Chinchilla Level of Care
Chinchillas can be housed in same sex or opposite sex pairs, trios, or small groups. They should not be housed in the same enclosure with different species of animals.
Handling Considerations for Chinchillas
Chinchillas have a delicate skeleton. Never grab a chinchilla by the tail or limbs, and be careful not to hold them too tightly. To safely pick up and hold your chinchilla, wrap them in a towel, gently grasp around the butt and tail, and place a second hand around their chest to fully support them. When chinchillas are frightened or held too tightly they can shed patches of fur.
Recommended Home for Chinchillas
Chinchillas are social and friendly animals and like to be around you. Ideally, you should house your chinchilla in an area where you spend a lot of time, like your living room or bedroom. Avoid placing their enclosure in direct sunlight or a drafty area. The optimal temperature is between 55-70 F, and should never reach higher than 80 F. Humidity should be below 40-50%.
Chinchilla pet parents should be able and willing to provide the proper housing, diet, daily exercise, and routine veterinary care. As social animals that require daily care, chinchillas are not ideal for people who travel often and are frequently away from home. If children are the main caregiver, a parent should be actively involved with the chinchilla’s care. Keep in mind that chinchillas are more active at night.
Other Pets in the Household
Chinchillas can be housed in pairs of the same sex or opposite sex. They should not be housed with other animals, and they especially should not be housed near rabbits.
Family Friendliness Level
Chinchillas enjoy daily interactions with their family. This provides both exercise and helps your chinchilla bond with you. If your chinchilla is barking or showing aggression, do not try and handle them.
A single chinchillas requires a minimum enclosure of 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet. The ideal habitat has wire sides no more than 1 inch apart with a flat bottom such as a plastic tray to prevent pressure sores on their feet. The habitat should have multiple tiers, ramps, and shelves for climbing and playing.
Provide 1-2 inches of high-quality paper bedding or crumbled paper. Wood shavings should not be used because they can be ingested and may cause an intestinal blockage (chinchillas cannot vomit). Cedar shavings may cause skin and respiratory tract inflammation, so they should also not be used. Newspaper is another good alternative for bedding.
Chinchilla pellets can be provided in a ceramic or stainless steel dish. Free-choice hay can be provided throughout the enclosure or in a hay trough.
It is important to provide hide boxes for your chinchilla made out of edible material like hay. Wooden chinchilla safe blocks are also very important because their teeth continuously grow—this helps wear them down naturally.
Chinchillas are herbivores and require an unlimited, continuous supply of high-quality hay such as timothy, oat meadow orchard, or any other low calcium hay. Alfalfa should only be provided to young chinchillas or nursing mothers because the high calcium can cause bladder stones. In addition to the hay, provide 1 tablespoon per day of chinchilla pellets in a bowl and small amounts of fresh vegetables. Too many pellets can lead to obesity and diarrhea.
Your chinchilla requires unlimited fresh clean water every day from a bowl or bottle.
Some chinchilla-friendly treats including low-calcium vegetables such as carrot tops, green peppers, and leafy greens. Small amounts of fruit such as apples can be offered occasionally, like once a week. You can also offer high-fiber treats like apple wood sticks. Treats should be no more than 1-10% of the diet.
Chinchillas do not require vitamins or supplements unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.
Foods to Avoid
Chinchillas should not be fed chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol. These are toxic to chinchillas. Seeds nuts and dried fruit should also not be offered because they are high in sugar and fat.
Daily Care for Chinchillas
You can offer 1-2 tablespoons of chinchilla pellets per day, preferably in the morning or evening. Any fruits or veggies not eaten should be discarded within 1-2 hours to prevent spoiling. Water and hay should be offered at all times in an unlimited supply.
Chinchillas require dust baths at least a few times a week. They also should be brushed with a soft-bristled brush in the direction of their fur. Do not bathe your chinchilla or get them wet because their fur takes a while to dry and the skin can become inflamed. Since chinchilla teeth grow continuously, it is important to provide them with chinchilla-safe chew toys such as wooden sticks or blocks for them to wear down their teeth appropriately.
Chinchilla-safe dust like Oxbow Poof! is very important for your chinchilla’s coat health to keep it clean and oil-free. P lace a dust bath in their enclosure daily for at least 30 minutes, or you can leave it in the enclosure. If you leave it in, clean the dust bath every day and completely replace after one week. A dust box should be about 6 inches x 6 inches x 9 inches with 1-2 inches of dust.
Chinchillas should get daily exercise in their enclosure and outside of their enclosure. Flat 15-inch exercise wheels are a great way for them to exercise inside their habitat, which should also include lots of ramps and levels for them to run around and climb on.
Cages should be emptied and cleaned at least weekly with soap and water. Bedding should be replaced weekly. Food bowls and water bowls should be cleaned daily with soap and water. The cage should be spot cleaned once a day to remove and feces, wet/soiled bedding, and leftover food.
In addition to dust baths, provide your chinchilla with pet-safe wooden chew toys, PVC pipes for climbing, cardboard boxes, and flat 15-inch exercise wheels.
Veterinary Care for Chinchillas
Chinchillas require annual checkups with your primary veterinarian to make sure they are healthy and thriving in your care. In addition to a physical exam and dental exam, bloodwork and dental work may be performed at these appointments.
Signs of a Healthy Pet
Signs of a healthy chinchilla include:
Eating and drinking well
Walking and climbing without limping
Breathing comfortably without nasal discharge
Acting active and playful
When to Call the Vet
Signs that you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian include:
Not eating or drinking well
Eye or nose discharge
Overall decreased activity
If you have any concerns, it is better to be safe and consult with your veterinarian right away.
Common Illnesses in Chinchillas
Urolithiasis or urinary calculi
Is a chinchilla a good pet to have?
Chinchillas are a wonderful addition to the family, but they have specific needs so it is important to look into owning a chinchilla before you purchase one.
Are chinchillas rare pets?
Chinchillas are not rare pets, but they aren’t as common as other pets such as dogs or cats.
Do chinchillas like to be held?
Most chinchillas do like to be held, but each chinchilla is different so it’s important to observe your pet and see what they like and dislike.
Are chinchillas cuddly?
Chinchillas definitely can be cuddly, but it depends on the individual animal and how it has been socialized. Chinchillas are naturally shy animals.
Are chinchillas good pets for children?
Chinchillas are not ideal pets for children because they are fragile and require a lot of care, unless a parent is very active in their care daily as well with the child.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Alina Prochan
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