What Is A Chinchilla?[ A Unique Rodent + 5 Facts]

A few reasons may have led you to this post. Either you are just flat out curious about our furry, adorable pet chinchillas, or you are considering adopting a chinchilla soon.

Nonetheless, I wanted to touch on a fundamental question that’s asked all too often.

What is a chinchilla?

I’ve owned a chinchilla for several years now at this point, and here’s what I can tell you on this topic.

So, what is a chinchilla? A chinchilla is a rodent and can be one of two species. A chinchilla can be either a chinchilla or a chinchilla lanigera. A Chinchilla is considered a crepuscular rodent in the parvorder family and considered larger than a ground squirrel. 

That’s the boring and more direct answer to the question.

I do, however, see individuals ask questions like this with frequency and other related questions.

Instead of just tossing that dry and non-compelling answer at you, I wanted to answer your other frequently asked questions in addition to providing a few fun facts about chinchillas in the process.

You never know, may one of you reading will decide that you are ultimately going to adopt a chinchilla soon.

Use any of the links directly below to skip around in this post as you please.


Here’s what I intend on covering for you in today’s brief 2-minute post:

As stated previously, skip around using the links directly above if need be.

If, however, you have those 2 minutes to spare, I recommend you read the full post directly below.

Here is what you should know.

Are Chinchillas Rodents?

One of the biggest questions of the day.

Yes, chinchillas are rodents.

Chinchillas are considered a crepuscular rodent-like we mentioned previously.

This simply means that chinchillas are most active at dusk and dawn with natural light cycles.

For those of you considering adopting a chinchilla soon, think twice before allowing your chinchilla to sleep in your bedroom.

You may be in for some early wakeups if you decide to go this direction.

Chinchillas are also considered an herbivore like many rodents.

Herbivores are animals that feed primarily on plants.

You can read more about what a chinchilla should eat in my post here.

For the most part, a chinchilla’s diet will consist of timothy hay and chinchilla formulated pellets.

For those of you planning an adoption, you can read my post about the ideal hay for chinchillas here.

Additionally, you can read about ensuring your chinchilla is consuming the proper pellets here.

For those of you simply doing research, let’s continue.

What Family Is the Chinchilla In?

According to Britannica.com, the chinchilla belongs to the chinchillidae family, which is a suborder of hystricognatha within the rodent family.

Chinchillas, although rodents are not in the rat family.

The common confusion with this topic stems from the popular “chinchilla rat,” which belongs to the Abrocomidae family.

Chinchillas also get confused about being in the rabbit family, although they are not.

This is due to the intentional breeding of chinchilla rabbits, which are bred to resemble a chinchilla and possess the desirable, thick, and ever so soft fur coats.

Chinchillas and rats are not in the same family.

Chinchillas are most closely related to the guinea pig due to being a hystricomorphic rodent.

Some Physical and Personality Characteristics

First and foremost, you have two kinds of chinchillas.

You have a short-tailed chinchilla and a long-tailed chinchilla.

You can read more about the differences between these two in my post that discusses how big a chinchilla will get.

You can see that post here.

Chinchillas will typically grow to roughly 1.5-2 pounds in weight and around 15 inches long.

Chinchillas also have large eyes, long ears, and most commonly are gray.

Don’t be fooled, however.

Chinchillas are now bred in more than 30 colors.

You can see my post discussing the colors that you can potentially adopt a chinchilla in here.

Are Chinchillas Marsupials?

No, a chinchilla is not a marsupial and is not carried or suckled into a pouch before birth in the mother’s belly.

5 Fun Facts About Chinchillas

Just for fun and entertainment, I thought it would be enjoyable for the readers to get 5 fun facts about chinchillas in this post.

Especially for those of you considering making a chinchilla your next family pet.

5 Unique Facts about Chinchillas

#1- Chinchillas are expert climbers and jumpers.

A chinchilla can jump nearly 6 feet and it’s always advised to use a proper sized chinchilla cage in order to promote a healthy amount of climbing and jumping inside of their habitats.

#2- Chinchillas Bath in Dust

This is extremely entertaining to watch if you haven’t seen it before.

I have a video that you can see here where my chinchilla is out and about and getting ready for her dust bath.

Chinchillas are not supposed to get wet under any circumstances.

To remain clean, odor-free, and healthy, a chinchilla bathes in specially formulated dust that resembles the dust/ash they are accustomed to in the wild in the Andes Mountains.

#3- Chinchillas Are Smart and Affectionate

Chinchillas are extremely smart animals.

They pick up on habits and routines quickly.

They can also respond to specific training and begin to recognize their own name.

Heck, potty training to urinate in a litter pan is even a possibility with chinchillas.

Chinchillas are also very loving and affectionate towards their owners over the course of time.

If you are planning to adopt one soon, trust me, it will be a close bond and chinchillas are a pet worth considering.

#4- Chinchillas Have the Densest Fur of Land Mammals

Yep, you read that correctly.

Chinchillas currently have the densest fur of all land mammals.

More than 80 hairs per follicle.

It’s also the softest, and the primary reason chinchillas were hunted so often and nearly became extinct.

Hunters desired to capture and kill chinchillas in order to get profits from the fur coats they could sell.

#5- Chinchillas Live A Very Long Time

Compared to other rodents, chinchillas live a very long time.

In fact, they live nearly 15-20 years with the proper care provided.

You can read more about a chinchilla’s lifespan in my post here.

If you are looking for a bond and relationship that can last nearly two decades, a chinchilla is a pet for you.

Are Chinchillas Related to Mice?

The only relationship chinchillas have with mice is that they are both considered rodents.

Outside of this, a chinchilla is not related to mice nor in the same family.

Is A Chinchilla A Rat?

No, a chinchilla is not a rat, although there is such a thing and species as the chinchilla rat.

The chinchilla rat is a rat that strongly resembles a chinchilla and has a short tail like a chinchilla.

No actual relation to a chinchilla, however.


For the most part, this was designed to be nothing more than an educational post for all the curious individuals considering adopting a chinchilla soon.

I get it.

It helps to understand what a chinchilla really is and to understand what you’re in store for once you have picked up your new furry friend.

I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming adoption.

Share More Facts on Chinchillas

As always, I prefer to learn from the readers as well.

What further educational information can you provide about chinchillas?

What was left out of this post today?

Feel free to drop any comments, concerns, or stories directly below.

Chili and I appreciate you stopping by.

Thanks again, and we will see you next time.



Josh Martin

My Name is Josh and this is my 4 year-old female chinchilla "Chili". We created Planet Chinchilla to share all the stories about owning a chinchilla that you need to know. I'm the Author of the eBook "The Ultimate Chinchilla Care Guide, From Adoption and On"

Recent Posts