Is a Chinchilla the Right Pet for Me?

If you ask any chinchilla lover if chinchillas make good pets, most likely the answer will be yes.  I may be a little biased, but I think my chinchillas are excellent pets and here is why:

  • Unlike my dog, chinchillas are relatively low maintenance.  They do not require vaccinations, trips to the groomer, or demand tons of attention (although they do love it).
  • They are usually quiet.
  • With a properly cleaned cage, they do not smell.
  • They are curious and friendly and will interact with you.
  • They are entertaining to watch.

There are a few conditions you should consider when choosing a chinchilla for a pet:

  • Most importantly, chinchillas REQUIRE air-conditioning if the temperature EVER gets above 75F.  If you don’t have central heat, you will need a window or portable ac for the warmer months.  Chinchillas do not sweat so fans have no effect on them. Cold tiles are not a substitute for ac.
  • Chinchilla ownership is a long-term commitment. Average lifespan of chinchillas is 10-20 years. The oldest chinchilla I’ve heard of, lived to be 29.
  • Chinchillas can be messy.  They poop all the time and somehow no matter what you do, poos will end up on the floor surrounding the cage.  Fortunately, the droppings are easy to sweep or vacuum but the floor will never stay clean for long.  They can also make a mess of the hay in the cage.
  • Chinchillas must be given dust to roll around in to keep their coat nice.  Some people are allergic to the dust and those with asthma should be very careful.
  • They need to eat hay so once again this may be of concern to allergy sufferers.
  • Usually chinchillas do not require regular vet visits however if you do need to take your chinchilla to the vet, it can be expensive.  You should expect to pay no less than $50 for a normal visit and $100 for emergency.  It could be a lot more depending where you live.  Also, you may have to drive a bit to get to a qualified chinchilla vet as not all vets are knowledgeable or even treat chinchillas.

65 Comments

      • They can be entertaining to watch but I wouldn’t count on them playing with you. Sometimes I am used as springboard during playtime and lately one of my boys has been more into sniffing my hands for treats but they don’t do tricks or play fetch.

        For cost estimates, see my article How Much Does A Chinchilla Cost?

      • My 10 year old daughter really wanted a hamster (this was before we got two chinchillas). In order to earn the hamster she had to write a research paper; it needed to include, the cost of everything (cage, bedding, food, cost of the hamster), how to care for the hamster, how often to feed it, how often to clean the cage, what to feed it, what it can not eat, general facts about hamsters, what types of germs do they carry, what is the best type of hamster to get, etc. She also had to keep her room clean for 6 months, and had to save up the money to buy the hamster, the cage, and all necessary supplies. She put in a lot of time, effort, saved her money, and really proved that she was responsible enough to take care of a hamster.

    • I’m probably getting one for my birthday, and the way I’m starting to convince them is saying that I’ve done tons of research. (And I have.)

    • Hi Devin,

      I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but, if you want a chinchilla you gotta go big first. Once, I convinced my family I wanted to get this rescue elephant, I found an add and everything. Anyway, it worked and they totally freaked out..so later when I asked for something more ‘reasonable’ they were relieved. The trick is you want to go big, but still be able to be believable. You gotta work up to elephant. So, maybe ask for a pony or a motorcycle. Good luck!

  1. I wanted a Chinchilla for my birthday…but my mom would let me adopt a hamster not a chinchilla…she says it was too big…Pls help I really want it

  2. Hi, I’m planning to surprise my younger brother (age:12) with a Chinchilla for his birthday. He has owned other animals such as hamsters, a guinea pig, dogs, cats and is surprisingly very responsible over his pets. So I think he is able to handle a Chinchilla now but I’m still not sure about the necessary needs of one yet. Do we need some toys? A special type of bed? More than one? Special food? Just anything like that… I really don’t know much.

    • Hi Karissa, it is nice of you to want to surprise your brother but if he has not expressed an interest in chinchillas I think you should ask him about it first to make sure he is prepared to properly care for one and the costs associated with care. Yes chinchillas need toys to chew on, a hide house, many people like to get a wheel. One of the most important considerations with chinchillas is temperature, so you need to have air conditioning that you use in the warmer months. Try reading these articles, hopefully they’ll help you out with all your questions:
      Into to Pet Chinchilla Care
      Costs of Chinchillas
      Frequently Asked Chinchilla Questions
      Chinchilla Food

      • I also wanted to let you know that chinchillas live 10-20 years so it is a long term commitment. You may want to think about where your brother will be in the future and what will happen to the chinchilla then. If he goes to college or moves out, most dorms do not allow pets and it can be difficult to find apartments/roommates that allow pets. Just something else to consider.

    • They would be fine living in the same house but I do not advise letting them out together. You would just need to make sure that the cats and dog do not bother the chinchilla. Get a sturdy cage with good locks and 1/2″ spacing such as the critter nation so that paws cannot fit through, chinchilla tails will not stick out, and no one is escaping or breaking into the cage. I would get a tall cage and putting it somewhere to prevent the cats from sitting on top or else cover the top so that the chins will not have “predators” above them that is important. Same for the dog, if it is a terrier or dog that chases squirrels and rodents then better to keep it away from the chins so they don’t get stressed.

    • I have a chinchilla, a dog and 4 cats. After 5 years together the dog basically ignores my chin. The cats show interest but Obie ( my chin) likes the kitties. To begin with I never had any other animal around when exercising Obie but now they’re all out together but never without supervision. Chinchillas, just like any other animals, are individuals. This means that some will get along and some won’t. If your animals hover around the cage this will stress the chinchilla.

  3. My parents also don’t like the idea of a chinchilla. I’m not sure if a letter will cut it. My dad thinks they’re big ugly rodents. I think they’re adorable. Mybe in a letter should I include some visual aids?

    • Hi Dylan! There are some that may never really bond with you and there are others that will instantly bond with you. I’ve known friendly chins that lived at a ranch and had never or very rarely been touched by a human before and not so friendly chins from breeders and vise versa. Your chinchilla’s personality does not depend much from where he comes from. A breeder or rescue will be better able to tell you about the personalities though than the pet store. I had one chin that just wanted to run, run, run, and couldn’t have cared less about me and another that was always interested in me and was a lap chin, but most fall somewhere in the middle. With time, you can make progress with most but how far they come will depend on where they start.

  4. I have wanted a chinchilla for years and I have finally got the big room!!! My gran and mum love the idea but dad thinks its cruel to keep an animal in a cage. What do I do?

    • Hi Gina, maybe you could show your dad a large cage you could keep the chinchilla in. Perhaps he is envisioning a tiny cage and if he sees the animal has room to run and jump he’ll come around. Good luck!

    • Hi Alex, there is not really anything you can do if your parents do not approve. You could show them you’ve learned about them and show you are responsible enough to care for a chinchilla and maybe they’ll change their minds but you must respect their decision.

  5. Hi
    I was thinking about getting a pet. But, I’m at school all day and both my parents work. I would get home at 3:00, so I couldn’t get a pet that needs a lot of attention, like a dog.

    So could I get a chinchilla if a would be gone most of the day?
    After I got home I would let it out of the cage and interact with it. But would that be ok?

  6. I’m trying to show how responsible I am but my mom thinks it’s a bad idea and too much money and my dad thinks doesn’t want one how can I convince them?

  7. Hi, Sarah.

    My boyfriend and I are getting a Chinchilla, possibly two in case we are gone for longer than a couple of hours so each has company.

    I’ve been doing research for the past three months because I want to be sure what I’m getting into.

    He works while I stay at home and I sleep through the day most of the time and am awake through the nights, and he sleeps like a rock through the night. We occasionally go on a two day trip maybe twice a year, leave in the morning on say a Friday and come back on a Saturday night, for example. We have a Chihuahua, female, who I’ve had for eleven years.

    We have air conditioning that we can full blast throughout the home at any moment of will and the house will turn cold in minutes during hot, summer days. We have already arranged our home to fit the cage in the link. Is the cage in the link alright for a Chinchilla? Should it be bigger, made of different materials, smaller?

    I’ve committed eleven years to my spoiled rotten Chihuahua and fifteen years to a Pit Bull before she passed away last year, so committing to an animal isn’t a problem. Neither of us are allergic to Chinchillas, their hay, or the dust because we’ve both been around them more than three times to see how they handle.

    Money isn’t a problem and the poop isn’t either, everything costs money and poops.

    I may get a job if my medical needs lighten and both he and myself can be gone for eight hours a day, or for him ten hours a day. Would time be a problem, would leaving my dog and the Chinchilla alone be a problem? I mean, the dog sleeps most of the time, but it’s still a possibility.

    Please write back as soon as possible with answers because we would like to know if this is a hit or miss.

    Thank you.

    • Chinchillas are most active in the evening and early mornings but can adapt somewhat to your schedule. So long as you have some time to interact with them and they are able to have some playtime out of the cage, they will be okay. How they get along with your dog just depends on your dog. I had a terrier in the past who loves to chase/hunt animals so they could not be in the same room. I have a lab/beagle mix who got bit by the chinchilla once and now is scared of them. He will scour the floor around the cage and my boy Chub will come to the front to try to attack him.

      The cage you linked to would be fine with some modifications. I would remove the ramps (they don’t need them and they take up space). The plastic will most likely get chewed up so you may need to cover it with fleece or replace with wooden shelves but may depend on your chin and how hard the plastic is. For the price, you may want to consider the Ferret Nation or Critter Nation cages. They are the most popular cage recently though they will need some modification as well-mainly they need either fleece floor covers or a metal floor pan; however they have extremely large doors (essentially the entire front) which will be very handy for catching a new chin. Quality cages makes nice cages that will not need modifications.

  8. Can chinchilla poop cause flies? I didn’t do much research and had bad experiences with trying to pick up my chinchilla. Now I cannot get him out the cage to even clean it. Help?!

    • If not cleaned for a long time, I guess it could. But I would be more concerned about the effects it has on the chinchilla living in the cage. They can get infected feet or respiratory diseases from having a dirty cage.

  9. First I am a very social person in school with clubs and sports I don’t get home until like 6 and will the chin start to feel unloved in any way and also should I get a male or female and could I Brush the chins hair with a soft brush and not a comb and any information for a new chin owner like any basic things I should now

    • Chins mostly sleep during the day and are awake during the evening so your schedule sounds perfect. Male or female does not matter. Females can spray urine a lot better than males but that does not mean all females will spray. If you get a chinchilla from the pet store, lots of times they can be mis sexed. I just had someone send me pictures of their “female” who is indeed a male. Most pet owners do not need to comb a chinchilla. If you want to, you can but need a specialty chinchilla comb and there is a video on my Facebook page that shows how to properly comb.

    • I think chinchillas are good pets however they do have specific needs listed above. They are also a 10-20 year commitment so you should think about your future. If you plan to go to college or move after high school, it can be hard to take them with you. Will you want to rehome them after having them so long? Do you have a family member who would care for them at that time? Just something to think about. If you are not sure, then maybe a shorter lived animal is better for you to start with.

  10. hi,
    I’ve seen chinchillas and the vet (i have a parrot so its one of the exotic vets) and at Petco and have wanted one ever since. my mom said i would have to do some research first before committing to get one, cause i have allergies and asthma so i was wondering what you thought on the matter on if it would be a good idea to get one or not.

    • Hi Leigh,
      Unfortunately I think it will be hard for you to have a chinchilla with their hay and dust. Depending on your allergies you may be able to find hay that doesn’t bother you and you could put a mask on over your nose and mouth while they dust, but no matter how much you try to keep the dust contained it still ends up everywhere! The chinchillas will shake kind of like a wet dog and dust just flies out of their fur. The dust is really not good to inhale even if you do not have allergies or asthma. I wish I had better news for you but I’ve seen many chinchillas re-homed because of allergies and or asthma.

  11. Hey Sarah, I have two chins that are about 15. I want to be able to give them treats, but I have been getting mixed messages on what I can and can’t feed them. What are good treats for them and how often can they be given?

    • I do not feed sugary treats – no raisins, no dried fruit, no biscuits with molasses
      What I do feed are rose hips, hibiscus flowers, things like that, sometimes alfalfa cubes or even little chew sticks they think are treats

  12. Hi Sara I’m wonder which pet I should get ( I have two fish at the moment but want something more )! I either want a couple of Guinea pigs ( 2-4) or some rats ( a lot I love rattys )or a hamster or two and lastly a couple of chins ! I have done TONS of research on each pets needs and I don’t know witch one I have talked to my parents and they don’t seem to happy with the idea of another pet ( I am in 6 grade ) I usually get home at 5 I don’t know what to get I will do more research!
    Please write back soon thank you !- Viktor

    • I don’t know much about the other types of pets but please consider the long lifespan of chinchillas. I would say the shorter life span pets may be a better option because you don’t know what like has in store for you after highschool. college, move, work? It can be hard to take your chinchilla with you if you move. Chins can live 10-20+ years; that’s a long time commitment!

    • No, but since they live a long time 10-20+ years it is a good idea to think about where you will be in life in the future. If you are young, will you go to college? Will you move? How much will you work? Will you have time to care for and bond with your chinchilla? Who will take care of your chinchilla or will you have to rehome him if you move and can’t take him with you? Things to think about.

  13. Hey!
    I have wanted a chinchilla for years and finally my mum might say yes. I am eleven years old, and I am starting to think that a pet that lives for ten years might be too much. I would be twenty-one by then, with college and stuff. What do you think?

    • I think it’s very good of you to consider this. 10 years is really the lower end for their lifespan. The oldest one I believe lived to be 29! My boys are 12 and looking good. They really do live a long time with good care taking and it can be hard to find a place to live with them if you go to college or move for a job. Plus will you be able to devote time to bonding with one for that long? You could always look for an older one, either a retired breeder or rescue perhaps.

  14. Hi! I’m 10 years old and my Guinea pig passed away this year. I really miss him and wanted to replace him with something different. The only major thing that my parents had a problem with is that my Guinea pig smelled really bad even though I cleaned his cage every Saturday. So I’ve done a lot of research and really want a chinchilla. Here are some questions I have.

    1. Is there a way I can get a chinchilla that is less expensive?
    2. Do they smell?
    3. How could I convince my parents to let me buy one?

    • Hi Ella, sorry to hear about your guinea pig 🙁
      1. Look at rescues or breeders. Standard grey color are usually a good bit cheaper than the pet stores.
      2. Not much. Many people say the chinchilla itself doesn’t smell but I know females had a smell sometimes, not unpleasant but still an odor. The litter can smell if not changed often enough. Different litters can work better than others.
      3. Some people have written letters or done presentations about all the research they’ve done on chinchillas. Remember that chinchillas have a MUCH longer lifespan than guinea pigs, 10-20+ years. This is something to consider when you are young, where will you be after you finnish school? Are you going to college, moving for a job, etc. It can be hard to find places to live that will accept your chinchilla and will you have time to devote to giving your chinchilla attention?

  15. I want to buy a chinchilla and i have to wait two more months until i get my baby girl
    Any advice for a soon to be mom?

    • Yes it’s always a good idea to have a knowledgable chin vet available. I took my chins when they were new for a checkup just to make sure they looked healthy and to get a feel for the vet. I’ve taken them on occasion for checkups as they age to make sure there teeth are healthy and also for some minor concerns/illnesses. Fees can vary greatly from $40-$100+ per visit depending on routine checkup or emergency appt plus and meds or tests. The most important thing is to find a good “regular” vet and also know where you can go in an emergency as things seem to happen when the vet is closed. Some vets are much more knowledgable than others – some “small animal vets” may be familiar with rabbits or guinea pigs but not had much chin experience. Chinchillas do not require vaccines like other pets.

  16. I really want a chinchilla but I don’t know how to convince my parents. I know exactly what cage, food, bedding, food and water bowl, dust bath house, dust for the dust bath, exercise wheel, chew toys, pet carrier, and hideaway I want to get. I have enough money saved up to buy the amount it costs. I have gotten a hamster in the past, which I kept in my room, but the bedding made me cough. Will the chinchilla bedding make me cough if I kept it in my room or should I keep it out of my room. If I have to keep it out of my room no worries because I have a spot for it outside of my room as well as inside. I just don’t know a ton about chinchillas. I know they have to be kept in a climate between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, that they need to have a dust bath every 1-2 days, that you should clean the cage every week, that you give them fresh water every day, that you give them fresh food every day, that you give them plenty of hay, and that you need to let them play outside of their cage for at least 30 minutes every day so they can exercise. But what else? What kind of diseases can they get? Do they even need bedding or could they just have hay? Is there any key piece of information that I’m missing? Tell me everything you know about caring for, cleaning, housing, and anything else about chinchillas. Thank you so much, Sara.

    • Chinchilla bedding is similar to hamster bedding. There are various types so you may be able to find one that doesn’t make you cough. You could also look into fleece liners. I do not use them but many other chinchilla owners do. Common illness/injuries are malocclusion, bloat, gi stasis, ringworm, and heatstroke. Misaligned teeth can be costly in vet bills, stasis is very difficult to get over, heatstroke is deadly.

  17. Hi!,
    I’m wondering if I should get a chinchilla for my bday, I’m 13 and was wondering when I go to college do you have any suggestions on where I would relocate/keep my chinchilla?
    Thanks!

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