Can Chinchillas See in the Dark?

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Written by: Celestine Gomez
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Chinchillas are adorable little creatures that look like a gerbil, a squirrel, and a mouse combined. They belong to the family of rodents and are quite social, which is why they’re great to have as pets.

Another reason they make great pets is they’re one of the few clean and quiet members of the rodent family. They also can live up to 10 years, if not longer.

Yet, before you get one of these cuties for yourself, you have to get to know more about their likes and dislikes. For example, did you know that chinchillas have eyesight that works pretty much like our own?

Most owners don’t, which is why I’m often asked: can chinchillas see in the dark? The short answer is: yes, they can.

However, they don’t have the same ability to see things crystal clear in the dark as cats and other nocturnal animals.

I’ve been raising chinchillas for several years now, and in this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about their eyesight.

So, let’s get started.

Can Chinchillas See in the Dark?

Yes, chinchillas can see in the dark about as much as we can. Plus, they can adjust to various lighting conditions to work their way in the dark like us.

Contrary to popular belief, chinchillas aren’t nocturnal. They’re actually categorized as crepuscular, which means they’re more active at dawn and dusk.

Hence, their eyes aren’t equipped with night-vision membranes, like the ones you see in cats and other felines.

Still, their eyes are pretty good at adjusting in the dark or in dimly lit areas. They can make out odd shapes and outlines at night, and their quick reflexes help them escape predators or move quickly from one area to another.

Do Chinchillas Prefer Sleeping in the Dark?

Chinchilla sleeping in Wooden  house

These creatures don’t like change and have difficulty even with the slightest adjustments, like changing where you put their water bowl or favorite toy. So, if you’ve just gotten a new chinchilla, give it time to adapt to its surroundings.

They also don’t like being in complete darkness. Research shows that chinchillas tend to become more active and frantic with less light, especially when they’re not used to their surroundings. They sometimes even become hostile and make distress signals.

So, keep the light on for at least the first week until they warm up to you and their new home first.

The problem with this, however, is that, in the long run, it can interfere with the animal’s natural circadian rhythm, or the day and night cycles. Therefore, if you’ve trained your chinchilla to sleep in well-lit room, wait until they’re a bit older, then wean them off it gradually.

Keep in mind that you should never go straight from leaving them in a fully lit room to total darkness in a short amount of time. Instead, take your time over the course of a week to get them used to sleeping in a dimly lit room.

Having a nightlight on is a great way to make them feel safe. Plus, they’ll be able to see their way around as they move around their cage.

The silver lining is that chinchillas are creatures of habit. They’re also quite smart and quick-witted.

So, even though it might take a few days, they’ll quickly catch on and will have no problem getting used to their new routine.

Do Chinchillas Have Strong Eyesight?

Close up of chinchilla's face

Before we get into more details about chinchillas, let’s briefly talk about the sense of sight. The way all creatures, including us, see is that light hits the layer of tissue in the back of our eyes, called the retina.

This tissue layer is made up of sensitive photoreceptors that turn this light into electrical signals. These then get transported via the optic nerve from the retina to the brain, where they’re transformed into the images you see.

It sounds like it takes a long time. However, studies show that it takes about 13 milliseconds for your brain to process images.

Now, back to our question: do chinchillas have strong eyesight? Yes, they do.

Their vision develops over time, and when the chinchillas reach adulthood, their eyesight is better than ours because their retinas contain more photoreceptors.

However, other senses, like their hearing and touch, are definitely stronger than their eyesight. As a matter of fact, as they age, it’s their eyesight that weakens before their other senses. Some chinchillas even go completely blind by the time they’re 15 years old.

Final Thoughts

So, can chinchillas see in the dark? You’ll be happy to know that your pet chinchilla has pretty good vision and can even see better than you in the dark.

Chinchillas may be part of the rodent family, but they’re extremely intelligent, gentle, and clean. They’re also creatures of habit and don’t like to be taken by surprise.

So, make sure you accommodate your pet according to their habits and needs. By keeping their environment safe and welcoming, you’ll have a healthy, happy chinchilla you can enjoy for years to come.

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Celestine Gomez

I'm Celestine Gomez, worked for 5 years in an animal shelter in Los Angeles, California. Having noticed the inherent passion and zeal in me to care for pets, I took a step further to create a team of I and like-minded individuals to provide an informative resource in order to broaden the knowledge base of a regular pet owners.