Chinchillas are rodents. They were originally all the standard color - gray - but selective captive breeding has consistently produced new mutations. These mutations are usually of poorer fur quality and almost exclusively used as pets.
They have incredibly dense fur, so they are not susceptible to fleas. Chinchilla have over 50 hair follicles where a human would only have 1! They shed, but chinchillas produce no pet dander - the cause of most people's animal allergies.
Chinchillas don't bathe in water (causes fungus), but dust! In nature it's volcanic dust, but in captivity it's a ground pumice.
Most chinchillas weigh between 400 and 800 grams, although in the wild they are rarely heavier than 500 grams.
Chinchillas are herbivores. They are nocturnal (really crepuscular, active in the morning and evening), but they have poor eyesight and rely more on their whiskers and other senses anyway. They come from a very dry environment, collecting their water from morning condensation!
No one know when chinchillas were first used for fur, but it traces back at least to the ancient Incas around the year 1100. The London Zoo first received them in 1829, but they didn't come to the United States until 1921.
By the early 1900's chinchillas were so rare that people stopped hunting them because they couldn't find them! Today, many wild chinchillas live on a reserve in Andes, although some still live on private land. With their habitat threatened and with their low numbers the wild chinchilla is considered to be in danger.
With some attention and patience chinchillas can make a wonderful pet!
Head here if you need more information on training your new chinchilla.
Don't have one yet? Here's what to look for in a pet chinchilla.
Here's some general information about chinchilla care.
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