Chinchillas love to jump, and can jump surprisingly high. But what’s the highest a chinchilla can jump? And how come they can jump so high?
How high can chinchillas jump? Chinchillas can jump six feet into the air. They’re good at jumping because they live in the mountains and will hop from rock to rock. They have long legs that act like springs. Pet chinchillas like to jump too, so need platforms in their cages to jump to and from. Chinchillas jump when they’re happy, a behavior which is called ‘popcorning‘, and can also jump up and kick away from a wall (wall-surfing). Some chins jump more than others, but that’s not a problem.
The guide below is mostly about the chinchilla’s fascinating anatomy, which is what makes it able to jump so high. We’ll also look at why chinchillas hop and bounce instead of running or walking like we do, why you might see your chinchilla jump a lot, and how high chinchillas can fall from.
How High Can Chinchillas Jump?
Chinchillas can jump up to six feet into the air. Not every chinchilla can jump this high. Chinchilla kits (babies) can’t jump as high because they’re not as big. And some chinchillas are fatter or lazier than others, so may either spend less time jumping or not jump as high into the air.
What’s incredible is that they can still jump high even from a standing start. That’s because of their anatomies.
How Do Chinchillas Jump So High?
Chinchillas can jump high because they have long back legs.
You can see from the image above that a chinchilla’s back legs are compressed like springs. If you’ve ever had a rabbit or looked at a kangaroo’s anatomy—both the kangaroo and the rabbit also being famous for jumping—you’ll see that their rear legs are compressed in the same way. Chinchillas have long feet and long toes that make the perfect platform to spring from, and then above them, shins and thigh bones that are folded closely together.
Your chinchilla can extend these back legs quickly to shoot up into the air, pivoting from the strong base point of its pelvis. The chinchilla’s front feet can contribute, too. While the feet themselves are smaller, the upper and lower ‘arm’ bones are slightly compressed as well.
This is why chinchillas move with a kind of bouncing hop, like a rabbit. It’s the rear legs that do most of the work. But only when your chinchilla has to jump for its life (or when it’s playing!) does it release the full potential of its strong hind legs and feet.
Why Do Chinchillas Jump/Hop Instead of Running?
Chinchillas don’t hop exactly like kangaroos or jerboas do, but they also don’t run like other small animals. If you watch one run, you’ll see its rear end bobbing up and down. Most of the forward motion your pet makes is from its powerful hind legs kicking back, which is similar to the kind of hopping a rabbit does.
The problem is that if the chinchilla tried to walk like we do, it couldn’t do so easily. In the picture above, can you see how the chinchilla’s rear knees are so high up, at the level of its spine? This makes it very awkward for it to walk or run like we do, or some other small mammals do. To understand why, you can do an experiment. Squat down so that you’re still on your feet, but your rear end is almost touching the ground. Then, lean forward and balance some of your weight on your hands.
What’s easier? Walking forward step by step, or hopping with your back legs?
Why Can Chinchillas Jump So High?
Predators aren’t the only reason chinchillas developed their interesting way of moving. Their ability to jump so high and so far was also necessitated by their environment. The chinchilla’s habitat is rocky, so leaping from one rock to the next is essential. Doing so gives some advantages:
- The chinchilla doesn’t have to clamber down from one rock to climb to another; instead, it can hop straight between them
- The chinchilla can leap into the air if necessary to quickly escape threats on the ground
- Climbing up mountains and ledges is easier if you can jump rather than run
Given these facts, it’s in your chinchilla’s interest to develop the ability to jump further and further.
It’s for this reason that you need to include platforms that your chinchilla can jump to and from inside its cage. This is a natural behavior that it feels the need to express. If it can’t hop, it gets distressed and depressed. It’s a feeling akin to how you might feel if you couldn’t walk anywhere, only crawl, or couldn’t stretch your legs and had to stay sitting down all the time.
On top of that, jumpinglike this is a partially an adaptation to avoid capture by predators, which makes sense when you think about it. When a predator tries to catch its prey, the prey tries to escape. If the prey can only scurry along the ground, the predator can see exactly where it goes, making it easy to catch. But a chinchilla can leap high into the air the moment it senses the predator. The fact that chinchillas can both run along the ground or spring high into the air is therefore a great advantage.
How Far Can a Chinchilla Jump?
Chinchillas can jump as far as they can jump high. In the wild, your chinchilla would have to jump both upwards to climb up rocks, and forwards to leap from one rock to another.
The difference is that to leap ahead, your chinchilla needs a running start. You’ll see this frequently when your chinchilla is playing in a chin-proof room or in its play pen. It will scamper forward and leap up towards the wall, kicking away from it.
Why Is My Chinchilla Jumping a Lot?
The first reason why your chinchilla is jumping a lot is that it’s a natural behavior. Chinchillas enjoy doing things that they would do if they were in the wild.
But what could be the reason is that your chinchilla is happy. When chinchillas play, they spend lots of time hopping up repeatedly. This is known as ‘popcorning’. A related behavior is wall-surfing, which is where your chinchilla jumps up into a wall and kicks away from it. So your chinchilla’s constant jumping could mean that it’s happy.
If you think your chin might be jumping because it’s happy, it’s easy enough to tell. Your chin will be happy when it’s spending time with you (if it likes you) or when it’s outside-the-cage time.
How to Stop a Chinchilla Jumping So Much
If your chinchilla is jumping all the time, there’s no need to make it stop! It’s because your chinchilla is very happy. If there were a health problem to be aware of, your chinchilla would be jumping and moving less, not more.
That being said, it can be inconvenient for your chinchilla to keep jumping up high. If you have a play pen that you want to keep it in, for example, you don’t want it to jump out. Unfortunately, the only solution is to get a bigger play pen… That, or make your chinchilla unhappy by neglecting it and/or being cruel. Don’t do that.
How High Can Chinchillas Fall From?
Just because chinchillas can jump up high, that doesn’t mean they ‘always land on their feet’ or don’t get hurt when they fall. Chinchillas can hurt themselves falling from any height. It just depends on the circumstances.
One common way chinchillas hurt themselves falling is by getting their feet caught in something. If you have a wire running wheel, for example, your chin can get its foot caught between the wires. If it then slips and falls out of the wheel—a matter of inches—your pet can break its toes, its feet or its ankles. And of course, your chinchilla can also hurt itself falling from a height, provided it isn’t expecting to fall.
But if your chinchilla is jumping from one high up surface to another, that’s not a problem. Chinchillas, like other animals, know their limits; your pet can tell if it’s too high up to jump down. Chins can jump from many feet up down to the ground.
Chinchilla Hurt After Falling
If your chinchilla hurt itself falling from a height, there are many ways it can be injured.
- Broken ribs. Chinchillas have delicate rib cages that are mostly made of cartilage, that can break easily. It’s for the same reason that they shouldn’t be held tightly around the middle.
- Damaged organs. When the ribs break, they can poke into your pet’s organs and either damage or completely rupture them.
- Broken bones generally. Your chinchilla could break one of its feet, one of its legs, or crack its skull.
- Concussion. Concussion is caused by head trauma and can occur without skull fracture. It causes headaches and dizziness, but can be more serious, and occur alongside brain damage.
If your chinchilla has experienced a fall and is acting differently or seems in pain, take it to the vet. They can tell you exactly what’s the matter. If injury is serious, the vet may suggest putting your chinchilla to sleep.