Q: I really want a chinchilla as a pet but have never raised one before. Is there anything I should be aware of before I jump in?

Chinchilla pets require a cage (roughly three feet square) with climbing ramps, a box to hide in, drinking water, and timothy hay—their main food source, says veterinarian Evan Mavromatis. They also need one to two daily tablespoons of pellet food and a teaspoon of raisins or cranberries a few times per week. To keep her coat shiny, give her a dust bath four times weekly.

The dust mimics pumice in her natural habitat and strips away dirt and oil from her coat. (Bathing with water is a no-no: Her dense fur doesn’t dry easily, and trapped moisture on her skin could leave her vulnerable to infection.) Contain the mess by putting a fish bowl filled with fine sand into the cage and letting her roll around for 30 minutes.