(Story by Laura Lee Cascada / Photographs by Steve Byun, @chinnybuddy)
This ball of fluff is Mr. Bagel. Despite how it looks, he’s not a gargantuan field mouse from some alternate universe of adorable creatures with big eyes and even bigger ears. He’s a chinchilla from regular old planet Earth.
But before you run out to your local pet shop and scoop up a chinchilla of your own, Mr. Bagel has a word of advice for you: Stop!
Over the last decade, unwanted chinchillas have filled shelters from coast to coast, an unfortunate consequence of those cartoonish ears and bushy tails, which lure children in until boredom sets in and their pet is cast aside in favor of a new sparkly rainbow unicorn.
Horror stories abound on the Internet, such as the tale of a chinchilla who was accidentally sat on by his child guardian and that of his replacement, who was fed such a poor diet that she took to biting out her own fur.
Mr. Bagel is one of the fortunate chins–rescued about 8 years ago in San Francisco and currently living out his days in style with his guardian, Steve Byun, in Southern California. Steve reports that Mr. Bagel enjoys the run of the house, but of course, never fails to make his way back to the cage to do his business.
Truth is, like any companion animal, chinchillas require specialized care and years of devotion. Their diet must be filled with chewable delicacies to wear down their ever-growing teeth–which can actually grow at a rate of up to a foot per year! And don’t dare throw them in the tub for a rinse-off, which can leave them sick with matted fur. Rather, chinchillas prefer to bathe desert-style–in lots and lots of dust.
Over the last several years, Mr. Bagel has become not just the star of his own household, but also of the Internet. Through his Instagram page and other social media channels, Mr. Bagel (via Steve’s photography skills) shares his life. There, you’ll find dozens upon dozens of photos of his feathery tail and heart-melting eyes–along with a few of him clutching a tiny chinchilla-sized shopping cart or donning a wizard hat.
Before you go, Mr. Bagel has one last message for you. Winter’s just around the corner, which means it’s nearly time to break out the winter coats. Chinchillas are known to have the softest fur you’ll ever touch, which means, you guessed it, chinchilla fur coats. But it can take up to 150 of these little puff balls to churn out one fur coat, and that process is reminiscent of a horror film whose protagonists are hundreds of thousands of gentle beings who look like they should be starring in a warm and fuzzy Pixar children’s movie instead. But on factory fur farms, these guys are confined to tiny wire cages and driven mad before being violently killed for their fur. It’s a far cry from Mr. Bagel’s luxurious estate.
So let’s all say “no” to fur this year and instead indulge ourselves with this photo of Mr. Bagel napping atop a stuffed animal–along with over 1,000 other gems right here.