In case you didn't know, chins aren't from anywhere near the U.S. In their natural habitat they were being hunted to extinction so someone rescued several of them and brought them to North America. Because of their fun and energetic personalities, they make excellent pets. It's important to learn about the natural chinchilla habitat so you can mimic it when you go to create his home.
What Is The Natural Chinchilla Habitat Like?
Chinchillas are actually native to the Andes Mountains in South America. Their natural habitat is cold, dry, and rocky. They live on the mountainside in burrows and rock crevices. They get around on the rocky surface by jumping and climbing over the terrain. They can jump extremely high for their size, up to six feet in the air!
So the first thing you should worry about is matching the landscape when you go to create your chinchilla's home. To imitate the steep, rocky mountainside, you should look for a cage that is nice and tall with ramps and shelves that your chin can climb. One rule with buying a cage is the bigger the better! And don't forget to buy an exercise wheel to keep in there so he can run whenever he wants to.
Along with a big cage, chinchillas need plenty of exercise. The tall cage will definitely help with this, but you should also be prepared to let them out of their cage at least once a day to run around a closed room that you have "chilla proofed." Keep an eye on him at all times when he's running around the room, and don't let him get ahold of any wires or tear up your furniture.
These little creatures are among the softest in the world because of their super-thick coat. Their fur is so dense that common pests like fleas will suffocate if they try to live on a chinchilla. This fur coat keeps them nice and warm in their native habitat, but can pose a bit of a problem for anyone that wants to have a chinchilla as a pet. Chins don't sweat so the only way for them to cool down is by pumping blood into their thin ears to cool. If your chinchillas ears get red, he's probably over heating!
So if you take your chin and put him in your house in a warm room, he can easily overheat since he won't have any way to cool himself. It's very important that you have at least one room in your house that always stays at 70 degrees F or lower. Too long at 75 degrees F can make him overheat, and anything above 80 can give your little guy heatstroke.
How Chins Clean Themselves In The Natural Chinchilla Habitats
Because of their thick coat and need to stay dry, chinchilla's clean themselves in quite an odd sort of way. Instead of dipping in a pond, they will actually roll around in volcanic rock dust or ash that is fine enough to penetrate their dense fur. This dust will absorb oils, dirt, and moisture to keep the chinchillas clean, dry and healthy. If a chinchilla stays wet for long enough, they will likely develop ringworm or another fungus on their skin.
To imitate this odd cleaning behavior you will need to buy specially made chinchilla dust that he can roll around in. Find a container that won't tip over, put some dust in, then put your chinchilla in and he will have a fun time rolling around and taking a funny chinchilla dust bath.
One area where you won't want to match their natural habitat is in their diet. Wild chins can eat plants, fruit, seeds, and insects, but a diet like that will irritate your domestic chinchillas digestive system. Instead you should feed him mostly special chinchilla pellets, with some hay mixed in there for fiber. Treats are OK once in a while too.
The sort of predators that would go after these small furry creatures include birds of prey, various canines, some felines, even skunks and snakes. To get away from their hunters, chinchillas have several defensive mechanisms like releasing fur if they get bit, and spraying urine. They are also social creatures that live in herds so they can watch out for each other and give warnings of potential danger.
Fortunately for your chinchilla, he won't have any of these threats to his life, but that doesn't make him any less scared! So be gentle with him and build his trust so he knows that you are not actually a predator out to get him. If you follow this guide, you'll be able to make the perfect chinchilla habitat that will make him feel at home and make sure he has a healthy, happy life for years to come. Read more about chinchillas as pets and more chinchilla care tips here.