Owning a Chinchilla

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Before you get a Chinchilla

Before you Get A Chinchilla

Before you get a chinchilla, there are a lot of things to consider.  Here are some answers to some questions that may make you decide if chinchillas are a good choice for you!

Do you have allergies?

If yes, then chinchillas are not a good pet for you.  Some allergy sufferers do own chins and deal with it but if you aren't prepared for that then you should not get a chin.  Chinchillas are technically hypoallergenic however they items they use aren't. Chinchillas bathe in a very fine dust that gets everywhere. They also eat hay daily and most have a bedding that is shavings

Do you have Air Conditioning?

Chinchillas need to be kept in temperatures that are less than 70 degrees.  Because of that air conditioning is a must for summer months if you live in place that gets hot.  If you don't keep your chinchillas cool enough they can get heat stroke and die.  They are pretty sensitive when it comes to temperature and one sign of being too hot is that their ears will get RED.  

Are you prepared for Vet Bills?

There are times when your chinchilla might have to visit the vet.  Because they are considered an exotic only certain vets will see chinchillas.  Vet bills for even small things can get very pricey, very fast!  There is NO choice if your chinchilla needs to go to the vet.  They MUST get to a vet if they are ill or injured.  So be prepared that the vet bill may be in the hundreds of dollars.

Are you prepared to a lifetime commitment? 

Chinchillas have a long life expentancy.  They can life between 15-20 years with proper care and there have been cases of chins living past 20 years.  They life long past most other rodents so if you aren't ready to commit to 20 years then this is not the pet for you.

Are you prepared to have a pet that probably won't cuddle?

A lot of people want to own a chinchilla because they think they are cute and cuddly.  While there is no doubt they are cute, most chinchillas are not cuddly.  In fact most don't want to be handled at all.  AND it doesn't matter if you get a baby chinchillas, you cannot make a chinchilla cuddly.  They are a prey animal and because of that they prefer not to be handled.  Some chinchillas will let you handle them more than others but they just want to be able to do their own thing.  

Are you okay with a messy pet? 

They may be small but chins can make a BIG mess!  They will toss out their hay on the floor, push shavings to one side and toss poop out of their cage.  You will have a clean floor one minute and it will be a mess the next.  The vacuum will be used a lot with chinchillas.  If you are okay with that, then no worries.


Many people want to know, what is the better choice.  The simple answer is neither.  It's really personal preference.  With females they MAY spray if irritated and males need to have a hair ring check (you need to ensure there is no fur caught around their penis).  I have dealt with both spraying females and have done hair ring checks.  I have also owned MANY females that do no spray.  A hair ring check can take no time at all and you can learn to avoid a female if they are "in the position". It all sounds much worse than it is. 

If you do get a female chinchilla that tends to spray you will get to know what sets her off and will be able to anticipate her.  I had a rescue that would spray anytime you went near her cage.  I just had some fleece and would use that to block her.  
The BIG debate about owning Males and Females:
Some people will be okay housing more than one male in a cage and housing a female in another cage.  There are 2 sides to this idea.  There are people who say it's fine and nothing will happen and other people will say that the males will fight when they smell the female coming into season.  Whatever you decide you have to look at things logically.  There have been many people that have had no issues doing this, there have been those that had males fight.  My personal opinion is that males act dumb when females are in season of ANY species.  It doesn't matter if it's dogs, cats or chins. So it's not something I would risk.  Again this is one of those choices an owner has to make for themselves. Like with all aspects of chinchilla care, different people have different thoughts.  I always suggest you do what makes the best sense for you. 

Either way I do find if a male, a single male, is in a cage there are times when he tends to sing to the ladies more than others.  

Getting a New Chinchilla When you Own a Chinchilla Already

Many chinchilla owners decide to get another chinchilla at some point. Even if you don't plan on putting the chinchillas in the same cage there are a few things you should do once you have your new chin.

Do a quarantine!  A quarantine is when you keep your new chinchilla away from your current chinchilla.  This is done in a different room and have no contact between the new chin and exsisting chin(s).  You should ALWAYS wash your hands between dealing with either the new chin or current chin(s).  Some people will even change their clothes when doing a quarantine.  It is usually recommended to do a 30 day quarantine minimum.  

Now for the why, because I hear more people that don't do a quaratine because they feel their new chinchilla is healthy.  Health is just one reason to do a quaratine.  This ensures if your new chinchilla  has an illness it will not be passed onto your current chin(s).  Some illnesses take time to show up and doing a 30 day quarantine will give you time to see if your chinchilla has any issues.

Where to get a Chinchilla From?


You’ve done the research and have decided that you are ready to get your chinchilla but now you are faced with a lot of different options on where to get your new pet. Every person is different, so no one will judge you on where you found your chinchilla. In my opinion, every chinchilla deserves a home no matter where they came from. The best thing to remember is to make the choice that makes you feel most comfortable.

For the most part these are the most common ways to get a chinchilla:

Pet Stores
Online (Craigslist and Kijiji/ebay classified)
Backyard breeders


If you want to know your chinchilla’s health history, know who the parents are, know exactly when it was born and have an ongoing relationship with the person you bought the chinchilla from, a breeder is the way to go. A good breeder will ask you many questions before letting you purchase a chinchilla and you should do the same. Just because someone calls themselves a breeder you still should ask questions about their chinchillas.

Some general questions to ask a breeder:

Can I see the parents?
How often are they bred?
Do you handle your kits daily?
Do you have a guarantee?
If so, what is your guarantee?
What type of feed do you use?

Are the chinchillas pedigreed?

Does the breeder belong to a Chinchilla Group such as MCBA or ECBC?

When you go visit the breeder there are also some things you can look for to ensure you are dealing with a good breeder. Check out the chinchillas, do they look in good health? Look dusted? The chinchillas cages should be clean and there shouldn't be a smell other than shavings and hay. As well, check that the temperature is controlled. Some breeders won't let you see their chin barn or rooms to ensure nothing happens to their herd and if so, you can ask about those things.

Not only do good breeders offer tons of follow up care and will usually always be available for questions, they are much cheaper than pet stores. Most breeders will also take back a chinchilla should something happen and you can no longer keep it. You should ask about that before buying a chinchilla and ask the policy on such things.

Also, look online for any clues about a breeder. Google their name, go on forums and see what others are saying about them. You can always ask others too if they have bought chinchillas from that breeder.

Pet Stores:

We’ve all stopped to look in at the chinchillas in pet stores. There we can gasp at all the wrong things in their tanks and cages. Cringe when we see people bothering them and have that instinct to get them out of there. There are some things to consider before purchasing a chin from a pet store.

You won’t know where it came from and any family history that may include health concerns is one of the biggest issues. As well, you will pay a lot more at a pet store for a chinchilla rather than going to a breeder for a pet. Your chinchilla also may be stressed more because of not being handled correctly and being bothered by countless amounts of people.

There is also the thought that if you don’t buy that chinchilla, they won’t get in more and eventually the will stop selling chinchillas in pet stores. It is unfortunate, but someone will buy that chinchilla because baby chinchillas are cute and pet stores are where people do the most impulse buys. A lot of pet stores don’t educate the buyers and will not offer any follow up help, they are a business after all and there to make money. Until there are laws that prevent animals sold at pet stores, they will have baby chinchillas for sale.

If you do decide you do want to get a chinchilla in a pet store double check if it’s a male or female. Most times, they are sexed wrong and if you are counting on a male or female you had better check for yourself.


I mentioned impulse buying from pet stores, and a lot of times that ends with the person no longer wanting their chinchilla because they really didn’t know what they were getting into. Some are taken to local shelters, others to chinchilla rescues. You can use petfinder.com to access chinchillas at shelters or rescues. Most shelters do have their own sites and you can check there for chinchillas.

Sometimes these chinchillas aren’t in the best shape physically or mentally. Most shelters really don’t have a lot of chinchilla knowledge on hand and they may not get exactly what they need. Chinchilla rescues, a good rescue, will get the chinchilla back into good health before adopting it out. Both usually have an adoption fee that helps support their organization. Some rescues will have very specific guidelines for adopting out chinchillas. This helps ensure that the chinchilla will be going to their final home. Some people see it as being picky, but they really do have the chinchilla’s best interest at heart. Some of these chinchillas have been through a lot and it’s only right too want to ensure they get the best.

With chinchillas from rescues and shelters you may not know their ages and you most likely won’t know their history. Some may have been neglected, abused, and not taken care of. Others may be in great shape and the previous owners may have just had to rehome.

You may need to have a lot of patience with some of these chins as some will not trust people at all. There are lots of chinchillas in shelters and rescues and any of them would love to have a forever home.

Online Ads (Craigslist, Kijiji/ Ebay Classified, etc)

With the internet so widely used for just about everything there are many sites that people sell many items including chinchillas. There are many different situations on these sites. People that are rehoming, backyard breeders, breeders, rescues and accidental babies from missexed chinchillas.

For the most part I’ve found online ads are people that need to sell their chinchilla for a variety of reasons. Some are desperate and just need to find a home quick, others want to recoup the money they spent on their chinchilla. Like shelters, some of these chinchillas aren’t in the best shape. Some may come with a variety of health issues, mental issues and trust issues. I’ve seen a lot of pathetic looking chinchillas on online ad sites. You may not find out where the chinchillas came from or how old it really is. It’s just up to you if getting that chinchilla out of a situation is more important than knowing all the details.
I find a lot of times these chinchillas can come with a variety of unsafe toys and cages. I’ve thrown out more extras that came with the chinchillas than stuff I’ve kept.
Sometimes people look to recoup all the money they have spent on their chinchillas. Since pet stores sell for a lot sometimes these people have very high expectations. You can always offer what you think is fair.

Backyard Breeders:

For a lot of backyard breeders they started breeding with little education about chinchillas and a way to make money. Most don’t care about breeding to better the species and will throw any male with any female just to get babies.
These “breeders” are only interested in the sale. They aren't there for you when anything wrong happens. I’ve got little respect for breeders like this that are just in it to make a buck.


(note: not all byb's will have all these issues.  If you see any of these issues consider it to be a red flag)

They will say they are registered breeder but do not belong to any chinchilla club (MCBA OR ECBC).  

They will not have any pure standards in their breeding herd.

They will not call the chinchillas by their proper mutation and use words like Chocolate, Charcoal, Cinnamon

They will sell a chinchilla to anyone.

They will sell a pregnant chinchilla to anyone.

They will use unsafe feed and treats.

They will sell off their chinchillas time and time again.

Will breed chinchillas from pet stores, unknown lines.

Will try to say that they have never had any health issues ever. 

Will use chinchilla cages that aren't safe.

Their chinchillas may not look healthy.

THESE are just a FEW examples.


One of the key things that makes chinchillas so attractive are all the different colours they come in.  These are considered to be mutaions. There are many mutations when it comes to chinchillas.  It is very sad though that some people will turn down a great standard because they want a certain mutation.  Some people that are new to chins want to get every mutation which is never a good idea.  I own many chinchillas but will never rehome any of them.  My pets are for life and I hope that anyone getting any chinchilla feels the same way.  Sometimes though, people want a certain mutation and then have to find a breeder that has that type.  This is a list of many chinchilla mutations.  There are some not yet on this list as they are newer mutations.

NOTE: most of the pics used to show mutations are my own chinchillas or rescues from the Canadian Chinchilla Rescue.  If they are from other sources they will be noted. As well I don't have all the pics up yet.  ALL will have pics soon.


The standard is the natural colour of the chinchilla. All other colours are mutations from this original. The quality of a good standard surpasses any mutation out there. An essential base to any worthwhile breeding program, the beauty of these animals cannot be mistaken. A standard should have a pure white crisp belly, flawless confirmation, strong veiling and a beautiful blue hue. They are usually classed as light, medium, dark and extra dark at the chinchilla shows.

Black Velvets

Also known as TOV or 'blacks', the black velvet is probably the strongest mutation out there. Many of

these animals are starting to rival the standards.

A strong black velvet should have full veiling, extending from the face mask to the base of the tail and down the sides towards the belly. A crisp white belly and a good strong blue hue. The black velvets also seem to excel in size and confirmation


The ebony chinchilla is one of the most popular mutations. Ranging from a light grey to a solid black, they are truly a stunning mutation. The ebony is an accumulated gene, with each generation showing more and more black. Thought to originally be hetero and homo, it is now being looked at from a different perspective. The ebony chinchilla should have an even coloured coat all the way around, including the belly. Strong veiling and a blue hue are essential. Many ebonies are plagued by the 'dreaded red tint'. It is best to attend a show and look at ebonies under the lights. At home it can be difficult to discern an ebonies true colour, especially for a novice. Ebonies are also notorious for being slow growing. While many chinchillas mature at 8-14 months, an ebony can take 2 full years to reach their potential.


Beige chinchillas can exist in either a homozygous or heterozygous state. A homo beige tends to be lighter in colour, have bright red eyes, and usually no freckles on the ears. A hetero beige has dark red eyes, usually freckled ears and tends to be darker in colour. However hetero beiges can be separated into light, medium and dark at shows. Both should have bright white bellies and strong veiling. Again the blue hue should be present. A lot of beiges are plagued by red/rust tints and have creamy bellies. Finding a good beige takes work, but can be done! If a beige has the TOV gene it is generally known as a brown velvet. The veiling is identical to the black velvet, however in the beige colouring.

Hetero Beige

A Hertero Beige will have dark red eyes and will most always have freckled ears.  Freckles can increase over the span of the chinchillas life.  They can be light, medium or dark and should have a white belly.  

Homo Beige

A Home Beige is lighter in colour and their fur is the same on the belly. They will have BRIGHT red eyes and usually will not have any freckles on their ears.

Brown Velvet

A Brown Velvet is a beige with the TOV gene and will have a white belly and dark fur, like a black velvet.  They will also have the trademark red eyes that the beige gene is known for. 

Sullivan Beige

A recessive beige that is being kept alive by a few dedicated breeders. They are very similar in appearance to the hetero beige. They have bright red eyes. They are also said to have shorter, not too dense fur, poor veiling but no oxidation. The mutation originally occurred on Lloyd Sullivan's ranch in 1960.


Tans and pastels are one in the same. Pastel is simply used to describe a light tan (similar in colour to a homo beige) The difference between beiges and tans is that tans have the ebony gene. This means that they do not have the white belly that the beige would. Tans are also often influenced by the red tint that affects the beiges and the ebonies. Tans will range from the very light pastels to the very dark chocolates. Tans also exist in the homozygous state for the beige gene. Tans can also be found with the TOV gene.


The charcoal is a true recessive, similar to that of violet and sapphire. Existing in either the hetero or homozygous state, the charcoal differs from ebony. A chinchilla carrying charcoal will have a white belly, where most any chinchilla affected by ebony will have a 'dirty' belly. The ebony gene also only needs to be present in one parent to appear in the offspring. For charcoal to show, both parents need to be carriers in order to produce a charcoal offspring. The charcoal has a more matte appearance to the coat, where as an ebony is generally quite glossy. The charcoal recessive is mostly found in Europe, more specifically the UK. Very few charcoals exist here in North America.


There is a lot of debate about this mutation.  Some believe there are no true chocolates and are a dark tan.  While others are admant that chocolate is a mutation. Either way it is a chinchilla with ebony and tan in its lines.  A very pretty chinchilla that is not found very often.


This is a very rare recessive gene. There are very few in the world today and not many breeders working with them. A very beautiful chinchilla with a true 'golden' appearance. At first glance they may appear similar to a homo beige or a PW, but they are quite different in true appearance. The Goldbar has the golden colour spread thickly over the tips of the back, tapering off down the sides. The under-fur and belly are white. The eyes are a dark red. The Goldbar is not related to the Wellman or Sullivan beige, nor to the Wilson white. The first Goldbar was born 5/11/95 from two standards purchased from Ellis Adcock at June Baar's herd in California.


Recessive White

Origin of the Lowe Recessive White:
The first Lowe recessive white was born in 2002 at Robert Lowe's ranch in Enderby, BC., Canada. She was produced out of two pure standards. One of them was bred by Robert Lowe and the other was bred by Jack Humphreys of Blue Vale Chinchillas, in Armstrong, BC. It is a recessive mutation. Kits are born a champagne color that usually lightens a bit and then darkens again with maturity. They have dark pink eyes. It is not to be mistaken with the goldbar. Alderbrook Chinchillas bought out Robert Lowe's herd of recessive whites in 2008 and are now working hard on producing more of this quality mutation. The Lowe recessive whites that have been shown to date at chinchilla shows have all placed 1st or higher on the show table



The sapphire is a recessive that is still in the early stages of development. Many sapphires are small, ratty and have poor colouring. A gene that I would only recommend the experienced try to work with, it needs more good dedicated breeders to bring it into quality. The Sapphire is similar to the violet in that it has no black tipping on the fur. But where the violet leans towards the 'purple' end of the blue spectrum, the sapphire remains more to the true colour of the standard, with the black removed


The violet chinchilla is a beautiful soft colour with a lovely blue hue. Slowly being improved with quality breeding, size, fur strength and confirmation are now being returned to this mutation.

If you are looking for a violet, don't buy the first one you see. Research the breeder and know the genetics behind the animal. The violet is a recessive gene that can only be produced by breeding to carrying parents together. Violets can be hard to discern from standards in pictures. Very similar when separated, but when shown together, a very obvious difference is noted.

Violets have no black tipping on the fur which allows them to have that very soft 'velvet' look. Standards can almost appear 'harsh' in colour when set next to a quality violet. The violet should also have the bright white belly. Violet can be crossed with ebony to produce a violet wrap, also known as solid violet. As in ebony, the white tummy is replaced with the body colour.

Blue Diamond

The Blue Diamond is a relatively new mutation to North America.  It is a cross of a violet and a sapphire.  It has a very blue look to it.  As this mutation is worked with there should be improvements in size and fur quality.  A very unique and pretty chinchilla. 


There are many, many versions of the white chinchilla so I will break it down into sub-categories. Whites are the most notorious for changing colour as they grow. The mosaics in particular tend to be born dark then lighten or vice versa.

Pink White

This is a white chinchilla that carries the white and beige gene. The PW can be hetero or homozygous for the beige gene. The PW also has red eyes and can have freckles on their pink ears. The fur usually has beige tipping or patches. If you hear PW mosaic, you know they are referring to patches of beige throughout the fur.


The mosaic, when used on it's own, signifies a white crossed with a standard gene. The chinchilla will have dark ears and eyes and will have grey tipping or patches throughout the fur. A 'reverse' mosaic is a mosaic with more colour showing then white. Mosaics can be blotchy, patterned, have solid patches, or have a 'silver' appearance to their fur.

Ebony White

An ebony mosaic is similar to a mosaic, but instead of showing the standard gene, shows the ebony gene. Sometimes difficult to discern from the mosaic, usually the best way to tell is by the pedigree.

Tan White

This is a chinchilla showing both white and tan markings. They are comprised of the ebony, beige and white gene.

Violet and Sapphire White

As you can probably guess, this is a cross between a recessive (violet or sapphire) and a white. Genetically this is probably one of the weakest mutations out there. 

Wilson White

The Wilson White is the dominant white chinchilla gene. All white chinchillas are mutations of the Wilson White. A Wilson White, or more correctly called ‘predominantly white’ is a chinchilla with a solid white body. There should be no colour tipping on the fur. Some tipping on the head and tail base is forgivable. These chinchillas also have dark eyes and ears.

Other Mutations Not Common

There are a few other mutations that are not found easly.  Angora and curly haired chinchilla are two that come to mind.  These are usually sold overseas and are only available at one or two places.