Chinchillas are so cute and fluffy, it’s almost impossible to look at one and not want to buy one. But with so many options (pet stores, breeders, online marketplaces to name a few), where should you buy a chinchilla from? And why?
Where can you buy chinchillas? You can buy chinchillas at pet stores or from breeders. You can also adopt them, which we recommend. You can take in ‘surrendered’ chinchillas for free (i.e. ‘chinchilla free to good home’) although they may have behavioral or health problems. Do research before you buy a chinchilla as it’s easy to get their care wrong.
What might surprise you is that ideally, you should avoid buying a chinchilla from a pet store. There are all sorts of reasons why, which we’ll explore below…
Where to Buy a Chinchilla
If you’re searching for chinchillas for sale, you have many options. Your key two are buying from a reputable breeder, or buying from a pet store. Buying from a well-known professional breeder will always be better than a pet store.
However, you may have fewer choices depending on where you live. The United States and Western Europe have many chinchilla breeders and pet stores that stock them. But other countries don’t, in which case your only option may be to import a chinchilla from another country.
Reputable Chinchilla Breeders
The best way to buy a chinchilla is from a breeder. Breeders are individuals who know a lot about chinchillas or really like them (or both!) They know exactly how to introduce chinchillas and care for them in such a way as to maximize their reproductive capabilities. This might sound easy, but it’s not, because chinchillas that are strangers can fight—and all chinchillas have exacting care needs that can be tough to meet if you have lots of them.
There is a big overlap between the chinchilla breeder community, and the chinchilla show community. Chinchilla shows are exactly what they sound like: chinchillas are judged for their qualities, such as the density of their fur or the stockiness of their build. These consequently are qualities that many breeders aim to replicate.
If you are going to buy a chinchilla, we recommend buying one from a well-known breeding operation. That’s because:
- Their reputation means they likely take good care of their chinchillas
- Breeders are individuals or families, and it’s better to support small businesses and regular people, especially if you can support a local breeder
- The breeder can give you lots of advice on how to care for your chinchilla properly
Many breeders are members of organizations, such as the Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative. Some groups are for breeders that sell chinchilla pelts (like Empress). That’s why many groups are called ‘cooperatives’—they were founded so that individuals could pool their money together to buy chinchillas, which were very expensive to import and raise in the 20th century.
Other groups have moved beyond raising chinchillas for fur, and now only raise them to become pets. One example of this is the UK’s National Chinchilla Society. In the 1960s, this group was known as the Chinchilla Fur Breeders Association, or the CFBA. But because of a range of factors including scams, corrupt importers, and even lousy British weather, it became impossible for group members to make a profit from breeding chinchillas for fur. As such they moved solely to breeding for shows, a tradition which continues to this day.
Alongside these breeders, you have what are known as ‘backyard breeders’. These are people who aren’t well known to the community but want to start up their own new herd for profit. Or, they may have accidentally put a male and a female chinchilla together, and they had kits. They then sell the kits because they don’t have the space or time to care for them properly.
Experienced owners will tell you not to buy from backyard breeders. That’s partly because these people may not know much about chinchillas, or care about them, but only want to make a profit. It’s also because if you aren’t known to the chinchilla breeding community, then nobody knows how high your standards of cleanliness or care are.
Your third option is to buy from a pet store. This works the same way that you would buy any other pet. You go to the store, have a nose around, and see if they stock any chinchillas. If they do, the clerk will walk you through what chinchillas need (typically including many things that the store happens to sell!)
This is how most people get their first chinchillas. One advantage of buying here is that you can see the chinchillas, pick them up, see what they need, and get a little advice. But as we’ll show later, that advice isn’t always the best.
Ideally: Adopt a Rescue Chinchilla
We recommend adopting chinchillas where it’s at all possible.
The best thing that can be said about the pet trade is that it’s an imperfect one. The ugly side of it that is only infrequently talked about is the waste of animal lives it creates. Debates about ‘kill’ or ‘no-kill’ shelters miss the point entirely; roughly 1.5 million pets are euthanized each year in the United States alone. That’s not because kill shelters are cruel, it’s because there’s literally no money, no space and no time for them.
This sad fact is only made possible because people keep buying more and more pets each year.
That isn’t to say that breeders or pet owners are bad people—far from it. People typically buy pets with the best of intentions. But over time, a pet’s care needs can change, it can develop costly healthcare issues, or aspects of its personality become inconvenient or annoying (destroying furniture, running excitedly on a wheel at 2am…) So often these pets are then surrendered to rescue centers and the cycle begins again.
Adopting a pet takes strain off this system. That’s not even to mention how it gives an unwanted, perhaps even neglected pet a new lease of life.
Can You Buy Chinchillas in Pet Shops?
Pet shops big and small stock chinchillas, although they aren’t a good choice. We’ll touch on why in a moment; but for now, let’s see which pet shops sell chinchillas and which don’t.
- Can You Buy Chinchillas at PetSmart? You can find chinchillas for sale at PetSmart, although whether there will be any in stock depends on your local store and how big it is. At the time of writing (03/04/2020) chinchillas cost $149.99, but for an up to date price, ask in store or check on line.
- Can You Buy Chinchillas at PetCo? PetCo similarly have chinchillas in stock.
- Can You Buy Chinchillas at Pets at Home? Pets at Home used to sell chinchillas, but don’t anymore. They do, however, still carry a range of stock.
You can also frequently find chinchillas in local pet stores. Naturally, these stores are highly variable in quality, quantity and the knowledge of the workers there. If you can’t adopt and can’t find a breeder, it’s worth checking local pet stores as you’ll likely find chinchillas in yours.
Why Shouldn’t You Buy Chinchillas from Pet Stores?
Pet stores should be last on the list when you’re thinking of where to buy a chinchilla.
The key reason why you shouldn’t buy chinchillas from pet stores is that most clerks have no idea what they’re talking about with regards to exotics like chinchillas. That’s not intended to be disrespectful; it’s a fact. Almost every chinchilla owner started out by getting their pet from a pet store, and almost every chinchilla owner has a story about how they gave them the wrong advice.
So, for example, the clerk might recommend you a kind of food that’s completely unsuitable. If you’ve never kept a chinchilla before, you’d likely assume that they eat vegetables and leafy greens—but they shouldn’t. Fruits are out, too. Chinchillas should eat almost nothing but hay, and yet many clerks and even vets will tell you otherwise.
Another issue is that the store will happily sell you plastic cage accessories. You can see this on the store pages of stores like PetSmart. Many of the reviews show plastic slides and bowls, even though plastic should be strictly prohibited in chinchilla cages. PetCo offer products like this wheel that they market specifically for chinchillas despite them being a) far too small, and b) made from the wrong material. A similar issue is that pet stores will happily sell chinchillas for families and children despite them not being fully suitable for kids.
The reason why this happens is that chinchillas aren’t what most people expect them to be like. It’s the exact same with rabbits; these should eat hay, too, not tons of carrots. But because we all know Bugs Bunny, we assume they do. Inexperienced pet store workers may tell you what they think is suitable, but they may not have deep training on what chinchillas, specifically, need.
As for why stores market and brand products specifically for chinchillas when any experienced owner will tell you they aren’t suitable is anybody’s guess.
Can You Buy Chinchillas Online?
It is possible to buy chinchillas online. Many breeders run sites through which you can contact them, see what chinchillas they have for sale, or sign up for notifications of new chinchillas for sale.
For many people, this is their only option. Some countries don’t have a large community of breeders like the U.S. or U.K. does. If that’s the case where you live, then you have no choice but to contact a breeder online. There are many such services that will ship chinchillas internationally. We don’t recommend shipping internationally as many animals die in transit each year.
Buying Chinchillas From Facebook Marketplace (or Gumtree)
There are plenty of sites online where you can buy and sell things. Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree are perhaps the most well-known, although there are localized sites (e.g. just for the U.K.) too. There are frequently pets advertised on these services at a variety of prices: some expensive as if they’re pedigree animals, some cheap as if the owner wants to get rid of them as soon as possible.
We wouldn’t recommend buying chinchillas this way. That’s because many of these offers will be from backyard breeding, which is a practise you shouldn’t encourage. The chinchilla may also have behavioral problems or health issues, in which case it may be best that it goes to a shelter.
‘Chinchilla Free to Good Home’
When somebody gives their chinchilla (or any pet) away to somebody, that’s known as ‘surrendering’ it. Many owners who love chinchillas take in surrendered chinchillas because it’s difficult to say no to a neglected pet.
If you are going to go down this route, be careful. The chinchilla could be in bad shape. It could have underlying health conditions that you don’t know about; it may have been mistreated and not like people. While you may want to adopt the chinchilla anyway, you must take it in the full knowledge that this might happen—because you’re not helping it if you then have to give it away again.
BEFORE You Buy a Chinchilla…
Just as important as where to buy a chinchilla is what you have to do before you buy a chinchilla.
If you’ve seen one too many cute chinchilla pics and caught the bug we all did, think twice before you buy or adopt one. Chinchillas are exotic pets with specific needs that you have to meet. While their general care is cheap, their vet care can be expensive, so you’ll need insurance and a rainy-day fund.
They also live an extraordinarily long time for an animal their size. Chinchillas are one of the longest-lived rodents of all, living betwen 10-20 years on average. The oldest chinchilla ever recorded reached an incredible 29 years. If you aren’t prepared to look after your chinchilla for all of that time, then one may not be for you.
You should also have a cage set up in just the right way long before you bring your chinchilla home. Your chinchilla needs hay and a hay rack, a glass water bottle, a hide, platforms to jump to and from, and a fleece liner for the bottom of its cage. The cage itself should be tall so that your chinchilla has lots of room to jump. It’s easier to set the cage up right before you bring your pet home because otherwise, you would have to frequently disturb your new pet by opening its cage, taking things out, and putting them in.
Our site features lots of guides on how to care for a chinchilla, so feel free to have a look around to learn more.
Below, you can find our chinchilla quiz, new posts for further reading, and a signup for our Chinchilla Newsletter!