Chinchillas are rodents that are native to the Andes Mountains of northern Chile. Often kept as pets, chinchillas are also prized for their luxuriously soft fur and were nearly driven to extinction because of the demand. Chinchilla fur was originally mottled yellow-gray in the wild, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual. Through selective breeding, however, other colors have become common, including silver, yellow-gray, bluish-gray, white, beige and black. Each hair ends in a black tip, no matter what color the chinchillas are.
As Pet: Chinchillas can eat food pellets available from pet stores, as well as hay, dried fruits and nuts, and carrots and green vegetables in moderation, or about 10 percent of their daily diet. A bottle equipped with a sipper tube is the best way to provide water. To stay clean, these rodents give themselves dust baths. It is recommended that domestic chinchillas take dust baths once or twice per week in fine volcanic ash that can be purchased at pet shops. Chinchillas are thought to be smarter than rabbits and can be taught to play with humans. They do not make good pets for small children, however, because chinchillas are hyperactive and high-strung.