Senior HealthCare Plan

Is your pet really old?
Did you know most dogs and cats are

New Patients

Read here and learn all you need to know about our clinic before registering, we are waiting to hear from you and your pets!


Rabbits & Chinchillas Home > Pet Info > Rabbits & Chinchillas
Natural history

Wild Chinchillas live in large herds burrowing and hopping between rocks, high up in the Andes Mountains of Chile in South America. The natural climate is cool and dry. They have a thick soft dense fur. This means they are prone to overheating and can suffer heat stroke if the temperature reaches 26C or 80F. They also do not tolerate high humidity well. The best climate for them is a temperature of 10-15C and less than 50% humidity. This is not the weather we see in Hong Kong!

They were hunted almost to extinction for their fur, but are now a protected species in the wild. They are still at risk from habitat erosion. The first pet chinchillas were caught from the wild. They are now bred in captivity and have a variety of coat colours. If chinchillas are kept in good conditions and fed well their lifespan is quite long:

Life span: 10 - 15 years - up to 20!
Sexual maturity: 7 months
Litter size: 1 – 4 (average 2)
Pregnancy: 111 days
Adult Weight: 400 - 700g

Chinchillas can make great pets for the right person, but they need the same commitment and care as other pets and you will have to provide the correct home and food for them.

  • Consider adopting an unwanted pet
  • They are nocturnal – sleep during the day but can be very noisy at night!
  • They can live a long time – average 10-15 years, but some have been known to live for twenty years!
  • They love to chew, and are destructive. They need wood toys and pieces to satisfy this and will chew wood in your home if given the chance
  • They don’t like to be cuddled and have a fragile bone structure. This means they need to be handled with care and are not recommended for children.
  • Chinchillas can live happily alone if have lots of attention and plenty of toys to keep them stimulated. They are also happy with company – same sexes get on well, though males may become aggressive to each other when females chins are nearby. You must house males and females separately until the males are old enough to be neutered at six months old.
How to house a chinchilla


  • Chinchillas need good ventilation, low humidity (45-50%), cool temperatures (10-18°C is ideal),
  • A quiet place (not next to the TV!)
  • At least 10 hours of dark every night.
  • Never leave a chinchilla in the sunshine – they overheat easily!

Cages should be as large as possible (wide, rather than tall) - approximately 100cm wide, 50cm deep and 45-60cm high is suitable for 1 - 3 chinchillas and should include-

  • Walls made of galvanized square mesh of less than 2cm width
  • Different levels of solid shelves or floors to jump on
  • Solid floors, any wire floors must have very small gaps as trapped legs break easily
  • A Nest Box –ceramic, cardboard or wooden, 25x25x20cm with bedding. Somewhere to hide away and sleep in safety during the daytime.
  • A glass water bottle with stainless steel spout.
  • A hay rack and ceramic food dish
  • Toys: use toilet rolls inner tubes, wood and natural rope, natural bark tunnels and bridges and "hammock" type hanging toys. Plastic and metal objects should not be provided as they may be chewed and ingested. Some woods with a lot of oils are not safe.

Dust baths. Chinchillas need dust baths to care for their coats.

  • Use only proper chinchilla dust (sepiolite) in a metal container. This replicates the dust a chinchilla will have available to it in the wild.
  • Baths should last at least 20 minutes and can be given daily, or at least a few times a week.


  • Spot clean solid floors daily, clean out cage weekly and give the whole cage a disinfecting wash every three months. Rinse and dry completely before returning your chinchilla(s).
  • Water bottles should be thoroughly washed and refilled daily and sterilised weekly,
  • Wash the food bowl daily, and disinfect weekly.
  • Dust bath. Scoop out any droppings daily and top up the dust (an inch or two deep is plenty); Replace the dust completely every so often, thoroughly washing out the bath.

Regardless of the size of cage, chins need some freedom to dash about. They are small and fast, you need to provide a safe environment for them. It is important to supervise closely to prevent them jumping off high places, biting cable wires, or stripping wall paper. An hour a day is good, but should be shorter in warm weather to avoid overheating.

Feeding Your Chinchilla

Correct diet is vital to maintain the health of your chinchilla. The diet must be high in fibre and low in sugars. Any change in diet must be gradual, at least over a 1 week period.

  • Hay. 24 hour access to loose, good quality (sweet smell, not dusty or mouldy) Timothy hay. An adult will eat approx one handful per day; hay should be kept in the hay rack. Left over hay should be replaced completely every few days.
  • Small amounts of alfalfa hay, either loose or cubed, can be given once or twice a week.
  • Pellets – limited amount should be fed to adults: approx 1 soup spoon twice daily; more can be given to young, nursing, sick and old chins. Check the food is fresh and be sure to avoid any non-vegetarian ingredients and chemical preservatives.
  • Treats – Keep to the very minimum! Snacks, sweets, nuts and biscuits are not appropriate because they are high in sugars. Carrot, apple, green vegetable & raisins can be given in very small amounts: less than 1 teaspoon per chin every few days.
Common Diseases

Many chinchilla health problems are related to poor feeding. Chinchillas need to have a regular high fibre diet.

  • Dental problems Diet or genetics
  • Dietary upset Inappropriate foods or sudden diet changes
  • Heat stroke High temperatures and/or excessive exercise
  • Eye infections Infections, injuries or dental problems
  • Skin problems Infections or stress
Signs of illness

Chinchillas can become very sick, very quickly, so seek veterinary advice if you see any of the following symptoms. The most common problems to look out for are highlighted

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Salivation
  • Changes in droppings size or amount
  • Discharge from eyes, nose or ears
  • Panting or wheezing
  • Unsteadiness or convulsions
  • Increased temperature (warm or red ears)
  • Raw skin or bald patches
  • Less alert

If you have any worries about how to keep your chinchilla or concerns about health problems visit us as soon as possible at Hung Hom Veterinary Clinic. If a problem is left for too long it is much more difficult to treat and the chinchilla will suffer more than it needs to.

If you want to read more about chinchillas the following sites may help but remember there is less certain knowledge about chinchillas than for a lot of animals

More Info
An American perspective
An enthusiast’s point of view
Various articles about chinchillas
Back to Rabbits and Chinchillas