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Info. on Chinchillas, Rats, Ferrets & Degus


Chinchillas in the wild

  • The chinchilla originated in Peru and can be found in the wild from southern Peru and Bolivia, to southern Chile.
  • The chinchilla possess the thickest fur coats of all mammals, which is considered to be highly prized.
  • Due to the value of their coats, chinchillas were hunted in South America almost to extinction.
  • The chinchilla is now a protected species in many countries and though controversial, this is partly due to the establishment of fur farms which have helped save these animals from extinction.

General Chinchilla Information 

  • The average adult chinchilla has a rather squat appearance
  • Measures: approx. 30-35cms (12" - 14")
  • Long whiskers measuring up to 12.5cms (5") & a long wiry, bushy tail
  • Average body weight is 500-600grams
  • Chinchilla fur is dense, dry and soft to the touch should not be greasy or patchy
  • Colour vary from standard grey to a variety of other colours and pricing often depends on the rarity of the colour
  • There are approx. 2,000 individual hairs to every 2.5 cms of the chinchilla's body !!
  • Lifespan of the chinchillas in captivity  is approx. 8 - 10 years or even longer !!

Chinchillas as pets

  • Chinchillas have existed in the wild, on ranches and in zoos for many years, however, it is only recently that chinchillas have been considered as pets.
  • These animals are nocturnal and become very active, jumping and climbing during the night.
  • Chinchillas need to be handled correctly so that they feel secure and safe - place one hand firmly under your chinchilla's bottom and other other hand over his back - remember that the chinchilla's ribs are very fragile 
  • When it becomes accustomed to you, the chinchilla should enjoy being stroked and held.
  • If your chinchillas enjoys sitting on your shoulder be very careful he does not fall off !!
  • However, these animals are not normally suitable pets for young children.
  • We have a variety of quality chinchilla cages on our site which would suit the needs of your chinchilla.

General Care

  • Chinchillas should ideally be housed indoors (14 to 20 degrees) as cool, dry conditions suit them best
  • Damp, humid conditions can lead to ill-health
  • A sand bath is essential -  special, fine chinchilla sand to "bathe" in 
  • Place the sand in a convenient shallow tray within the cage and your chinchilla will happily roll in this for a few minutes, working the sand into his fur and generally purifying and oxygenating each individual hair
  • Once used, the sand should be removed and thrown away and replaced with clean sand 3 or 4 times a week
  • NEVER bathe your chinchilla in water


  • Chinchillas are generally very robust creatures and ailments are usually minor
  • Dietary related ilnesses such as constipation ad diarrhoea as well as minor abrasions and dry skin are the usual problems
  • If in doubt about your chinchillas health always consult your vet

Choosing a chinchilla cage

  • Make sure that the cage is large enough for your chinchilla.
  • As a guide, one chinchilla can be kept in a cage approximately 60cmW x 60cm D x 35cmH (24" x 24" x 14")
  • 2 chinchillas require a cage measuring approx. 75cm x 60cm x 35cmH (30" x 24" x 14")
  • The cage should not be too tall as (although chinchillas are agile) if theymay fall from a significant height it could prove fatal 
  • The bars should have a mesh gauge of 2 x 2 cms (0.75" x 0.75") which will allow the chinchilla to spread its feet evently without catching i'ts toes
  • Cages should remain indoors unless kept in a purpose built, secure outer building.
  • Your chinchilla should also have a run outside the confines of the cage for approximately one hour each day.
  • Chinchillas like quiet, so the cage should be placed in a quiet environment that is well ventilated but not draughty.
  • On hot days, ensure that the cage is shaded from bright sunlight and that there is a constant flow of cool air.
  • Chinchillas do not like to be too hot and can suffer from heat stroke
  • Remember, temperatures above 75ºF can be fatal to chinchillas.

Cage Accessories

  • There are not a great deal of accessories that can be sold along with chinchilla cages - exercise wheels are a product that can be purchased but are either liked or disliked by individual chinchillas
  • Wooden branches or poles can be fitted into the cage for the chinchilla to climb
  • Wooden platforms can be placed inside the cage for the chinchilla to sit on as they often like to be above ground level
  • Some chinchillas appreciate a wooden box to hide in 
  • A hay box is essential as chinchillas enjoy eating hay.
  • DO NOT put wood shavings or other substrate in the cage as this can damage a chinchilla's fur.
  • A pull out tray is a great idea (which can be lined with newspaper) to catch any waste matter 

Cleaning the Cage

  • Chinchillas do not smell, but their cage should be cleaned out thoroughly at least once a week.
  • Clean any shelves and boxes every day as cleanliness and hygiene is important for all animals.
  • Any left over food, mouldy hay, droppings in food or stale water can cause bacteria to form which can be very harmful to your chinchilla.
  • Most cages will have a removeable tray in the base which can be pulled out to place in sawdust, paper etc.
  • You could also use a wood based cat litter.

Play & Chewing

  • Place a wooden box in the cage so that your chinchillas can hide or sleep in it.
  • Chinchillas need to keep their teeth trimmed and so will try to chew almost anything, so do not let you chinchilla run around the house unsupervised as he may get trodden on and seriously hurt or he may try and chew things like wires, which would have serious consequences.
  • Avoid toys or shelves made from plastic as plastic, paint, stained wood etc are poisonous to chinchillas.
  • There are a variety of wooden items on sale which are safe to chew and a good pet shop will advise you which to purchase.
  • A chinchillas will play for hours in a cardboard tube but he should be supervised so that he does not eat the tube as well !!
  • Chinchillas also like Pumice and cuttlefish and Cuttlefish is a very good source of calcium.


  • Always purchase a good quality food for your chinchilla and make sure that it is high in fibre to keep their delicate digestive systems healthy.
  • Their feeding requirements are very simple but they SHOULD NOT be fed rabbit pellets as these are not a good substitute
  • Fresh hay is essential for roughage
  • They also enjoy raisins, grapes or apple as an occasional treat or approved chinchilla treats can be purchased from pet stores


Rats in the wild

  • Rats belong to a group of mouse-like rodents that includes over one thousand species.
  • Their history can be traced back thousands of years to Southeast and Central Asia, China and India, where they are thought to have originated.
  • The black rat arrived in Europe in the 12th century as the shipping trade began to flourish. Its cousin, the brown rat, arrived in the early 18th century.
  • These early rats conjure up images of disease carrying rodents. The domestic varieties have been bred for many years to be quiet, affectionate, intelligent and safe.

 Rats as pets

  • Rats make excellent pets as they are highly intelligent, social animals
  • Although they enjoy the companionship of humans, they thrive in - and need - the company of other rats.
  • They will usually survive alone but your rat would have a happier and more interesting life if he is kept with other rats.
  • Ideally, two or more of the same sex are a good mix and they will enjoy grooming each other and curling up together for a nap.
  • They will establish a pecking order as all animals do when living together, so expect the odd "scrap" but remember that this is normal animal behaviour and once the pecking order has been established this behaviour should stop.
  • Another thing to consider is that a rat's most active time is in the middle if the night when most rat owners are asleep so the company of other rats at this time will prevent him from becoming bored and lonely.


  • The more attention you give your new rats when you first get them home, the sooner they will get used to your voice and your smell and begin to make friends with you.
  • Handle your rats as much as possible so that they will soon learn to enjoy your company - you cannot give it too much attention or handling
  • One good way of getting your rats used to you is to let them ride around the house on your shoulder or inside your jumper
  • Rats should NEVER be picked up by the tail - it can cause injury and is uncomfortable for the rat
  • Lift your rat by placing one or both hands firmly under his chest, behind the front legs but be careful not to squeeze

Rat-Proof your house

  • Once your rats are used to you, make sure you know where your rats are and rat-proof any room that they are let loose in.
  • Many rats scent-mark 'their' territory with tiny drops of urine so you might want to keep a something to throw over soft furnishings when the rats are out
  • Electrical cords that cannot be kept out of reach of small teeth should be covered with aquarium tubing or hosepiping which can be bought cheaply from most pet-shops.  Just slit the tubing along its length and feed the flex into it.
  • Rats will also chew books, clothes, pencils and other items and do tend to knock things over so breakables and valuable possessions should be put out of reach while your rat is out.
  • Make sure that all windows and doors are closed and that there are no possible escape routes.
  • Remember that rats can fit through tiny holes so you should check for cracks along skirting boards & between floor-boards etc.
  • Some house plants can be poisonous (check in a book on houseplants to find out if yours are safe) and as rats enjoy climbing plants and digging in plant pots, it is sensible to keep plants out of reach.

Biting and nipping

  • Biting out of fear or aggression is unusual in pet rats but should not be tolerated.
  • Male rats occasionally become aggressive towards humans and/or other rats at some point between 3-12 months of age but if this happens it is most common at 4-5 months.
  • The rat becomes 'super macho' if his levels of male hormones are too high and he will puff up his fur, hiss and huff at other rats and people. He may also attack or bite cage-mates or even his owners and may also scratch at the floor, rub his sides against hard objects to leave his scent and leave trails of scent-marking pee wherever he walks.
  • Normal, happy male rats may also scent-mark like this but problem rats can take it to extremes.
  • If a male rat starts to squeak when you pick him up or threatens to bite you when he is playing outside the cage then take action quickly and do not leave it until you get bitten.
  • This condition can usually be cured by having the rat castrated and his hormonal levels and behaviour will return to normal after a few weeks.  Castration also stops excessive scent-marking.
  • Female rats sometimes bite when they are pregnant or have babies but thisbehaviour usually disappears when the babies are weaned.  Although such biting is perhaps understandable, most female rats do not bite in these circumstances
  • Intervening in a rat fight is a common way to get bitten as the rat may think that you are another rodent joining the scrum and bite in self-defence.
  • To avoid this, break up rat fights by squirting the animals with water from a plant spray and then separate the animals for a few hours until they cool down.
  • Finger nipping may occur if your rats are used to getting treats through the cage bars. This is not true biting but merely an accidental nibble.  If a finger is poked through the bars the rats may nip, mistaking the finger for food.  Train your rats to tell the difference, by telling them when food is arriving - eg 'Sweeties!' - or fingers, eg 'Be gentle!'.
  • If this fails, stop feeding treats through the bars; instead, open the cage door to put your hand inside when hand-feeding.
  • Sometimes a rat crops up which is just nasty. This is rare amongst rats from responsible breeders, but more common when indiscriminate breeding occurs.
  • Not surprisingly, it is particularly common when rats which bite are bred from - the tendency towards bad temperament is often inherited and may be recessive. This means that breeders need to select for good temperament in every generation, because even friendly rats may have the odd nasty child.
  • Biters should never be bred from, no matter how pretty they are


  • Unlike rabbits and guinea pigs, domesticated rats are not hardy in cold weather.
  • They must live indoors and need an adequate cage and ideally the temperature should not rise beyond approx. 75ºF/ 24ºC.
  • Place the cage in a room where the rats can watch humans passing by as they are naturally inquisitve and will enjoy being a part of family life.
  • If part of the cage is at eye-level you will find that you interact with your rats more.
  • Rats tend to spend most of their lives in their cage, so because they are such intelligent, active animals, it is a shame to keep them in a small cage.
  • Purchase the largest cage you can afford, as there is never a cage too big.
  • As a bare minimum, the floor-space should be at least 24" L x 12" W, but ideally, the cage should be much bigger and a few inches of space can make a lot of difference to animals as small as rats.
  • Wire cages are by far the best type of housing for rats. They provide good ventilation and are a ready-made climbing-frame. They also allow you to interact easily with your rats as you can feed and stroke them through the bars.
  • Rats have keen senses of hearing and smell and a cage provides extra stimulation for your rats as they can pick up new smells and sounds which they find interesting.
  • Always make sure that they have access to a warm sheltered nest box to sleep in and protect them from any draughts.


  • Litter should be placed in the bottom of the ferret cage to absorb moisture from urine and droppings. By drying out droppings, it stops them decomposing and hence smelling.
  • Only use good quality wood shavings that are dust free (as opposed to sawdust) to provide an excellent bedding for your rats. Dust can irritate rats' respiratory tracts
  • For rat owners who would rather not use wood shavings, there are now many alternatives to wood shavings available in the UK but it is advisable to make sure that any alternative litter is not toxic if eaten.
  • Recycled paper beddings are probably the safest, although these may be as dusty as wood products and it is important to ensure that they have not been treated with aromatic oils (even "natural" ones) or chemicals to improve their deodorising properties. Aromatic oils can also irritate a rat's respiratory tract.
  • Be aware that cat litter -- even the dust-free kind - is not appropriate for rats: the dust and clay in cat litter can harm their health.


  • Bedding is used in the nestbox to make a comfortable bed but will also to absorb any urine
  • Shredded paper bedding from a pet shop is fine but your rats will enjoy ripping up paper towels even more.
  • Newspaper can be used as bedding provided that it is printed with non-toxic ink but be aware that the ink may stain your rats' coats.
  • Straw or hay does little to absorb liquid or eliminate olours but some rats and humans like it.
  • If you do use straw or hay be very careful as there have been reports of rats who have damaged their eyes on sharp hay stalks - thankfully these types of accidents appear to be quite rare.


  • Baby rats enjoy playing with toys and each other, whilst adult rats tend to use toys for sleeping in or on and reserve their play for humans or other rats.
  • All sorts of objects can be useful for both purposes - try lengths of plastic drainpipe, large drainpipe connectors, lengths of wide drainage pipe, large glass jars, cardboard boxes, and old clothes.
  • Toys intended for ferrets and parrots are generally safe and suitable for rats and small toys intended for hamsters or gerbils are good for baby rats.
  • Some rats will run on exercise wheels whilst others are not interested in them - a case of try it and see 
  • Wheels with spokes are dangerous -- legs, tails, or even heads can be damaged in them.
  • Being natural scavengers and gnawers, your rats will chew and eat virtually anything so if your rat is out of his cage please make sure he is well supervised so that he does not eat through cables or anything that can cause him harm.


Ferrets in the wild

  • Ferrets are members of the Mustelidae family, which includes badgers, skunks, otters, minks and weasels.
  • They are thought to descend from the European Polecat, and were first domesticated by the ancient Egyptians.
  • Over 300 years ago, ferrets were introduced as working animals used by farmers to chase rodents from the land.
  • Later, ferrets were used in the scientific research of the common cold, something they catch as easily as humans.

 Ferrets as pets

  • Because the ferret is an extremely happy and playful pet, they look forward to playtime with a desperate eagerness but they do require a great deal of attention and care.
  • They are playful, curious, fun-loving and affectionate creatures and will readily play with animals and people providing hours of entertainment and enjoyment.
  • A ferret will use almost any thing as a toy - a polythene bag, ping pong ball etc.
  • Avoid anything made from foam rubber and take care that the toy does not break up easily when chewed by your ferret as this could cause an internal blockage if swallowed with possible fatal results.
  • They will take shoes, key rings, clothing and just about anything else you leave lying around.
  • Young ferrets love being around people although it isn’t advisable to leave a child alone with a ferret.
  • As the ferret grows older he may grow to prefer just one person but if he has been well socialized from a young age he should interact well with all people
  • Anyone considering ferrets as pets should be prepared for the energetic lifestyle that a ferret will lead.

Ferret-proof your house

  •  All ferrets need some time out of the cage or hutch and ideally you should let him spend about four hours a day outside of his cage and certainly no less than one and a half hours per day.
  • During this playtime, your ferret could cause quite a lot of havoc if you have not properly ferret-proofed your home
  • Ferrets love to chew and will chew anything they can get their paws on  cables and wires (tv’s, telephones, computers, etc.), handbags, shoes, upholstery etc. If it is within reach of your ferret - your ferret will chew it !!
  • To save your ferret from harm by chewing on dangerous items, you will need to keep a very close eye on him and keep dangerous or important possessions well out reach


  • Young ferrets very often don’t tolerate being held as they are much happier scampering around and causing mischief, however in order to tame your ferret please persevere
  • When holding and handling your ferret it is important to make your ferret feel secure and comfortable. It is wise to hold him under his front legs. Your hand should be under the front of the ferret, your thumb under one leg towards the ferret's spine and your index finger should be coming round the neck on the other side of the ferrets body with your middle finger and the rest of your hand under the other leg. Your fingertips should now be towards the back of the ferret in the vicinity of the ferret's shoulder blades.


  • We have an excellent selection of ferret cages which would suit your pet ferret
  • Minimum size should be about 48"W x 24"D x 24"H but the larger the better
  • We also have some excellent outdoor ferret hutches for your inquisitive pet
  • It is essential to clean out the soiled saw dust daily and totally clean out the cage or hutch at least weekly.
  • Water bottles should be refilled daily with clean, fresh water and feeding dishes washed after every feed.


  • Ferrets like the “nesty” feel to their beds.
  • You can wrap up a blanket to place in the cage or use wood chips
  • There are even hammock-like beds specifically designed for ferrets and some of our ferret cages are supplied with one of these.


Degus in the wild 

  • Degus are small brown cute rodents
  • They look and behave like squirrels. If you have ever seen a Gerbil, just imagine him a little bigger, and you will have a picture of a Degu.
  • Degus originate from the lowland areas of Chile where they live in large groups making their homes in rocks or hedges.
  • They are considered an agricultural pest.
  • Nests and storage for food are usually dug under the rocks.
  • Degus in the wild can live up to 15 years, but in captivity they rarely become 10 years old.
  • If a Degu has cataracts, he will not grow older than 6-7 years.
  • In the wild degus live in large-social groups and have one of the most rich animal languages to communicate with each other. 

 Degus as pets

  • Degus make excellent pets because unlike many small animals they are awake during the day and will come running over to see you.
  • They are very friendly and soon become tame and will come and 'talk' to you
  • They love the company of other degus so always have two of the same sex as they breed prolifically
  • If you end up with noe degu on its own, provide him with lots of things to amuse himself or introduce a new dego
  • Introduction to new degus need to be done carefully although a neutered male-female introduction seems to be a good combination.
  • Groups of male degus can live happily together but it is better not to have any females near by as this can cause fights when they come into season.
  • It is also not a good idea to try to introduce a lone degu to an existing male group as this will upset the established pecking order.
  • It may be safer if he's not too old to get him neutered and introduce him to a female.
  • Unlike other small pets of a similar size, degus can live up to 8 or 9 years or more so you need to be able to provide them with a home and look after them for a very long period of time.
  • Handle your degu frequently to build up trust
  • They do not need to run around the house like a chinchilla but do need a large cage to live in


  • Degus need a large cage, because they need to run and climb a lot.
  • The best thing to do in the cage is to build several floors, so the living space will be larger and the Degus can climb up and down and stay fit.
  • Degus that are always on wire floors develop "bumblefoot", which is very painful for them - place newspaper on top of wire floors or untreated pine panelling can be cut into lengths to cover the mesh floors. Straw mats can also be used to cover the mesh floor.


  • Degus love a wheel and one measuring approx 11"  is ideal. - just be aware that a Degu's tail can get stuck in a wire wheel, so buy a solid one.
  • You can find cardboard rolls in wrapping paper and in the centre of carpet and many other places and degus love to play in these.
  • Always make sure that the rolls are clean and if you are ever in any doubt about what they are made from don't use them.
  • You may need to cut the length down  or you ay find that your degu creeps into the middle of one and goes to sleep - if this happens, blowing gently down the tube will usually dislodge your pet
  • Small animals love to stick their heads in things that are too small for them to get into properly and can get stuck and the best way to get bitten is freeing a scared rodent from a tube !!  Never give a degu a tube that is used for tin foil and cling film as these are not good
  • They like running in the living room too, but be aware of cables, wooden furniture and cats and dogs.
  • After a while they often go back in their cage by themselves.
  • You can 'surprise' your Degus with a dust bath: if you put some sand in a cup, your Degus will take a bath in it. They really like this!


  • Degus seem to be unable to regulate blood sugars well and this makes them very prone to diabetes and cataracts, particularly if they are allowed to get fat.
  • This is likely to be due to their diet in the wild consisting of large amounts of fibrous material which is low in nutrients.
  • However they are easy to feed if you remember that the majority of their diet should be made up of lots of good quality hay with limited amounts of guinea pig or chinchilla pellets with small pieces of vegetable as treats
  • Fresh water should be available at all times.

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