The chinchilla, Chinchilla laniger, is a native of South America, residing in the Andes Mountains of northern Chile. The natural habitat is the barren mountain slopes between 3000-6000 meters. They shelter in crevices and holes during the day, as they are basically crepuscular and nocturnal, and eat any available vegetation. In former times, they lived in large gregarious colonies of up to 100 individuals, but they have been hunted for their pelts to the point of near extinction.  Attempts to reintroduce chinchillas into the wild have been unsuccessful.

Chinchillas were first bred in captivity in the late 19th century.  Today there are millions of chinchillas in captivity.  The majority are kept as fur producers.

As a pet, the chinchilla is not aggressive and only bites if provoked. The chinchilla is intelligent and easy to train with food rewards. These pets have a well-developed sense of hearing and because of their nocturnal nature, their large eyes enable them to see well at night.

One warning: chinchillas can project their urine 2-3 feet with good accuracy.