Would you like to welcome a pet into your home that is known for being clean, quiet, and very social? Then you might want to think about joining all the other people in this country who have a chinchilla as pets.
Chinchillas are small pets that are native to South America. They’re also technically exotic pets, so you’ll need to make sure you know how to care for a chinchilla prior to bringing one home with you.
It’ll be important for you to know the answers to questions like, “How big are chinchillas?”, to ensure you’re prepared to house one in your home. In this article, we’re going to answer many of the top questions about chinchillas to get you ready for the experience of owning one.
Continue reading to discover more about chinchillas so that you know what to expect when you have one as a pet.
Where Do Chinchillas Come From?
As we alluded to earlier, chinchillas come from South America. More specifically, they’ve traditionally lived in the Andes Mountains in places like Chile.
Chinchillas have actually been around for millions of years now and have evolved quite a bit over time. Those who were a part of the ancient Incan Empire used to hunt chinchillas for both their meat and their fur. They would also sometimes keep chinchillas as pets.
Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, fur traders began hunting chinchillas. They hunted them so much that, by the 1900s, chinchillas were nearly extinct.
But thankfully, this didn’t happen, and by the time the 1920s rolled around, chinchillas started to make their way to the U.S. About a dozen chinchillas were brought to the country by Mathias F. Chapman, a mining engineer who spent time working in Chile. He was able to convince the Chilean government to let him take these chinchillas back to the U.S., and he spent about a year helping them get acclimated to living away from their natural habitat.
Most experts believe that almost all the chinchillas that are kept as small pets by Americans these days stem from the chinchillas that Chapman brought to the U.S. It gives these exotic pets a great backstory that makes them even more interesting than they already are.
What Are the Different Types of Chinchillas?
One thing worth noting is that there are two distinct types of chinchillas that will need to be on your radar if you’re thinking about getting one as a pet. They’re called:
- Chilean Chinchilla Lanigera
- Chinchilla Chinchilla
The first type tends to have longer tails than the second type, and they’re also the type that most people own as pets. The first type is also known for being slightly larger than the second type, which is why this type was hunted more often than the second type back in the 1700s and 1800s.
How Big Are Chinchillas?
Regardless of which type of chinchilla you choose to take home with you as a pet, almost all domestic chinchillas will be noticeably larger than the chinchillas that are still found out in the wild. In fact, most domestic chinchillas can grow to be twice as big as their wild counterparts.
Another interesting fact when it comes to answering the question, “How big are chinchillas?”, is that domestic female chinchillas are typically much larger than male chinchillas. The average domestic female chinchilla is about 30% larger than the average domestic male chinchilla.
This is largely because of the way that domestic chinchillas are selectively bred nowadays. Although many female chinchillas in the wild are larger than male chinchillas, they aren’t usually that much larger than them.
So, exactly how big can you expect pet chinchillas to get? They’ll often be somewhere between 8 and 11 inches long with tails that are about 5 or 6 inches long that’ll make them look longer than they are. They’ll also weigh between 1 and 2 pounds in most cases.
What Do Chinchillas Look Like?
If you look at almost any list of the biggest fears that Americans have, you’ll find rodents somewhere on it. A lot of people in this country are scared of mice, rats, and other rodents.
Because of this, you might be under the impression that people would also be scared of chinchillas since they’re considered rodents. But chinchillas are able to separate themselves from the pack thanks to their plush fur, their cute ears, and even their big, beady, black eyes.
Chinchillas also have many other attributes that differentiate them from other rodents. For instance, they have surprisingly athletic frames that sit just beneath the surface of their thick fur. They also have powerful hind legs that they can use to leap up to 6 feet in the air.
It’s also impossible to ignore the social aspect of chinchillas and the impact it has on their personalities and their overall appearances. In the wild, most chinchillas will live in colonies that consist of 100 or more chinchillas. As a result, they have very friendly demeanors, which is yet another reason why most people aren’t as scared of them as they are of other rodents.
What Do Chinchillas Eat?
When chinchillas are in the wild and living in places like Chile, their diets tend to change with the seasons. They’ll eat everything from needlegrass and ferns to bromeliad and cactus. For the most part, they’re herbivores who will feast on almost any plants that contain a lot of fiber in them.
You most likely won’t be able to keep up with a diet like this for a chinchilla that you keep as a pet. But you should still strive to deliver as much fiber to them as you can through the foods you feed them. Grass hay and fresh fruits and vegetables would all be wonderful things to feed to a chinchilla.
You can also get your hands on chinchilla pellets that will provide pet chinchillas with all the nutrients they’ll need. Even though chinchillas might be small pets, it’ll be very important to set them up with these nutrients to keep them strong and healthy for years to come.
What Kind of Cage Should Chinchillas Live In?
Since the answer to the question, “How big are chinchillas?”, is “not very big at all,” you might think you can get away with keeping a pet chinchilla in a relatively small cage. But ideally, you should consider getting them a larger cage that will provide them with plenty of room to move around. A 4′ by 4′ by 3′ enclosure should be the smallest option you look at.
And you shouldn’t stop there. In a perfect world, the cage you invest in for a pet chinchilla should be filled with several different levels that have ramps, platforms, etc. on them. Some chinchilla owners will go as far as to create custom-built cages that are designed to their chinchilla’s exact specifications.
Your pet chinchilla might not be large, but it will use every square inch of a cage like this. Chinchillas love to move around a lot when they’re awake, so you can’t go wrong with a cage that will include everything they’ll need to stay entertained.
What Conditions Do Chinchillas Need?
In addition to investing in a big cage for your chinchilla that will give them access to everything they’ll need, you should also create the ideal conditions for a pet chinchilla in this cage. To start, you should put down bedding that is made out of natural materials. It’ll keep them comfortable while also keeping the cage as a whole cleaner than it would be otherwise.
You’ll also need to work to keep a chinchilla’s cage at the right temperature. Most chinchillas don’t handle heat very well, so you should shoot to maintain a temperature that is between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can do this by keeping the cage out of the sun and using fans and air conditioning to your advantage.
While you should keep the cage out of the sun, you’ll also need to help a chinchilla maintain its natural circadian rhythm by using lighting. You should try to provide light for your chinchilla for about 12 to 14 hours each day and allow it to spend about 10 to 12 hours each day in darkness.
How Long Do Chinchillas Live For?
One of the absolute best parts about chinchillas is that they’ll live for a very long time compared to other rodents. It isn’t uncommon at all for chinchillas to stick around for up to 20 years and sometimes even longer than that.
With this in mind, you will want to make sure you’re fully committed to keeping a chinchilla as a pet for that long. It’ll put you and a chinchilla in a position to spend so much time together in the years to come.
Chinchillas Are Some of the Best Small Pets in the World
Now that you know the answer to the question, “How big are chinchillas?”, and understand more about how to care for a chinchilla, are you ready to welcome one into your home? It won’t take you long to see why so many Americans have fallen in love with chinchillas over the years.
If you would like to learn even more about chinchillas before bringing one home, we can help. Check out our other articles to get more information on these small pets.