What Is The Longest Living Pet Rodent?


Rodents can make excellent pets, but, unfortunately, most of them don’t live very long. Rodents, being typically small, have shorter life spans than larger mammals. So, if you’re looking around for a pet rodent that lives a long time, you’re going to have to be selective.

Chinchillas are the best long-living rodent to choose for a pet. Chinchillas live up to 20 years, much longer than the average lifespan of a smaller rodent such as a hamster or mouse. The only other pet rodent that even comes close is a gerbil, which can live up to 5 years.

Chinchillas can be your pet for well over a decade. They’re playful and active, especially at dusk and dawn. Although they don’t like to be held very much, they can form an emotional bond with their owners. Read on to find out all about chinchillas and why this long-lived animal can make such a great pet.

Rodents as Long-Living Pets

Chinchillas are rodents, small mammals that have large incisors. They use those teeth as tools for burrowing and finding food. Rodents are usually intelligent and very quick and can make good pets for younger children. However, most rodents are not especially long-lived.

There are 3 reasons that rodents don’t typically have long lives:

  • Early Sexual Maturity – Most rodents can breed from a young age
  • High Heart Rate – Usually, a higher heart rate means a shorter life span. For instance, a rat can have a heart rate of up to 480 beats per minute while a human has a typical heart rate of up to 100 beats a minute
  • Small Size – On average, larger animals live longer than smaller animals

This means if you’re looking for a pet to stay with you for a long time, rodents probably aren’t a good fit unless you decide to invest in a chinchilla. Take a look at the table below at some of the average life spans for rodents:

RodentTypical Life Span in Years
Mouse1 to 2
Hamster2 to 3
Rat2 to 3
Gerbil3 to 5
Guinea Pig5 to 7
Chinchilla10 to 20

Rodents with Shorter Life Spans

You can see that, as a general rule, the smaller the rodent, the shorter the lifespan. That also follows with a higher heart rate, as the smaller the animal, the higher the heart rate typically is.

It’s tough to have a pet die, and almost all of us have been through it at some point. Some people choose to enjoy a pet with a longer lifespan, so they don’t have to deal with the heartbreak of losing a pet too soon.

Guinea pigs can live for as long as 7 years, on average, but in some cases, they can live much longer than that. While it is not typical, guinea pigs have been known to live over 10 years, putting them in second place for long-living rodents.

Hamsters and rats are much smaller and don’t live very long at all but still double the lifespan of the timid mouse.

Chinchillas Have 20 Year Life Span

Chinchillas, with proper care, can live even longer than the average of 20 years. You are looking at a pet that can be with you for a substantial amount of time.

Note that rodents in the wild will live a far shorter lifespan than rodents you keep as pets. You can probably guess that predators play a large part in the shorter lifespan in the wild.

With any rodent, you should do your homework and find a reputable breeder rather than a pet store. A pet store may not have acceptable breeding practices and could possibly have less than quality care for the chinchillas. Examine the chinchilla to make sure there are no patches of fur missing and no other problems with the coat. Also, make sure their eyes are clear with no discharge.

Did you know? Although you can’t keep it as a pet, the naked mole-rat is the longest-living rodent, clocking in at an impressive lifespan of up to 30 years.

Chinchillas as Pets

First of all, chinchillas are cute, with luxurious fur. With their adorable ears and trembly whiskers, they can resemble the face of a small rabbit. They’re also very colorful animals, having been bred in 30 different colors, including purple. That’s right – purple! You could literally run out and get a violet chinchilla right now. If purple isn’t your color, chinchillas come in these other colors:

  • Ebony
  • Gray
  • Beige
  • White
  • Sapphire

However, the most common is the gray chinchilla. Other colors are rarer and will cost you more money if you decide to purchase a chinchilla as a pet.

Chinchilla

Chinchillas generally weigh up to 25 ounces (about 1 1/2 pounds) and grow to up to 14 inches in length. Their fur is thick as well as luxurious, and their tails are bushy. The tail makes up almost 1/3 of their entire body.

They’re also clean animals, preferring a dust bath to water. A dust bath combines with the natural oils on their skin to whisk away the dirt and grime. They’re very social and, if you’re looking for a good indoor play buddy, they’re an excellent choice. 

Benefits of Having Chinchillas

Having any pet is likely to make you a happier person. Studies have shown that playing with pets is likely to:

  • Decrease feelings of loneliness
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Decrease your cholesterol levels
  • Lower your triglyceride levels

Watching your pets play and scamper around the room is a good way to relax from the stress of everyday life.

Chinchillas are very soft and incredibly cute mammals. Although they don’t like to be cuddled, if they’re trained early enough, they can become very sociable pets. They’re fun to watch and, being long-lived, can provide you with years of companionship. However, as a chinchilla is a pet with long life, you will need to be committed to your chinchilla as well. It’s not a disposable toy.

Downsides of Owning a Chinchilla

As with any pet, there are some downsides to owning a chinchilla. Remember when we talked about dust baths earlier? Yeah, you’re going to need to keep some special dust around for that. If you’re thinking of buying a chinchilla, here are some things to consider:

  • Expensive – Chinchillas are far more costly than other small rodents and prices will vary depending on color. For instance, a violet chinchilla will cost you far more than a typical gray chinchilla. Expect to pay anywhere upwards of $150 for a chinchilla. Check online for local breeders or rescue organizations to help you find the right chinchilla.
  • Dust Baths – Those dust baths we mentioned need special dust for the chinchilla. You can purchase this at pet stores or online but expect to keep a lot of it on hand, as they generally take a “bath” about 3 times a week.
  • Needs a Climate-Controlled Environment – Chinchillas don’t sweat. Because they don’t sweat, they have to be kept cool. Temperatures shouldn’t exceed about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can’t keep a chinchilla in a cooler environment, you shouldn’t get one.
  • Nocturnal – Chinchillas will be most active at dawn and dusk. While you may not mind the dusk part of that, the dawn activities may be a bit much to handle. Consider the placement of your chinchilla in your home to make sure it is a good fit for you and your family.
  • Not Kid-Friendly – Your chinchilla will, most likely, not want to be picked up. While they are social, and will often want attention, they also want to be active and don’t particularly like being held. Because of this, they’re not the best pet for young kids.
  • Chewers – Chinchillas will chew. Those front incisors they have are for more than show. They use those and need to keep them sharp, so they will need to have their own chew toys. It also means you need to either keep them in a cage or chinchilla-proof the room they will be in.
  • Stress – Chinchillas are naturally stressful creatures, so travel or a change to a routine will cause them even more anxiety. They need a regular schedule and stability.

Any pet you get will have some special needs you must attend to. If you want a playful pet with lots of energy, especially at night, a chinchilla is the pet for you. It’s fun and attractive to look at and will provide you with a lot of fun times if you care for it correctly.

Care of Chinchillas

Chinchillas do very well either in a paired same-sex set or singly. Understand that chinchillas, if let loose in your room, may climb all over you and your furnishings. That’s part of the fun of owning a chinchilla. Be patient with a chinchilla, and they will soon come to trust you. Here are some other tips about caring for your chinchilla.

Habitat

Anywhere you put your chinchilla must be climate controlled. If the temperature is more than 77 degrees Fahrenheit, your chinchilla is in danger of overheating. It’s best to keep your chinchilla in a cooler and quieter part of your home. That way, your pet gets the sleep they need during the day and stays cool.

Chinchilla enclosure

Chinchillas are active creatures, and their cage needs to reflect that. In the wild, they are constantly moving and jumping, so a multi-leveled cage is a must for a chinchilla. Make sure the cage is large enough and has the following:

  • Perches
  • Ramps
  • Platforms

At a minimum, have a cage with multi-levels that has 24 inches by 24 inches of floor space on the bottom level.

You should note from above that chinchillas love to chew, which means that a plastic cage is out of the question. You should have a wire cage with a wooden nest box and a partly wooden floor so that the chinchilla’s feet are not torn up from the wire. You can also use pine shavings in your cage.

Nourishment

Feed your chinchilla a pellet-based special diet. You can pick this up at any pet store. They need a lot of roughage, so make sure they have some hay along with their food pellets. If you do give treats, make sure you give them in moderation.

A balanced diet for a chinchilla would include the following:

  • At least 20 % protein
  • No more than 5% fat
  • At least 35% fiber

The digestive system of a chinchilla is extremely sensitive, so make sure you’re feeding your chinchilla just the right food. A rich or fatty diet will not digest well in a chinchilla’s stomach. Also, remember that you should stick with one diet for a chinchilla. If you do have a diet change for your pet, introduce the new food a little at a time until the animal becomes acclimated.

Make sure your chinchilla has plenty of water available at all times. They will need fresh, clean water on a regular basis. Chinchillas are very active animals and should stay hydrated.

Cleanliness

As mentioned above, chinchillas keep themselves very clean with a dust bath. Here’s how that works – the chinchilla’s fur is very thick, so the dust is the perfect material to penetrate it. Once there, it absorbs the chinchilla’s natural oils and cleans away the dirt.

This dust bath will also protect the chinchilla’s prize fur. You should never bathe your chinchilla in water. Their fur is not set up for a water bath. They will need to give themselves a dust bath about three times each week so make sure they have enough dust to accomplish their task.

Entertainment

Chinchillas need entertainment, or they will get themselves into trouble in your home. Make sure your chinchillas have plenty of toys to keep them occupied during their nighttime hours. These don’t have to be expensive toys – you can go outside and get a tree branch that is pesticide-free for your chinchilla.

Tree Branches

Tree branches or blocks of wood not only entertain your chinchilla but also keep their incisor teeth nice and sharp, which they need. You can also purchase wood toys from your local pet store.

Don’t buy your chinchilla anything made of plastic, and don’t get them any toys with small pieces or parts that can get stuck in their throat. Think of these toys as chew toys, and you’ll be fine. You don’t want them getting hurt on the toys.

You could get your chinchilla an exercise ball, as you would for a gerbil or hamster, but you will need a big one. It should be one with an open side and a solid, smooth running surface for safety. Remember that a chinchilla would far rather have the run of your room rather than an exercise wheel.

Health Problems in Chinchillas

Your chinchilla should live a good, long time, especially with regular veterinarian visits. However, if you see any of the following, make sure you take your chinchilla to the doctor immediately:

  • Lack-luster coat – Chinchillas should have healthy, beautiful coats. A problem with the coat may be your first clue your chinchilla is having a problem.
  • Eye discharge – A chinchilla’s eyes should be bright and clear. If you see anything else, get to an exotic vet.
  • Diarrhea – Could be a digestive problem.
  • Overgrown teeth – This will cause problems for a chinchilla. Prevent this by having plenty of toys for chewing and grinding down the chinchilla’s incisors.
  • Broken nails – This could be a problem with the habitat, so check that first.
  • Breathing difficulty – Go to an exotic vet.

Handle your chinchilla as little as possible when they’re sick, as this could lead to more stress. Instead, handle as little as possible and consult with your veterinarian about the problem.

Chinchillas are Used for Clothing

That beautiful chinchilla fur has led to a lot of instances when the fur was harvested for coats and stoles. Chinchilla fur is hard to work with, so the price of a fur stole, or coat is expensive, making this fur a type of status symbol.

Where chinchillas were once caught in the wild, almost leading to their extinction, there are now hundreds of chinchilla farms all across the world where chinchillas are harvested for their fur. It is harvested – a chinchilla isn’t shaved like a sheep. The chinchilla is killed for the fur.

Chinchilla fur is warm and incredibly soft, making it very popular. It requires a lot of care, and a chinchilla fur coat can range in price anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000.

As public awareness has been raised, fur is becoming less and less popular, but there are still many, many chinchillas farms out there continuing to harvest this beautiful fur.

The Final Word

For a long-lived pet rodent, it’s hard to go wrong with a chinchilla. If you’re looking for a fun, active pet, a chinchilla is a perfect fit for your family.  Chinchillas will be the longest-living pet rodent you can find. If you’re looking for long-term companionship in a pet rodent, this is the pet for you.

Lee Cameron

When I was younger, I had guinea pigs and hamsters as pets. There was limited information back then as to how to take care of rodents, and indeed information on the various types of rodents that could be kept as pets. In this website, I hope to make it an easy, one-stop information portal on raising rodents!

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