How Long Do Chinchillas Live?

Chances are, like most people, you don’t know much about Chinchillas. They are still rare to own as pets in the United States but these spunky little rodents are starting to grow in popularity. If you are considering getting one then make sure you understand what you are getting into and what to expect as far as lifespan.

How Long Do Chinchillas Live?

A chinchilla’s life span will vary based on breed, health, and whether they live in the wild or are kept as pets. Wild chinchillas have an average lifespan of 10 to 11.3 years according to research. Pet Chinchillas can live longer, averaging 15 years and up to 20 years in some cases.

Getting a Chinchilla is a big commitment. Many responsibilities go along with pet ownership. If you are considering getting one then educating yourself on Chinchillas and talking to people who are familiar with them should be your first step. Getting a Chinchilla isn’t something you want to rush into and get on impulse.

What is a Chinchilla?

Chinchillas are low-maintenance pet rodents that are known for their soft, plush, fur. They weren’t always kept as pets though and are native to the Andes Mountains in Northern Chile. They grew in popularity in the 16th century. Initially, they were trapped and skinned for their fur but became popular as pets due to their docile personality.

Chinchillas can still be found in the wild but, today, most Chinchillas come from breeders or animal farms.

Chinchilla Personality

A Chinchilla’s personality is similar to a rabbit and a guinea pig. They can be held, if trained at an early age, but aren’t as social with humans as other pets. They don’t often bite. They do like to keep to themselves or spend their time in the company of other Chinchillas. They are very social creatures in that regard, so if you are considering getting one you might want to get two.

Are Chinchillas Nocturnal?

Yes, Chinchillas are nocturnal rodents that sleep most of the day. They are the most active at night. They should be kept in an area that is quiet during the day to not disturb them. The noise they make at night can also interrupt your sleep, so it’s a good idea to put them far enough away to be soundproof.

Types of Chinchillas

There are two types of Chinchillas: short-tail and long-tail. As you would guess it long-tailed Chinchillas have long tails and short-tail Chinchillas have short tails.

©Stefan Köder

Long-tail Chinchillas have thick, dense fur that has more volume, and are available to own as pets in the United States. They are lovable, cuddly, and have a history and being domesticated.

©San Diego Zoo

Short-tail Chinchillas have a different type of fur that has made them more attractive to poachers near the Andes Mountains. They have been poached so much that they are now considered an endangered species. They are illegal to own as pets in the United States.

What Do Chinchillas Eat?

Chinchillas are herbivores and only eat plants. They require a lot of, natural fiber in their diet to keep food moving through their system. They must eat often to regularly pass food. Vets recommend that manufactured animal treats, especially yogurt drops and salt wheels, be avoided as they may cause health issues.

What To Feed a Chinchilla

When it comes to diet Chinchillas are very similar to Guinea Pigs and Rabbits. Chinchillas do best with a mixture of hay, pellets, and fresh produce. Introduce your Chinchillas to a variety of vet-approved foods to determine what he likes best.

  • 80% to 90% of A Chinchilla’s Diet Should Consist of Hay
    • Chinchillas love their hay. The bulk of their diet should consist of Timothy Hay or Orchard Grass Hay
  • 5% to 10% of a Chinchillas diet should consist of pellets
    • About 2 tablespoons per day for an Adult Chinchilla
    • Pellets should be hay-based
    • Pellets should be without seeds, nuts, and fruit
  • 5% to 10% of a Chinchillas diet should consist of fresh produce
    • Vets recommend ½ cup of greens per 2 lbs of bodyweight
    • Fruit and high glycemic vegetables should be avoided
    • See below for a list of vet-approved vegetation
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Chinchillas are prone to urinary tract diseases. Vegetables low in calcium and oxalate are best. The following is a list of vegetables with low/moderate calcium and low/moderate oxalate. The list has been approved by NCSU Veterinary Hospital. If you want to feed a vegetable that’s not on this list then be sure to check its calcium & oxalate levels. Discuss anything you aren’t sure of with your vet.

  1. Arugula
  2. Basil
  3. Boston Lettuce
  4. Bok Choy
  5. Cilantro
  6. Collards
  7. Dill
  8. Green Leaf Lettuce
  9. Kale
  10. Mustard Greens
  11. Radicchio
  12. Red Leaf Lettuce
  13. Romain
  14. Turnip Greens
  15. Watercress

Chinchilla Health Care Tips

Like any animal, Chinchillas and other rodents are prone to certain health problems. With good veterinary care a Chinchilla will live at least 10 years, but that’s not to say they won’t run into health issues along the way.

  • Annual Vet Visits. 
    • Responsible vets recommended that Chinchillas have a check-up at least once per year. This will ensure the long-term health of the Chinchilla and catch any health problems before they become an issue. Older Chinchillas may need to have checkups more often.
  • Neuter the Males
    • Vets recommend that male Chinchillas be neutered to reduce aggression and prevent behavior problems.
    • This will also allow him to be in the same cage as a female without worrying about them reproducing
  • May Need Ongoing Dental Monitoring
    • Chinchilla’s teeth do not stop growing. They continuously grow throughout their lives. A good vet will be able to monitor their teeth during annual visits
    • They must have hay available at all times as it grinds their teeth down and prevents overgrowth.

Common Chinchilla Health Problems

  • Gastrointensial stasis (GI)
    • The slowing down of food passing through the GI tract
    • Can be caused when they stop eating for any number of reasons (including overgrown teeth)
    • Can lead to serious bloating or diarrhea
    • Treatable but can be life-threatening
  • Respiratory Disease
    • Minor breathing problems have the tendency to progress into serious conditions such as pneumonia
    • Any sudden symptoms of wheezing or issues with breathing should be taken seriously
  • Overgrown Teeth
    • As mentioned, Chinchilla’s teeth continuously grow throughout their lives. This can impact the alignment of the teeth and cause an issue with chewing food.
    • Chewing hay grinds their teeth down and prevents this from becoming a problem
    • Common in Chinchillas who do not eat hay
    • If your Chinchilla is not eating it could be from overgrown teeth
  • Urinary Stones
    • Prevented by limiting the diet to vegetables that are low in Calcium and Oxalate
  • Heat Stroke
    • Symptoms of a heat stroke include panting, fever, open-mouth breathing, and an unwillingness to move
    • Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountain and because of are known to have heat strokes at temperatures above 80 degrees Ferenheight
    • Optimal temperatures for Chinchillas are 55 degrees to 68 degrees Fereinhet
    • Humid conditions can increase the likelihood of a heat stroke
  • Bite Wounds
    • Bite wounds from dogs or cats can be fatal to Chinchillas, even minor ones. This is due to the type of bacteria dogs and cats may carry, especially Pasteurella Multocida, a bacteria common in the mouths of cats and dogs. 
    • If a bite wound from a cat or dog is left untreated it could turn into a life-threatening infection
    • Bite wounds are hard to spot because of the thickness and density of the fur. Be sure to thoroughly examine them with your fingers if you suspect a bite
    • It’s not uncommon for bite wounds to appear on Chinchillas that are caged together. This may not be a problem if it’s infrequent

Should I Get a Chinchilla?

Chillchillas make wonderful pets but they aren’t for everybody and remember, they aren’t as social with humans as other animals. If you are ready to spend 15 years, caring for your Chinchilla, feeding him every day, taking him to the vet each year, and cleaning his cage regularly then I’d say a Chinchilla is a good choice.

How Long Do Chinchillas Live?

In this article, we’ve gone over the lifespan of the Chinchilla and several important issues. You should have learned that the lifespan of a pet Chinchilla is 15-20 years while the lifespan of a wild Chinchilla is 10 to 11.3 years.

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