Chinchilla adoption is a long-term obligation, and the animals can live for up to twenty years if well-cared for. They need housing with adequate room and temperature control. Chinchillas make good pets, although their nocturnal activities can be disruptive. Rescue organizations typically screen prospective owners and have agreements detailing care and the return of animals if necessary.
These animals are crepuscular rodents, members of the family Chinchillidae, and are native to the Andes and Patagonia regions in South America. Active at twilight and night, they are vegetarians who live primarily on grasses, roots, and tubers. Chinchillas are social animals that live in groups in the wild, so keeping more than one is advisable in captivity. They are bred as popular exotic pets and also for their incredibly soft fur, maintained with frequent dust baths. Two species called the chinchilla brevicaudata, the short-tailed chinchilla, and chinchilla lanigera, or long-tailed chinchilla, are the most familiar.
Most animals available for adoption come from owners who can no longer care for them or from breeding facilities. Rescue organizations that specialize in chinchilla adoption usually have policies that the animals be returned to them if the new owner cannot keep them. Some people are not prepared for the mess chinchillas leave behind during supervised exercise sessions or when they take their dust baths. An application process helps screen out potential owners who may not realize the depth of commitment.
The adoption process starts with a meeting where animals can be observed and a favorite chosen. If the chinchilla is to be a companion for an existing pet, it should be brought along to see if they can tolerate each other. After an application is reviewed and approved, the new pet can be taken home. Most rescues will not allow one or both of a breeding pair to be adopted due to the unknown backgrounds of their charges.
Those interested in chinchilla adoption should acquire a roomy cage with a private sleeping area and non-toxic bedding. A block of wood for chewing helps wear down their ever-growing teeth. Chinchillas are sensitive to heat due to their mountainous origins and should be kept in a cool area out of the sun. The animals need to get out of the cage for regular excursions, and the house should be chinchilla-proofed to prevent them from chewing on electrical cords or getting stuck in tight places.
Chinchilla adoption is not recommended for children because the animals need special care and are somewhat delicate. Biting can occur if they are mishandled or scared. They are noisy animals, talkative and active at night, which can be disturbing to family members who need quiet in order to sleep. The entire household should be in agreement when chinchilla adoption is being considered.