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Chinchilla (C. lanigera, C. brevicaudata)


Closely related to the guinea pig, the chinchilla originates from the mountainous regions of the Andes, at an altitude of 3000-4000 meters. There are two species, C. brevicaudata and C. laniger, which differ in the anatomical conformation of the tail, neck and ears.

Although originally bred for its thick fur, the chinchilla can represent, if managed correctly, a good companion animal if we understand that as "prey" animals they are active mainly at night and that they are are also highly sensitive to incorrect handling which could trigger an unexpected reaction for an seemingly harmless animal, like a serious bite.

Chinchillas are animals that in the wild would live in quite numerous colonies where the presence of individuals of the same sex usually does not cause problems. Obviously, exceptions must be made for animals kept at home: by not being in their natural environment, in  potentially “stressful” conditions, behavioural problems / clashes for dominance could occur, not only between males; in fact the females are often aggressive with the other females of the group. To reduce the incidence of these "fights", it is advisable to raise the animals together from an early age or gradually introduce new specimens. If you don't want to breed these animals, neutering is recommended.

Being very active animals, an environment as large as possible should be made available to them, such as a room or alternatively a cage of adequate size (at least 2m x 2m x 1m). Being very shy, you will also have to provide  enough space to allow for the positioning of numerous hiding places. It is best to avoid plastic containers that could be gnawed on and ingested. The ingestion of the plastic material could be toxic or cause problems to the gastro-enteric system. Accidents that can occur frequency are fractures of the paws, due to the size of the bars of the cage where the chinchillas could get stuck. For the lining of the cage it is recommended to use a simple sheet of newspaper so that an owner can monitor defecations.

For good environmental enrichment, wooden toys, branches of plants (pay attention to the toxic ones !!!), pipes, tubes, boxes can be used. Preparing several levels in the cage to allows them to jump and to make as much movement as possible. If housed in a cage, it is obviously advisable not to relegate them to spend all day inside. Do allow them to free-roam, but always in a safe environment and under strict supervision.

A unique requirement of the chinchilla is for it to be to be able

to carry out a sand bath daily which is be essential to keep the fur

clean and to eliminate the excess oils that is deposited there.

Their natural diet is essentially poor in nutrients and rich in fiber,

mainly composed of herbs and bushes that grow on the mountainous

terrain of the Andes, make it a "rustic" and undemanding animal.

In captivity, their diet must consist of foods rich in fiber such as

pellets (the recommended daily amount for an adult individual is

about 25-50 g) and good quality hay always left available, as well as modest quantities of vegetables and fruit. Any changes in the diet must be done gradually in order to avoid alterations in the intestinal flora, and water must always be left available.


The problems and pathologies that can most frequently result from incorrect management and nutrition include:

dental pathologies: they are the consequence of incorrect or inadequate wear of the teeth (which are continuously growing) for genetic causes and / or for the administration of an incorrect diet;

pododermatitis: these lesions can develop in animals confined for too long in cages, associated with the use of inadequate litter, poor hygiene conditions and excessive weight (obesity);

eye injuries and pathologies: consequence of fighting or the use of dusty bedding;

hair decay: the hair will appear dull, untreated and is usually due to the absence of the sand bath, an incomplete feeding and excessive temperature and humidity.

heat stroke: given their thick coat and the area of ​​origin, chinchillas are highly sensitive to temperatures above 27 ° C (the optimal range is between 10 ° and 15 ° C); equally insidious can be high levels of humidity, associated with respiratory diseases.

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