Chinchillas should be housed in the largest cages possible. The minimum cage size for an adult chinchilla is approximately 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet. Cages may be made of welded wire mesh but should have some area of solid flooring to prevent the development of pressure sores on the soles of the feet.
Ideally, cages should have multiple levels to enable climbing and jumping. Bedding should be made from paper. Plain paper, newspaper, or commercially available shredded recycled newspaper products are all adequate.
Wood shavings are not recommended, as they can be dusty and irritating and are indigestible. Chinchillas should be taken out of the cage every day to play and exercise, but they should never be left unsupervised, as they may chew on electric cords, painted surfaces, and other toxins.
They should also be kept away from other potentially predatory pets such as cats and dogs. In addition, since their teeth grow throughout their lives, chinchillas should be provided with safe wood objects on which to chew.
The main component in a chinchilla’s diet should be hay. Full-grown adult chinchillas should be offered unlimited amounts of timothy hay. Young, growing chinchillas or nursing mothers can be given alfalfa hay that is higher in calcium content than timothy hay. Long-term consumption of alfalfa hay by an adult chinchilla can lead to the development of bladder stones from excessive calcium absorption into the blood and urine.
Chinchillas should be provided with small amounts (1-2 tablespoons per day for an adult) of commercially available pelleted food specifically formulated for chinchillas. Diets made for rabbits or other rodent species are not recommended. Ideally, pellets for adult chinchillas should be made from timothy, rather than alfalfa, hay due to alfalfa’s excessive calcium content. Small amounts of low-calcium-containing fresh greens (such as dark lettuces and other vegetables) can be offered daily to provide fiber and wear down growing teeth. Excess vegetable consumption can lead to diarrhea.
Sugary treats (such as raisins, dried fruits, yogurt drops, etc.) and high fat foods (such as nuts and sunflower seeds) should be avoided to prevent gastrointestinal upset and obesity. Fresh water should be provided every day via a sipper tube or water bottle.
Chinchillas should be checked annually by an exotic animal veterinarian. Proper diet and housing should be discussed, and a complete physical examination should be performed, including a check of the pet’s front and back teeth.
The chinchilla should be weighed, and a stool sample should be analyzed for undesirable bacteria or parasites. Proper preventive medical care before problems arise can help promote lifelong health for your chinchilla.