When I was a kid, no one knew what a chinchilla was.
These days, just about everyone has heard of them.
But most people still don’t know exactly what a chinchilla is.
Is it a rat?
Is it some other type of rodent? Maybe a type of squirrel?
People don’t know, because these little creatures just aren’t that popular yet as pets.
They should be, but that is a topic for another article.
In this one, we’re going to explain exactly what a chinchilla is and clear up a bunch of misconceptions along the way.
- 1 What Is A Chinchilla?
- 2 Are Chinchillas Rodents?
- 3 Are Chinchillas Marsupials?
- 4 Is A Chinchilla A Rat?
- 5 What Family Is The Chinchilla In?
- 6 Are Chinchillas Related To Mice?
- 7 Some Physical And Personality Characteristics
- 8 5 Fun Facts About Chinchillas
- 9 What A Chinchilla Is: Summary
What Is A Chinchilla?
A chinchilla is a rodent and can be one of two species: a chinchilla or a chinchilla lanigera. Both are crepuscular rodents in the parvorder family, a bit larger than a ground squirrel.
That’s the simple, direct, and perhaps somewhat boring answer.
But we get this, and related, questions so often that I don’t want to stop there.
Instead of just leaving you with that dry and non-compelling answer, I want to go into more detail with some fun facts, and also answer all the other related questions.
Let’s begin with what is probably the most common related question. I know I just answered it, but we’ll go into more detail here.
Are Chinchillas Rodents?
Yes, chinchillas are rodents. As mentioned above, they are a crepuscular rodent. This simply means that they are most active at dusk and dawn.
This can mean some early wakeups, if you decide to keep your chinchilla in your bedroom. In fact, it is why I always caution against allowing your chinchilla to sleep in your bedroom.
Chinchillas are also herbivores, like many rodents. In other words, they are animals that feed primarily on plants.
You can read more about what a chinchilla should eat by following that link. For the most part, their diet should consist of timothy hay and chinchilla formulated pellets.
And there are many foods, even ones that are generally considered healthy, like fruits and vegetables, that can wreak havoc on a chinchilla’s digestive system.
Are Chinchillas Marsupials?
No, a chinchilla is not a marsupial and is not carried or suckled in a pouch in the mother’s belly before birth.
Is A Chinchilla A Rat?
No, a chinchilla is not a rat, although there is a species known as the chinchilla rat. The chinchilla rat is a rat that strongly resembles a chinchilla and has a short tail like a chinchilla. But there is no actual relation to the chinchilla.
What Family Is The Chinchilla In?
The chinchilla belongs to the chinchillidae family, which is a suborder of hystricognatha, within the rodent family.
Although chinchillas are rodents, they are not in the rat family. As mentioned, the reason there is so much confusion surrounding this topic is due to the “chinchilla rat,” which actually belongs to the Abrocomidae family.
People also often mistakenly think that chinchillas belong to the rabbit family, but they are not.
This is due to the intentional breeding of chinchilla rabbits, which are rabbits that are bred to resemble a chinchilla and possess the desirable, thick, and ever so soft fur coats.
Bottom line: chinchillas and rats are not in the same family. Learn more in our direct comparison of the chinchilla vs rat.
Chinchillas are most closely related to the guinea pig, because they are a hystricomorphic rodent.
Are Chinchillas Related To Mice?
The only relationship chinchillas have with mice is that they are both rodents. Outside of this, a chinchilla is not related to mice, nor in the same family. The same goes for other rodents like gerbils or hamsters.
Some Physical And Personality Characteristics
First and foremost, you have two different types of chinchillas. There is 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.
As for the standard chinchilla physical characteristics, they typically grow to around 1.5 to 2 pounds in weight and around 15 inches long. They have large eyes, long ears, and are most commonly are gray.
But they’re definitely not all gray. These days, breeders are breeding these little rodents in more than 30 colors. In fact, I have an entire article just on the different color chinchillas you can get.
5 Fun Facts About Chinchillas
Just for fun and entertainment, I thought it would be nice to give you guys 5 fun facts about chinchillas. These might be especially interesting to anyone considering making a chinchilla their next family pet.
#1: Chinchillas Are Expert Climbers And Jumpers.
A chinchilla can jump nearly 6 feet. That’s why you should always use a proper sized chinchilla cage. These rodents need to e able to indulge in a healthy amount of climbing and jumping inside of their habitats.
#2: Chinchillas Bathe 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.
#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, you will form a close bond.
Can a chinchilla be an emotional support animal? Yes, it can. You just need to register it as such.
#4: Chinchillas Have The Densest Fur Of Any Land Mammal
Yep, you read that correctly. Chinchillas have the densest fur of all land mammals, with more than 80 hairs per follicle.
It’s also the softest fur, which is the primary reason chinchillas were hunted so much and nearly became extinct. Hunters wanted to capture and kill these animals, in order to rake in the profits from the fur coats they could sell. Read our article discussing how chinchilla coats are made.
#5: Chinchillas Live A Very Long Time
Compared to other rodents, chinchillas live a very long time. In fact, they can live 15-20 years, with the proper care. If you are looking for a bond and relationship that can last nearly two decades, the chinchilla is the pet for you.
What A Chinchilla Is: Summary
For the most part, this was designed to be nothing more than an educational post for anyone who is curious or who is 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 about chinchillas.
As always, I love learning from you guys as well.
What further educational information can you provide about chinchillas?
What did I leave 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.