Wanted: A companion for a long-term relationship. Must enjoy exercise (particularly on an exercise wheel), prefer dust baths to bubble baths and chewing sticks to cuddling. Interested? Contact: SPCA Port Coquitlam Education and Adoption Centre.,
That's the advertisement a foursome of cute, big-eared chinchillas would publish if they had internet access.
Hop and Peanut, Bert and Ernie are some of the more unusual tenants you'll meet at the SPCA's storefront office in a strip mall on Westwood Street in PoCo. With their big ears, big eyes, chubby bodies and soft, grey coats they look more like Furbies than animals. But these nocturnal rodents shouldn't be taken for granted.
They're smart fitness freaks that spend a lot of time on their fitness wheels - mostly at night - and although they don't like to be cuddled, they have other interesting behaviour traits that might make them great companions for the right individual or family.
"They like to jump because, where they come from [the Andes Mountains], they would normally jump from caverns to rocks," explained Stefanie Broad, assistant manager at the PoCo SPCA branch.
Their cages tend to be large - up to four feet high - to accommodate interconnecting ramps that allow them to run and jump, and no chinchilla home is complete without a dust bath. A bowl of grey powder is just perfect for chinchillas, which like to first dig in the dust with their tiny paws and then roll in it to keep their fur clean and dry.
"They require very specific care," said Broad, who pointed out that chinchillas like to chew on sticks and eat dry pellets and hay that mimic the diet they would eat in the Andes. But the most interesting thing about chinchillas - which makes them the ideal pet for some and the worst of all pets for others - is their lengthy life-span. Chinchillas can live to between 20 to 25 years, so owning one is a commitment.
Unfortunately, people who purchase them for pets tend to get fed up with them because of their night-time behaviours and their disinterest in cuddling. In fact, Broad said, their floating ribs can be dislocated if they're picked up the wrong way.
The PoCo SPCA gets most of its animals from other branches and the chinchillas were given up by families that couldn't care for them anymore.
To adopt a pair, applicants must be knowledgeable about chinchillas or be previous owners of the animals.
Open house Sunday at SPCA adoption centre
Most people think of the SPCA as a defender of creatures that can't speak for themselves or a place to go to adopt a dog or a cat.
But educating people, especially children, about animals is another big job of the BC SPCA, says Martine Campbell, the manager of the society's Port Coquitlam Education and Adoption Centre.
To that end, the organization is hosting an upcoming open house for the community and summer camps for children.
The adoption centre at 104-3278 Westwood St. is hosting the open house on Sunday, May 15 from noon to 3 p.m. There will be opportunities to see pets available for adoption, check out education displays, participate in a scavenger hunt, do some crafts, and buy a hot dog and a drink. As well, there will be pet first aid demonstrations at 1 and 2:15 p.m.
Campbell said the open house is a good opportunity to let people know about the storefront location, which opened up three years ago, and adopts out approximately 30 animals a month.
As well, she said, the SPCA's week-long summer camps offer children an opportunity to learn about animal health, care and welfare while also keeping active with tours, crafts, games, guest speakers and excursions to the park.
Registration has already begun. Call 604-599-7209 on weekdays and leave a message or visit spca.bc.ca and look for the links.
The PoCo SPCA is open from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday to Thursday, and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.