Few creatures seem as cute and captivating as baby chinchillas, also known as kits. But behind that cuddly exterior are exotic pets with very specific handling, housing, personality, and care needs.
In this post I’ve created this in-depth baby chinchilla guide so prospective owners understand the realities involved in properly raising healthy, well-adjusted kits. We’ll cover:
Table of Contents
Whether you’re preparing for your first baby chinchilla or just fascinated by these exotic rodents, this all-encompassing guide aims to fully educate before committing to raising one of these energetic bundles of fur. Let’s dive in!
Origins and Background on Chinchillas as Pets
Chinchillas first emerged as popular exotic pets in the early 1900s. But these South American rodents have a much longer history:
- Wild Origins: Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains of Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. They were hunted for centuries for their ultra soft, thick fur.
- Near Extinction: Wild chinchilla populations were decimated by hunting and habitat loss by the 1900s. They remain endangered in the wild today.
- Captive-Bred: Captive breeding of chinchillas began for the fur trade in the late 1800s. Their suitable temperament for captivity emerged.
- First US Imports: In 1923, Mathias Chapman brought 11 chinchillas from Chile to California for breeding as pets. Their popularity gradually grew in the US.
- Modern Breeding: Today, nearly all pet chinchillas are born from selective captive breeding programs rather than captured from the few remaining wild populations.
While initially oddities, today chinchillas are common pocket pets. But surprises still await new owners! Let’s explore what to expect from baby kits.
Preparing for Your Baby Chinchilla’s Arrival
Preparing in advance for your kit allows a seamless homecoming:
- A wire cage at least 24 x 24 x 18 inches tall or larger to allow climbing and jumping. Include hideaways and ledges.
- Dust bathing containers to facilitate cleaning fur.
- Wooden chew toys, a sleeping box, and chin-proof food and water crocks.
Kit-Proofing Your Home
- Remove all toxic houseplants and chemical cleaners. Chinchillas cannot tolerate ingesting toxins.
- Block access to electrical cords they could chew and any narrow gaps. Kits are agile escape artists!
- Make baseboards, moldings and furniture inaccessible. Young chinchillas love to chew.
- A soft bristle brush for gentle brushing during handling.
- Sand dust for dust bathing maintenance.
- Nail trimmers suitable for delicate rodent nails.
Give serious thought to how kit-proof your home is. Baby chinchillas need twenty-four-seven supervision initially until bonded with their cage habitat.
Expected Baby Chinchilla Purchase Costs
Here are typical upfront costs to budget for:
- Purchase Price – $150 to $300 from breeders depending on lineage, color, and age
- Cage Setup – Minimum $200 for multi level cage, toys, dust house, food dishes, sleeping box
- Initial Vet Visit – $100 to $200 for examination, parasite treatment, potential testing
- Collar + Leash – $20 to $40 for walking your chin
- Carrier – $40 to $100 for a secure, well-ventilated carrier
- Grooming Supplies – $40 to $80 for brushes, nail trimmers, sand bath materials
- Toys – $20+ for a starter assortment of suitable chew toys
Total Initial Costs: $600 – $1000+ depending on cage and accessories selected.
Ongoing yearly costs average $500 – $1000 covering food, bedding, enrichment toys, vet costs, dust materials, and other supplies.
Chinchillas are not a low cost pet considering their specialized needs. But most owners find the investment rewarding.
The Ideal Housing Setup for Baby Chinchillas
Creating a safe, stimulating home is crucial to your chin’s wellbeing:
Minimum Cage Size
- 24 x 24 x 18 inches tall or larger
- Multi-level cage with ramps ideal as chins are agile jumpers
- Solid bottom cage or floor pan to allow flat surfaces for standing
- NO wire mesh floors which damage feet
- Require consistent temperature between 60-75° F out of drafts
Toys and Accessories
- Wooden chew sticks and toys
- Tunnels, hide boxes, hammocks
- Dust house for rolling
- NO wheels or unsafe hutch style cages with wire flooring
- NO plastic or wire ledges – these damage feet
Monitor your new pet closely until they adapt to their new home. Some baby chins take time feeling secure.
Typical Baby Chinchilla Personality and Handling
While tempting, resist treating new chinchilla kits like pocket pets you can constantly cuddle:
- Delicate Skeletons – Baby chins have fragile bones and cannot withstand excessive handling. Let them rest often.
- Skittish Nature – Chins startle easily and do not respond well to being unexpectedly picked up. Move slowly.
- Nocturnal – They are most active at dusk and night. Handle minimally during daytime sleeping periods.
- Nervous Gnawers – Young chins may instinctively nibble fingers when frightened. Never put fingers near their face.
- Need for Adjustment – At first, limit handling to 15 minutes or less per session until the chin bonds with you and their environment.
Patience allows baby chins to slowly grow comfortable and receptive to gentle interaction. Forcing too much, too soon will break trust.
Diet, Nutrition, and Feeding Baby Chinchillas
Special formulated chinchilla diets meet kits’ needs:
- Chinchilla Pellets – Feed pellets made specifically for chins instead of other rodents. Provide pellets free choice.
- Hay – Orchard grass or timothy hay should make up majority of diet. Keeps digestion regulated.
- Treats – Dried herbs, rose hips, fruits like raisins make fun occasional treats in strict moderation.
- No Sugary Foods – Avoid anything with excess sugar such as carrots, corn, or fruit as these are unhealthy for chins.
- Clean Water – Ensure unlimited access to clean water at all times – preferably in a bottle to avoid waste.
Watch baby chins closely while eating at first to ensure they are consuming sufficient food and not having issues with loose incisors.
Grooming, Hygiene, and Health Monitoring
To keep your new addition in peak condition:
- Weigh weekly at first to ensure kit is thriving and gaining weight.
- Check incisors weekly for proper alignment when feeding. Malocclusion is common.
- Touch and inspect paws, ears and tail frequently so handling during grooming is easier.
- Brush gently 1-2 times per week with a very soft brush to remove shedding fur.
- Provide sanitized dust bath material for rolling in to absorb oils and dirt.
- Trim nails monthly using proper rodent nail trimmers to avoid injury.
Alert your exotic vet immediately at any signs of lethargy, diarrhea, swelling, injury, or tooth misalignment. Young chins hide illness well.
Understanding Chinchilla Communication
Pay close attention to how your pet communicates their mood and needs:
Body Language Cues
- Standing tall with ears back = feeling threatened
- Curled in a tight ball = frightened
- Sprawled flat on side = feeling content
- Sleeping stretched out = relaxed and secure
- Loud shrill barking = expressing alarm
- Softer chirping sounds = communicating excitement
- High pitched squealing = pain or distress
- Deep throaty purring = conveying contentment
- Play bowing = invitation to play
- Circling your feet = asking for attention
- Pushing toys toward you = wants to engage in play
- Nipping fingers = does not want to be handled
Get to know your new kit’s unique personality quirks and subtle body language. It will deepen your bond.
Training, Socialization, and Bonding with Your Baby Chin
Early positive associations prevent behavior issues down the road:
- Begin handling for only 5-10 minutes twice daily. Let them walk into your cupped hands at first rather than grabbing.
- Pet using just one finger under the chin rather than stroking to minimize stress.
- Offer treats during handling so they associate your scent with positive things.
- Allow supervised playtime outside the cage in chin-proofed spaces to satisfy natural curiosity.
- Designate a small room or exercise pen for exploration. Watch closely since baby chins are agile and quick!
Bonding with Humans
- Encourage friends and family to interact with your chin so they become comfortable with visitors.
- Ensure kids know rules for gentle chin handling – no squeezing or chasing.
With attentive socialization and training, baby chinchillas can grow into wonderful household companions.
Enrichment and Daily Care Checklist
You’ll need to provide:
- One hour of playtime in a secure playpen area – supervise closely!
- Chew sticks rotated frequently to keep them novel and appealing
- Interactive toys to nudge, roll, or throw to add mental stimulation
- Dust bath access every 2-3 days
- Brushing 1-2 times per week depending on shedding
- Nail trimming monthly
- Weighing weekly to ensure weight gain stays on track
- A high quality chin pellet diet with unlimited orchard grass hay
The more attentive enrichment you provide, the better adjusted and healthier your chin will be long-term.
Potential Long-Term Health Issues to Monitor
Stay alert for any emerging signs of:
- Malocclusion – Misaligned or overgrown teeth. Signs include drooling or weight loss.
- Gastrointestinal Stasis – Constipation from dehydration or poor diet. Diarrhea and weight loss may also indicate.
- Overgrown Teeth – Upper and lower incisors must wear down properly though chewing.
- Fur Chewing – Can indicate anxiety, parasites or nutrition issues.
- Choking – Chins may choke on bedding, cage debris or loose hair.
- Heat Stroke – Chins cannot tolerate temperatures over 75° F.
- Broken Bones – Improper handling can fracture delicate bones.
Regular wellness exams and weighing at home helps find issues early. Never delay contacting an exotic vet.
Where to Adopt or Purchase Baby Chinchillas
Finding a responsible breeder committed to healthy, well-socialized chinchillas is key:
- Expect to join waitlists at quality breeders. Be very wary of constant kit availability at all times.
- Contact chinchilla organizations for breeder referrals. Ask for references and expect to interview.
- Visit the breeder in person and observe conditions. Ensure parents are living in proper, clean housing.
- Rescues sometimes have young chins surrendered due to biting or behavior issues needing experienced adopters.
Take your time finding the ideal breeder fit. A healthy, vibrant chin will be part of your family 10-20 years!
Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Chinchillas
To wrap up this comprehensive baby chinchilla care guide, here are some common new owner questions:
Are baby chinchillas good starter pets?
No, baby chinchillas require specialized care and are quite fragile initially. Older juveniles over 5 months are better for first-time owners.
What are baby chinchillas called?
Baby chinchillas have the endearing nickname of “kits.” Some people also refer to them as pups.
Can you touch and handle baby chinchillas?
Kits require very gentle, minimal handling initially as they are nervous and delicate. Taming takes patience as they mature and become comfortable with handling.
Are chinchillas considered pocket pets?
Yes, their small size makes them a member of the pocket pet family despite not fitting in pockets! Other pocket pets include hamsters, gerbils, mice, and sugar gliders.
Is a chinchilla a good pet for kids?
Chins are fairly high maintenance pets best suited for older, mature kids able to understand gentle handling. With supervision, responsible older children can help care for a chin.
I hope this guide has offered a realistic overview of the responsibilities involved when adding one of these charming rodents to your home. Please reach out if you need any other baby chinchilla care tips or resources on your exciting journey of ownership!