A Chinchilla is classified as a member of rodent. They are closely related to guinea pig, rabbits, and golden agoutis. Chinchillas are originally came from South America, lived in the snow-covered Andes Mountains. Since Chinchillas’ native habitat was approximately 12,000 feet above sea level, where it was cold and dry, they must kept in a dry place below 25 degree. For better health, they must live in an environment with low humidity and sharp variations between daytime and nighttime. This is because chinchillas are active at dusk and night and remain hidden and sleep in the daytime. They also need to place in a low humidity environment because they just hate wet and you will notice that by they are not using the water-bathing method.
Chinchillas are used as fur production in the early century and now most of the chinchilla ranches are selling them as pets. Those species of chinchillas we usually saw in pet store and chinchilla ranches are called Chinchilla Lanigera. Another kinds of species are called Chinchilla brevicaudata. C. brevicaudata has a more stocky appearance than those of C. lanigera do. C. brevicaudata has a thicker neck and shoulders and their fur is not as silky as those of C. Lanigera who individuals are narrow in the neck and shoulders, moreover are, their fur is very silky. The most obvious difference between them is that, C. brevicaudata is a short-tailed and short-eared chinchilla while C. Lanigera is a long-tailed chinchilla. C. brevicaudata are now extinct in most of its original range and very few are still living in the wild. Both of the species are now protecting by the governments.
We do not have very much knowledge about their sensory capacities, but through our observation of this little creature, we can make a little brief summary base on this topic:
Sight - Chinchillas have very large eyes to enable them to see in darkness. Through our observation, they cannot judge distance very well. Our chins used to jump on you when they are having fun during their daily free run. Occasionally, they jump on our elbow, or just miss the target. We have a feeling that they cannot judge the distance between things accurately when the object or target is far away from them. They can jump up to the cage door quickly and accurately in short distance. However, while they are far away from the cage, they sometimes jump up too early so instead of landing inside the cage, they land in front of the cage door *.*
Smell - Some of the owner said that chinchilla do not smell, we did not quiet agree. Every time we offer them something through the cage bar, they used to sniff them in advance. Carrot, for example, our chins just hate it, when they sniff and found out that "thing" is a carrot, they won't even touch it and turn away from you. Also, they notice each other by smell. As a result, I conclude that they can smell, but the sense of it is just not well developed. (It just doesn't matter for you to clean up their cage once a week since they can't smell the smell very well. BUT WE DO!!)
Hearing - They have a very good hearing. We can say that by when we giving out treats. Noises are made when I get their treats out of the bag. They memorized the sound that we made before they can have a treat from our hands. As a result, every time they hear this kind of sound, even in very low volume, they will rush out from the sleeping box and going crazy toward the cage bar! There is no way to give out treats for a particular chin. If you offer a treat for this chin, you had to give out to the other. We have a feeling that they are extreme sensitive for sounds they are familiar with. But by the time they know some particular sounds which are "none of their business", they will just ignore it. Their hearing are very well developed.
Touch - Through our observation, they are sensitive to feeling. Even a very little touch to their fur, you don't felt you had just touched them, they already reacted to your little touch. Gyorgy Jankovics wrote that: the chinchilla has tactile hairs, or vibrissae, on its muzzle, "whiskers" like those of a cat. These hairs are constantly in motion to provide orientation. The chinchilla uses them to find its way about even in the dark.
Taste - They obviously had developed taste. If the food we offer taste good, they will continue eating it. On the other hand, they dropped the food if it doesn't seem tasty to them.