The Basics Of Chinchilla Care - Everything You Need To Know

2 comments by Morgan Mulac

The basics of chinchilla care

Owning a small furry pet like a guinea pig, a rat, a ferret or a chinchilla is somehow the same with owning a dog or a cat - it would need us as owners awareness on how to take care of them first before actually bringing them in our household. 

Whether you’ve decided to take the plunge and have adopted a chinchilla of your own, you’re at the beginning of the research process, or you have a chinchilla and need a refresher, it’s incredibly important to know all the basics of chinchilla care. 

As far as chinchilla care is concerned, housing, diet, hygiene, and overall health are some of the most essential factors. So with that in mind, let’s jump in and go over everything you need to know!

Where Do Chinchillas Come From and their Origin?

To gain a deeper understanding of how to take care of a chinchilla, we must first consider where chinchillas live and how this affects certain aspects of their care. 

Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains in South America - since this environment is much cooler and drier than other regions chinchillas have developed very thick fur to protect themselves from the cold. 

Due to the fact that chinchillas are considered prey animals in their natural habitat, they tend to be more skittish animals, so they have also become adept at running and jumping at high speeds and heights as compared with their size.

A chinchilla's diet in the wild is similar to that of a domesticated chinchilla's diet as there’s plenty of grass, wood, and herbs for a chinchilla to eat. 

Chinchilla on a blue pale

Do Chinchillas Require Simple Effort To Take Care Of?

As a beginner reading this blog, it may seem like chinchilla care is quite complex, but once you get into a routine with your chinchillas, you will find it is a very simple process. 

Does A Chinchilla Like To Be Held or Carried?

Generally, chinchillas don't like to be held. However, it can sometimes be necessary to hold your pet chinchilla in certain situations, such as when you need to inspect them for injuries or fungal infections.

The most important thing we want to make sure you are aware of is that you have to be extremely careful when you pick up and hold a chinchilla, as it has incredibly delicate bones that can be easily broken.

How To Hold A Chinchilla Correctly and Safely for both Owner and Pet?

It’s advised not to hold your chinchilla by the mid-section as its ribs aren’t attached to the rest of its sternum. We have a blog on the proper ways to handle your chinchilla here, but we’re going to highlight the most common and recommended way. 

Chinchilla held by the bottom of his tail

 The best way to pick up a chinchilla is to grab it at its base in the bend between your thumb and index finger as you pick it up. In the same way, as you would grab the scruff of a cat's neck, you will be able to stabilize your chinchilla so you can pick them up and inspect them properly.

What Do Chinchillas Eat to Keep them Healthy?

Chinchillas need a mix of pellets (We recommend Oxbow or Mazuri), and hay that is appropriate for chinchillas such as Timothy hay or orchard grass hay.

You should be using pellets over loose blends of chinchilla food if you want to make sure that your chinchilla is getting all the vital nutrients and vitamins chinchillas need in their diet since loose blends allow your chinchilla to pick over and skip things they may not like.

Two chinchillas eating hay

It is also important to read the labels of any food brand you are considering getting for your chinchilla in order to make sure that it contains the right ingredients and avoids things like cornmeal, sugars, or similar fillers that are detrimental to the health of your pet.

Chinchillas should only be getting a small amount around 1-2 tablespoons of pelleted food a day, depending on their age and weight - how many owners break this down is a half tablespoon to a tablespoon in the morning, and the other half in the evening. 

It’s also incredibly important that once you choose a brand you continue to feed your chinchilla only that brand, as drastic shifts in formulas can shock your chinchilla's digestive system. If you must change, do so gradually (we recommend changing in 25% increments).

It should be noted that the bulk of a chinchilla's diet should be comprised of high-quality hay, such as Timothy hay and orchard grass. 

Typically, hay should be fed in unlimited amounts, but we recommend one to two handfuls at a time and being replaced when needed (either because your chinchilla has run low or has soiled its current hay supply).

One of the easiest types of hays to find in bulk is Timothy hay, and it provides the optimal nutrition that a chinchilla needs, which is why it is one of the most popular and recommended hays for chinchillas.

It should also be noted that orchard grass is another suitable option if you suffer from allergies, since it provides the correct nutrients when compared to timothy hay and creates less dust that can come back up. 

Chinchillas older than 6 months can have treats that have been approved as chinchilla safe, but they should be given in extreme moderation. If chinchillas eat too many treats that are high in sugar, it can cause digestive upset and even bloat

An average adult chinchilla only needs 2 ounces of water a day, but a full water bottle should always be kept handy so that chinchillas can drink as much as they please at any time.

Many owners may worry about the myth that a chinchilla can overeat or overdrink, but the fact is that chinchillas are very in tune with how much they can eat and drink at a time and you should only worry about overeating in cases where a chinchilla has come from a neglectful home.

Ideal Housing Set Up for your Chinchilla to Avoid Injury

Quality Cage Mansion

Chinchilla housing is another important aspect of chinchilla care, not only in terms of the cage's size, but also in terms of where the cage is kept, what the cage is made out of, and what you place inside it.

To start, chinchillas need a cage that is 2.5ft by 2ft by 2ft. at the smallest, this provides enough room for a single chinchilla to jump around and not feel cramped. This cage size is ideal if you have a smaller space to house your chinchilla. 

You may want to consider getting a larger cage if you have more than one chinchilla or if you have a larger space to work with, as chinchillas thrive in larger cages because they have more room to roam around.

The most important aspect of the size of a chinchilla's cage is to make sure there’s enough room for everything necessary, such as their water bottle, food and hay bowls, litter pans (if you opt to use one), shelves, and any toys you opt to put into their cage.

As far as cages are concerned, it is recommended that you buy a metal wire cage instead of a wooden cage since wooden housing is very easy to chew through and plastic cages are very dangerous if they are chewed on.

As well as that, the space between the wires in your chinchilla cage should not exceed one inch as otherwise your chinchilla's feet may get caught in the wires and cause it to get injured.

It is very important to choose the right spot in your home to house your chinchilla cage as you need to be sure that you choose a place in your home that is cool enough as chinchillas need to be housed in cooler temperatures.

You should find a place where the temperature can be kept between 64º-70º Fahrenheit and away from any open windows that may allow the sun to shine in and heat the room and cause heat stroke. In some cases, additional air conditioning may be necessary. 

As for what is put in the cage, there should be absolutely no plastic OR any plastic that must remain in the cage (such as shelving that comes with some cages) it should be covered in non-pill fleece to prevent any chewing that could cause a blockage in your chinchilla's digestive system. 

A chinchilla cage should be filled with toys that are made from chinchilla-friendly materials such as pumice, kiln-dried pine (or another chinchilla-safe wood), loofah, and vine so that it is as safe as possible for your pet.

Regular and Consistent Exercise or Playtime is Important to Achieve Maximum Health

There is no doubt that chinchillas are incredibly active animals both in the wild and as pets, so it's extremely important that they get the proper amount and good quality of exercise both inside and outside of their cage.

Chinchilla on a wheel

Chinchillas need 1-2 hours of playtime a day, and this can be achieved both through structured and free playtime. Although exercise outside of the cage is most recommended by experts, there are many things you can do to make your cage more exercise-friendly.

As far as playtime outside of the cage is concerned, it is important to create a chinchilla-safe playpen where they will be able to run around in a safe environment. 

This includes putting anything dangerous that a chinchilla can chew on away, such as cords and plastic items such as rolling chair wheels. Additionally, it’s vital to make sure that there are chin chillers in place to prevent the chance of heat stroke.

It is important to note that chinchillas are crepuscular animals, which means they’re more active during dawn and dusk, and this will often influence when they are most playful, thus scheduling playtime for them in the evenings or early mornings is the best option. 

Ways you can make your chinchilla's cage more exercise-friendly are by placing plenty of shelving units and lava ledges in your chinchilla's cage to give them plenty of space to jump on. 

Chinchilla with wooden toy

We also recommend a chinchilla exercise wheel that gives your chinchilla the opportunity to run and get in the proper amount of exercise at any time of day. 

Grooming Schedule Recommendation for your Chinchilla for Good Hygiene

Unlike some other pets, chinchillas need very little grooming, as dust baths are only needed 2-4 times a week. If you’re new to owning a chinchilla, a dust bath may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but a chinchilla's dust bath is incredible at wicking away the oils that accumulate in a chinchilla's fur. 

Considering that Chinchillas have extremely thick fur, water baths are not recommended, as you cannot be sure that your chinchilla is completely dry throughout, and it can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew in the environment, which may lead to illness.

Chinchilla on a pink bath tub

What is a Chinchilla Dust Bath?

Chinchilla dust is typically made up of ground-up pumice stone or volcanic ash, both of which wick moisture and oil away and keep your chinchilla clean. 

If you live in a dry or cooler environment, your chinchilla should only require 2 dust baths a week, any more than that will dry out their skin and cause itching and flaking. If you’re located in a more humid environment, dust baths more often are acceptable. 

The most recommended way to dust bathe your chinchilla is to put the dust bowl into their cage with 1-2 inches worth of dust at the bottom, after you close the cage door they will jump in and spin through the dust. It is recommended to not keep the bowl in its cage for more than 15 minutes at a time.

A chinchilla suffering from a fungal infection, such as ringworm, can be treated with desenex powder, which is an antifungal powder that can be added to the dust bath until the infection is cleared.

Chinchilla Cage Cleaning to Avoid Risk Exposure

Cage Cleaning can be broken down into time chunks of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. But before we take a dive into those factors, let’s discuss chinchilla-safe cleaning products 

If you have non-pill fleece in your cage, you should only be using mild laundry detergent to wash them as anything else may irritate your chinchilla's respiratory system. 

Chinchilla on a cage,

There are a few things you can use to clean surfaces, including 3% hydrogen peroxide, Skout's Honor, water and vinegar, and very hot water. These are all approved as chinchilla safe, but it’s incredibly important to rinse items thoroughly if you clean them with more than hot water. 

Recommended Schedule for Cage Cleaning for Chinchilla Housing

Daily: Remove shavings, soiled hay, and poop from all platforms with sweeping or vacuuming, and any peed-on items should be blotted or spot treated.

Weekly: The fleece should be changed and the dirty fleece should be washed, forgotten items missed during daily maintenance should be spot treated or wiped down, and the litter should be replaced if you’ve opted to use it.

Monthly: everything in the cage should be removed and disinfected, soiled toys should be thrown out or replaced, and the bars of the wire cage should be thoroughly wiped down.

For the weekly and monthly cleaning, we recommend letting your chinchilla out of the cage and allowing them to exercise while you get the cleaning done. This way your chinchilla isn’t exposed to any of the cleaning chemicals and everything has time to dry before you let your chinchilla back into the cage. 

Chinchilla on a wheel

Where to Find Further Reliable and Effective Information On Chinchilla Care

When looking for information regarding chinchilla care, there are many reputable sources to consult, but it's important to figure out which are the most reliable sources so you do not end up taking the word of a source that provides misleading or dangerous information.

Typically the most reputable sources are chinchilla care sites, breeders, and exotic veterinarians who have experience with chinchillas. As these groups are the most experienced and dedicated to researching all of the best care practices for chinchillas. 

That being said, these named sources are not infallible and it’s crucial to cross reference with as many sources as possible and reference already-known information about chinchillas. 

Additionally, although we do not want to resort to veterinary care when it comes to chinchilla issues and as much as wanting to give home care alternatives or remedies to our chins when they're not feeling well, professional care is always a reputable source to get help from when their are emerging issues on our chinchillas.

But as mentioned on this blog, knowing these information of basic chinchilla care would perhaps minimize or avoid possible issues. 

Less Reputable Sources for Information on Chinchilla care

Less reputable sources are online forums, particularly for the reason that the responses and answers aren’t vetted for accuracy and are anecdotal, pet stores, as pet store employees are not often educated properly on chinchilla care, or sites that rely on clickbait and little research involved. 

Likewise to more reputable sources, just because these places aren’t typically reputable doesn’t mean that there can’t be truth in what they’re saying.  The most important thing to keep in mind is to use critical thinking while evaluating any source that you’re reading from.

Chinchilla pet

In Conclusion

When it comes to providing chinchillas with the best care, there are a lot of things that need to be taken into account, but once you have the basics down, it becomes incredibly easy to care for these animals.

In the hands of a knowledgeable chinchilla owner, your little pal can live happily and healthily for a long time that could possibly reach up to 20 years!

Questions?

Have Questions About Chinchilla Care Or Chinchillas?

Email us at cages@qualitycage.com

Author Bio: Morgan Mulac

Morgan has been a professional copywriter for over five years. Morgan also happens to be a chinchilla owner for many years. Now she is merging her two passions to create chinchilla expert care guides to help other chinchilla owners.
Morgan loves all things artistic and enjoys making others happy through her art and stories.

2 comments


  • Riley

    Where is the best place to get one?


  • Matt monterosso

    I got 5 chinchilla and just bought a light to check the cage for urine it seems that its all on the ears how can I clean


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