Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Selecting a Chinchilla


Thomas M. Donnelly

, BVSc, DVP, DACLAM, DABVP(ECM), The Kenneth S Warren Institute;

Katherine E. Quesenberry

, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian)

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2011 | Modified Oct 2022

You can buy chinchillas at some pet stores or from chinchilla breeders. When selecting a pet chinchilla, it is important to determine that the animal is healthy and that it is used to being handled.

A chinchilla’s eyes should be bright and shiny, but not watery. Discharges from the eyes, ears, or nose may indicate medical problems. Check the chinchilla’s teeth. The upper and lower teeth should be fairly even when the jaw is closed, and there should be no signs of drooling. Check the body to be sure there are no obvious wounds. It might be better to choose your chinchilla later in the day so that you can observe whether it is active and alert. It is recommended that you take the chinchilla to a veterinarian to check its heart and test its droppings for protozoa and other parasites. Ask the breeder or supplier whether you can return the chinchilla if it is not healthy.

A chinchilla that cries and struggles to get away may not be used to human handling and may not make a good pet. A few weeks of regular contact and gradually increasing handling time may help. When first approaching a chinchilla, move slowly and quietly so as not to frighten it. Let it sniff at your fingers and then slowly and gently use both hands to lift the chinchilla.

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