Looking for a cuddly pet? Both rabbits and chinchillas are excellent choices. But which is better—cuddlier, cheaper, cleaner and easier to care for?
Are bunnies or chinchillas better pets? They require the same level of care, at roughly the same cost. But chinchillas have softer fur, and typically live much longer than rabbits. You may prefer them for this reason. If you’re not sure which would be best, talk to a breeder or a friend who has one or both. Spend time with both rabbits and chinchillas to see which you get on with better.
The guide below looks at every aspect of caring for chinchillas and rabbits: how much they cost, how much effort they take to keep, how much vet care they’ll need, how much they like people, and more. We’ll also look in detail at why you can’t keep rabbits and chinchillas in the same cage (you can still have both—just kept separately).
Are Chinchillas Better Than Rabbits?
If you want a cuddly pet, you would be happy with either a rabbit or a chinchilla. But they aren’t entirely alike: there are certain ways in which rabbits are better, and certain ways in which chinchillas better.
What’s The Difference Between a Rabbit And a Chinchilla?
Rabbits and chinchillas aren’t the same species. They’re not in the same family, either: chinchillas are in the Chinchillidae family while rabbits are in the Leporidae family. This means they aren’t very closely related. There are two subspecies of chinchilla, while there are dozens of species of rabbit, and none are in the same family.
Rabbits used to be classed as rodents, but now they’re not. As such, chinchillas and rabbits aren’t closely related, even though they’re roughly the same size and move in the same way. You can see they aren’t too closely related because they don’t look much alike. They’re both small with big ears, but there are multiple easy-to-spot differences: rabbits have longer, pointier ears than chinchillas, while chinchillas have longer and fluffier tails than rabbits. You can instantly tell them apart just by looking.
That being said, if you’re interested in keeping them in pets, they are similar in many ways. They both live in cages and enjoy company; they both eat hay and need water; they both need outside-the-cage time, and they both need to keep active or they go stir-crazy. The rest of this section looks at all the ways they’re similar and different so that you can figure out which would be your favorite pet.
Also, please note that chinchilla rabbits aren’t a rabbit chinchilla hybrid. They’re a kind of rabbit that has been bred to have soft, thick fur. They don’t have any chinchilla DNA, aren’t more closely related to chinchillas than other rabbit breeds, and can’t be bred with chinchillas.
Are Bunnies or Chinchillas Easier to Care For?
Chins and rabbits require roughly equal levels of care.
Both pets need to have constant access to food. People ensure this by giving them unlimited quantities of hay in hay racks. Both animals need pellets, which many owners feed in unlimited quantities too, although feeding 1-2 tablespoons per animal each morning doesn’t take much time. Each morning or evening, you should spot clean your pet’s cage to sweep up poop and discarded hay and to replace any soiled bedding. Both pets are the same in this regard.
Both pets need to be let out of their cages occasionally. As much as you make the cage a suitable place to live, no animal was meant to live in a tiny box for its whole life. Outside-the-cage time stops both chins and rabbits from getting too bored. Before you let them out, you have to make the room suitable by tidying away wires and blocking off the gaps under furniture. This is known either as bunny-proofing or chinchilla-proofing, depending on which pet you have.
Besides all that, both animals require occasional veterinary care. Ideally, you should take your pet for a twice-yearly checkup. Neither is more likely to get sick than the other, but if they do, they may need antibiotics or surgery.
Which is better? Both are equally easy to care for, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that either chinchillas or rabbits are low-maintenance pets.
Are Bunnies or Chinchillas Cheaper to Keep?
Since bunnies and chinchillas have roughly the same care requirements, neither is significantly more costly to care for.
To start with, rabbits are easier to find and cheaper to buy than chinchillas. Chins are still considered exotic pets, so you won’t find them in all the pet shops you’ll find rabbits in, and they won’t be as cheap. You can find chinchillas that have been surrendered to rescues, though, and these you can keep for free. We only recommend doing so if you’re familiar with chinchillas and their care needs, but if you are, this cuts down on the initial cost of getting one. The same applies to rabbits.
They both require large hutches/cages. The idea that any rabbit or rodent pet is happy in a cage the size of a shoebox is a misconception: both chins and rabbits require more room than you might think. There are lots of brands that make cages and hutches, so the price you’ll pay for one is variable. They eat the same diet, which is hay supplemented with hay pellets.
They both need to see the vet occasionally, although they can typically be seen by the same vet for the same price. Both rabbits and chinchillas are equally likely to require medical care. But you are likely to find a rabbit vet easier than you’d find a chinchilla vet. Rabbits are so much more common that vets have more experience with them.
Which is better? Rabbits slightly edge chinchillas here, but if you know what you’re doing, you can get everything you need to care for a chinchilla for cheap.
Do Chinchillas or Rabbits Live Longer?
This is one way in which chinchillas are slightly ‘better’ than rabbits.
Chinchillas can live for upwards of twenty years. With good care, they live to an average of ten years. Rabbits, on the other hand, live for between five to ten years, and only rarely reach their teens and upwards. The oldest ever chinchilla reached 27 years, while the oldest rabbit reached 18 years. Your pet isn’t likely to get this old, but it does show how chins live longer.
This could be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. If you get a chinchilla, it’s more likely to live to a ripe old age and provide you with many years of company. But if you need to frequently move house, can’t guarantee you’ll have a steady income, or don’t have the time to care for a pet, then a shorter-lived rabbit may be the wiser choice.
Which is better? Most people prefer pets that live a long time, so we’ll say chinchillas.
Do Rabbits or Chinchillas Have Softer Fur?
This is one way in which chinchillas aren’t just slightly better—they’re a whole lot better!
Rabbits have always been the go-to soft and cuddly pet people get for their kids. That’s partly because they are soft, there’s no denying that. But it’s also because they’re ubiquitous. You’ve been able to find them in any pet shop for the last hundred years.
Chinchillas are easily softer than rabbits. That’s because of their unique fur. Chinchillas have super-dense fur, which is meant to protect them from the cold of their native Andes Mountains. It’s so dense that they can have up to 90 hairs per follicle, which is far more than rabbits, people, cats, dogs or any other animal you might care to name. The only animal with denser fur is the otter, and you’re not likely to get one of those as a pet.
There are rabbits that have been bred to have soft or long fur. Even these aren’t as soft as chins. What’s more, chinchillas are better at taking care of their fur than rabbits are. They groom themselves by nibbling their fur and taking regular dust baths. The dust acts like talc and stops the fur from getting greasy or clumping up. That means less effort taking care of your pet’s coat, too.
Which is better? Chinchillas, for sure.
Do Rabbits or Chinchillas Handle Better?
What’s the use in having a cuddly pet if you can’t play with it?
No matter what small pet you get, you have to be careful with it. Both chinchillas and rabbits have delicate bodies, and you can easily break their bones if you squeeze them too hard. That’s a common mistake people, especially kids, make. So you can’t cuddle either pet like a teddy bear.
What you can do is handle them. Both chinchillas and rabbits are skittish, but can be trained to like their owners. Once you’ve owned your pet for a while, it will get used to you wanting to pick it up and play with it occasionally, although you shouldn’t do so all the time. Over-handling can make a rabbit or chinchilla stressed.
Which is better? Both are skittish but can be trained over time to like handling.
Which Is Better, Chinchillas Or Rabbits?
On balance, we would say that chinchillas make the more interesting pets.
But the only person who can possibly know which pet you would prefer is you. Talk to a chinchilla breeder and see if you can spend some time with their animals, so you can get a taste for what they’re like. You might find that you love them, or maybe that they’re a little too skittish for you. The same goes for rabbits: you might find them cute, or you might find them annoying in a way you don’t find chinchillas annoying.
One word of warning, whichever pet you buy: don’t get either a chinchilla or a rabbit if you’re not fully prepared to take care of it. That means that you have a stable home life, a steady income, and enough time in the day to feed it and clean its cage. So many pets live unnecessary lives of suffering because people bought them on a whim and went on to neglect them. Don’t let your pet become another one of these.
And another thing: don’t buy from pet stores. Buy from breeders. Stores keep their animals in unsanitary, crowded conditions and frequently give bad advice.
Extra Credit: Can a Chinchilla Live With a Rabbit?
You can get both a rabbit and a chinchilla so long as they don’t live in the same cage. If you have them live together, the pair will fight with each other. It’s highly unlikely that they would get along.
Do Chinchillas Like Rabbits?
Chinchillas can learn not to be afraid of other animals. After all, that’s how they’ve become so comfortable with us as their owners. They haven’t evolved to like us: we’ve only domesticated them consistently for a hundred years or so. So, your chinchilla can learn that a rabbit isn’t a threat.
But that still doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to put them in the same cage.
Why Can’t Chinchillas Live With Rabbits?
The reason why they would fight is that they’ve evolved that way. Neither chinchillas nor rabbits are highly territorial: they don’t aggressively mark or defend their space. But they do at least want their own space that isn’t shared by lots of similar animals which eat all their food, and take all their burrows. It’s for the same reason that chinchillas will fight with each other if they haven’t been introduced properly.
Don’t underestimate how stressful it is for a chinchilla or a rabbit to fight with another animal. Both animals have sharp teeth, and could easily kill each other. It may not even be a good idea to let them play together as they could fight. At the very least, they won’t happily chase each other and play like two chinchillas or two rabbits might.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have both a rabbit and a chinchilla if you really want one of each. But you’ll have to keep them in separate cages. Ideally you also shouldn’t have the cages too close together, as then they’ll smell each other and could become stressed.
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