When considering whether or not to get a chinchilla, many owners often view the smell as a major factor to consider. Other animals, especially some small ones like gerbils and hamsters, can have a distinct smell, and prospective chinchilla owners would like to know if they have one too.
In this article, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about chinchilla smells, including answering the question of whether chinchillas smell; how to keep your chinchilla’s cage from smelling; and whether or not certain methods of covering up the scent of a chinchilla cage are safe.
Do Chinchillas Stink?
The good news for potential owners is that chinchillas by nature don’t smell bad! There are a handful of causes that can cause chinchillas smell bad, such as a sick chinchilla or a cage that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time.
Two specific health concerns can cause your chinchilla to smell. One of them is
giardiasis - which is an intestinal infection that is waterborne and can cause a myriad of gastrointestinal symptoms and can only be treated by a veterinarian.
The other health issue that can cause a chinchilla to smell is dental issues, which we’ve covered in this article - but in short: if you notice that your chinchilla smells and that is combined with drooling, cut up cheeks and tongue, difficulties eating, or weight loss - it is important to take them to the vet ASAP.
Does Chinchilla Pee Smell?
Chinchilla pee is one of the few major smells a chinchilla will have in its normal life. The scent can be mild when isolated to just their litter box, but if they pee on bedding or toys, the scent can linger and be quite strong if not dealt with quickly.
Another reason chinchilla pee could be smelling strong is a UTI - it is important to identify and deal with this quickly as an untreated UTI can spiral out of control quickly and be fatal if not looked after.
How To Get Rid Of And Prevent Chinchilla Pee Smell
When thinking about how to set up your cage, many configurations help tame any potential pee smells, the most helpful of which is keeping a litter box for your chinchilla. Unlike some rodents who don’t need a litter box, it’s generally a good idea to have one for your chin.
In terms of where to place the litter box, it is recommended to place it at the back corner of the cage, as this can limit the spread of any smells further into the rest of the cage. It’s also important to keep food away from the litter box as sometimes chinchillas won’t urinate near their food source (this is not consistent with every chinchilla as some can and will pee on their hay).
Now, if you’ve found out that your chinchilla has peed outside of its litter box, it’s important to know how to eliminate the smell - we’ve outlined below a few products you can use to clean various types of surfaces.
Many chinchilla owners will recommend a diluted mix of water and vinegar as the enzymes can interact and pull out the pee smell from anything your chinchilla may have peed on. This is including, but is not limited to: fleece, wood structures, chinchilla trays, and anywhere else there could be pee.
When it comes to items like fleece, hammocks, and pillows, you can put 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar into the normal wash load that you would be doing for your items (we recommend a delicate cycle and a gentle cleanser, as some laundry detergents can irritate your chinchilla's system)
However, when it comes to other items like huts, wooden ledges, pumice, or toys, you should spray the diluted vinegar mixture and scrub the item, leaving it to set in and do its magic as it dries.
It’s important to note that you need to use white vinegar specifically, as other types of vinegar could stain your chinchilla products and sometimes leave behind a worse smell on what you’re trying to clean.
One product that some owners recommend is 3% hydrogen peroxide for any non-fleece items in their cage. Many tout the fact that hydrogen peroxide can knock out the chinchilla pee smell and stains that vinegar will often miss.
Similarly to vinegar, hydrogen peroxide doesn’t need to be rinsed, but it is important to let the hydrogen peroxide dry before you place the item back into your chinchilla’s cage as there’s not much research on the effects of a chinchilla ingesting amounts of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
This is only recommended for items without any fleece, as hydrogen peroxide can bleach the fleece and leave you with a worse problem than you began with.
Bleach + Water:
This is the last resort if nothing else will get the pee out of the items in your chinchilla’s cage. With this method, it can not be stressed enough that the bleach needs to be diluted (only using one cup to a gallon of water) as any bleach residue will be harmful to your chinchilla.
Pee-stained pans, litter boxes, bars of the cage, and any other non-porous items will benefit most from this mixture.
To use this method effectively, you will need to thoroughly rinse all items that come into contact with bleach. This is because bleach is toxic and causes a variety of health problems for your chinchilla.
How To Keep Chinchilla Cage From Smelling
The best way to ensure that your chinchilla cage won’t smell bad is to make sure the cage is cleaned regularly.
The best rule of thumb is to make sure a full deep cleaning is done once a week, minor sweeping done at least twice a week, wiping down twice a week, and fleece changing/washing every other week.
We recommend having multiple sets of fleece so you can switch them out if any pee accidents happen or if you miss a fleece washing. Having extra sets allows you to have backups to ensure that your chinchilla always has clean fleece to work with even when things are busy.
When it comes to cleaning time, it’s important to make sure the cage is completely clear of your chinchillas, so this is a great time to multi-task and let your chinchilla exercise as well.
Can I Use Candles Around My Chinchilla?
In controlling any chinchilla smells, you may think to use your favorite bath store candle to cover up any lingering scents around the cage.
The shortest answer is that it is not recommended to keep candles or candle equivalents around your chinchilla, and there are two main reasons for that.
Chinchilla respiratory systems are extremely sensitive so it’s vital to keep any candles or air fresheners away from your chinchillas and opt for odor remover instead.
In addition to the danger of strong scents around your chinchilla and their delicate respiratory system, fire is also a consideration you have to be wary of. In the event you have a chinchilla jailbreak, the flame could seriously burn your chinchilla and require a visit to the emergency vet.
Can I use Essential Oils Around My Chinchillas
So now that candles are out of the question, you might consider using essential oils to cover up residual chinchilla smells. Like before, this is also a big no.
Similar to candles, essential oils can trigger a chinchilla’s delicate respiratory system. But there’s another reason you may not expect as to why not to use essential oils around your chinchillas.
Chinchillas are part of the rodent family and if you know anything about trying to get rid of mice or other rodents, essential oils can be very helpful to keep them away. So options like peppermint and cinnamon specifically will irritate your chinchilla’s system.
Safe Methods Of Chinchilla Odor Control
If you’re looking for an extra boost to take your chinchilla odor under control, leaving baking soda underneath your chinchilla’s cage will help tamp down any strong odors.
Many owners also swear by the use of natural deodorizers like Sweet PDZ meant for farm animals to clear up any lingering scents around the area of the cage.
As well as with spot treatments, this is another place where the diluted vinegar and water mixture can come in handy as you can spray an empty cage with the mixture to deal with any faint smells.
Chinchillas don’t typically smell strongly themselves, but their cage needs to be tended to often to make sure they stay clean. Even though you can’t use traditional cleaners and fresheners, there are many ways to keep your chinchilla’s home clean and smelling fresh at all times.