There are two main types of Chinchilla species namely the short-tailed chinchilla and the long-tailed chinchilla. These rodents usually have an exceptionally long lifespan compared to that of the other rodents which makes them one of the most appealing pet choices for individuals who are looking for long-term companions. The wild Chinchillas are mainly found in the Andes Mountains of northern Chile where they live for between 8 to 10 years.
However, in captivity, the chinchillas can live for up to 20 years. This means 20 years of companionship if you keep it as a pet. The Guinness world record for the oldest chinchilla went to one chinchilla named Radar who was born in West Germany in 1985 and died in California in 2014 at the age of 29 years and 229 days!
Chinchillas’ Lifespan in the Wild
As mentioned earlier, the chinchillas mostly reside in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in specific areas of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru. While living in the wild, their lifespan averages less than ten years. The main reason why they have a short lifespan in the wild is because they have to deal with numerous hardships of looking for food, enduring the harsh weather, and of course, keeping the predators at bay.
Although the chinchillas are hard animals, their major shortcoming is that they usually get dehydrated faster and can’t survive in higher temperatures for long. The main predators that endanger chinchillas in the wild are wild cats, foxes, and owls. Man’s interference is also another reason why they tend to live a shorter lifespan while in the wilderness.
The plush chinchilla’s fur is a gem that is used as clothing material, and although hunting is illegal, some people still hunt down the chinchillas and kill them to sell their fur. Human destruction of their habitat is also another factor that contributes to their shorter lifespan.
Chinchillas’ Lifespan as a Pet
Like any other animal, chinchillas tend to live longer when they are as pets with a potential lifespan of up to 20 years. Keep in mind that as a pet, the chinchilla won’t fall prey to hunters, and natural prey. Also, they don’t have to struggle with the harsh climatic conditions or risk their lives looking for food in the wilderness.
The pet owner will provide the chinchilla with a nutritionally balanced diet that it needs to thrive and stay healthy. The veterinary care available to chinchillas that are kept as pets also plays a critical role in maximizing their lifespan.
Common Reasons for Death
Some of the leading causes of death among chinchillas include;
- Strong Aromas/ Cleaning Products: These animals are hypersensitive, and the strong smell of perfumes and heavy cleaners can affect their health significantly. This is the primary reason why pet owners are advised to use pet specific unscented detergents when cleaning the chinchilla cage. Just make sure that you avoid the scented cleaners at all.
- Dental Problems: Another leading cause of death among the chinchilla family is dental problems, and this is one of the primary reasons why some chinchillas choose not to eat. Since the chinchilla teeth never stop growing, when the teeth overgrow, it makes it difficult for the animal to feed and can also cause oral damage, infection, or severe pain that can lead to death. It is critical that you do everything possible to keep your chinchilla’s teeth in check to avoid premature death.
- Weight Loss: Just like any other pet, chinchillas are susceptible to weight loss which can be futile. This is quite a tricky issue to deal with since you won’t know when your chinchilla is losing weight since their bodies are covered with a lot of furs. In fact, this is the leading cause of death since it is often too late before the owner can realize that the chinchilla is losing weight.
- Illness: Although chinchillas are naturally hard and robust animals, they can also succumb to several common health concerns, but the good thing is that most of these illnesses are preventable. The most common disease that affects chinchillas is heart stroke or respiratory problems. However, most people tend not to notice the signs of an ailing chinchilla until it’s too late. Some of the common symptoms of a sick chinchilla include:
- Lack of appetite
- Labored breathing
- Matted hair
Maximizing the Lifespan of Your Pet Chinchilla
So, what can you do to ensure that your chinchilla lives for a much longer period? Healthy nutrition is critical in ensuring that your chinchilla lives beyond the 15-year mark. You want to make sure that you are getting your chinchilla the best and good quality pellet food that will boost their nutrient intake.
Consider purchasing the specially formulated chinchilla food without dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and other morsels. You should also know that chinchillas love timothy hay and clean water, so make sure that their cage is always full. In some cases, you might be forced to fill the cage even three times a day. These animals also require a lot of freedom and unrestricted access to physical exercise, toys, and lots of other safe items to gnaw on to maintain their healthy body.
A clean environment promotes longevity among chinchillas. Therefore, make sure that you clean the cage on a weekly basis by taking out all the soiled beddings and old food. If your cage is big enough, consider getting two chinchillas to provide one another with companionship. If you ever suspect that your chinchilla is sick, be sure to contact a veterinarian.
Always Be Ready for Long Life!
Most of the times, when individuals adopt the small mammals, they usually expect shorter lifespans, but things are different when it comes to the chinchilla. If you choose to keep a chinchilla as your pet, you should be prepared for at least 15 years of commitment. If you aren’t prepared for such an undertaking, then don’t consider adopting a chinchilla. These animals are sometimes the chosen pets for their long lives so good luck!