All of the myths listed are False.
- Chinchillas should have limited amounts of pellets each day or they will overeat and get fat.
Due to the design of the chinchilla’s digestive tract, they need to eat constantly. If they do not have access to feed and hay at all times, they can suffer from severe digestive problems. Under normal circumstances, a chinchilla will not overeat. Overweight chinchillas are usually the result of too many treats.
- Chinchillas should not be allowed to eat after midnight.
As mentioned previously, chinchillas need to have access to pellets and hay at all times. This includes at night. A chinchilla that is fed after midnight will not get sick or overeat. In general, chinchillas do most of their eating at night. Depriving them of food after midnight can be result in a malnourished chinchilla or one that will stuff itself because it knows the food will disappear.
- Chinchillas should be fed nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
Chinchillas evolved in a cold, dry desert. There were no fruits, nuts, vegetables, and very few seeds. Their diet consisted of sparse, dry grass. For this reason, chinchilla’s digestive systems are not equipped to digest sugars, starches and fat. Too much sugar, which is in both fruits and vegetables, can cause severe digestive problems. Fat can also cause digestive issues along with liver problems.
- Dried fruits and vegetables are acceptable to feed.
For the reasons mentioned above, dried fruits and vegetables should not be fed. Drying only removes the water; it does not remove the fat, sugar or starch. It actually concentrates them, and gives the impression that the chinchilla is eating less when it is actually being fed a lot more. Trail mix is not a good treat for a chinchilla. It consists of many or the items previously mentioned along with chocolate which is a big “no-no.”
- Guinea pig food, bird food, and rabbit food can be fed to chinchillas.
Guinea pigs, birds, rabbits and chinchillas each have different nutritional needs. Guinea pigs need fruits and vegetables in their diet as do rabbits. Most rabbit food is not balanced for a chinchilla. There are a few rabbit foods that are good for chinchillas. In order to know if the particular rabbit feed can be fed to chinchillas; a chinchilla breeder should be consulted. A reputable breeder will know the brands that can be used. Bird food is primarily seeds. Seeds are high in fat and can cause illness in a chinchilla.
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- If the temperature and humidity are added together and do not exceed 150, the temperature is safe for chinchillas.
This is absolutely wrong. If this myth were true, a chinchilla could withstand temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit as long as the humidity is below 50%. Chinchillas should never be exposed to temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Following the previous rule will cause the death of the chinchilla.
- Fans can cool down a hot chinchilla.
In order for a fan to cool, the animal needs to sweat. Chinchillas do not sweat. This means that a fan will not cool the chinchilla. However, they are not totally useless. When used in conjunction with air conditioning, a fan can be used to help circulate cool air throughout the room, preventing any pockets of hot, stagnant air.
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- Chinchillas need to be purchased as pairs.
As long as the chinchilla gets regular attention from its owner, they do not need to be kept as pairs. This little gimmick is used by some breeders to sell more chinchillas.
- Males can not be housed with other males. Females can not be housed with other females. They will kill each other.
Most chinchillas can live with a same gender cage mate or two as long as they have been properly introduced. It does not matter if the pairs are males or females. Neither sex is more likely to fight than the other. Any fight between two chinchillas, regardless of the genders involved can end in the death of one or more chinchillas if they have not been properly introduced or if something has occurred to cause the chinchillas to reestablish which one is the dominant chinchilla.
- Opposite gender pairs do not fight.
As any breeder can attest to, male and female pairs can and will fight, often to the death. The fights often happen when the female is in heat and the male makes continual advances, making her angry. The female does the only thing she knows to do and will attack the male. Females also will attack the male when they have kits. Some females do not want a male around their babies.
- Males and females can share play times.
Play times for chinchillas should always be same gender. It only takes a second for a male chinchilla to breed the female. They are so quick about it that there is not possible for a person separate them before the deed is done.
- Chinchillas that are from the same family can be housed together – they know they are related and will not breed with each other.
Chinchillas are animals and do not think like humans. All the chinchillas understand is that a chinchilla of the opposite sex is in the cage with them. The only thing male chinchillas care about is mating with the female. They will breed (father to daughter, son to mother and sister to brother) if housed together. Also, the males in the cage will fight over the females.
- Male/female siblings can be kept together until they are adults.
Unless an unusual circumstance exists, male and female siblings should be separated from each other at no later than eight weeks old. Although most chinchillas are sexually mature at eight to twelve months old, it is still possible for an eight week old male kit to impregnate his sister or mother and the same is true in the other direction, eight week old females can be impregnated by their father or brother. This is actually more common than most people would think. Many a six month old female (still a baby herself) has given birth to a litter of kits.
- Chinchillas can be paired for breeding as kits.
Kits should not be paired for breeding until they are a minimum of eight months old. This time allows the chinchillas to grow and develop their adult coats. It also allows for any flaws to rear their ugly heads. A kit may look absolutely gorgeous at 4 months and end up with multiple fur or confirmation faults by the time they are a year old. Additionally, some hereditary problems, such as fur chewing and malocclusion, are not evident until the animal is an adult.
- Bonded pairs should not be separated. They love each other and will die of loneliness.
Bonded pairs will not die if you separate them. Most will be fine and never show any changes in their behavior. A few will pout for a couple of days and not eat. They may call out in search of any chinchilla of the opposite sex for a few days, but this is normal. The chinchillas are actually just looking for another chinchilla, any chinchilla.
- Chinchillas need a nest box to breed.
Chinchillas do not need a nest box to breed. They will breed where and when they feel like it including right in front of visitors. A house to hide in should be supplied to all chinchillas so they can have a place to go if they need it. Babies should have something to hide in to prevent their mother from landing on them when she jumps down from one of the upper levels.
- Neutering will remove the desire to breed.
While neutering does remove the ability to produce sperm, it may not remove the urge to breed. Some neutered males will attempt to breed any female they can get access to.
- Chinchillas have large and frequent litters.
Occasionally, a female will give birth to triplets or quadruplets (and occasionally quintuplets), but normally, chinchillas have one to two kits per litter. Larger litters often have problems due to low birth weights and the mother not having enough milk for all of her babies. A chinchilla female usually has one or two litters per year.
- A chinchilla breeder can make a lot of money selling the kits.
Unless the breeder is breeding for the fur trade, they usually do not break even financially. Most breeders, especially the smaller breeders, are spending more on the care, showing, supplies and equipment needed to breed the animals than they are taking in from the sale of the babies. Often a reputable breeder will also take in rescued animals and adopt them out for far less than they are spending on them.
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Play Time and Cages
- Chinchillas need to have play time every day and/or a wheel.
While play time can be fun and most chinchillas love to run on wheels and bounce off walls, they are a luxury, not a necessity. Chinchillas can be quite happy without either item. If a particular chinchilla is used to having either play time or a wheel, it may pout or even have a tantrum when they don not get it but they will get over it. Also, it will not do them harm if a chinchilla that usually gets play time or the wheel misses a day, a week or a month without either one.
- The longer the play time, the better.
Chinchillas, just like human children, often will play until they are exhausted. They can and will play hard or run themselves to into low blood sugar and the resulting seizures. This is especially true for kits. Shorter play times of less than an hour are recommended, with kits getting very little (no more than five to fifteen minutes) or no play time until they are six months old at which time it should be introduced slowly.
- Chinchillas can be allowed to “free roam”.
Free roaming is when the chinchilla spends little or no time in the cage, wandering about the home with little or no supervision. This is a very bad idea. A chinchilla is safest when it is its cage. Free roaming allows the chinchilla endless opportunities to get into trouble and possibly die. Items such as wires, reclining furniture, holes in the walls and things that may be harmful if chewed and swallowed all pose potential dangers for the chinchilla. Free roaming also provides chance for the chinchilla to get stepped on, kicked, crushed between heavy or falling items or killed by another pet belonging to the owner.
- Chinchillas need a large cage.
Chinchillas can be happy in smaller cages; there are even some do not like a large cage. A tall cage can make them feel exposed and fearful. While a smaller cage makes the chinchilla feel safe and protected. Large cages are nice but they provide ample opportunities for the chinchilla to injure itself in a fall. If a large cage is used, the shelves and other items need to be spaced to prevent a fall from the top of the cage to the bottom.
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Other Chinchilla Myths
- Chinchillas can not get wet. They will die or their fur will rot off.
This little myth is one of the worst ones out there and has caused many people to panic when their chinchilla accidentally got wet. The truth of the matter is that chinchillas can get wet. It just takes a long time to for them to dry. This is because the fur on chinchillas is very dense. If a chinchilla is allowed to remain damp for too long a time, fungus could develop. To avoid fungus, the chinchilla needs to be dried thoroughly with a towel and then blow dried on the lowest settings to finish. The fur should be completely dry when the chinchilla is put back in its cage.
- Chinchillas can not get fleas; their fur is too dense.
Like any other mammal, chinchillas can get fleas if there is another animal in the home has them. Fleas would be found on the legs, feet and face where the fur is less dense.
- Chinchillas are cuddly/a good pet for children.
Although there is the rare exception, most chinchillas are not cuddly and would prefer if you put them down. They will not sit in a lap for hours. Neither are they a good pet for small children. Chinchillas have very tiny bones, most are no bigger than a tooth pick. It is quite easy for a small child to accidentally hold a chinchilla too tightly and break some of the chinchilla’s ribs.
- If someone grabs the chinchilla by the tail, the tail will be pulled off.
A chinchilla’s tale will not be pulled off if someone grabs it by the tail. Many breeders actually use the tail to restrain a chinchilla while being picked up or groomed. It does not hurt the chinchilla, in fact, most chinchillas settle down when held by the tail. As long as it is done properly by grabbing the base of the tail, against the body, the chinchilla will be fine. If a person grabs farther down or too roughly, the tail can be broken or the skin on the tail can be pulled off.
- Chinchillas are good pets for people with allergies.
Although it is true that an allergy to chinchillas is quite rare, they can still be a problem for a person with allergies. Since chinchillas bathe in a fine dust, use wood shavings for bedding, and eat hay, many people do react to their presence. The airborne dust created by these items can cause severe reactions in people who are allergic to one or more of them.
- Chinchillas need to be housed in a quiet room away from any foot traffic.
Any chinchilla can adapt to the sounds and activity of a normal home. It is actually better for them to be kept where the people spend time. That way, the chinchillas become socialized rather than fearful of the people they live with. Televisions and stereos at a normal listening level do not bother most chinchillas. One word of caution: loud, wild parties with lots of people can stress a chinchilla. If a party is to occur, the chinchilla should be moved to a room which is off limits to the party guests prior to the party.
- Chinchillas should not be picked up until they willingly climb in to someone’s hand.
Chinchillas need to be accustomed to being picked up and held. They may never like it, but it is necessary for them to learn to tolerate it. If the chinchilla is not used to being handled, many problems can arise should the chinchilla need to be taken to the vet or in another emergency situation where the owner can not sit around and wait for the chinchilla to come to him. It will not traumatize a chinchilla if someone just reaches in the cage and picks them up, nor will it destroy the trust between the chinchilla and its owner.
- Chinchillas are nocturnal.
This is probably the most repeated myth concerning chinchillas. In truth, chinchillas are crepuscular. This means that they are most active in the hours surrounding dawn and dusk, with periods of activity and sleep off and on throughout both day and night.
- All chinchillas bite.
Chinchillas are by nature a very curious and sociable animal. In most cases, a chinchilla that is biting has one of two things going on. It is either afraid of people because it was neglected and not socialized or it has become mean in response to cruel treatment. When properly socialized and handled, chinchillas will not bite. They do, however, nibble on fingers to groom their owner. Nibbling does not hurt.
- All female chinchillas spray.
While all female chinchillas have the ability to spray urine, the vast majority of them never do so. Spraying is a defensive action and is used when the chinchilla feels frightened or threatened in some way. A female that is new to the home, may spray its new owners out of fear. This behavior should be ignored. Ignoring her when she sprays will teach her that spraying does no good and the she will stop once she realizes her target is not responding.
- Fur ranchers mistreat or neglect their chinchillas.
This myth is far from the truth and makes no sense. If a rancher did not take proper care of his herd, the chinchillas would be sickly which makes the coat dirty, thin and useless. Since the rancher needs the coat to be at its best in order to sell the fur, he needs to give his animals the best of care. Just like any other type of breeding operation, bad breeders do exist, but they are the exception, not the rule.
- Ranch chinchillas are mean because they never get held.
Although it is true that large ranches can make it difficult to give attention to all of the chinchillas, most chinchillas from a ranch are not mean. Many have wonderful dispositions. Many ranchers will not breed chinchillas that are mean. If they did, they would be covered in bite marks every day. Additionally, the ranchers often talk to the chinchillas while they tend to them each day and they take the chinchillas out regularly to check on their health.
- The pet store knows how to take care of chinchillas.
The fact of the matter is that pet stores and their employees do not know what is best. They often follow the guidelines from the corporate office. These guidelines are based on severely outdated information that is found in most books and on most websites concerning chinchillas.
- Anything with a picture of a chinchilla on it is safe and good for chinchillas.
A look around at the pet store will find many foods, treats, cages, and toys for sale. In reality, most of the chinchilla food and treats are not properly balanced and can cause nutritional deficiencies when used long term. Others contain ingredients such as corn, dried fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and dairy products. All of these items can make a chinchilla sick. It may not be evident immediately, but long term, they can drastically shorten the life of the chinchilla due to illnesses such as liver disease. Some toys labeled for chinchillas are actually hazardous. They have parts made of inappropriate materials that can either be swallowed and cause a blockage or are made in such a way as to allow a chinchilla to get a limb stuck, resulting in a broken bone. This is also true of most cages sold in pet stores.
- White, beige and other mutation colors are “rare.”
Chinchillas come in several different colors. The colr seen in pet stores the most often is called standard gray or just standard. These are the chinchillas that have white bellies with gray sides shading to black on the back. Pet stores and some disreputable breeders often refer to any other color as “fancy” or “rare” in order to charge more money for them. Additionally, breeders sell more standard chinchillas to the distributors than the other colors because standards are the color the breeder has the most. This does make it appear that the other colors are rare, even though they are not. To find other colors, locate a reputable breeder. They will usually have a selection of colors and ages for far less than the pet stores. The easy way to find a good breeder is to visit the websites of the two organizations, Empress Chinchilla Breeder’s Cooperative and the Mutation Chinchilla Breeders Association, that run the chinchilla shows. Both have lists of reputable breeders across the United States.