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Domestic Chinchilla: Chinchilla feeding and cage layout

 Chinchilla Article Contents: The chinchilla: a small animal from South America Species of chinchilla Natural habitat of the chinchilla Thin...

 Chinchilla Article Contents:

  1. The chinchilla: a small animal from South America
  2. Species of chinchilla
  3. Natural habitat of the chinchilla
  4. Things to know before adopting a domestic chinchilla
  5. Feeding the domestic chinchilla
  6. The cage of the domestic chinchilla
  7. Layout of the cage

The chinchilla: a small animal from South America

Chinchilla feeding and cage layout

With their silky coat, large ears and bushy tail, South American chinchillas have everything to make us fall for them. However, it is important to know that the domestic chinchilla is not a rodent like any other! Before you decide to adopt a chinchilla, find out more about its lifestyle, habits and diet. With this information, it will be easier for you to determine if the pet chinchilla is the right pet for you. But before you do that, find out more about the origins and lifestyle of this mysterious rodent.

Species of chinchilla

There are two species of chinchilla: long-tailed and short-tailed chinchillas. All attempts to domesticate the short-tailed chinchilla have failed. Therefore, long-tailed chinchillas are considered to be the ancestors of today's pets. Originally, long before chinchilla breeding began in Europe, these rodents lived exclusively in the arid Andean region of South America. While short-tailed chinchillas live in the high Andes at an altitude of 3500 to 4500 metres, short-tailed chinchillas live between 1000 and 2500 metres above sea level.

Natural habitat of the chinchilla

In the Andes region, the climate is dry and desert, with very little rainfall. Chinchillas are exposed to wide temperature variations and low humidity. These fearful animals sleep during the day, between the rocks, in caves or in large bushes. They feed at dusk and at night.

Due to the environment in which the chinchillas live, their diet is low in nutrients and rich in dry plants. In the wild, chinchillas feed on roots, fruit from various cacti, seeds, flowers and herbs. The chinchillas have no choice but to drink the water that settles on the plants after the morning dew. As a budding climber and little ball of energy, the chinchilla takes care of its coat by taking a daily sand bath.

Things to know before adopting a domestic chinchilla

before adopting a domestic chinchilla
Before adopting a domestic chinchilla, you must first make sure that your house or flat is suitable: can you install a chinchilla cage big enough to allow your future companion to flourish? Moreover, in the wild and in the wilderness, chinchillas live in groups and form large families. Therefore, they should never be forced to live alone. You must be able to offer your domestic chinchilla a calm environment, knowing that it sleeps all day long. By their nature, chinchillas are rather fearful nocturnal animals. They are therefore not pets for children. Wild chinchillas have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, and domestic chinchillas generally live to 18 years, but it is not uncommon for them to reach the age of 22.

Feeding the domestic chinchilla


Hay should be the staple food in the diet of the domestic chinchilla. Your rodent should always have some available and in sufficient quantities. On the one hand, hay plays an important role in the wear and tear of the teeth of the house chinchilla. On the other hand, hay is naturally rich in fibre and promotes good digestion. Since hay is the staple food of the chinchilla, choose hay of good quality. Pay attention to the freshness of the hay: it should not have been stored for too long. At your local zooplus pet store, you'll find different types of high-quality hay.

Flowers, plants and grass

For a balanced diet for your pet chinchilla, also give it grass, flowers and plants, fresh or dried. If your pet chinchilla has never eaten fresh plants or herbs before, gently accustom it to this new diet. The chinchilla's digestive system is very sensitive! At first, give your chinchilla a small amount of fresh plants and increase the portions over the course of the day. During this acclimatisation period, pay particular attention to the health of your chinchilla.

Fruits and vegetables

Give your chinchilla fruit and vegetables sparingly and make sure that they are not too high in sugar and not too acidic. In its region of origin, the Andes, the chinchilla eats mainly herbs. Fruit trees are very rare here! As a treat, you can still give it small pieces of fruit or vegetables from time to time, as long as they do not cause it to have diarrhoea.

Granules for chinchilla

Choose the highest quality chinchilla food, since in low quality products, components such as sugar, cereals or molasses are sometimes found. Be careful not to give your rodent too much granulate, as it could quickly gain weight.


Drinking water is as vital to the chinchilla as any other rodent. Make sure that your pet chinchillla always has water available and change it daily.

The cage of the domestic chinchilla

domestic chinchilla
The cage of your pet chinchilla should not be exposed to direct sunlight or draughts. Place the cage in a room with a temperature between 15 and 20°C, preferably not too humid. Since the chinchilla is a nocturnal animal, choose a quiet room where it can be kept undisturbed during the day. Furthermore, chinchillas should at least live in pairs. The minimum dimensions of a cage for chinchillas are 100cm x 50cm x 150cm (WxDxH). Do you have more than two chinchillas? Choose the size of their cage accordingly so that they have enough room. The dimensions shown here are for guidance only. Remember that the larger the cage of your rodents, the better for their well-being! Chinchillas like to climb and gain height, so a multi-level cage is highly recommended!

Layout of the cage

Several hiding places

Rodents need to have several hiding places and resting places at their disposal, such as wooden houses, tunnels, arranged in height.
  • Litter
  • Branches
  • Add a few branches to your companions' cage, which they can chew and climb.

A sand bath

Chinchillas often take sand baths to remove dirt and stress from their coats. Don't forget to clean the bathtub regularly and change the bath sand regularly.

Bowl and drinking trough

Put your chinchilla's food in their bowl(s) and fill their water trough with fresh water. Clean them regularly. An idea: put a hay feeder on each floor of their cage!

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