Q: I realize this may sound a bit strange or silly, but my friends and I have been having an argument about chinchillas, specifically about whether they can fly or not. It is very clear that they cannot fly in the same way that birds can because they lack wings, however what we cannot come to a verdict on is whether they can glide, as flying squirrels do. I have searched the Internet for websites with this information but am left without a conclusive and reliable answer, which is why I have turned to you and your expertise in this subject. Short of obtaining a chinchilla and observing it, this seems like the best way to settle our rather trivial argument.
A: Flying squirrels do not fly, they glide, usually, from a higher branch to a lower branch. The skin of a flying squirrel is attached to the front and rear legs out near the wrists/ankles so when the legs are spread widely, it stretches the skin tightly between the side of the body and each leg. This forms a wide gliding surface. Flying squirrels are very light so they can glide and drop a great distance without breaking bones.
Chinchillas can jump, hop and bank off of walls. They can take long strides or short ones and can bounce straight up in the air (often referred to as “popcorning”). They have no skin flaps. They cannot fly, nor can they glide. Chinchillas have heavy bodies and relatively thin legs. This combination can lead to broken bones if they fall as little as 18 inches.
Tall, multilevel cages with an open center pose a significant risk for falls. Add a shelf across the open area or put a cloth hammock in the center to help prevent long drops.