Chinchillas, as we know them are furry little rodents which move around their cages at lightning speed. But where did they come from and do they make good pets?
Native to Chile and Peru, Chinchillas are nocturnal animals which live in groups making their homes in burrows high up in the Andes mountains. While you probably have noticed that they belong to the same group as hamsters and mice, Chinchillas live extremely long lives, up to 20 years in captivity. Chinchillas also have a very dense coat of fur which is one of the reasons why some species of Chinchillas are endangered.
Although the optimum temperatures for keeping these animals in Singapore is hard to meet, (thankfully) most of the Chinchillas bred locally have been able to adapt to our climate (somewhat) through many generations of breeding. The recommended temperatures to keep your local bred chinchillas is between 24-28 °C.
Keeping Chinchillas as pets
Chinchillas make surprisingly good pets in Singapore due to a number of reasons.
- Chinchillas do not require much space (as compared to bigger animals).
- Unlike dogs, chinchillas do not require to be walked and are very happy being in their cage most of the time.
- Chinchillas don’t smell or produce much odor unlike other animals.
- Chinchillas are generally very quiet animals.
However, in Singapore, it is important to note that if you do keep chinchillas, some form of constant ventilation or air conditioning is a must as chinchillas heat up very easily without much provocation.
The general husbandry of a Chinchilla is not complicated. Their diet in captivity is usually based on a manufactured dry pellet food and hay, with upkeep costing around SGD$20-30 a month. Cages should also be well ventilated and cleaned on a daily basis. Because of our humidity however, it is suggested that owners give their Chinchillas a dust bath everyday or every other day. Water baths are usually not recommended unless done by a professional groomer who knows how to do it as fungal infections are common if their fur is not dried properly.
Chinchillas generally do not have an issue with being handled, however it is important to know that constantly handling your chinchilla for long periods of time in our weather is not suggested due to the high temperatures and their sensitivity to heat. In our sweltering weather, heatstroke is one of the most common causes for the death of a chinchilla.
The image below shows the difference in the physical appearance of the genitals for the male and female chinchillas.
Unlike hamsters which give birth to 3-8 pups pet litter, Chinchillas generally give birth to 1 or 2 kits per litter. Chinchillas also gestate for a fairly long amount of time compared to their other rodent counterparts. The gestation period for a Chinchilla is 111 days. Kits as they are called, are born with their eyes fully open and are able to move around the cage without any assistance from either parents. Weaning occurs at around 10 – 12 weeks from birth.
Chinchillas come in a myriad of colours as well, with the most common being the standard grey seen above. Generally, the prices of the chinchilla are determined by the colour of their fur, as certain colour mutations are harder to produce than others, thus being rarer and commanding a higher price.
Check out this link for the full colour chart !
Chinchillas are becoming more popular as pets these days in Singapore because they are not commonly seen in our region. However, keeping a chinchilla is a big responsibility and one that you should not take up just because the chinchilla is cute or adorable, but rather remember that a Chinchilla lives on average for about 10-20 years. We personally have seen chinchillas kept at the corridor of a HDB flat and were so appalled at the condition it was in that we bought the chinchilla off the owner so that we could give it to a better home. If you cannot provide for a chinchilla, please don’t bring it home. With that being said, if you guys have any questions, please feel free to contact us in the comments section.