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Important things to know before you decide
to keep a Chinchilla as a Pet

By: Huey & Dewey

Chinchillas are adorable animals, and so are often impulse
purchases, but that is why there are thousands of abandoned
chinchillas at pet rescues. There is not an animal that
doesn't need some type of specialized care or have some
troublesome requirements or characteristics, so it is
important to carefully research before you choose a pet, and
make sure that you know what your pet will need throughout
its life and that you can and will provide for its needs.

Here are some things to consider about pet chinchillas, both
positive and negative:

1. Chinchillas have some distinct advantages over other warm
blooded pets, including the fact that their fur is too dense
for fleas, they don't usually have the normal rodent odor,
and they don't need vaccinations.

2. Few people are allergic to chinchillas, but chinchillas
do require regular "dust baths" and some people may be
allergic to the dust or to the hay or straw bedding usually
used for a substrate. If you or family members have
allergies, before buying a chinchilla try to have each
family member handle a chinchilla and watch for symptoms.

3. Chinchillas can usually be purchased at a relatively
lower cost than many other types of pets, but their supplies
may be more expensive, as they must have plenty of room to
run. So a small chinchilla will require a cage that takes up
quite a bit of floor room.

4. Chinchillas live longer than most other small pets; some
have lived as long as twenty years. This is a positive thing
when you love your chinchilla, but it is also a large
commitment that should be considered beforehand. Chinchillas
are social animals and you will need to give your pet
quality time every day if you want it to be tame and
friendly. (You aren't likely to be able to get it to do any
tricks, but it will sit in your lap and eat treats from your
fingers if you are gentle with it.)

5. Chinchillas, like most animals and all rodents, need
plenty of exercise for good health. Even with a large cage,
it is good to provide a safe room in your house where you
can release your chinchilla for exercise and interaction
with you. You'll need, though, to plan this area well.
Chinchillas are small and fast, and won't necessarily want
to go back into their cage, so you'll need to make sure the
room is secure and chinchilla-proofed. This means that there
are no hiding places that your pet can get into from which
you can't retrieve it, no chinchilla-sized exits that aren't
closed, no sharp objects on which it might hurt itself or
items it might knock down, houseplants out of reach in case
of toxicity, electric wires inaccessible (remember that
rodents chew!) and that the playroom will be available in
the evenings when your chinchilla wants to be active.

6. As you may know, all rodents have front teeth that keep
growing throughout their lives and so must be constantly
kept down by gnawing. Consequently your chinchillas not only
will need safe things to gnaw in their cages, but nothing in
your house will be off-limits either, from your rugs to
table legs to electric cords, or even the walls. Your
chinchilla will need constant supervision when it is out of
its cage!

7. Despite their cuteness, chinchillas don't really like to
cuddle, and aren't a good pet for small children unless an
older person accepts the full responsibility for the care
and training. Chinchillas are fast and may jump if a child
tries to hold them, which can lead to serious injury for the
chinchilla, either from the fall or from the child's attempt
to stop it.

8. Although chinchillas are fairly easy and inexpensive to
care for, always make sure that you have a good veterinarian
in mind and the funds to provide for the best care in case
your chinchilla falls ill or is injured. This is a rule of
thumb for all pet ownership, of course.

See also:
All about Keeping Pet Chinchillas

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