All You Need To Take Care of Your Chinchilla
The Chinchilla, part of the Chinchillidae family, Rodentia order, originates in South America (Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and so on). Its natural environment belongs to the Andes Cordillera, where it feeds on green plants in summer and bark and young stems in winter.
The Chinchilla is a nocturnal animal, carrying most of its activities (eating, drinking, travelling, reproducing) during the night and stays hidden during the day to avoid predators. You should know that it is a sensitive animal who reacts to sudden changes in its habitat. In the wilderness, it usually runs away from danger, but in captivity, if handled without care and precaution and without it being used to a certain person, its only solution of escape is to shed instantly.
The basics of Chinchilla care are not hard to learn, but they do require time and patience. Chinchillas have their own habits and enjoy a regular schedule, but that's not all.
Each animal will have its own wire cage (like bird cages) with minimum dimensions of 40x40x50 cm. It is recommended that the bottom is covered with wood shavings, especially from softwood lumber. The wood shavings have to be changed on a weekly basis, in order for your chinchilla to stay clean at all times. Also, Chinchillas love to have a small house inside the cage, a place where they can hide and feel safe when they're scared.
The feeding process is probably the most important aspect in Chinchilla care, and this is where most owners make the most mistakes. A balanced and strict diet is required in order to keep your Chinchilla healthy and happy. The ratio between elements should be the following: 14-16% protein, 30% fibers, 35% carbohydrates, 10% moisture/trace element, 6% minerals, 4% sugar and 3.5% fat and oil. Also, they need a high input of vitamins D, A and E, on a daily basis. Remember to always fee the chinchilla with special pellets created for them, and not those for rabbits, hamsters or guinea pigs. Each formula is made for the special needs of each breed, so make sure to keep this in mind. Also, as Chinchillas are natural herbivores it is important that they receive roughage (hay) at least every 2 days, not only for a proper diet balance, but also for blunting their incisors; The best choice is alfalfa, which you can grow in a small window box, right in your home.
Another important aspect in Chinchilla care revolves around their fur. Dust baths offered daily are vital to keep a proper oil density in their fur and eliminating any external agents that might harm their skin. You can use fine dust, marble dust, or, the best option (the one they use in their natural environment) volcanic ash. A small tray or bowl will be filled with a handful of dust and you should leave it in the cage for about 30 minutes every day. If you do not do this for a while, the Chinchilla will loose this habit of grooming, and its health condition can spiral down. Still, for pregnant females, dust baths are not recommended in the last 10 days of pregnancy, to prevent infections, and this also applies if your Chinchilla has any injuries.
Handling a Chinchilla
As said before, these are very sensitive animals, and need to be handled with care. It is advisable to get a 2-4 months baby, instead of an adult, because you will be able to tame them easier. Do not enter suddenly in the room where they are placed, or listen to loud music and do not make any powerful, sudden noises. They will become frightened and the taming process will take longer.
Before deciding to get a Chinchilla as a pet, remember they have a very long life-span, of about 15 years, so it will involve a long-term commitment. Be sure you are up for this, and if you do buy one, try to offer it environmental conditions as close as it can get to its natural habitat and you will have a happy friend for the rest of its life.
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