9 Interesting Facts About Chinchillas
There is no doubt about it, chinchillas are certainly adorable creatures. Their lush fur and cute features make them popular animals to admire on Instagram, but the chinchilla is a fascinating animal with more than just a cute face.
Here are some more amazing facts that you might not have known about the bushy-tailed chinchilla:
1. Chinchillas are rodents
They might look like a cross between a squirrel and a rabbit, but the chinchilla is actually a rodent. They are classified as such because of their unique teeth that never stop growing. In order to keep their teeth at a healthy size, they constantly need to chew on hard objects in order to grind them down.
2. They are considered to have the softest fur in the world
Most chinchillas are grey but they have been bred to have fur in a variety of colours, including black, brown and even gold! It is 30 times softer than a human hair and 50-80 strands can grow out of just one follicle. Their fur is so dense that the chinchilla can never contract parasites like fleas. Of course, having the most luxurious fur in the animal kingdom has its downsides and they have to take regular dust baths in order to keep their coat fluffy and oil free.
3. Their fur helps them to survive
Their fur is more than just irresistibly soft, it also helps them escape from common predators. The defence called ‘fur slip’ allows their hair to easily detach from the body, leaving the predator with a mouth full of fur as the chinchilla escapes to safety.
Their thick fur also protects them against the cold temperatures common to the mountainous areas where they come from.
4. They are hunted for their fur
Having such soft fur comes at a cost. Chinchillas were once very abundant in the mountainous areas of South America but after their fur became increasingly popular in the 1700’s, they were hunted for their soft pelts by poachers. Wild chinchillas are currently classed as critically endangered because they have been hunted to near extinction for luxury clothing.
5. Natural acrobats
Despite their rotund bodies, chinchillas are incredibly agile and it’s all thanks to their incredible tails. They originate from mountainous areas, so it’s not surprising that they love nothing more than climbing and effortlessly running across narrow pathways. A chinchilla is capable of jumping as high as six feet in the air! They are very good at problem-solving and will use their natural gymnastic skills to get to hard to reach destinations.
6. They have thumbs
They aren’t as developed as a human or ape, but Chinchillas have an underdeveloped thumb that helps them to grip food. Their unique front paws allow them to keep traction so that they don’t slip and the padding helps to absorb any shock from a high fall so the chinchilla won’t get injured.
7. They are social and compassionate creatures
A chinchilla thrives best in a group, which is why it is not recommended that domestic chinchillas are sold separately, as they can get very lonely. In the wild, chinchillas can live in groups of up to 100 others which makes them a stronger force against any potential predators. Unlike other animals in the rodent family, male chinchillas will not kill their babies (also known as kits) and female chinchillas have been known to “adopt” babies if their mother cannot produce milk.
8. They are very vocal
After living in such large groups, chinchillas developed their own method of communication so that they can express when they are happy or frustrated. They have a vast array of vocal sounds ranging from curious to annoyed. When they are angry, chinchillas can omit a sharp bark and even spray urine at their aggressor. Conversely, a chinchilla can grunt and chirp when they are happy and exploring their own environment.
9. Chinchillas are crepuscular animals
It’s a common misconception that chinchillas are nocturnal but they’re actually crepuscular. This means that they are at their most active at dawn and dusk, which is advantageous for them as it means they are awake when most of their common predators are asleep.