Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 10 April 2012 14:52
For Alyssa Bettles of Hillsboro, the 6-month-old chinchilla Beanz is not only part of the family, but he’s there for her no matter how good or bad her day is going.
“He is the cutest, softest animal ever,” she said, “and I love him very much.”
A few years ago, Alyssa, 18, said she saw a chinchilla in a pet store and wanted one ever since.
After convincing her parents it was a good idea, Alyssa found a breeder in Wichita.
She said the name, Beanz was something she and her mom, Kelly, thought of.
“Before we got him,” she said, “my mom and I researched a bunch of names and ‘Beanz’ came up. We started laughing. It was a cute name for him.”
Although chinchillas are relatively easy to care for, Alyssa explored several options regarding her pet’s cage, food and exercise equipment.
The cage, she said, is tall and has shelves and ladders to allow the animal to climb and jump. He also has a little house, but rarely sleeps inside of it, she said. Beanz prefers hiding in the space between the top of the house and the shelf above it.
“The cage is not specifically for a chinchilla,” Alyssa said, but he can jump around in it.”
When she does let Beanz out, he likes to jump on her shoulder or run.
“He doesn’t run fast. He has more of a hop then a run, so it’s really funny to watch,” she said.
Although chinchillas are technically part of the rodent family, Alyssa said he looks more like a squirrel or rabbit because of his tail and ears. The tail is about 5 inches long and Beanz is less than 1 foot long.
About a week ago, Alyssa ordered an exercise wheel for him.
“After one day, he is already used to it,” she said.
What makes Beanz a great pet, she said, is not only his soft, lush fur, but also his inquisitive nature, quiet demeanor and low-maintenance.
Alyssa is protective of her little buddy. Because her mother runs a daycare from their home, she keeps Beanz in her room.
“Once in awhile, I will let them see him, but he gets nervous and he is nocturnal.”
Alyssa said she had to get used to him sleeping all day and playing all night .
Before Beanz became a member of the family, she said it was quiet in her room all the time.
“I am more tolerant to the noise because of him,” she said.
Beanz’s diet consists of pellet food, similar to what a rabbit eats, and he has a constant supply of Timothy Hay for calcium and vitamins.
“Beanz not only needs the hay, but he also plays with it,” Alyssa said. “He also eats one raisin a day—it gives him energy.”
Alyssa said she keeps his food bowl filled up because he is less than 1 year old and is still growing.
“He has little hands,” she said, “and he loves to pick things up and take a closer look (before eating his food).”
Taking a bath
One highlight for a chinchilla is taking a dust bath about three times a week. Beanz is no exception. He needs the dust bath, Alyssa said, because it keeps their coats dry and oil-free.
In his native country of South America, the chinchilla would roll in fine volcanic dust. But pet chinchillas get a purer soaking. Although not quite sure of the ingredients, Alyssa said the dust is very fine and sparkles.
As he twists and turns inside his little bathtub, Beanz has a lot of fun, she said. After trial and error, Alyssa decided the best place for Beanz’s dust bath is in his cage.
Another plus about owning a chinchilla is its lack of unpleasant smells. Alyssa said she cleans his cage at least once a week and his bedding is wood chips.
“He finds favorite places to sit,” she said, pushing aside the bedding,” she said. “He also chews on his wooden sleep house to keep his teeth trimmed down.”
A chinchilla’s teeth will grow about 2 inches a year.
“He doesn’t bite (people) either,” she said. “He is not aggressive at all, and when he sits on my shoulder, he rubs my face.”
Alyssa said at first her father, Clint, didn’t want one a chinchilla in the house, but he has warmed up to him.
“He is a nut,” Clint said about Beanz. “We can sit out here (in the living room) and hear him bark.”
The barking sound, Alyssa said, is not loud and does sound like a dog’s bark.
Alyssa’s brother, Caleb, said he enjoys playing with him, too.
“Beanz is amazing,” he said.
Alyssa said her mom likes to visit Beanz, too.
“Whenever I am gone for the evening, my mom will go in and see him. He barks when he gets lonely,” she said.
Beanz isn’t the only family pet. Alyssa said their dog, Molly, is kept away from her chinchilla.
“I did a lot of research before I ever got him to make sure I knew what I was getting into,” she said.
Alyssa said she may be the only person in town who owns a chinchilla.