Raised in captivity since the early 1920s, chinchillas are now among the new pets (NACs) and are very successful in homes, especially since they seem to be coping well with captive life. Their good life expectancy is an illustration of this.
What is the chinchilla’s life expectancy?
Domestic chinchillas are the result of crossing wild species that have returned rare and therefore protected: it is the Chinchilla brevicaudata Said short-tailed chinchilla and Chinchilla laniger, says long-tailed chinchilla. It was between 1996 and 2017, that the first experienced a decline to the point of becoming a species classified as endangered. With its longer ears, it looks much more like a rabbit than the domestic chinchilla which holds more Chinchilla laniger. Protection only applies to wild chinchillas. And farmed chinchillas experience mistreatment with serious consequences on health: their life expectancy is therefore much shorter.
Despite the selections that domestic chinchillas may have been subjected to to produce precise colors and quality coats, these animals can still reach 20 years of life. In 2015, a chinchilla named Licorice made the front page of a local daily: he was 22 years old. The average lifespan of a chinchilla is more commonly between 10 and 15 years. It is known that selections made with a view to reproducing characteristics in animals tend to weaken their genetic makeup and make animals more susceptible to certain diseases. The individuals standard gray are thus generally more robust than the others. Black velvet chinchillas are more prone to heart problems. If you want to acquire a chinchilla, it is therefore advisable to choose the breeding carefully. Quality breeding involves in particular the surveillance of animals in order to limit consanguinity.
This rodent can live all the longer since it hardly ever develops tumors, which is of particular interest to scientists who seek to understand what biological mechanisms are at work.
Make every effort to ensure that your chinchilla lives for many years
Adapted to harsh living conditions, chinchillas are hardy animals and rarely sick. Only good hygienic and feeding conditions allow the rodent to remain in good health. Alas, almost 90% of deaths are caused by homeowners careless or ignorant needs of the animal.
The wild chinchilla lives in rocky and dry areas, where it quickly finds many hiding places to take cover in the event of an attack by a predator: condor, owl or Andean cat. The domestic chinchilla has retained the instinct to fear anything above it. To limit stress and improve the chinchilla’s longevity, you must therefore adopt gestures that limit approaches from above.
Food is also fundamental. Its digestive system measures more than three meters: fibers are essential for it. It is occasionally coprophagous, that is to say, it can happen to eat its excrement. This serves to rebalance and replenish its intestinal flora in the event of disturbance. Preserving the proper functioning of its digestion is essential to preserve the health of the chinchilla, and therefore its longevity. Its diet must also be adapted: low in fats, minerals and sugars, but very rich in fiber and including proteins. Vitamin C intake is also essential, a deficiency that can lead to the death of the animal in a few weeks, not to mention water.
The animal needs to constantly gnaw hay or pieces of non-toxic wood, otherwise its teeth will become too long and prevent it from eating properly.
The chinchilla also needs fine materials such as sand to roll around and thus maintain its fur. If the animal cannot get rid of the excess sebum produced by its skin, its behavior may change. It is a fundamental natural process. Under no circumstances should you try to wash the chinchilla but let it maintain its hair itself.
In case of negligence
The listeriosis is one of the most common chinchilla diseases. This disease can lead to the death of the rodent, regardless of its age. Common infection in mice and rats, the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes responsible can also infect humans. Therefore, great care should be taken when handling infected animals. It causes severe constipation most of the time, although some chinchillas have diarrhea. Only antibiotic treatment can cure the animal, but not all animals respond to treatment. The best prevention is rigorous cage hygiene with regular disinfection of all equipment in contact with the animal. And the careful selection of a quality breeding is the only guarantee not to acquire a sick animal.
Chinchillas are also very sensitive to salmonellosis. Stress and poor diet are predisposing factors.
Pneumonia is also very frequent and fatal, favored by poor maintenance conditions (excessive humidity, poor ventilation, stress).
By its origins and its fur, the chinchilla is an animal adapted to low temperatures. Above 25 ° C, the chinchilla induces hyperventilation, hyperthermia, and death occurs fairly quickly.
The chinchilla, an animal for children?
If you’re hoping to give your young child a chinchilla to grow up together, it’s best to change your plans or postpone them. Rodents are generally too fragile to resist the clumsiness of children. Under 8 years, children can cause them serious harm too easily and if the animal dies, the child himself could remain shocked for a long time. Even though the chinchilla is considered hardy, due to its instinct, it is one of those rodents who do not like to be squeezed and handled carelessly. Finally, nocturnal animal, your child will not have many opportunities to meet him and observe him in activity.