During lockdown, there’s been a massive surge in the amount of pet ownership, particularly cats and dogs. Finglas’ Dogs Trust claim they would have had seventy people filling out their inquiry forms per week in the past. It’s been closer to four-hundred a week since the pandemic. Although not as well known, another pet slowly rising in popularity is the chinchilla.
Chinchillas are rodents originating from the Andes Mountains in South America. They haven’t been kept as pets for relatively long but their soft fur and inquisitive personalities have won the hearts of chinchilla lovers worldwide. The long hind limbs of chinchillas are adapted for jumping. They can leap over six feet in height, and it has been recorded that pet chinchillas have hopped on top of refrigerators! Chinchillas are very social and live in groups of more than one hundred in the wild, so it’s beneficial to buy chinchillas in pairs.
In the evening and at night, chinchillas are the most active. Their coat is incredibly fluffy, and to keep it healthy and in great condition, they need a frequent dust bath. A chinchilla’s average lifespan is between ten and twenty years. Many parents think that a chinchilla is a suitable pet for a child, however, chinchillas are sensitive to loud noises, temperature and need gentle handling so it’s a better-suited pet for responsible teenagers and adults.
In the 19th and 20th century, the wild chinchilla was hunted nearly to extinction for its highly coveted fur. In the wild, it’s now endangered due to the fur industry. There is little scientific literature written about the animal. In southern Bolivia, a new population was found in 2017, the first animal confirmation there in nearly eighty years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s authoritative Red List categorizes the short-tailed chinchilla as “endangered” and declining, noting that the population is “severely fragmented”.
So, is the friendly chinchilla the right pet for you?