For people interested in adopting an “exotic” pet, chinchillas are an excellent choice.
They are very docile, easy to care for, and love playing with their owners.
But due to their “exotic” nature, chinchillas are not as common as other domesticated rodents.
They are typiclly only available from reputable breeders, and can be quite expensive.
What Are Chinchillas?
Chinchillas are a species of rodent belonging to the scientific order Cavimorpha. This makes them relatives of animals like guinea pigs, porcupines, and capybaras.
Chinchillas are further divided into 2 subspecies:
- The short-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla)
- The long-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera).
Domesticated chinchillas are almost exclusively from the long-tailed subspecies.
In the wild, chinchillas are considered an endangered species. Their rarity has led to chinchillas being labeled as exotic pets, and although they can be adopted from a pet store, chinchilla breeders are the only ones who can legally supply domesticated chinchillas.
Which Chinchillas are Domesticated?
While both short-tailed and long-tailed chinchillas have been domesticated, almost all pet chinchillas are from the long-tailed subspecies.
Short-tailed chinchillas are bred in captivity for their fur, which is famously soft. Their pelts are extremely valuable as a result, which has led to overhunting and near extinction in the past.
In South America, where chinchillas are found in the wild, it is illegal to hunt them for their fur.
Different Chinchilla Varieties
Among the domesticated long-tailed chinchillas, there are 3 distinct varieties. Each variety has its own unique physical traits, but only experienced breeders are able to spot the differences by sight alone.
Chinchillas classified as the La Plata body type are very bulky, with heavier muscles and bones. They are very compact, and their shoulders are often as broad as their chests. The heads of lata plata chinchillas are short and wide.
The Costina body type has weaker bones and muscles, but longer hind legs. These chinchillas have a V-shaped head with a pronounced nose, and the ears are at a 45-degree angle.
A chinchilla classified as a raton body type is a combination of the aforementioned types. While bulky and muscular like la plata chinchillas, they have the pointed nose of costina individuals.
Chinchilla fur also comes in a variety of colors. Depending on the color of the fur, the price of adoption can widely vary.
Gray is the most common fur color of chinchillas. The fur may be light gray or dark gray, and it’s also possible for the underbelly to be white. Because of how common they are, gray chinchillas are the cheapest to adopt.
The white color of these chinchillas is the result of a mutation. They lack the necessary genes that give their fur pigment, leaving them white. This does NOT mean that all white chinchillas are albinos. Breeders don’t recommend breeding 2 white chinchillas due to their mutations.
Also referred to as “black chinchillas,” these animals have pure black fur. Some chinchillas may have touches of gray in their fur, but their underbellies will always be grayish-black no matter what.
Depending on the genes of these chinchillas, their fur might come in 2 shades of beige. “Heterozygous beige” individuals have different shades of beige fur, with their backs being darker than their bellies. “Homozygous beige” chinchillas are a light champagne color all over.
While these chinchillas can come in a variety of fur colors, what makes them unique are the spots they have on their body. These spots can be found anywhere, and are always a different color than the main body. A “beige mosaic,” for instance, would have a beige patch of fur somewhere on their body.
Gold bar Chinchilla
Gold bar chinchillas are the rarest breed available. It’s also a relatively new breed, as the first individual with this coloring was born in 1995. Their fur, caused by a recessive gene mutation, is white with a streak of gold running along the back. Breeders will charge a high price for gold bar chinchillas, as the lowest average adoption price is $850.
Angora chinchillas are unique in that their fur is twice as long as that of other chinchillas. Because of this, they often require additional grooming. Very few breeders sell angora chinchillas, making them incredibly expensive. The lowest prices are around $1,500 and can go as high as $5,000!
Unique among chinchilla breeds, locken chinchillas have curly fur. Breeders have discovered that breeding 2 lockens will result in offspring with even curlier fur. They are also incredibly rare, and thus can cost as much as $3,000 to adopt.
Before purchasing a Chinchilla you should educate yourself on what these pets are really like. You can watch videos on Youtube from actual owners that describe everything you need to know about owning this type of pet. The video below is a good example of what you should be watching out for when making that decision.