Posted: June 30, 2014, 5:45 p.m. EDT
Although most people have heard of chinchillas, many people’s initial reaction when they meet one in person is, "What is that?!” or they might think that they are seeing a cross between a guinea pig and a squirrel. To be exact, that cute little creature with the short arms, Mickey Mouse-esque ears and squirrel-like tail is none other than a Chinchilla lanigera. The name literally translates to "little chinch,” and this little critter is named after the Chincha people, a Native American population that once lived in the Andes, and who reportedly used to wear the chinchilla’s dense, velvety fur.
If you hear someone talk endearingly about their cute, little chin — before you start to label them as conceited, ask if they’re talking about their chinchilla — after all, "chin” is what many chinchilla aficionados call their critter companions. With their unique look, pet chinchilla names vary from the obvious to the creative.
A quick look at the names on SmallAnimalChannel’s critter species profile pages, shows that a lot of chinchillas’ names are based on their physical attributes. Dumbo, no doubt, is an homage to the chinchilla’s robust ears. Ditto for Mickey and Minnie. And Gizmo, another popular chinchilla name, could also be inspired by the large ears of the signature character of the same name from the movie Gremlins (1984); or it could be based on the chinchilla’s equally out-of-this-world look. Pikachu, the immensely popular mascot of the Pokémon media franchise, is another name that seems apropos for chinchillas, especially when you read the Pokémon character’s description: a relatively chubby rodent with long ears, small mouth, short forearms and a long tail.
Chinchillas are also named after their unique grooming habit. Instead of bathing in water, they bathe in dust, which makes Dusty a great chinchilla moniker. And their natural gray color lends itself nicely to names like Smokey and Onyx. Another popular chinchilla name is Chile, or the variation Chili, which might be based on their native region or by the fact that these little creatures do not sweat and do best in slightly cooler temperatures.
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Physical characteristics like large ears or bathing in dust can be the inspiration for a chinchilla's name.
Lyn Shuster, a "hobby" chinchilla breeder who runs Lyn’s Chins in Orlando, Florida, follows a system when naming her chinchilla kits ("kit” is what you call a baby chinchilla).
"First, I take the parent’s names and try to incorporate letters into the kits' names,” Shuster said. "For example, ZhaZha and Scottie just had kits, so Zeva and Zach are names I used for kits. This helps me remember who the kits' parents are and when I sell them, I tell folks to please reference both their birth names and whatever name they gave them so I know who they are talking about, such as Chilly/Zachary.”
Shuster also finds inspiration in seasonal names like Noel Nicholas Holly for Christmas, and like many people — pet and human parents alike — characters from the small and big screen can be big influencers. Shuster said her next sibling sister chinchillas might be Sansa and Arya from the HBO series Game of Thrones. Friends and family can also be naming inspirations. "If a chin is born on the birthday of a friend or family member, I will use their name.”
Like this article? Please share it.
And check out:
15 Questions And Answers About Pet Chinchillas, click here>>
The One Chinchilla Health Issue You Can't Ignore, click here>>
Life WIth Your First Chinchilla, click here>>
See all chinchilla health questions and answers, click here>>
See all chinchilla behavior questions and answers, click here>>