Are Chinchillas Nocturnal?

Chinchillas make good pets in many ways. For instance, they're gentle animals and they seldom bite. They're great for night owls, because these little animals tend to sleep in the day. That doesn't mean chinchillas are out if you're an early riser who likes to interact with your pet. You can compromise with late afternoon activities.

Sleeping Habits

Most active at night, chinchillas can also be active during daylight hours. They're not quite nocturnal -- they're crepuscular, meaning their peak activity periods are dawn and dusk. At dawn, you're either sleeping or hustling to get on your way to work or school. Late afternoon should be a great time for you and your pet to interact.

Housing

Your chinchilla requires a large, comfortable cage to live and sleep in. Purchase a cage especially designed for chinchillas, not rabbits or other pets. They need tall cages with various levels and appropriate climbing and jumping accessories, since climbing and jumping are two of their favorite activities. A flying saucer exercise wheel provides hours of fun for a chinchilla. For bedding, use shredded newspaper or hardwood shavings. Cedar and pine shavings might cause skin and respiratory issues. Because chinchillas like the company of their own kind, consider getting two. You can have males neutered to avoid reproduction. With two, your chinchillas can entertain each other at night if you're asleep.

Lighting

If you want your chinchilla's sleeping habits to conform to your daytime schedule, lighting can make the difference. Florida's St. Petersburg Animal Hospital recommends a 12-hour dark/light cycle, best accomplished by using lighting that approximates natural daylight. Make sure the lights don't give off excessive heat, as chinchillas are heat-sensitive. They require an environment with humidity of 50 percent or less and temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature above 80 degrees F can do them in. Don't put your chinchilla's cage in direct sunlight to try to make him more daytime-oriented. He'll become affected by the heat.

Playtime

Allow your chinchilla out of his cage for a minimum of half an hour daily, so he can stretch his legs and play. Perhaps scheduling a regular time when both of you are wide awake works best. If he's on a regular schedule for daily outing, his internal body clock should set itself for that time.

    Author

    Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.