You asked: What should I know about adopting a chinchilla?

Answer: Chinchillas are social.

chinchillaAS2We highly recommend the book Behavior of Exotic Pets by Valarie V. Tynes as a way to begin to understand any exotic pet. Chinchillas, if it can be helped, should not be solitary animals; they should be housed in same sex pairs or in groups.

Although not ideal, chinchillas can live alone. If you plan to keep a solitary chinchilla for a pet, make sure to give your chinchilla plenty of attention. We recommend at least an hour of socialization with your chinchilla each and every day.

If you decide to keep a group of chinchillas, the group should consist of two males, two females, or one male and two or more females. The male(s) should already be neutered. If you are not purchasing chinchillas from the same litter or are adopting chinchillas that are not already familiar with one another, you need to introduce them carefully. Here are some suggestions we like from the book:

  • The initial meeting:
    •  should be in a neutral territory with a large space, like a room, and should include a dust bath.  
    • alternatively, have separate cages in the same vicinity. The cages should be new so there are no residual scents. If the cages are used, they should be cleaned well with a scent-reducing oxidizing agent.
    • or, place a smaller cage within a large cage—the large cage should not be the resident chinchilla’s cage.
  • Make sure the animals tolerate each other well in the large area before putting them in the same cage. If a female is being introduced to a male, do it in the male’s cage.

Like any pet, you should learn as much as you can about chinchillas before you adopt one or more into your family.  Here are a few things to think about when considering chinchillas:

  • they are a long term responsibility; chinchillas can typically live for 10-15 years.
  • they are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. 

Have more questions about chinchillas? Leave it in a comment below.

Welcome to Ask the Vet, a regular feature on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it on our contact form.