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Are Chinchillas Nocturnal? Can They See in the Dark?

chinchilla in the dark

Chinchillas are adorable animals that are very fun to keep, but most people aren’t familiar with them and their habits. Understanding the natural habits of pets you’re keeping is one of the best and easiest ways to keep your pets healthy. When it comes to chinchillas, they are easily stressed, so maintaining a natural environment that keeps them happy and feeling safe will work to keep your chinchi with you for years to come. So, are chinchillas nocturnal? They’re actually partially nocturnal and primarily crepuscular animals, which can be a difficult environment to replicate in some homes.

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Can Chinchillas See in the Dark?

While chinchillas can’t see in pitch black, they have exceptional vision and can see in very low light environments. This gives them the ability to search for food while watching for danger during the darkest parts of the day. The great vision that chinchillas have can create some problems for them, though, because it means their eyes are highly sensitive. It can be stressful and potentially damaging to your chinchi’s eyes to keep it in an area where lighting may rapidly change, like rooms without much natural light where the flip of a switch may take the room from dark to bright.

short-tailed chinchilla
Image Credit: agdas666, Pixabay

What Do Nocturnal and Crepuscular Mean?

Nocturnal animals are active at night, and most truly nocturnal animals are active throughout the night. They typically become active during the later parts of dusk and start heading back to their homes before dawn truly sets in. Crepuscular animals, on the other hand, are primarily active at dawn and dusk. They basically fill the gaps between diurnal and nocturnal. Some animals may be crepuscular and nocturnal, like chinchillas.

In the wild, chinchillas usually become active at dusk and stay active into the night. However, they don’t usually stay active through the entire night and are likely to rest during the darkest parts of the nighttime. They often become active again during the very early morning and return to their dens before the sun fully rises.

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How Can You Replicate This Environment for Your Chinchilla?

There are a few ways to replicate this type of environment for your chinchi, and all of them are relatively easy to accomplish.

1. Proper Enclosure

The first way to accomplish a crepuscular and partially nocturnal environment for your chinchilla is to provide adequate shelter in the enclosure. Your chinchilla should have the option to rest in a dark environment during the brightest parts of the day, so providing a proper cave or den is necessary. A dark hide provides an environment that feels safe to your chinchi and protects its eyes from bright lighting.

Related Read: 10 Best Chinchilla Cages: Reviews & Top Picks

chinchilla
Image Credit: tahanadakila, Pixabay

2. Consistent Light Exposure

Your chinchilla’s enclosure should be kept in a room that isn’t prone to rapid changes in lighting. Rooms with lots of natural light are a good option since the light will slowly and naturally adjust throughout the day. Avoid rooms where lights are flipped on and off multiple times per day since this can surprise and stress your chinchilla.


3. Give Them Private Time

The last way to successfully recreate the appropriate day/night cycles for your chinchilla is to allow it to rest during the day. Some chinchis will become active on their own during the day and sleep at night, but most of them prefer to stick to their natural crepuscular behavior. You should leave your chinchilla alone during the day, especially midday when they are most likely to be asleep.

It is still important to provide social interaction, though, so make sure to interact with your chinchilla on its preferred schedule. This will likely involve feeding, handling, and cage maintenance at dawn or dusk.

short-tailed chinchilla
Image Credit: benjamingross83, Pixabay

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In Conclusion

Chinchillas are not truly nocturnal animals, but they do have excellent vision that allows them to see well in the dark. This makes them successful at nocturnal life, although they prefer a crepuscular lifestyle. You can easily accommodate the crepuscular and nocturnal preferences of your chinchilla through simple adjustments of cage placement and daytime activities. Make sure the whole household is on board with respecting your chinchilla’s needs to keep it happy and healthy.


Featured Image Credit: Igor Kovalchuk, Shutterstock

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