Chinchilla / Chinchilla lanigera

Did you know...

Chinchillas can jump up to 1.8m

They are believed to have the softest fur in the world, as much as 30 times softer than human hair

Chinchilla hair is so fine that they sprout 60 hairs from each hair follicle

Chinchillas are small rodents from the Andes mountains of South America. Their name literally means little Chincha and they are named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore the dense, velvet-like fur of these animals.

The chinchillas now commonly seen are domesticated forms of the long-tailed chinchilla which was originally brought to Europe to be farmed for its fur.

Chinchillas have fine dense grey fur which provides excellent insulation and camouflage in their original mountain habitat. The denseness of the fur also means that they don’t harbour skin parasites. However, it does make them susceptible to heat stroke, a problem which they overcome by using their large ears as radiators. The long stiff whiskers, large ears and eyes and nose also provide the acute senses of touch, hearing sight and smell needed by the nocturnal chinchilla. The long hind legs of the chinchilla allow it to hop and leap and the bushy tails serves to help the animal balance.

In the wild chinchillas are herbivores feeding on mountain plants and seeds. Pet chinchillas fair best on a commercially produced chinchilla pellet, good quality hay and fresh water.

Chinchillas are clean animals, they should be given a bath every other day in special dust to cleanse their fine fur and remove grease and dirt. Without this dust their fur becomes dull and sticks together making the fur no longer effective as insulation.

A nocturnal creature, the chinchilla sleeps during the day and plays at night; although, they can be trained to stay awake during the day. Chinchillas can breed any time of the year. Their gestation period is 111 days, longer than most rodents. Due to this long pregnancy, chinchillas are born fully furred and with eyes open. Litters are usually small in number, predominantly twins.