Helen

Helen's namesake was the most beautiful woman in the world and her abduction by Paris was thought to have started the Trojan War.

Sayre is Helen's third owner. She was purchased by a family to be bred with a male chinchilla, but her first two owners did not understand chinchilla breeding.  Helen was kept in a very small cage for her first two years of life, and she was never played with.  Helen was terrified to be at Sayre in the beginning, but now she loves her raisins (featured in the photo) and the love of students.  Helen is now 14 years old, and she is the only animal that gets to go with us on fire drills.  

Habitat

Wild chinchillas were found in the Andes Mountains in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, but have been hunted to near extinction.  Although the pelt trade no longer traps wild chinchillas, these small populations are now threatened by habitat destruction. In their native habitat, chinchillas live in burrows and are agile jumpers; therefore, captive chinchillas require a tremendous amount of vertical space. 

In this large enclosure should be:
1. a covered dust bath.
2.  many wooden chew toys.
3.  several covered hide boxes.
4.  paper based bedding.
5.  a cloth hammock.
6.  a covered exercise wheel.

Chinchillas require lower temperatures because they can over-heat easily.  Be sure to keep your pet's cage in a draft free location that remains 60-70 degrees.  You cannot litter box train chinchillas, so their feces must be removed on a regular basis.

Diet

Chinchillas are vegetarians; they should be fed a high quality chinchilla pellet and alfalfa hay.  Place the pellets in a suspended dish and the hay in an external hay dispenser as chinchillas often tip over their food. Treat your chinchilla with greens or dried unsweetened banana chips.  Provide a water bottle.

Life Expectancy

Chinchillas can live 8-15 years, with the oldest reported chinchilla being 27 years old.

Health Concerns

1. Malocclusion.  Your chinchilla's teeth should be dark yellow, flat, and short.  If chewed pellets fall from the mouth, slobbering, or your chinchilla has bad breath visit your vet for suggestions

2.  Constipation or diarrhea.  Feces should be large, firm, and odorless.  If your chinchilla is not creating normal feces regularly, feed more hay, pellets, and water.  Reduce the number of treats until your pets feces return to normal.  If the situation does not improve quickly see your vet immediately.

3.  Seizures and cramps.  Trembling, contortion and or lack of movement can be caused by lack of calcium, vitamin B, stress, head injuries, or genetic influences.  If your pet has a seizure, prevent the animal from hurting itself, and see a vet immediately.

4.  Fur Biting. Chinchillas will chew the fur on their tales or hind legs when they are stressed.  Provide more chew toys, rearrange the cage, and or get an exercise wheel.  See your vet if the condition does not improve.

References

Nutrition.  Chin Care.  26 April 2009.

Chinchillas . Animal World: Pet and Animal Information. 26 April 2009.

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