Chinchillas make wonderful pets. Their adorable appearance and unique behavioral characteristics make them fun and interactive companions. Before adopting chinchillas however, it’s important to take into consideration the initial investment costs as well as the cost of proper husbandry and maintenance. This guide outlines just exactly how much the adoption of chinchillas will cost you.
1. Initial Investment
The initial investment for your new furry friends will depend on several factors, as well as how involved you get. For example, you can purchase just what you need to meet the basic requirements of your pets or you can go all out and buy all kinds of chinchilla cage accessories in the market. There’s also a range in prices within the products themselves. Here you’ll find the approximate costs for average products to create an environment where your chinchillas will thrive.
Your chinchillas themselves will likely be the largest investment. However, it largely depends on where you go, the color patterns of the animals as well as whether or not you purchase them as babies or full-fledged adults. In addition, different color patterns tend to cost more or less than others. It’s also recommended to have at least two chinchillas together so whatever your desired animal, plan on at least two chinchillas at that price.
1.1.1 Pet stores
In general, pet stores will likely charge between $150 and $200 for a standard grey chinchilla. The quality of animals available at pet stores can vary greatly. Many pet stores do not provide adequate nutrition and/or husbandry to their animals so many are sold with health problems and misinformation. Also, pet stores often won’t have other color variations beyond the standard grey so if you’re looking for a different color pattern, you will likely have to go to a breeder.
With breeders, the price for a standard grey will like be around the same, although breeders with larger volumes of animals could go as low as $80. In addition, it will also depend on the chinchilla’s lineage and fur quality. For example, if the animal is a show chinchilla or a descendant from one, it will likely be significantly more expensive. With breeders it’s very important that you are selective in who you contact.
Do extensive research on any breeder that you are considering buying chinchillas from. They should be willing to provide you with references from other previous buyers and have many positive testimonials. You can also check to see if the breeder is affiliated with any official organizations like the Chinchilla Club Breeder Directory.
If possible, you should also visit their breeding operation to see what kind of conditions the animals are kept in. Factory farms and large-scale breeders often keep their chinchillas in inhumane conditions and they can be predisposed to many diseases and health conditions.
Many rescues also end up with chinchillas from time to time. This is generally due to lack of research on the owner’s part, as chinchillas require a good amount of individualized care. A rescue chinchilla will likely be around $100 and sometimes a cage may even be included, reducing the initial investment significantly. Keep in mind that the temperament of these chinchillas may be less than ideal. Some may be very ‘wild’ still due to not being handled or even aggressive/fearful due to mishandling and abuse. If you are willing and committed to working with one of these animals consistently, then a rescue chinchilla is a great choice.
1.1.4 Color patterns
There are many color variations to choose from when purchasing a chinchilla and all will come at a different price. As mentioned previously, a standard grey chinchilla will likely cost you between $100-$200. Other color variations such as violet and sapphire that are less common can be as much as $300. If you’re looking for very rare fur mutation like a curly, expect to pay up to $600 per animal.
The age of your chinchillas will also determine how much they cost. Obviously baby animals will cost more than adults, especially if they are pedigreed. Generally adult chinchillas will start as low as $50 or $75 an animal. If they are one of the less common color patterns or fur mutations then expect to pay the same amount regardless the age of the animal.
The habitat you create for your chinchillas can be as basic or as involved as you’d like it to be. We will go over the bare minimum for what you need shortly as well as the price for extras that new chinchilla owners often purchase for their animals. Keep in mind that many of these items will also factor in to the maintenance costs which we will cover later. In general, you have two options for a habitat for your chinchillas: a cage or a room.
If you decide to go with a cage for your chinchillas’ habitat, you will need to make sure that whichever cage you decide on is suitable for chinchillas. For example, while many plastic cages are marketed as ideal for chinchillas, in reality they are a very poor choice. This is because chinchillas are avid chewers and plastic will not stand up to their teeth. You will need a metal cage with thick enough bars that the chinchillas can not chew them and/or escape in between them.
Ideally you should have a large metal chinchilla cage. In the wild, chinchillas jump and run all day so a cage that allows them to mimic this natural behavior is the best option. New multilevel metal cages typically start around $250. Any lower than this and you may be compromising on quality as well as size. You can also try finding a used cage to save money. Make sure they are still of good quality and have all their parts. Overall, expect to pay between $250-$400 for your cage.
Your other option for your chinchillas’ habitat is a whole room devoted to them. In this case, you will have to completely chinchilla-proof the room which means covering outlets, removing wires/cords/anything they can chew on as well as ample ledges and levels for them to use. The price variance here really depends on materials and whether or not you plan to renovate the room yourself. You can potentially spend as little as $200 on up to virtually anything you can imagine.
Chinchillas are very intelligent creatures. They will need ample enrichment items in order to thrive in their domestic environment. You should have a variety of items such as wooden/pumice ledges, wooden chews, wheels, tunnels, tubes, etc. The price of all of these items vary but expect to pay at least $50-$80 ‘furnishing’ your chinchillas’ new home. At minimum you need different levels and chews to make sure their teeth are worn down.
1.4 Food & Water
Chinchillas also need specially formulated food. You should avoid foods with added seeds, dried fruits, etc., as chinchillas are notorious for only eating the good parts of those type of mixes. This can result in malnutrition and could cause your chinchilla to refuse the essential part of their food.
These pellets range in price, depending on quality but they shouldn’t be more than around $15 for a small 2.5 or 3 pound bag. You will also need fresh hay available for your chinchillas at all times. Timothy and alfalfa hay are ideal. Timothy is better for mature adults while alfalfa is great for babies, nursing/pregnant chinchillas and any animal struggling to maintain their healthy weight.
A bag of good quality hay will like by roughly $20 for a 40 ounce bag. Keep in mind that pellets and hay will be both an initial investment as well as a recurring monthly expense. You will also need a food dish for each animal.
Those shouldn’t be more than $5 a piece. Just make sure you buy ceramic or metal heavy-duty dishes, so that they can’t be tipped over and/or chewed up. You will also need a heavy duty, glass water bottle for your animals. This shouldn’t cost more than $15, depending on the size. Be sure you clean it regularly to prevent any mold or bacteria growth.
1.5 Dust baths
Another unique aspect of chinchilla care is that they require dust baths. This is due to their fur being incredibly dense, so it can not get wet like during a typical bath. Because of this, you will need to buy special chinchilla dust as well as some sort of container for your chinchillas to bathe in. Make sure to buy genuine volcanic ash or pumice based dust. The dust should consist of this one ingredient and nothing else. Chinchilla dust generally costs around $15 for a good sized, roughly 3 pound container. The container is up to you, though many pet stores sell specially designed chinchilla bathhouses. They are usually plastic contraptions designed for the comfort of the animal as well as to prevent dust from getting all over their environment. Expect to pay between $5-$20 depending on what kind of container you decide on.
Now that you have a general idea of the initial investment your animals will require, let’s go over the monthly maintenance you can expect. On an average month your chinchillas will require food, both pellets and hay, as well as new chews and more dust. Make sure you factor in a budget for monthly maintenance in order to ensure you can properly care for your new furry friends.
It is likely that with two chinchillas you will go through at least one bag of pellets and one or two bags of hay a month. You should make sure you store both types of food in a cool, dry place to ensure they stay fresh for as long as possible. Hay is particularly sensitive to moisture. If at any point your hay becomes damp, throw it out immediately as bacteria and mold begin to breed right away. Expect to pay roughly $35-$55 a month on pellets and hay for your animals. It’s entirely possible that you may have to buy less than this, but it’s always good to be prepared.
You will need to provide your chinchillas with new toys/chews every month or every other month at maximum. Anytime you notice that the chews and toys are getting worn down or have sharp edges/are breaking apart, throw them out and replace them. On average you should expect to spend between $10-$15 replacing chews and toys for your animals.
2.3 Chinchilla bath dust
Depending on where you live and how many animals you have, you may only go through one container of chinchilla dust every other month. For example, if you live in a warm, humid environment where your chinchillas need dust baths every day to keep the oil in their fur to a minimum, then you will probably need to buy a new container of dust every month. If you live in a cool, dry environment and your animals only need baths a couple times a week, then you likely won’t need to replace the container of dust for a couple months. Plan to replace the chinchilla dust container every month when figuring out the costs of your chinchillas, just in case. This puts dust bath maintenance at $15 per month.
3. Overall Cost Breakdown
(prices are for two animals)
3.1 Initial Investment
- Animals: $160-$1200
- Habitat (cage): $250-$400
- Enrichment: $50-$80
- Food dishes: $10
- Food (pellets + hay): $35
- Water bottle: $15
- Chinchilla dust: $15
- Bath house/container: $5-$20
- Total: $540-$1775
3.2 Monthly Maintenance
- Food (pellets + hay): $35-$55
- Chinchilla dust: $15
- Enrichment: $10-$15
- Total: $60-85
3.3 Vet care
You should also have a vet care fund set up should your animals need medical attention at any point. This fund should have a minimum of $200-$300 in it at all times.