gentle, timid and intelligent rodent originates from the mountainous
Andean region of South America where it occupies a habitat similar
to the marmots of Europe and North America. They live in burrows
and crevices amongst the rocks on very steep cliffs and mountainsides,
where they can maintain a keen watch for predators, mainly hawks
famous fur of the chinchilla nearly resulted in its extinction for
the fur trade but, fortunately, the animal is a ready breeder in
captivity. Unlike most Old World rodents, usually only one youngster
is born. These develop quickly and soon become independent. Chinchillas
must have access to a dust bath of Fuller's earth for at least ten
minutes every day, and will roll and kick in this with every evidence
of intense enjoyment. Without this dust bath the fur becomes dull
live for quite a long time; 12-15 years being not unusual. Many
colour varieties have been bred as a result of their long history
in captivity and their extreme commercial importance. Normally they
live in pairs, thinly scattered across the rocky slopes together
with their one, occasionally two, young of that period. In captivity
'polygamy' is practised, with one male having access to several
females - and this has increased productivity considerably, though
this is not a consideration for zoos, where a natural lifestyle
is aimed for.
make interesting pets, perhaps a step or two up in the ambition
ratings from pet rabbits. These gentle, timid and intelligent animals
of the rodent family originate from the Andes region of South America.
are one of the cleanest rodents to keep as their droppings are dry
and give off virtually no odour. They live for quite a long time
- eight to ten years - with some continuing well past 15 years.
They are agile, can climb and can gnaw. They are relatively inexpensive,
costing £70 each upwards, with a custom-built cage costing a similar
You can save yourself a lot of money by building your own cage.
Buy some weld mesh and lace four panels together with thin, tying
wire to form a long, rectangular tunnel.
Block off each end with a panel of weld mesh, which will also add
stability. Hang the whole contraption on strong hooks on the wall
to form what is known in the business as a suspended cage and arrange
a tray or some sheets of newspaper below it to catch any droppings.
With some wooden ledges and branches inside, and a heavy-duty nest
box - complete with sliding door so you can trap the animal in on
occasion - hanging on the outside, you are ready to roll at a fraction
of the cost of a commercial product.
The cage must be suspended and that stops the weight being concentrated
on the floor. It is also easier to clean.
The other major advantage is that you can make it any size to suit
yourself and your room.
Chinchillas, as most pet owners know, must be provided with a tray
of "fullers" to dustbathe in.
This stops their wonderful fur becoming greasy and matted for chinchillas
have been known to sicken and die when deprived over a lengthy period
of the opportunity to dust-bathe.
want an unusual pet why not consider the Degu. Although it's a rather
rat-like creature in size and colour, it is anything but rat-like
in behaviour and temperament.
it closely resembles a smal chinchilla and comes from the same part
of the world in South America.
it squeaks like a guinea pig. Now that colour varieties are being
produced, the rat-like agouti colouring should soon be eclipsed
by creams and fawns.
breed readily, and like to live in pairs and small family groups
can see the Degus in the Aztec and Inca display.
National Chinchilla Society
advice on the care of chinchillas we suggest you contact:
Hon. Secretary, The National Chinchilla Society, 106 Moss Lane,
Maghull, Liverpool, L31 9AQ, or Tel: 0151-526-2577.