Frequently Asked Questions
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Q Do chinchillas need special care?
Chinchillas need a temperature controlled environment. Their room should be kept between 55-70 degrees year round, meaning they need an air-conditioned area. The area should also have low humidity, about 50%.
Never get them wet. Chinchillas bathe themselves with fine dust that removes oil and dirt and keeps their fur fluffy and beautiful. They should be offered a dust bath at least twice a week.
They need a low stress environment. If your cat or dog will spend time stalking the chinchilla cage, your home is not a good place for a chin. Loud noises or music, boisterous children, too much playtime, and erratic schedules will all stress a chin.
Read the Care Information
Q Is a chinchilla the right pet for my child?
Chinchillas are not a good pet for most kids under 12, and not for some under 15. Young teens often have changing interests, but chins live 10-15 years. Parents should be prepared to care for the pet when the child is too busy with other activities or leaves for college.
Chins are independent by nature; a child will quickly lose interest. Chins also do not enjoy being hugged, cuddled, or held for long periods, and can overheat. Their ribs and lungs are small and delicate; proper handling is essential.
If your teen expresses interest in adopting a chinchilla, ask them to read my care information, watch some YouTube videos, and meet a chinchilla before they adopt.
Q What do chinchillas eat?
Chinchilla's eat a very simple, high fiber diet that consists of timothy hay and a low protien alfalfa based pellet. They can be fed a supplement that is predominantly oats, and be offered limited amounts of cheerios, mini shredded wheat, rose hips, or apple sticks as treats. Check my safe foods list here.
Chinchillas should not be fed vegetables, fruits, corn products, baked goods, seeds, nuts, or food meant for guinea pigs, birds, ferrets, degus, or humans.
Q How long do chinchillas live?
Chinchillas have been known to live in captivity for up to 30 years. They average 10-15 for most pet owners. Your chinchilla will live a longer life if you purchase a pedigreed animal, limit exercise, limit stress, provide air conditioning, and feed it properly.
Q What kind of cage do they need?
Chinchillas love to chew, so if you want to keep your chin contained and healthy, you will get an all metal cage with no plastic latches, connectors, or shelves. They chins will chew the plastic and eventually either be loose in your home,or die from an intestinal blockage. A plastic pan is usually ok if the wire walls sit down inside of it. Plastic shelves can be covered with fleece to make them safer, but metal or wood shelves are much better so that chins can form natural calluses to protect their feet from injury.
Chinchillas will poop everywhere but may use a litter pan to urinate. If your cage has a wire floor you should have a litter pan to prevent rust. Litter pans most often are 3 quart glass lasagna pans filled with 1" of pine shavings.
Your cage should be made of 1" wire bars or wire mesh with a slide out pan for easy cleaning. There should be several wood shelves and/or perches because chins like to hop and climb, and often sleep in the highest place. A typical cage will be 2' tall, 3' wide and 2' deep.
Chinchilla's natural homes were rock crevices and burrows, so they enjoy a small hiding place such as a wood house or under a low shelf. Professional chinchilla breeders use smaller cages because chins feel more secure, and they are safer for babies.
email us for cage modification suggestions.
Q How do I choose a chinchilla?
Female and male pet chinchillas have generally the same dispositions. The notable exception is that a very fearful female will spray you with urine as a defense. I usually only see this behavior with shelter chins and some breeding females, and a spraying chin won't be offered as a pet.
We always try to adopt chinchillas in pairs because they transition better to a new home, feel more secure with companionship, and are overall more interactive, better pets for their owners. There's an exception to every rule, and there are always chins who prefer to be alone.
We will help you match with a sweet companion!
Q Can I adopt just one chinchilla? Why are yours in pairs?
Chinchillas are herd animals and are healthier, happier, better pets for their owners when they are in pairs. Chins with a companion are less anxious and have a higher resistance to illnesses. Pairs also transition better into new homes and live longer healthier lives.
Some chins just like to be alone. They are often older chins who were always singles, or retired breeders.
Q Our shelter received a chinchilla, how do we keep it healthy?
Chinchilla's have specific dietary, medical, and environmental needs. If your facility would enjoy a presentation on caring for chinchillas in a shelter environment please contact me to schedule a time that works for you and your staff. Our professionals teach chinchilla care to audiences worldwide and can provide instruction and materials tailored to your group.
Q What's going on with Maine Chinchilla Ranch and Shelter?
Marianne made a tough decision and closed the ranch in March of 2023. Most of the chinchillas went to a ranch in upstate New York, although a few stayed here in Maine to be spoiled at our foster home. Marianne maintains the shelter license, responds to emergencies, and periodically places chinchillas into new homes.
Maine Chinchilla Ranch plans to return to producing quality chinchillas in the future. The shelter accepts very few animals due to space constraints, but we are always here offering information and support.