With a passion for saving animals, Andrea Kundrotas opened her chinchilla rescue, hoping to offer help to however many might need her.
She had fallen in love with her own chinchillas, an adopted rescue and his companion, and as the small furry creatures played and climbed all over her, Kundrotas started thinking of starting a rescue.
“I didn’t know if there was a demand or not but I thought if I could help a few it would be worth it,” she said.
Now, her rescue, Forever Feisty Chinchilla Rescue in Granby, is the largest chinchilla rescue organization in the country and the only one in New England.
She has saved not a few but hundreds of chinchillas, caring for them day in and day out since she opened her doors 10 years ago.
“We started out with just a few cases and just a small little space. I thought we’d take things slow… It has just blossomed and now I cannot keep up with the demand,” she said.
Kundrotas takes in chinchillas from all over New England and cares for them until they can be matched with a good home. Some, because of age, behavioral or health problems, never do.
Regardless, Kundrotas offers them shelter and guarantees them a place to comfortably live out their days.
Currently, she has more than 100 chinchillas, which she feeds, cares for, cleans up after and spends time with each day.
“My days are nonstop. The first thing I do as soon as I get up is feed the animals and take care of the animals… my husband helps me to clean and makes houses for them but I handle everything else – finances, phone consultations, giving advice on their care for people all over the country, packing and shipping things for my online store – every aspect of it I handle personally,” she said.
With the huge time commitment, there also comes a great reward, Kundrotas said.
“They need you to spend a lot of time with them for them to get social with you but they’re very loving wonderful animals.”
And, of course, they’re incredibly soft, fluffy and adorable. That’s what attracts so many people to get chinchillas in the first place, Kundrotas said.
But that’s often a mistake that leads them to Forever Feisty Chinchilla Rescue.
“They have a lot of specific requirements,” she said – including a very large cage to play, and dry dust baths with a powder some are allergic to. In addition, the animals are hyper, nocturnal and don’t really want to be held, the way some parents envision. They’re not the best pets for children, according to Kundrotas.
“People don’t do the research before getting them or pet stores tell them it’s really easy… often it’s a spur of the moment decision at a pet store and just a few months later their lives get busy and they get bored with them,” she said.
It has led to what Kundrotas calls a homeless crisis.
“When I started 10 years ago, I took in maybe 20 to 30 a year and every six months I would expand and get larger,” she said. “Nowadays I am asked to take anywhere between 30 to 60 chinchillas a month… I cannot take all of them; I only have so much space.”
Most animal shelters are ill equipped to take the unique animals, if they are even willing. And yet still breeders continue to increase the chinchilla population.
“It breaks my heart. For those I’m able to help, I’m grateful for, but I’m one person and there’s only so much I can do.”
For more information, visit Forever Feisty Chinchilla Rescue online here.