How do I take care of a chinchilla?
Thinking of getting your first chinchilla? Chinchillas make great pets but can also be more difficult to take care of compared to other small animals. They are a life commitment! Did you know that chinchillas can live 20+ years if taken care of properly? Chinchillas are great if you have a busy schedule. They don’t require much one-on-one time and prefer to be left in their cage.
- Average Weight: 400-1,000g
- Sleep Cycle: Crepuscular
- Chinchilla’s are not hypoallergenic (they do not have dander and you will likely NOT be allergic to them)
Most of the items you’ll find in pet stores are not safe for your chinchilla. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian.
A balanced diet should consist of an unlimited amount of:
- Timothy Hay
- Water (contained in a glass water bottle)
Chinchillas also love treats! Just remember that moderation is key. In small doses, some treats are okay.
- Goji Berries
- Whole Rose Hips
For more information about their diet and other safe treats, please view our blog titled “A Chinchilla’s Diet”.
Housing & Environment
Chinchillas need a very cool environment to survive and should not be housed with another species. A good rule of thumb is to always keep them in a room under 75 degrees. A cooling pad or box is typically left in the cage for the chinchilla. Check out our Nest Box! Visit Let's Love Chinchillas for more information on their temperature.
A few things about the cage (we recommend a Mansion, but we're a bit biased):
- NO plastic (when chewed, it can cause an impaction and your chinchilla will likely not survive)
- Kiln Dried Pine Wooden Shelves (perfect for chewing)
- Wire spacing no greater than one inch
- Galvanized Wire or Powder Coating
- Plenty of wooden ledges for jumping
- One to two inches of bedding (or non-pill fleece) will need to be placed at the bottom of the cage. Aspen shavings or kiln dried pine are recommended for bedding.
- When stressed, chinchillas like to run. An exercise wheel is essential to have in every chinchilla cage.
Are chinchillas clean? Yes! Chinchilla’s are very clean and require a dust bath a few times a week (depending on the humidity in the area). The dust bath should be removed after 15-30 minutes of use to prevent their skin from drying out. Blue Beauty Dust is a great option. Messy is a another story. Chinchillas can be very messy, but there’s a few things you can do to contain it. Things like shelf guards, urine guards, and cleaning multiple times a week will definitely help keep the mess down.
We offer a few safe cage options for your chinchilla:
Typical Behavior and Handling
As mentioned above, chinchillas are crepuscular. This means that they are most active during the hours of dawn and dusk. You’ll find that most chinchillas do not like to cuddle, be carried, or handled. If you do need to pick up your chinchilla, you should do so by grabbing them at the base of their tale. Chinchillas have a floating rib cage and grabbing them elsewhere could be be very harmful.
The teeth on chinchillas grow on average one to two inches per year. Plenty of wooden ledges and chew toys are required to help them grind them down.
Play time is often more for the owner than for the chinchilla. If you decide to have play time, it should be 100% supervised. Do not allow your chinchilla to chew on anything and be sure there are no other animals around. Many people choose to have play time in their bathroom because of the smaller enclosed area and there are less items for the chinchillas to potentially chew on.
The recommended way to clean your cage is to use a solution with 50% water and 50% vinegar. Use your best judgement on how often you clean your cage. If your chinchilla is urinating on the wooden ledges, it may be best to clean that immediately to prevent infections.
Chinchillas are fairly healthy but there are a few things to watch out for.
- Discharge coming from the eyes or nose
- Weight Loss (weight should be tracked regularly in grams)
- Skin Lesions
- Overgrown Teeth
If you see any of these symptoms with your chinchilla, you should consult your exotic veterinarian immediately.
Well, that’s all for now! If you think of anything that should be added to this blog, post it in the comments below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 844-891-6720.
Be sure to check out our other blog posts for chinchillas here: https://qualitycage.com/blogs/news