For rodent-lovers, chinchillas are especially fantastic because of their 15-20-year lifespan. Unlike Syrian hamsters, though, they’re not for beginners. They have extremely delicate digestive systems that can’t tolerate many of the fruity-pebble feed mixes sold; I’ve found only one food, Mazuri, to be good. She gets hay every day, but it better be orchard grass; if I give her timothy hay, she takes a bite, stares at me, and throws it to the side. Treats are limited to a few bits of dried fruit — papaya being especially good for their digestive health — per week. They have natural defense systems: Chinchillas can detach that squirrel-like tail at will, though it won’t regrow and if you’re the one to pull the tail you won’t get trusted again. They can detach a clump of fur at will if it’s being grabbed. If she hears something strange with her human-grade hearing at night, she yelps like a monkey (THAT didn’t startle me the first time).
They have amazing personalities and intelligence. Mine loves to watch TV, but hates commercial interruptions. She’ll dance around the guinea pigs’ cage and tease them. When I come up and scratch behind her ears, she stands up and both ears slowly drop to the side by 90 degrees.
Here, she checks to make sure my slipper isn’t a relative.