Apart from their appearance, the chinchilla’s lifespan also makes them a sought-after pet. They can even outlive dogs and cats.
Having a pet live for decades is the pinnacle of happiness for many. This is why the number of domesticated chinchillas has skyrocketed in recent years even though they are said to be critically endangered.
So if you want to know how long chinchillas live and how you can prolong the lifespan of a chinchilla, keep reading. This article will get into greater detail about the chinchilla’s life expectancy, possible health problems, and more.
Chinchilla Lifespan in Captivity: How Long Do Chinchillas Live as Pets?
If properly domesticated, a pet chinchilla’s lifespan can reach between 10 and 20 years. The delicate nature of these animals makes them thrive better in captivity. Thus, chinchillas will undoubtedly live longer as pets than in their natural habitat.
Compared to other rodents, chinchillas have a significantly longer lifespan.
These animals are generally healthy pets, but keeping them indoors will extend their lives by effectively sheltering them from other large animals and habitat loss.
Furthermore, it does not take a lot to give proper care to a pet chinchilla. They are typically low maintenance, requiring only provisions for food, a clean home, exercise, and chew toys.
Wild Chinchilla Lifespan: How Long Do Chinchillas Live in the Wild?
Wild chinchillas have a shorter lifespan than pet chinchillas. You can expect them to live for only 8 to 10 years.
Numerous reasons contribute to this relatively short lifespan, but the primary factor is environmental risk. A lot of wild chinchillas lose their habitat and succumb to the harsh climate changes.
Besides the environmental risks, wild chinchillas also have a short lifespan because of the natural predators. Some animals that prey on chinchillas include snakes, skunks, wild cats, and hawks.
Despite all the mentioned risks, humans pose the most danger to chinchillas. Wild chinchillas are hunted for their thick fur, which is used to make blankets and clothing.
Furthermore, chinchillas will live the same number of years regardless of the size of their tails. So, just in case you were wondering, the short-tailed chinchilla lifespan is the same as the long-tailed chinchilla lifespan.
The Oldest Living Chinchilla: How Old Is the Oldest Chinchilla in the World?
The oldest chinchilla surpassed the expected lifespan by many years. His name was Radar, and he lived an impressive 29 years and 229 days.
Christina Anthony was the proud owner of this chinchilla. Born in 1985, Radar lived with Christina in Germany before moving to California, where he ultimately passed on the 18th of September 2014.
Besides Radar, there is also another recognized chinchilla that has successfully exceeded the expected 20-year lifespan.
Before the record of 29 years, Willis was believed to be the oldest documented chinchilla in South Wales. He lived up to the impressive age of 22 years.
READ NEXT: 10 Best Chinchilla Breeders (2023): Our Top 10 Picks!
Factors That Determine the Lifespan of Your Chinchilla
A lot of factors can have a significant effect on your chinchilla’s lifespan. If you are determined to be an owner of a pet chinchilla, it is imperative that you are aware of all these factors.
Health and Genetics
Like other species, chinchillas can develop health problems as a result of their genetic makeup. For example, heart disease can be caused by both issues in the genes and lifestyle of your chinchilla.
Furthermore, unethical breeding practices can also bring a lot of health issues. One prime instance is inbred chinchillas that develop deformities.
The environment where your pet chinchilla was bred can also affect their good health and condition.
A dirty environment can give your chinchilla painful foot sores, inflammation, and other health concerns. This is why looking for reputable chinchilla breeders is a high priority.
A chinchilla diet does not include a long list of food. In fact, for them to live a long and healthy life, you should only feed them the food they can digest.
Being herbivores, chinchillas love to eat leaves, grass, and twigs. This is enough to supply their tiny bodies with the fiber they need to digest properly.
Not only that, but since chinchilla’s teeth grow at a speedy rate, the food will help naturally shorten them. So, if you do not feed them correctly, they can suffer from dental disease.
So, by all means, do not experiment with different snacks and meals with your chinchilla. It will be best if you strictly stick to their diet.
Apart from meals, ensure that you regularly provide them with clean water to keep them hydrated. You can also occasionally serve them with a small number of high-fiber treats from pet stores.
Chinchillas live on rock crevices at elevations ranging from 9 to 15 thousand feet. While it is impossible to bring their natural habitat to them, you can set the ideal environment to help them live a long and healthy life.
Chinchilla fur is very thick, so these creatures will not tolerate hot and humid environments. Make sure that they stay in a well-ventilated home.
Furthermore, it would be best to place your chinchilla’s cage in a dry and cool area.
Chinchillas are generally active creatures, especially at night. You can help domestic chinchillas get more exercise into their daily routines with exercise wheels.
This will make your chinchilla happy and help them reach their maximum lifespan.
Proper exercise will also help your chinchilla effectively use their muscles, which can help decrease the likelihood of them developing behavioral disorders.
If you want to know more about how to care for a chinchilla, watch this video:
What Do Chinchillas Usually Die From?
The long lifespan of chinchillas should not make you assume that they are immune to fatal illnesses or physical harm.
In the wild, chinchillas mostly die from wild cats and other predators. Their bite wounds often go untreated and it causes painful bacterial infections. This inevitably leads to death.
Chinchillas are also hunted by humans for their fur. In fact, these rodents have been a victim of the global fur trade for decades now. Some even hunt and put them on farms so they can produce more chinchillas for profit.
A domestic chinchilla, on the other hand, will mostly succumb to health issues.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Research, the result of a 14-year investigation claims that most pet chinchillas die from classical enteritis, pneumonia, infections, and traumatic injuries.
They are also prone to other respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal stasis, and heat stress.
Common Health Issues in Chinchillas
While chinchillas are generally healthy creatures, they are prone to a number of conditions that can take their life in the long run, which includes:
- Respiratory Diseases: VCA Animal Hospitals list several symptoms associated with respiratory diseases, including lethargy, ocular discharge, and a loss of appetite. This is caused by high humidity or inadequate ventilation, preventing your chinchilla from breathing correctly.
- Gastrointestinal Stasis: This condition will lead to bloating and the accumulation of gasses inside your chinchilla’s stomach. Chinchillas experiencing this will lose their appetite and eventually stop eating altogether.
- Heat Stress: PetMD states that chinchillas are extremely sensitive to abrupt changes in their environment. High temperatures can cause heat stress and even stroke due to their inability to sweat through their thick fur.
Besides the mentioned health concerns that pose a high risk to your chinchilla, these animals are also prone to various skin conditions. Moisture can be trapped in their dense fur and cause dermatitis and pyoderma.
8 Easy Tips to Help Your Chinchilla Live Longer
After learning about the various health problems your chinchilla may encounter, it’s time to discuss the various strategies to prolong their lives.
Here are eight proven tips to lengthen your chinchilla’s lifespan:
1. Avoid sugar
Feeding your pet chinchilla sugary treats will cause health problems like diabetes and hypoglycemia that can significantly reduce their long lifespan.
While fruits and seeds are beneficial to people and other pets, you should completely exclude these foods from your chinchilla’s diet. Chocolates and dried fruits should also be avoided at all costs.
2. Feed them timothy hay
Chinchillas eat a lot of fiber because they need it in their systems to thrive. If they do not receive the fiber their bodies need, their stomachs won’t digest their food well.
Therefore, 80% to 90% of their food should consist of high-quality grass hay. One good food choice that most chinchillas love is timothy hay, a high-fiber, which is a low-protein feed also fed to horses and cattle.
Besides this, you can also provide them with orchard grass, meadow hay, or oat hay. All of these alternatives are low in calcium, making them ideal for your chinchilla’s sensitive stomach.
3. Give them dust baths
Without bathing, your chinchilla’s fur will become dirtier and begin to clump together. This will cause considerable distress to your chinchilla and also bring about some issues that can cost them their healthy life.
A bath takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes and is usually most beneficial in the evening when they are most energetic.
How often you should give your chinchilla a dust bath will depend on their body temperature and their environment.
Chinchillas in humid regions will need access to their dust baths around four times each week. Otherwise, they will only require this once or twice a week.
4. Keep them in a clean environment
Some chinchillas are prone to be victims of parasites like endoparasite worms, so keeping them in a neat and sanitary environment will protect them from all harmful germs, parasites, and bacteria.
For better cleaning, you can use vacuums, a small broom, and a dustpan. If you have a messy chinchilla, expect to be cleaning more frequently.
The general rule is to change beddings weekly to clean pee spots. Make sure you also disinfect your chinchilla’s cage for a hygienic home.
Overall, you must ensure that you do inspections and keep an eye on the cage so that you can clean the dirt immediately.
5. Provide clean water bottles
The bulk of a chinchilla diet is dry food like hay and pellets, so they need a source of hydration.
Considering that chinchilla coats are thicker than the average rodent, their bodies heat up quicker. Therefore, without proper hydration to help them cool down, they will be more prone to heat stress and stroke.
Your chinchilla should drink water throughout the day. Giving chinchillas filtered or distilled water is always preferable. However, tap water will also work if you have a good source where you reside.
Compared to other pets, these animals need water bottles instead of bowls. This is to avoid getting water on their thick coats. To keep unwanted bacteria out of their systems, ensure that their bottles are cleaned daily.
6. Limit pellets
While you should mainly feed hay to your chinchilla, you can supplement it with plain pellets. Seeds or nuts are high in fat and can cause health issues for your chinchilla, so avoid them at all costs.
Many owners avoid fillers like corn or soy, as they are high in sugar and phosphorus. Vegetable pellets should be avoided as well because dried vegetables contain a lot of excess sugar.
If you want to feed your chinchilla vegetables, choose the fresh options. Some fresh vegetables suitable for them include carrots, parsley, and kale.
Furthermore, ensure that you only offer a minimal amount of pellets every day. One to two teaspoons per day will suffice.
7. Offer chew toys
Chinchillas enjoy chewing on and playing with toys. Not only do they love it, but chewing is necessary for them. Since their teeth grow steadily and fast, chewing will help keep them on a normal length.
If the teeth of your chinchilla grow longer than the necessary length, they will have swollen gums and jaw bumps. In that case, they may need to have their teeth professionally trimmed.
These dental issues can also quickly escalate to tooth resorption, periodontal disease, caries, and other serious diseases.
Furthermore, you should not give them just any chewing toy. Some great items include aspen tree branches and woodblocks.
8. Take them to vet visits
Although chinchillas are not cats or dogs, they still require veterinary care. Reputable chinchilla breeders will provide a health guarantee that includes a veterinarian examination within a few days of purchase.
Early examinations will assist in determining the chinchilla’s overall health and well-being. This will aid in the early diagnosis of any infections they may carry.
When your chinchilla consumes hay that has been infected with roundworms from another animal’s excrement, it may contract intestinal parasites. Thus, your chinchilla should also be inspected annually to have their feces screened.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Age Is Considered Old for a Chinchilla?
Chinchillas become adults when they reach the age of one year, and they are considered old when they reach the age of eight.
The chinchilla is the world’s longest-living rodent, with some reaching an age of more than 20 years. But this will demand a great deal of maintenance and proper care.
Do Chinchillas Live for 20 Years?
Yes, when properly cared for, chinchillas can live for 20 years. In fact, some have surpassed the 20-year mark. These animals survive better in captivity than in their natural habitat.
If these animals remain in the wild, they are subjected to a variety of detrimental climate effects and natural prey that can shorten their lifespan.
How Do I Know If My Chinchilla Is Dying?
You know your chinchilla is dying when it is already suffering from respiratory problems and it loses its appetite.
If these symptoms are ignored for an extended period of time, they will progress to severe illnesses and certainly result in death.
The chinchilla’s lifespan is quite impressive as they can live longer than many pets. And because of this, these rodents are becoming more and more popular among aspiring pet owners.
Besides their adorable and unique appearance, chinchillas are also known as excellent buddies. They are sociable and develop strong attachments to their owners.
However, unlike other rodents, they will need a little more maintenance effort. It can take quite some time before getting used to their needs.
Keeping the cages clean, giving them veterinary care, providing them with quality grass, and ensuring they have adequate exercise are all methods to prolong the lifespan of your pet chinchilla.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.