According to CBS News, exotic pets are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, it's estimated that 18 million households in the United States have exotic pets. One exotic pet that is popular is the chinchilla, which is actually extinct in the wild. Taking care of a chinchilla isn't difficult, but it is different from taking care of a typical family pets like cats and dogs. Here are a few things you need to know if you are interested in having a chinchilla for a family pet.
Chinchillas Don't Do Well With Small Children
Chinchillas have a natural fear of humans, but they can overcome their fear with proper handling and care. They are nervous and skittish at first until they get accustomed to a new environment. However, they don't particularly do well with small children as they do need to be handled gently. Also, they don't particularly like loud noises that children often make. If you have small children, you may want to wait a few years until the children are older. In the meantime, consider getting another exotic pet, such as a guinea pig or rabbit.
Chinchillas Teeth Continually Grow
Chinchillas are in the rodent family and, as with all rodents, their teeth continue to grow throughout life. This means that you will need to take your chinchilla to the vet often to have their teeth trimmed. Chew toys, however, can cut down on the number of visits to an exotic veterinarian for teeth trimming. The grinding action of chewing on a toy can help keep the teeth shorter. If the front teeth are allowed to become overgrown, the teeth can begin to curve and get stuck in things, such as bedding, or grow into the roof of the chinchilla's mouth. Molars, located in the back of the mouth, can also become overgrown, which can cause problems with eating.
Chinchillas Are Crepuscular
Chinchillas are crepuscular, which means they are the most active around dusk and dawn. While they do tend to stay up through the night, they aren't quite entirely nocturnal due to their activity patterns during dusk and dawn, but they will sleep the majority of the day. Disturbing their natural sleep/wake cycle can negatively impact their health and their ability to socialize with you and the rest of the family. However, you can adjust the lighting and regulate the natural sunlight where they sleep and play to offset their natural schedule just enough to allow you to spend some quality time socializing with your chinchilla.
Chinchillas Like It Cold
Chinchillas are from the Andes region, which means they are more suitable for colder temperatures and can easily get heat stroke. According to Live Science, chinchillas cannot survive in temperatures higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit and they also do not do well in high humidity. Therefore, you'll need to keep the air conditioning going during the summer months to keep your chinchilla from suffering from a heat stroke. Also, if you will use lighting to slightly adjust your chinchilla's sleep/wake cycle, be sure to choose light bulbs that do not produce heat.
Chinchillas Need to Take Dust Baths
Chinchillas keep their coats healthy and clean by rolling in dust so the dust penetrates into their coat and absorbs oil and dirt. You'll need to purchase chinchilla dust that is formulated and sold specifically for this purpose and designed to mimic the natural volcanic pumice that chinchillas use in their native habitat. Place this dust into a deep dish or bowl and allow your chinchilla to take a dust bath in it occasionally. Avoid keeping the dust bath in the cage or readily available as bathing too much can cause their skin to dry out. An exotic veterinarian can recommend a dust bath schedule based on the condition of your chinchilla's coat and skin during routine checkups.
Take a look at the site here to learn more about caring for exotic pets.