Chinchillas are rodents and belong to the family chinchillidae. They are thick-haired, big-eyed creatures that only live in the mountainous regions of Chile and Peru. There are no wild chinchillas living in the United States. Only domesticated live here and are sold as pets. Their hair is the soft hair in the entire world. It is 30 times softer than a human hair. To learn more about these amazing creatures check out these chinchilla facts for kids.
What is a Chinchilla?
Chinchillas are crepuscular and nocturnal rodents. Crepuscular means they are active during twilight hours. Nocturnal means that they are more active at night. Chinchillas are most active between dusk and dawn. They sleep during the day. There are two chinchillas species: Long-tailed chinchillas called Chinchillas Lanigera and short-tailed chinchillas called Brevicaudata Chinchillas.
Chinchillas live in South America across the Andes Mountains of Peru and Chile. They live in altitudes up to 15,000 ft above sea level. These rodents live in chilly temperatures sometimes as low as 23 F. Their thick fur keeps them warm in harsh weather conditions. Though chinchillas can stand the frigid temperatures they cannot stand the heat. Any warm temperatures over 80F can cause them to get heatstroke.
They sleep in tiny burrows (holes) in the sides of the mountains. They are social animals and live in colonies that can consist of hundreds of chinchillas.
What does a Chinchilla Look Like?
Chinchillas are a little bigger than squirrels and resemble rabbits. Their bodies are 10-14 inches long and their tails are 5-6 inches long. They weigh between 2-3 pounds. Chinchillas have large round ears, bushy tails, large eyes, and long whiskers. Even though their eyes are large, they cannot see very well. Chinchillas use their whiskers to help them see by feeling things around them.
Chinchilla fur is very thick. They have the thickest and softest fur of any rodent or land animal. In fact, it is the softest in the entire world. They grow 50-80 hairs per hair follicle, humans grow 2-3 hairs per follicle. Their fur can be a variety of colors including silver, grey, beige, black and white, tan, and sapphire. Chinchillas do not get fleas because their fur is so thick. Their fur is also hypoallergenic. Chinchillas will roll around in volcanic ash or dust to free their fur of oils and moisture. This is why chinchillas were hunted for their fur. People fell in love with a chinchilla’s thick warm thick fur. It can take 150 chinchillas to make one full-length fur coat. Chinchillas are now on the endangered species list and can no longer be hunted for their fur.
Mother chinchillas are pregnant for 111 days and can give birth to up to 6 babies called kits. Two babies are most common. They give birth twice a year. Chinchillas are ready to mate when they are between 7-8 months old.
What do Chinchillas Eat?
Chinchillas eat grasses, leaves, twigs, hay fruits, seeds, and small insects. While eating they sit on their hind legs and hold their food with their front legs. They digest their food twice in a process called caecotrophy. They poop then eat the small pellets.
Predators to chinchillas are snakes, mountain lions, birds of prey, and humans (when they were hunted for their fur). When a chinchilla is feeling threatened or being attacked, it will shed a large amount of hair. This is called a fur slip.
Chinchilla Facts for Kids
Chinchillas are very social animals. They live in groups called herds in colonies of up to 100 chinchillas. Chinchillas communicate with each other by making grunting, chirping, squealing, and barking sounds. Chinchillas are sometimes kept as pets. They make good pets but are very active and like a lot of attention and toys to play with.
Chinchillas can jump up to five feet into the air!
Chinchilla’s teeth never stop growing. It’s important that if they are kept as pets to give them something to chew on or they might start chewing on wires or things that are unsafe. Chinchillas can overheat very quickly, they don’t respond well to temperatures over 80 degrees.
Chinchillas live between 10-12 years in the wild and 15-20 years in captivity. If you are thinking of buying a chinchilla as a pet make sure you care for them properly and feed them the right diet.
Because their fur is so soft wild chinchillas were hunted almost to extinction. Today chinchillas are no longer allowed to be hunted for their fur. Some chinchillas are bred and raised for their fur. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the number of chinchillas in the wild continues to decline and they are on the list of endangered species.
Many people have chinchillas as pets. Chinchillas are good pets for some people. They are smart creatures and like to play. They can live in a well ventilated cage and prefer cool temperatures around 60-70 F. There should only be one per cage. Food for chinchillas can be purchased at pet stores they can also eat dried fruit or nuts, carrots or vegetables.. Chinchillas need to clean themselves with a dust bath once to twice a week. You can also purchase volcanic ash from pet stores to keep them clean. Make sure you do research and check how to properly care for a chinchilla before purchasing one.