Chinchillas are small herbivorous rodents related to Guinea Pigs. They come from the high mountains of South America. Chinchillas are generally nocturnal animals but can be active during the day. They are shy & nervous, but can make a very clean and odourless pet for adults or older children who have had small pets before. If well handled, they are relaxed, easy to catch, do not bite - but they are fast if they decide they want to stay out to play!
They are very cute with big ears and a bushy tail and are characterised by a dense soft coat (which almost led to the extinction of wild chinchillas through trapping). Most are a bluish grey colour, but white, silver, beige and black colours have now been bred. Like all herbivorous rodents and rabbits their teeth (both molars and incisors) continually grow and they must have plenty of roughage to prevent overgrowth. To help this they must have a constant supply of hay and to encourage eating this and to avoid overweight Chins, do not leave them with pellets all day.
They must have very little moist food in their diet as they tend to develop a very persistent diarrhoea. A few raisins at night is a favouite treat. Dry apple wood is lovely and safe to nibble. They must have water at all times, with a special sand bath very day to keep their fine fur in good condition. You would use a special chinchilla cage for housing which has wire floors, but it is nice to have a flat wooden area for comfort and even more nibbling. Give them some suitable toys for interest and try not to keep them singly. They enjoy the company.