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Are Chinchillas Good With Children?

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Chinchillas are certainly cute and cuddly, so it's no wonder that your children naturally might be drawn to these animals. Because they can bite and are very delicate, chinchillas are generally not good with children. If you're planning to get a family pet, think twice before purchasing a chinchilla.

Chinchilla Temperament

Not all chinchillas enjoy being held and cuddled and many will bite if squeezed too tightly. Females will demonstrate unhappiness by peeing on you, something no child is likely to enjoy. Some chinchillas have more curious temperaments. Look for a chinchilla that comes over to sniff your hand or demonstrates curiosity. This pet is likely to be more engaged and friendly than one that appears anxious or nervous around humans.

Handle With Care

Chinchillas have delicate, fragile bones. If your child accidentally handles the pet too roughly or squeezes too hard during play, she could harm your chinchilla. Chances are, your child wants a pet she can squeeze and play with -- making a chinchilla a less than ideal choice. In general, male chinchillas will tolerate physical affection better than females.

Long Lives

Chinchillas live longer than other rodents, typically 12 to 20 years. If you want to get a family chinchilla, spend time thinking about who will care for the pet for this time span. A child may go off to college and be unable to take the chinchilla. If you don't want to care for the pet should your child become unwilling or unable to do so, consider a pet with a shorter lifespan.

Pets for Children

Consider adopting a pet recommended for children instead of a chinchilla. The ASPCA suggests a guinea pig for children ages 3 to 5, because guinea pigs enjoy being held and rarely bite. For kids age 5 to 10, the ASPCA recommends goldfish or gerbils, which require moderate attention. For 10- to 13-year-olds, the ASPCA recommends rabbits, cats or dogs. Children will enjoy taking care of these pets and learning about responsibility. Older teens might have less time to take care of a pet and might do better with fish or birds.