is a somewhat helpful tradition!

The Groundhog Marmota monax is native to North America and can be found over most of the United States. Some people know them as Woodchucks and they are actually rodents! These are one of 14 species of marmots and marmots belong to the Squirrel family. Groundhogs are the biggest members. Their average weight varies anywhere from 4 to 9 pounds and in some regions they can even reach upwards of 30 pounds! In length they are in the general range of 16 to 26 inches. The fur of a Groundhog has two layers. One dense and short undercoat, and one longer and thinner overcoat which consists of banded guard hairs.

They tend to stuff themselves full of food all through the summer time. This way they will have enough fat built up in their body to keep them going through winter. They reach their heaviest mass around the end of summer. By October they are becoming lethargic and looking for a place to burrow down for the winter. They then spend all winter hibernating and asleep in their underground dens. While sleeping their heart rate slows way down, allowing their body temperature to drop. Their temperature can actually get down to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty low! This keeps them from needing as much energy. When they wake up in February Groundhogs have often lost about half of their body weight.

Groundhogs usually live in grassland areas near woods and rivers. This suits their diet well because they have access to a large variety of plants, grasses, and fruits. They also get their water from eating luscious plants. Farms are a favorite place of theirs as well because this helps ensure they have food! Which of course can be quite a dilemma for farmers, who depend on these crops. During their non-hibernation time Groundhogs are very active little critters! Believe it or not, they can climb trees and swim through water! Every Groundhog digs out a burrow with their powerful arms and thick claws. Often more than one groundhog can be seen living together and they will build very large burrows. These burrows will have several entrances to allow quick escape from predators.

Groundhogs can live around 6 years in the wild but in captive environments have been noted to live as long as 14 years. Most Groundhogs can begin breeding in their second year of life. In March or April, after they’ve awoken from hibernation, a pair of Groundhogs will mate and then stay in a burrow together. Mother Groundhogs produce litters of around two to six young after 31 or 32 days of gestation. It takes a couple months for the young to open their eyes, grow fur, wean, and begin searching for their own areas to burrow. During this time the babies mimic their mothers behavior to learn how to fend for themselves. Many young are preyed on by snakes. Older Groundhogs have to look out for other predators as well, such as foxes, hawks and bears.

Groundhogs are not usually kept as pets. However many zoos and other wildlife habitats do keep them for the general public to come and see. And of course many farmers are familiar with them as well. Farmers consider them pests and deal with them as such. Groundhogs are also hunted for sport in many places. This helps somewhat in keeping their numbers in check.

If you think the Groundhog is cute and would like to keep a similar animal as a pet, check out all these different types of Small Animals! I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about the Groundhog!

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

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Animal-World’s Featured Pet of The Week: The American Guinea Pig

August 5, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Small Pets

The American Guinea Pig

Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The American Guinea Pig!

The American Guinea Pig Cavia porcellus, or just Guinea Pig, is a popular small animal pet, for both adults and children. Guinea Pigs are another one of the pets that I had several of! I bred them for a time as well as had a few strictly for pets. I loved them! They are notorious for “not biting.” Meaning they very rarely bite (although they can!), which is a desirous trait, especially for a child’s pet.

Guinea Pigs are adorable, personable, and easy-to-care-for pets. They are easy to love and handle, are hardy, and can live 8 to 10 years in captivity. Most of them get along well with each other, as well. The American Guinea Pig is the most common breed of guinea pig, however there are several different varieties. They come in many sizes, colors and hair textures. Different hair styles include the silky coat, the rosette coat, and the skinny (hairless!) coat. Check out this Guinea Pig Care and Breeds page to learn more on the different types of guinea pigs.

I will start with some background on the American Guinea Pig. First, the name “guinea pig” is somewhat of a misnomer because they are not pigs, nor are they from Guinea! They are actually rodents! The American Guinea Pig was first noted as being domesticated around 5000 BC in the Andes Mountains and is the oldest known breed of guinea pig. In the sixteenth century different varieties started appearing as people began to selectively breed them. The American Guinea Pig is a short-hair variety and was initially called the English Guinea Pig. It became The American Guinea Pig in the 1960’s by the American Cavy Breeders Association.

Now onto their care and feeding. The majority of their diet should be vegetables, grains, and fruits. Guinea pig pellets, which can be purchased at most pet stores, are a good staple diet. Their bodies do not produce Vitamin C and so this vitamin must be provided by their diet. Many people mistakenly feed their guinea pig rabbit pellets – however do not make this mistake not because rabbit pellets do not have the nutrients necessary for guinea pigs. It is still a good idea to offer dark greens (kale, romaine lettuce, etc.) in addition to the pellets to ensure they are getting enough Vitamin C. Their teeth also grow constantly which dictates it necessary for them to be provided with pieces of wood or chew sticks from pet stores. Make sure to provide them with fresh clean water on a daily basis. American Guinea Pigs do not need to be groomed much at all compared to some of the other varieties, and that helps make their care that much easier.

Housing should be taken seriously as well. They need plenty of room to move about, plenty of ventilation inside their enclosure, and it should be easy to keep clean. Try to stay away from wood enclosures because they are much harder to clean and guinea pigs love to chew on wood. Guinea Pigs should be taken out of their cages for play time and interaction several times a week. When you pick them up to handle them make sure to support their whole body with your hands and not just their shoulders. This will help avoid injury. Most can also be housed together, as they are social creatures. You will, however, want to keep an eye on males to make sure they aren’t going to fight.

Health problems with guinea pigs are minimal and are generally caused directly be improper feeding and failure to keep their enclosures clean. Most of their ailments include respiratory infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, scurvy, and parasites.

Read more about American Guinea Pigs on Animal-World’s American Guinea Pig page!

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

Animal-World’s Featured Pet of The Week – Pet Gerbils

November 6, 2011 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured Pets, Small Pets


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

Gerbils are a fairly well-known small pet – particularly for children. Often considered “pocket pets” due to their size, pet gerbils are very friendly, quiet, and clean little animals! Most people believe they make even better pets than other small animals such as hamsters, mice, and rats. Gerbils do not have the same reputation as hamsters do when it comes to biting. Pet gerbils very rarely bite! And many people prefer gerbils over mice and rats because they have furry tails, rather than scaly naked tails. Another plus of these little creatures over other rodents is that they are much less prone to some respiratory illnesses. Gerbils are illegal in some areas, such as in the state of California, because of the fear that if they escape they could be a hazard to crops due to their very fast breeding times.

There are many, many different types of gerbils throughout Africa and Asia. However, the type that has become popular as a pet in the United States and Europe is specifically the Mongolian gerbil from Eastern Mongolia. They were first discovered in 1867 and brought into captivity for the sole purpose of using them as laboratory animals. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that they started to become widely available as pets.

Pet gerbils can live 3 to 4 years – which is longer than most mice, rats, and hamsters. They are easy to care for and demand little of your time. They should be housed with at least one other gerbil because they are very social creatures. They must have another companion of their kind to thrive and not become lonely, and humans don’t fit this bill. They will become quite friendly with a human friend, but require other gerbils as well.

Because of their small size, they don’t need a huge enclosure, but their space should be large enough that they can run around and get plenty of exercise. Providing them with a bedding that they can burrow in and toys they can climb on will also help keep them healthy and happy.

Of course they should have clean water everyday as well as fresh food. Pellets or a small animal food mix bought in a pet store should be sufficient and include all of their needed nutrients. Giving small amounts of fresh vegetables and a little fruit occasionally is good for their diet and also a nice change for their pallets. Because their teeth continually grow throughout their lives, they need things to chew on. Offering them chew sticks and other toys meant to chew on will help keep their teeth in shape.

Gerbils make excellent pets for children for several reasons. First of course, is that they are easy to care for and don’t have many specialized needs – which makes it easier for a child to take on the responsibility of their care. They also are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night. This makes them awake and available to play during the day when kids have the time! Because of their sweet nature and reputation as non-biters, they are generally easy to handle and will tame down as they get to know a child.

Pet gerbils are very hardy animals and very rarely become sick. When they do become sick, it is often due to lack of care and not keeping their environment clean. As I stated earlier, they are much less prone to respiratory illnesses than can often kill mice and rats. Some illnesses to watch out for would be external parasites (particularly if their cage is not cleaned very often), hair loss, and fungal infections. If you do notice your pet becoming ill, make sure to completely clean out their cage and food/water dishes. If it continues to get worse you may want to consult a veterinarian.

If you would like to learn more about gerbils as pets, check out Animal-World’s page on Pet Gerbils!

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