The care of any pet requires more or less time spent cleaning up after them. Chinchillas are no exception and although they are not a smelly animal, they are messy! Keeping their living space clean helps your chin stay healthy. Taking about 15 minutes each day and occasionally a bit longer can keep your chinchilla's immune system and cage in good shape!
- Little Broom and Dustpan: I like these to sweep up little poops, hay, and dust off the ledges daily. It does not take a lot of time and keeps the area around the chin's cage a little tidier.
- Shop Vacuum: Almost a must have, a good one can clean up all the hay, bedding, fur, and poops from in and around your chinchilla's cage.
- Scrub Brush: Good to have on hand for scrubbing pee spots off ledges.
- Play Pen or Second Cage: Placing your chin elsewhere may be a necessity if using certain cleaning products or if your chinchilla gets stressed by the noise and activity. Our collapsible travel cage is a good set up to have on hand for cleaning!
This will depend on your time and how messy your chinchilla is. You should do something with your chinchilla's cage daily, even if it is a quick sweep of the shelves and inspection of the cage. Poops are a good health indicator for chinchillas. Removing them daily keeps you 'in the loop' on your chinchilla's digestive health so you can see an issue before it's too late. The following is what we recommend as a cage cleaning timeline.
Daily: Sweep or vacuum any platforms that have shavings, hay, or poops. Blot any fresh pee. Take a good look around the cage and your chinchillas to make sure everyone is healthy and there is no indicators that something is wrong (blood, odd poops, or strange behaviors from your chin).
Weekly: Remove your chin from the cage. Change out bedding or fleece covers and clean pee spots or litter box with your preferred cleanser.
Monthly: Remove and disinfect everything in the cage.
Weekly and monthly things could be done more often if preferred.
Chinchillas are intrinsically more sensitive than dogs or cats, so we can't use just any pet cleaning products around them. There are a few you can use and we have listed and compared them here! The following photos and descriptions have ledges that would have been replaced at this point but in the interest of science, we cleaned them instead! All had varying degrees of urine staining. They all used aproximately the same cleaning time and all were sprayed with the cleanser multiple times, allowed to sit, and scrubbed twice under running water.
Vinegar is a tried and true cleaning agent for pets. The acidity helps neutralize ammonia and dissolve the salts in urine. It is very safe to use but we still recommend moving your chinchilla away from the area while using it. Dilute standard white vinegar to 50% (1 part vinegar to 1 part water) before using.
Vinegar did a decent job on fairly light urine spots. It dissolved the spots easily but repeated spraying did not reduce the remaining stain on the wood.
Skout's Honor Stain and Odor Remover is typically found in the stain cleaning section of small chain and local pet stores. It is non-toxic, biodegradable,and contains no harsh chemicals. It uses a plant-based surfactant to lift biological material. It is not enzyme-based so it can be stored in the garage and used with other cleansers without effecting them. Skout's Honor does not have anything in it that could harm chinchillas but the plant-based scent in it is pretty strong and the surfactant can irritate eyes and nasal passages. The directions say to allow the product to completely dry before letting your pet re-enter the cage.
Skout's Honor got Little Q's favorite pee spot. Given that, it did perform pretty well with just a couple really caked on crusty spots left. I think with continued scrubbing and use, those would have come up too but I wanted to spend about the same time on each ledge for a fair evaluation. I forgot to take a photo of this ledge before cleaning so the 'before' photo is actually after a few spray sessions and scrubbing once. Skout's Honor did make short work of a light pee stain on the back right corner of the ledge. Overall, I think it did a good job for having the worst ledge. It does take a while to dry though- several hours- that surfactant keeps moisture for a while! I also like Skout's Honor for pee stains on fleece coverings. I spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes then wash the fleece as normal.
Wee Away uses enzyme to break down organic matter. They have several formulas but the Wee Away Bird Cage Cleaner has no fragrance or harsh chemicals in it and is safe enough to use with the pet still in the cage! I still would remove a chinchilla, since you are spraying a liquid in their area.
Wee Away got a ledge a bit worse than vinegar's but not as bad as Skout's Honor. I am pretty impressed by its performance. I did not have to really scrub this- blotting took up a lot of the staining and smell. For being as mild as it is, I did not expect this result!
Natural Chemistry's Healthy Habitat is another enzymatic formula safe enough to use while the pet is in the cage. We still do not recommend that for chinchilla but it gives me a little more peace of mind when using it for pets.
We ran out of good (bad) ledges to test Healthy Habitat on but Little Q made it a point to pee on the chinchiller many times. The chinchiller is marble, so it is inherently easier to clean than wood but Healthy Habitat did do a decent job. Staining is still there a little bit but it did not leave any chin pee smell or build up.
Disinfecting your chin's cage is an important part of pet ownership. With daily and weekly cleaning, bacteria will not build up a lot in the cage but it is important to sanitize the environment every so often. Chinchillas should be well away from a cage undergoing disinfection. I use either of the following:
Bleach: Bleach is an effective germ killer and cheap. When using for pets, it should be diluted by to 10% ( 1 cup of bleach to 9 cups of water). Everything will need to be rinsed several times and dried- preferably in the sun- to assure no bleach residue is left over.
Chlorhexidine: This is my preferred disinfectant. Chlorhexidine (Nolvasan) is commonly used in veterinary hospitals to santize patient areas. You can purchase ready-to-use sprays or concentrated solutions that will need to be diluted (typically 1 oz per gallon). It is a very safe and non-caustic in its dilute form. You will still need to remove your chin from the cage and rinse everything you disinfect.
Vinegar is often used as a sanitizer but the CDC reports that studies on its effectiveness are inconclusive. To be safe, I do not rely on vinegar to disinfect.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments on cleaning and disinfecting around chinchillas, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.