Animals are my friends, and I don't eat my friends - George Bernard Shaw

Chinchilla

Chinchilla

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Grey chinchilla (male), about 7 years.

Chinchillas and their relatives viscachas are small, nocturnal mammals native to the Andes mountains in South America and belonging to the family Chinchillidae. In Chinese, they are called "long(2) lao(1)", which literally means "dragon-cat".

Chinchilla fur is considered the softest in the world and is thirty times softer than human hair. Chinchillas must regularly bathe in dust or volcanic ash to remove oil and moisture that gathers in their thick fur. In fact, they have the highest fur density of any land animal with more than 20,000 hairs per square cm (see sea Otter). Their fur is so dense that skin parasites (such as fleas) cannot live on one lest they suffocate. Where humans grow one hair from each follicle, a chinchilla has more than fifty hairs from a single follicle.

Chinchilla - Ebony Velvet Mutated

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Ebony Velvet Mutated Chinchilla

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Fur industry


The international trade in chinchilla fur goes back to the 16th century. The fur from chinchillas is in demand in the fur trade due to its highly soft feel, which is caused by the growing of 60 hairs from each hair follicle on average. The colour is generally very constant which makes it perfect for small clothing or the lining of large garments, though some large garments can be made completely from the fur.

A single, full-length coat made from chinchilla fur may need as many as 150 pelts, as chinchillas are comparatively small. This fact led to the destruction of one species, and put significant pressure on the other two. Though it is unlawful to hunt wild chinchillas, the wild animals are now on the limit of becoming extinct because of the illegal hunting that carries on. Domestic chinchillas are still bred for this use.

In Nature

In their native habitat, chinchillas live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are agile jumpers and can jump up to five feet above their head. Predators in the wild include hawks, skunks, felines, and canines. Their diet consists of plants, fruits, seeds, and small insects.

In nature, chinchillas are gray, while other colours have been developed in captivity. For example white, mosaic (white with gray or black patches), beige (very light gray), violet, black velvet, brown velvet and Panda colours have been seen. The gene for white is dominant, but lethal in the absence of a recessive gene of another colour. Red eyes are not only a sign of albinism but associated with beige coloured-chinchillas.

In nature, chinchillas are monogamous and live in pairs. Unusual for mammals, chinchilla females are significantly bigger than males. Chinchillas can breed any time of the year. They have a very long gestation period for a rodent of 111 days. Due to this long pregnancy, chinchillas are born fully furred and open their eyes soon after birth. Litters range from one to seven babies, although the average litter size is two. In the case of a miscarriage, the fetus is frequently absorbed into the body of the mother, resulting in further sterility.

Chinchillas as Pets

Chinchillas make charming pets, but they are naturally skittish and are not considered to be good pets for small children as they have delicate bones and generally do not like to be held. However, some enjoy snoozing in laps and posing for pictures as well as being held, petted and gently scratched. As with most creatures, temperament depends largely on upbringing and to a degree genes. Intelligent creatures, chinchillas may be taught tricks (rolling over, sitting up, etc.) with enough patience, using clearly spoken verbal cues over time in a quiet room. Each chinchilla has a distinctive personality, even from birth. Some like being held more than others, some prefer certain types of food, and some are more sleepy and lazy than others.

Generally male chinchillas are more likely to enjoy being held and groomed than their female counterparts.

In captivity, chinchillas often live past twenty years, and grow to about one foot in length, but they usually do not live for more than ten years in countries with a climate to which they are not adapted. Chinchillas raised on ranches tend to have longer life spans than those kept as pets. Differences in diet, environment, and housing may contribute.

In 1923, Mathias F. Chapman brought the eleven wild chinchillas he had captured to the U.S. for breeding. Only three of these were female. Since the mid-1960s, chinchillas have become increasingly popular as house pets. This peculiar rodent is also studied by linguists due to its aural range of perception. It is considered the closest to that of a human's.

Housing

Chinchillas should be kept in a large cage, about 80 cm 50 cm 80 cm (length x depth x height) minimum per animal. If there is any possibility of a pregnancy, cage bar spacing should not exceed (1/2" 1"), as small chinchillas are good climbers and can easily squeeze through small holes (their fur makes them look larger than they are). Cages should also avoid walking surfaces made of metal fencing as chinchillas can catch a limb under the metal and suffer serious injury.

Chinchilla Babies

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Baby Chinchillas

Chinchillas enjoy ledges, boxes, sticks, and other perches, as well as exercise wheels, which must be chosen with safety in mind. In particular, exercise wheels should be at least 15 inches in diameter (anything smaller can hurt chinchillas' backs), and if mesh is used, the mesh must be sufficiently fine to prevent limbs or digits from being caught. It is much better to have a solid running surface, as they cannot get toes or legs stuck in mesh. Chinchillas should not have wheels that have support bars ( bars going from top to bottom on the wheel), as these can amputate chinchilla fingers and toes and break chinchilla's necks if they hop out of the wheel while it is still rolling.

Chinchillas cannot sweat, and therefore are prone to overheating, even fatally. An overly warm chinchilla is characterized by veins prominently visible in the ears, warm feet, and lethargy. Heat stroke can lead to death. Chinchillas should be kept in an air conditioned space in climates where temperatures never exceed 26 C (80 F), and should always have ample air circulation.

Animals of the same sex live peacefully together in a single cage with sufficient space, and a male can usually be kept with one or more females. Male chinchillas will fight each other for a mate and therefore no more than one male should be kept with a female. If living space is too small, chinchillas will become extremely territorial. However, chinchillas will mate with members of their own family, so male babies cannot be left for too long in the same cage as their mother.

Care

Chinchillas clean their fur by rolling in a dust bath. Fine dust cleans most effectively, but specially processed sand made from pumice avoids the problems of fine dust. The fur of a chinchilla should never be allowed to get wet. Chinchillas have no guard hairs, so the underfur can retain water, creating a warm moist environment for growth of the fungus ringworm, (known as athlete's foot). A wet chinchilla should be dried with a towel, bracken, or a hair blow dryer with no heat added.

Many chinchilla owners prefer to provide playtime out of the cage, although this is not essential to the animal's health. An exercise time in a special "chinchilla-proofed" room is optimal, as a wheel or similar exercise device in the cage is not enough. They enjoy leaping from furniture and running around. They must be watched at all times, as they can escape from even a well-prepared room. If provided with nothing else, they will chew on wood, wire (electrical or otherwise), and anything else they can find. To prevent this, items such as paper towel tubes or wooden chew toys should be provided both during the exercise time and in the cage.

Some chinchillas are prone to cuts and scratches, especially on the nose. It is important that this be dealt with quickly to avoid infection. A first-aid topical antibiotic ointment is generally the best option, though if the problem area is on the nose it is crucial that it does not block the nostrils. Most vets do not take chinchillas, so you will need to find a special exotics vet that is experienced in chinchillas and will assist you if your chinchilla is hurt or ill.

Wild Chinchilla habitat in Chile

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Natural area of the wild Chinchilla Lanigera in Chile

Feeding

Chinchillas have quite delicate digestive systems and so have special dietary requirements. It is usually easiest to feed them specially formulated chinchilla food. Rabbit food does not meet the nutritional needs of chinchillas and frequently makes them fat, as does too much rusk or raisin. Hay is an essential part of their diet, and should be fed at all times. If you have an alfalfa based pellet, then you need timothy hay, and if you have a timothy based pellet, then you need alfalfa hay. Perhaps as a treat they may have dandelion leaves if they are washed clean, or a cheerio or rose hip. Treats should be fed at the very most once a day, and it is better if they are fed less than even that. Chinchillas need to have a water bottle, as water in a dish or bowl will be quickly soiled and develop algae, which can be very bad for chinchillas..

As with many rodents, Chinchillas emit a constant series of small droppings, particularly when they're excited or after they've eaten. This includes when they're out of their cage playing; however, most chinchillas will only urinate in their cages, unless they feel threatened.

Red cedar bedding is toxic to chinchillas because it has a chemical substance called phenols in it and should not be used. Pine shavings are acceptable, but if they are too fine they can cause eye infections or irritate the animal's airways. Pine shavings must be kiln - dried though, because the kiln drying process takes away phenols in the wood. The bedding, should be changed at least once a week, and the food, water and hay changed and refilled daily.

Habits

Prone to excited sounds, chinchillas will also emit chirps and calls according to their mood. Over time an owner will hear a multitude of these orations all indicating the animal's personal state. A soft cooing might indicate playfulness and comfort. A very quiet chirping can be heard while the chinchilla is exploring a new place. Some sounds will originate from the grinding of teeth, which they will sometimes do after eating. They do sneeze audibly, sometimes from the fine dust in their bath. If a chinchilla feels threatened, a high and loud bark will be heard, much like a squirrel can bark. A last resort will involve the chinchilla standing on hind legs and emitting both a bark and a stream of urine. Sometimes, chinchillas will emit a series of loud, hoarse barks that serve to warn other chinchillas of potential danger. They nearly always use this vocalization if they feel nervous, rather than in response to a specific threat. Many will make this noise in response to bad dreams or even loneliness.

As with all rodents, chinchillas have a natural compulsion to gnaw, and often will explore new items by gently nipping or gnawing at them (this includes new people). Chinchillas should be provided with wooden blocks at all times; however, some woods, particularly citrus and redcedar woods, may have resins that are toxic to chinchillas. Cardboard will occupy a chinchillas time (and satisfy their seemingly endless desire to destroy things), but will not wear down their teeth, and so must be supplemented with harder woods. The best readily-available wood to use is untreated pine wood, but grapevine, manzanita, pear, willow, mulberry, and cottonwood are also safe.

The Paw of a Chinchilla

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The Paw of a Chinchilla

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Comments

The featured grey chinchilla at the top image is definitely overly fat. I have owned and bred several, and none looked like that despite frequent treats and heaps of alfalfa and grains. Chinchillas will also get fat like that if the cage is too small or too bland.

it is so sweet

it is good

lovely picture looks show quality perfect shape. If anyone knows anything about chins they are supposed to be like balls with no necks.  The other person doesn't know what there talking about overfed haa haa haa

chinchillas aren't like that. That poor thing has been overfed.


 

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