Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
Ever since we got Gary I’ve been going on a spiral of research trying to learn more about Chinchillas, where they come from and what their natural habitat is like. I thought some of you might be interested, so here are some of the coolest facts I’ve learned!
1. Chinchillas Are Native to the South American Andes Mountains
Chinchillas have been taken all around the world, and while they originated from the South American Andes Mountains they are primarily found in Chile and Peru now.
They were found in Bolivia for some time, however, that’s a lot less common now. Since they’re mountain creatures they’re actually found at about 15,000 ft.
2. Chinchillas Are Nocturnal Animals
Similar to many other small mammals, Chinchillas do most of their eating and adventuring at night. Their preferred time to move is between dusk and dawn.
They spend the majority of their days sleeping. So don’t be afraid if you notice your Chinchilla not eating during the day, even though they’re awake. They’re probably saving the food for later in the day.
3. Chinchillas are VERY Sociable
Chinchillas absolutely hate being alone and always live with others in the wild. Their colonies usually have over 100 other Chinchillas in them.
This means if you’re going to adopt one, you may have to consider adopting another or as we do, you must take the time to socialize and play with your Chinchilla!
4. Chinchillas Have Thicker Blood
Evolution is such an interesting topic, especially as we study the small changes that happen in various animal’s bodies to cope with the environment they live in.
For Chinchinchillas one of the main evolutionary traits is the fact that their blood has thickened over time. Chinchillas actually have more red blood cells than most creatures so they can carry more oxygen to be able to survive the high altitudes they live in.
5. Chinchillas Have Developed a Thicker Coat
What’s one of the first thing you think of when you hear the word “Chinchilla”. It’s probably coats, jackets or fur. I’ve already let you know the importance of making sure your Chinchilla’s coat is clean so it remains soft, but did you know that over time Chinchilla’s fur has actually gotten thicker?
Again, this is due to the fact that they live at such high altitudes. Their home is very cold, has been a huge factor in how they have evolved over the years.
6. Chinchilla Originates from the Word “Chincha”
Fun Fact – Chinchillas were actually named after the Chincha people who lived in the Andes. This was because the Chincha people commonly used Chinchilla fur to make coats to keep them warm.
That being said, Chinchilla directly translated into English means “little Chincha.
7. There Are Currently Two Species of Chinchillas Which Are Alive
Chinchillas, being an endangered species, currently only has two species still alive. These include the Chinchilla Lanigera, which although rare is the only one still found in the wild, and the Chinchilla Brevicaudata which is pretty much extinct.
Chinchilla Lanigera is the most common species that have been domesticated, while Chinchilla Lanigera is known to have shorter tails, smaller ears, thicker necks and wider shoulders.
8. Chinchillas are Hypoallergenic
I’ll admit, I’m not too well-versed in what hypoallergenic really means, but Chinchillas are classified as a hypoallergenic pet since they produce very little dander.
This is due to their thick coats, however, I do know one of my friends says that Chinchillas spark her allergies. I have heard that a number of “hypoallergenic pets” still cause signs of allergies, however not as severe, so make sure you check into whether or not you’re allergic to Chinchillas before adopting one!
9. Chinchillas Are Immune to Fleas and Other Parasites
Similar to the point above, Chinchillas don’t usually get bothered by fleas and other forms of parasites. This is due to the fact that the parasites and fleas are unable to reach the Chinchillas skin due to their extremely thick coats.
10. Chinchillas Shed Parts of Their Coats If Attacked
Being such small creatures, it’s easy to assume that Chinchillas are often dinner for other animals.
When attacked Chinchillas will actually shed a part of their fur to escape. After doing this they will also commonly urinate on their attacker as a self-defence mechanism. You may see signs of this if you are rough with your Chinchilla or if they are too scared.
11. Chinchillas Jump REALLY HIGH!
Since Chinchillas are mountain creatures they have to be able to jump crazy distances. How high do you think they jump? Find out here!
12. Chinchillas Are Highly Affectionate
Although being small mammals, Chinchillas are actually much more affectionate than you’d think.
As mentioned they do very well in packs or when they have cagemates, however, if you do not have a cagemate for your little one, you’re going to want to make sure you spend a lot of time with your Chinchilla friend.
Chinchilla’s bond with humans fairly easily and often Chinchilla owners who have one Chinchilla find it difficult to give them all the attention that they need/want.
13. Chinchillas Have to Take Dust Baths
In the wild, Chinchillas actually bath in volcanic ash. Chinchillas shouldn’t have any water contact on their fur, but if you want to know more about that recommend you check out this article.
14. A Chinchillas Teeth Never Stop Growing
Just like a number of other small mammals a Chinchilla’s teeth never stop growing.
This means they need a lot of things to chew on, like wood, toys, etc. If you need some tips of toys we love check out my post here.
15. Chinchillas Don’t See Well
Chinchilla’s eyes, while big and round, are actually underdeveloped and can’t see very well. They actually use their whiskers to get around. Their whiskers can grow up to around half their body length.
16. Chinchillas Can’t Sweat
This was one of the first facts I learned about Chinchillas which actually terrified me.
Being from high up in the mountains, Chinchillas don’t actually need the ability to sweat, so they have no way of doing it.
Chinchillas who are exposed to temperatures higher than 80°F or 25°C may actually experience heatstroke.
The only method Chinchillas have to reduce their body temperature is to pump blood into their ears. This makes it very easy to spot an overheating Chinchilla as their ears will be bright red.
Do your best to ensure that your Chinchillas is kept in a cool room in your house or turn up the AC. Fans will not help cool down your Chinchilla as fans only cool us down because of our sweat.
17. Chinchillas Produce a Number of Different Noises
It can be fairly intense living with a Chinchilla as they produce some of the strangest noises known. Chinchillas have the ability to produce noises such as barks, squeals, chirps and grunts.
18. Chinchillas Hear Frequencies Similar to Us
It can be shocking to hear that Chinchillas don’t hear as well as other animals, however, the range of frequencies they can hear is similar to ours. So if you’re making or producing noises that are higher than you can hear, chances are your Chinchilla can’t hear them either.
The main difference between a Chinchilla’s hearing and our hearing is the fact that they are more sensitive to sound (ie. their big ears help amplify sound.)
19. Chinchillas Are Often Used for Science Classes
Bouncing off the point above, since Chinchillas can hear frequencies similar to us their cochlea is also around the same size as ours. Because of this, many schools will actually use Chinchillas as examples or used as models to show the auditory system.
On top of that, it’s a lot easier for you to access a Chinchilla’s cochlea versus a human, making them great models to use!
20. Chinchillas Don’t Care How They Sleep
I envy Gary often since he can curl up into any position and be happy. This trait comes from Chinchillas burrowing into any hole they see fit in the wild.
So if you find your Chinchilla sleeping in an awkward or compromising position, don’t be scared! It’s totally normal and they’re just exercising a gift that evolution gave them!
21. Chinchillas Don’t Need a Lot of Food
I wrote a longer article about what is an acceptable Chinchilla diet, however, it’s good to know that Chinchillas don’t actually need to eat much of it. This is due to the fact that their natural habitat doesn’t actually have a lot of food.
Feeding Chinchilla’s things that are not natural to their diet may lead to an upset stomach or in extreme conditions, death.
22. Chinchillas Will ALWAYS Eat on Their Haunches
Similar to hamsters, Chinchillas also enjoy eating on their haunches (that being their back legs).
Chinchillas like to hold their food and nibble on it. Trust me, it’s one of the cutest things and I’ll make sure to record a video as soon as I can!
23. Chinchillas Reach Their Sexual Maturity at 8-Months Old
24. Chinchillas Can Breed at Any Time and Often Have More Than One Baby at a Time
This can be a scary fact to know as a pet parent as Chinchillas don’t actually have a mating season. They are always ready to breed and have a much longer gestation period than most animals their size.
The average Chinchilla’s gestation period is 111 days. The average Chinchilla has twins, however, they can have as little as 1 Kit or as many as 6 Kits.
25. Chinchillas Are Born Ready to Face the World
I found this to be one of the most interesting facts about Chinchillas.
Chinchillas are actually born with a full body of fur and their eyes are fully-functional making them able to cope with the harsh weather conditions from birth. Could you imagine if we were born ready to face the world immediately?
26. Chinchillas Are Considered Long-Lived Rodents
It actually shocked me how long Chinchillas actually live for as they can live up to 10x longer than the average small rodent. I’m not going to spoil how many years that is, but I would encourage you to check out my article about the lifespan of Chinchillas and how to make sure they live the longest they can!
27. There Were Actually 3-Species of Chinchillas Discovered
This is a very sad fact to share with you, however, it’s my duty to inform you of the catastrophes of the fur industry.
We are actually the reason why one of the species became extinct. It had nothing to do with evolution, it had nothing to do with the natural cycle of extinction, sadly this one is on our hands.
Now, this doesn’t mean that all Chinchilla owners should surrender their little ones so they can repopulate the affected areas as pet Chinchillas have been domesticated and would not be able to survive the extremities of their natural environment, but it does mean we need to stop supporting industries which are causing them to become extinct.
To put it into numbers there were only 42 Chinchilla colonies in 1996 and the numbers are steadily decreasing.
28. It Takes Around 150 Chinchillas to Make 1 Full-Length Jacket
Again, a bit of a gruesome fact, but just like the header says it takes A LOT of Chinchillas to make one jacket.
While this I have to admit that their fur is extremely soft, I also have to say that 150 of these adorable creatures does not seem worth it for one jacket.
29. It Is Illegal to Hunt Wild Chinchillas
I’m happy to state that it is illegal to hunt wild Chinchillas. While this is true, there is still a lot of illegal hunting happening.
That being the case, scientists believe that the two species of Chinchillas may actually become extinct within our lifetime.
30. Chinchilla’s Fur Colour Has Changed over the Years
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Chinchillas actually used to have mottled yellow-gray fur. Their fur has changed colours over the years due to selective breeding.
Some of these colours include bluish-gray, white, black, silver, and beige. Although they come in such diverse colours, the tip of each hair will always end with black, no matter what colour they are! Interesting, eh?
31. Chinchillas Are Said to Be Related to Guinea Pigs and Porcupines
32. Females Are Monogamous While Males Aren’t
This is a really interesting fact to me.
Female Chinchillas tend to be monogamous and will mate with the same male for the majority of their lives, although males commonly have many female mates.
This is true especially of domesticated Chinchillas.
33. Females Are Usually Dominant
It’s interesting to learn which gender is more dominant than the other, and commonly males are assumed to always be more dominant than females. This is not true when it comes to Chinchilla.
Females tend to be aggressive towards other females and males, especially when it comes to mating time.
34. Chinchillas Are Omnivores
Although many Chinchilla diets are vegetarian, Chinchillas are actually omnivores. While having a predominantly vegetarian diet, they do eat small insects and bird eggs every so often.
35. Chinchillas Are Thought to Be Smarter Than Rabbits
This was a fact that kind of shocked me, but apparently, Chinchillas are considered smarter than rabbits because they are easier to train.
Chinchillas can also actively be played with similar to cats, which makes me want to research the different tricks and games Chinchillas can learn to do/play!
36. Chinchillas Practice Caecotrophy
Similar to rabbits and other small mammals, Chinchillas will re-eat their dropping to make sure that they have gotten all of the nutritional value they need from their food.
So pet parents and pet lovers, were there any facts on this list that you didn’t know about? What was the most interesting or shocking to you?
Honestly, Chinchillas are pretty cool little buggers and I’m glad that we adopted Gary. He’s definitely sparked my hunger for knowledge!