Are Chinchillas Kid Friendly?


Giving your child a pet can be a great way for him/her to learn the value of responsibility at an early age. In some cases, pets such as the chinchilla are the top choices for parents when it comes to pets for their children. But are chinchillas really kid-friendly?

Chinchillas are, in general, not good pets for young children as they are quite delicate animals, and do require a fair amount of looking after. They are however a fantastic pet for the older child or teenager.

Given that there are plenty of different choices that you could go for when you are looking for a good pet for your child, you might want to look at other options rather than a chinchilla, especially if you are planning on giving one to a young kid that is under 5 years old. I’ll explain my reasons for this below, and help you to understand why you should probably not get one for your young child.

Why Might Parents Choose Chinchillas As A Pet?

Parents tend to try to give their young children small pets when they believe their kids are mature enough to look after them. Pets are fantastic, and teach kids the importance of being responsible.

It’s usually a steep learning curve having to manage food and water, cleaning, handling, possibly grooming, and whatever toys, etc are suitable for playtime. All of which the child must eventually learn if they want to make sure that their pet is happy and healthy.

Smaller pets (rather than dogs or cats) are easier to look after and require much less maintenance, so this will normally be what parents choose.

Because of these reasons, parents often believe that chinchillas will also make good starting pets for children, but this is not necessarily a good choice, depending on the age and maturity of the child.

Understandably, kids (and adults!) will be drawn to the cute and cuddly appearance of chinchillas, and whilst they seem harmless, they will defendOpens in a new tab. themselves if put in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. So the question is what circumstances could lead to problems, and make them unsuitable for kids?

Reasons Chinchillas May Not Be Suitable For Kids

Temperament

Chinchillas are really delicate, with fine bones, and even a small amount of pressure could injure them. Often, young children (roughly under 5 years old) are unable to gauge the amount of force they are applying, which could result in serious injury to the chinchilla, or the chinchilla biting them in fear.

Another unfortunate result of the chinchilla being scared by an overly enthusiastic child is urine spraying – although this isn’t harmful to either the chinchilla or the child, it isn’t very pleasant, and shows the chinchilla is not happy!

Even though chinchillas look harmless and easy to handle, not all of them actually like being handled or carried, regardless of whether the one doing the handling is a child or not.

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If you do choose to get a chinchilla, then you should try to get one that is naturally inquisitive and eager to greet you – these are often easier to handle, and more likely to want to spend time with you.

Natural habits

Another reason why chinchillas potentially don’t make good pets for kids is the fact that these animals are crepuscular. They are often thought to be nocturnal, meaning that they’re more active during the night than in the day, but they are actually crepuscular – active at dawn and at dusk and are will most likely be sleeping at any other time.

Children are more active during the day, as most humans naturally are, and don’t get to stay up late at night. So, the ‘awake window’ that would allow the child and chinchilla to interact and play together would be slim.

However, chinchillas are pretty adaptable, and you can adjust their sleep schedule slightly (especially if there’s a reward in it for them, such as playtime, or a raisin!). However, if the chinchilla is living in the same room as your child, then be aware that the chinchilla will still be noisy overnight.

Are Chinchillas Good Pets For Kids?

Chinchilla with children

Chinchillas are a great pet, if you do your research and know how to care for them properly. So what do I mean by doing your research?

Most specifically: they require specialist food, certain types of cages are unsuitable, they need specialist sand to dust bathe in (so you’ll need a container too), they can’t get wet, they can’t have plastic in their cages (as they’ll eat it, and it could cause blockages), they can’t have a lot of treats (and only certain types – they are basically diabetic, so can’t have sugar), and they can be sensitive to their environment if it’s really noisy.

If you have taken all of their specialist needs into account, chinchillas are really easy to care for – they’ll just require food, water, dust for bathing, toys, the occasional treat, and a lot of love.

So, yes chinchillas are a good pet for children, as they’re very affectionate and sociable, and will form long-term bonds with their owners if they take the time to let them adapt to their new home and environment.

They will take a lot of patience, and as mentioned above, have specific requirements which must be met in order to keep them healthy, and live a long life (which can be up to 20 years).

One caveat, however, is that they may not be suitable for all ages of children. This articleOpens in a new tab. describes in more details the reasons why they may be suitable for 9-11 year olds.

How Old Should Your Kid Be To Have A Chinchilla?

Although they’re cute and cuddly, chinchillas are quite gentle creatures, each with their own personality, and some may not like being handled. This is not specific to children – they may not like being handled by adults either. However, it’s often difficult to explain to a small child why they can’t play or hold the chinchilla.

Chinchillas are also very wriggly when they want to get down and play, and if a child tries to hold on to them beyond the chinchilla’s comfort, then they make take steps to try to defend themselves, and may even end up biting the child.

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In addition to this, some young children are not naturally as careful as older kids or adults, and may end up actually hurting the chinchilla without realizing it.

These are just a few reasons why a chinchilla might not be the best pet for a young child, but it will depend on the character and personality of your child, which only you will know. Of course, you’re most likely going to be the one doing most of the work when it comes to cleaning, and feeding, so you should take that into consideration too.

With that in mind, it’s up to you to decide whether or not your child is ready for a chinchilla. If they already display a sense of responsibility early on, then he/she might be ready for a chinchilla. If not, you might be better off finding another small animal that is perfect for kids, or wait until they’re a bit older if they have their heart set on a chinchilla.

If you ultimately choose to get a chinchilla for your child, you should make sure they don’t come from a large chain pet store, but instead from a rescue/adoption center, or a reputable breeder. They will both be able to let you take time to get to know the chinchilla you have your eye on, and vice versa.


In summary, chinchillas make great pets for kids and adults, but they’re just not suitable for the very young. They don’t require a lot of maintenance, but it is very specific, so make sure you do your homework before getting one.

Jo

I'm a Biomedical Scientist by trade, (over 22 years and counting), but my goal is to rehabilitate animals for an living. I started offering Canine Massage, and Equine Shiatsu alongside my lab work, but this has had to take a backseat to the pandemic. So I thought I'd put together a blog of (what I consider to be) helpful advice for chinchilla owners, and prospective chin parents. I hope you find something useful.

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