Chinchilla History: Interesting Facts about Chinchillas

Chinchillas might look similar to guinea pigs or rats. But, they are one of a kind. You just need to take a closer look at them to realize how interesting a creature they truly are. 

Buying chinchillas as pets is one of the best decisions you could make as they make one of the best companions you could have. But, before getting one of the cute furry little creatures for yourself, you should know everything about their history to care for them better.

Where Are Chinchillas From?

Where Are Chinchillas From

Chinchillas are rodents like rats. They are native to the mighty Andes Mountains of Southern America. They used to live in the range including Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. But now, they are predominantly found in Chile. 

Their natural habitats are the rocky and high-elevated mountains. Their soft and dense body fur is a result of them living in such cold mountains only. It protects them from the cold harsh weather but also puts them at a disadvantage if they are in warmer regions.

There are two types of chinchillas. One of them is Chinchilla chinchilla and Chinchilla lanigera. C. chinchilla has a short tail, thick neck and shoulders, and short ears and C. lanigera has a long tail and large ears with a thin and less-rounded body.

These wild rodents came to be domesticated for the first time by an American man called Mathias Chapman who acquired a pet chinchilla while working in Chile. He got enamored by his new companion and decided to bring chinchillas back to the US to breed as pets. 

Chapman brought back 11 chinchillas with him to the US. It is believed that all the pet chinchillas present in the States are the descendants of those 11 chinchillas brought back by Chapman. Usually, the long-tailed chinchillas are kept as pets.

Are chinchillas endangered?

Yes, chinchillas are endangered mammals. Both species of chinchillas, i.e. chinchilla chinchilla and chinchilla lanigera have been listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. There has been a severe population loss of approximately 90% globally population loss over the last 15 years. 

The short-tailed chinchillas are believed to be extinct in Peru and Bolivia. The long-tailed chinchillas are most often kept as pets and are considered to be at the greatest risk of extinction out of the two. 

What is it like to have a chinchilla as a pet?

chinchilla as a pet

Chinchillas are crepuscular and nocturnal, so they are the most active at night, dawn, and dusk. They generally don’t like to be disturbed during the day. Moreover, they have good hearing ability and are sensitive to loud sounds.

They get agitated easily and their high-strung disposition makes them more suitable for patient people or mature young adults than enthusiastic young kids. They bond closely with their owners and can be tamed easily, however, you need to know that there are times when they dislike being held or cuddled.

Chinchillas have thick fur which helps them adjust easily to lower temperatures but you need to be careful with them in warm weather. They cannot survive in temperatures higher than 80F (27°C). High temperature and humidity can cause heat strokes. 

Chinchillas are omnivores and feed on both grass and insects. But, primarily they are herbivores and generally feed on grass, roots, and bark of trees in the wild. You can feed them with high-quality hay to fulfill their high-fiber dietary needs.

Fun Facts about Chinchillas

Fun Facts about Chinchillas
  • Chinchillas can jump as high as 6 feet in the air despite their small size.
  • Their teeth grow throughout their lifespan. They need to trim their teeth regularly by chewing on hardwood and hay.
  • They are primarily herbivores. Yes, they do feed on insects as well but usually only in the absence of grass or hay.
  • They have the densest fur among all land mammals with about 50-75 hairs growing out of a single hair follicle.
  • They take a dust bath instead of a water bath to remove any oil or moisture from their fur and keep their thick fur soft.
  • ‘Fur slip’ or shedding large patches of fur is their natural defense against predators. It also happens in stressful situations or if under a tight grip.
  • They are sensitive to sound and have excellent hearing. 
  • Nearly every pet chinchilla in the US came from those 11 chinchillas brought to the US by the American mining engineer named Mathias F. Chapman in 1923.
  • They can produce a variety of sounds. They communicate with each other by barking, chirping, grunting, and even squealing. They can produce about ten different sounds.

Final Words 

Chinchillas make for wonderful pets if you know their unique nature and characteristics. They are by all means more than just soft cuddly furry creatures. You need to know everything about them before getting one for you or for your loved ones.

Neither entirely extroverted nor entirely introverted, they are very attached to their owners yet don’t generally like to cuddle as cats and dogs do. Generally sleepy during the day and hyperactive at night, they give headaches to their owners due to their biological clock. Chinchillas truly are one of the most fascinating pets out there.