Chinchilla Physical & Behavioral Characteristics

Chinchillas are small mammals that are part of the Rodentia family and the Chinchillidae genus. They are native to the Andes Mountains in South America.

Before you adopt a chinchilla, you’ll want to find out more about its characteristics and how you must look after this species.

What are the physical and behavioral characteristics of chinchillas?

Stick with us as in this article we will discuss all of them!

Key Takeaway:

Fully grown chinchillas measure 9 to 15 inches. The tail of the long-tailed chinchilla is about a third of its body length. Healthy chinchillas weigh up to 800g. They have dense, soft fur. Chinchillas need the company of their owners and other chinchillas so you must not house them alone.

New chinchilla owners need to know how to look after their chinchilla’s health by feeding it the right food and putting it in the ideal living environment.

Find out more about your new chinchilla and how to take care of its health in the extended guide up next.

Chinchilla Characteristics

So, you are considering giving a home to a chinchilla. That’s a fantastic idea!

Chinchillas make awesome pets and are especially popular with families.

chinchillas good pets

But before you begin adopting chinchillas, you’re no doubt keen to find out more about them. That’s why up next, we are going to share with you everything you must know about their physical characteristics and behavior.

Let’s get to it.


Many people adore chinchillas because of their friendly natures and placid temperaments. They are also won over by their super cute appearances.

What does a chinchilla look like?

The appearance of each chinchilla species is slightly different.

Long-tailed chinchillas have big, round ears, long tails, and small necks.
Short-tailed chinchillas have small ears, short tails, small heads, broad shoulders, and thick necks.


Chinchillas are large rodents. Before you purchase yours, you must know what size it is to ensure you will have enough room to accommodate it.

How big are chinchillas?

Long and short-tailed chinchillas are slightly different in size.

Long-tailed chinchillas are usually 9 to 14 inches long. They have long tails that measure up to a third of the length of the animal's body.
A short-tailed chinchilla measures 9 to 15 inches. Its tail isn't as long as that of the long-tailed chinchilla but its body is much larger.

Male chinchillas are normally smaller than the females.

Healthy Weight

We all want to make sure our chinchillas live happy and healthy lives. For this to be possible, chinchillas must maintain a healthy weight, neither too heavy nor too light.

How much do chinchillas weigh?

Its average weight depends on the chinchilla species.

Long-tailed chinchillas weigh between 370 and 490g. The males tend to be slightly heavier than the females.
Short-tailed chinchillas weigh between 400 and 800g depending on the size of the rodent.

Chinchilla Fur

What fascinates people most about chinchillas is their awesome thick fur.

What is so special about this pet’s fur?

Chinchillas have the following fur colors.

  • Dominant colors like beige, white, and ebony.
  • Recessive colors like velvet, charcoal, sapphire, and violet.

The fur color around the chinchilla varies but the underside of the animal is usually white or off-white.

This fur is amazingly dense as about 50 hairs grow from each hair follicle.

Breeding Season

The only thing cuter than a chinchilla is a baby chinchilla. The litters are born fully furred, with their eyes open, and can walk within about an hour!

When does the breeding season begin?

In the Northern Hemisphere, chinchillas breed between November and May. In the Southern Hemisphere, breeding takes place between May and November.


Before taking a pet home, you want to make sure its nature is compatible with yours.

What kind of temperament do chinchillas have?

Chinchillas are very active, inquisitive animals that love socializing. They thrive in the company of humans and other chins of the same litter.

When you hold them securely but gently, chinchillas soon get used to being in the arms of their owners and become quite tame. They need to spend time with you and with other chins every day.

Wild Chinchillas

Wild chinchillas live different lives and have distinct characteristics from domestic chinchillas.

What makes them stand out as different?

The wild, short-tailed chinchilla normally has molted, yellowy-gray fur.

Most chinchillas in captivity are much larger than they would be in the wild. A chinchilla’s weight in captivity is also a lot heavier.

The maximum weight of a chinchilla in its natural habitat is up to 493g whereas in human care it can go up to 800g.

Because they were hunted mercilessly by those looking to sell their fur, their populations in their natural habitat have been endangered. You will still find some of these rodents at very high elevations in Northern Chile, but their populations in other countries have somewhat diminished due to illegal hunting.

Behavior In the Wild

In its natural habitat, the chinchilla is a prey animal.

Which animals are its predators?

Chinchillas must stay away from snakes, skunks, and certain birds of prey like hawks and eagles.

Because of dangers from predators, chinchillas tend to move about in large groups called herds. These groups can contain as little as 14 or up to 100 chinchillas.

Moving in a group helps the chinchilla avoid dangerous animal species. Chinchillas also move in large groups because they like one another’s company.

Because they are such social creatures in their natural habitat, chinchillas in captivity must have daily contact with their owners and with other chins.

How to Look After Pet Chinchillas

To ensure your chinchilla stays healthy you must look after it properly.

baby chinchilla

What is the right way to take care of a pet chinchilla?

Let’s take a look at some of the fundamentals of chinchilla care.

The Correct Diet

You must feed your chinchilla the right food to ensure it stays a healthy weight.

What is the best diet for your chinchilla?

  • Chinchilla pellets.
  • Timothy hay. Other options include oat hay or orchard grass.
  • Small amounts of dried fruits and vegetables. You must only give these to your chinchilla as treats on occasion to prevent it from developing weight issues.

Never give your pet fresh fruit or nuts as treats. These foods are too high in sugar and fat and will lead to weight gain.

If you are training your chinchilla and want to give it treats as positive reinforcement, you must do so in very small quantities. A piece of dried cranberry or raisin are good treats for you to feed your chinchilla but you must only administer them once a week.

The Best Cage Size

Chinchillas are active animals and love having enough room to run around like they would in the wild.

How big must your chinchilla’s cage be?

To look after your pet’s health, (both physical and mental) it must be in a cage that measures at least 4x4x3 feet.

Chinchillas are social animals so we do not recommend that you house them alone. For more than one chinchilla, you will need an even bigger enclosure.

To house a small group of them, it is best you keep them in a room rather than in a cage.

Dust Baths

We know it sounds weird, but your chinchilla must take a dust bath to keep its fur clean.

chinchilla dust bath start

How often must it have a dust bath?

You must give your chinchilla access to a dust bath at least twice a week. But some chinchillas will enjoy rolling in the dust up to 4 times a week.

Your chinchilla must bathe in 100% volcanic ash. Just a couple of minutes rolling around in it is plenty for your furry friend.

Routine Vet Visits

No one wants an unhappy, sick, or overweight chinchilla and that is why it is so important they visit the vet regularly.

How often must chinchilla owners take their animals to the vet?

It is best you take your chinchilla to the vet once a year for a check-up. Here’s what will happen when you do.

  • The vet will check your chinchilla’s overall health.
  • It will be put on the scales to examine its weight and compare it to the chinchilla’s average weight for chins of the same size.
  • It will inspect the chinchilla’s teeth and ensure they are not overgrowing.
  • It will take a fecal sample test for parasites.

If your chinchilla has any health problems, your vet might administer oral pills or a change in food and diet that will help your pet get better again.

Many chinchilla owners take out a chin care plan that allows them to save on vet bills and specialized treatment. Whether this will be necessary for you depends on the price of chinchilla care in your area.

Getting to Know Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas are not your run-of-the-mill pets. This is why some people are unsure whether they will be right for them.

Thanks to this article, we have seen that chinchillas have docile temperaments that make them easy to look after. We have also seen that the maximum chinchilla’s weight is only up to 800g and size is up to 15 inches long which makes them awesome compact-size animals.

Chinchillas have come in beige, white ebony, and many other colors. Yes, you can choose your chinchilla pet in the color you like the most.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and other rodents. For more guides on the recommended food and diet for these and other animals, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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