How To Train A Chinchilla (The fun and safe way for you and your pet)

by Morgan Mulac
How to train a Chinchilla

There is no doubt that chinchillas are intelligent animals. It is for this reason that many owners wonder if they can train their chinchillas in the same way other animals like cats and dogs can be trained. 

Keep reading to learn how to train your pet chinchilla. This includes litter box or potty training, basic commands, and more.

Chinchilla being trained facing an open hand

Can You Train A Chinchilla?

You can indeed train pet chinchillas to do basic commands, such as training them to come to the front of the cage when you call them or keeping them from doing dangerous things like chewing on their cage door or fleece.

Are Chinchillas Easy To Train?

The answer to this question really depends on the trick that you’re training them to do. For simple commands like coming to you or stopping certain behaviors, most chinchillas can be quite easily trained. 

As far as more complex tricks are concerned, like litter box training and training your chinchilla to let you hold them, these can be a little more difficult to accomplish, but not impossible.

Can You Teach A Chinchilla Tricks? 

You can train your chinchilla to do specific tricks, like rolling over or coming up and resting on your shoulder or hand. 

These can also have practical uses like teaching your chinchilla how to properly dust bathe themselves or to come to you when you need to pick them up (either to transport them to a carrier or to inspect them).

Can You Teach Chinchillas Their Names?

Most chinchillas can be trained to learn their name by associating it with their favorite treat or toy and gradually decreasing the frequency with which you give it to them when they answer to you calling for them.

Chinchilla on whit background facing the other way showing off his tail.

What Can You Train A Chinchilla To Do

It has already been mentioned above that your chinchilla can be trained to do simple tricks and commands like coming to you, rolling, and being comfortable coming up to you and resting on you.  

It is also possible to teach your chinchilla to use a litter box, which can be very helpful when it comes to cage cleaning since it takes a much shorter amount of time to dump the litter in the litter box than to clean it off of the cage floor or bedding.

How Do You Train Chinchillas?

Depending on what behavior you want your chinchilla to learn, the way you train them will differ. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that positive reinforcement for good behavior is one of the best techniques for training any animal, including chinchillas. 

Happy chinchilla being tickled by human.

With negative reinforcement, you’re typically teaching your chinchilla to be more scared of the behavior (or of you) and will likely not have the desired effect you’re looking for. 

Also important to keep in mind is that it is easier to train younger chinchillas than it is to train older ones. However, that doesn’t make it impossible for you to train your chinchilla if you’ve had it for a few years. 

Like any pet, it’s best to train your chinchilla in gradual steps for the associated behavior (and we will give examples of how to do these with the specific behaviors below). 

It’s also incredibly important to be patient and not move on to the next step of training without having mastered the previous behavior; this will cut out a lot of the frustration that comes with training.

Can I Train My Chinchilla With Treats?

When training a chinchilla under six months it is incredibly important to not use treats to train them, as their delicate digestive systems need a very simple diet. We recommend using apple sticks for training under six months. 

If you choose to train your pet chinchilla with treats, it’s important to choose chinchilla treats that are low in sugar, such as rose hips. Only train a few times a week to make sure you’re not hurting your chinchilla with too many treats.

Curious Chinchilla trying to nibble on a treat being held by it's human.

How Do You Get A Chinchilla To Come To You?

Whether you’re bringing them to the front of the cage or trying to find an escaped chinchilla, having a specific command for your chinchilla to come to you is an incredibly useful tool. 

This is one of the more simple tricks to teach your chinchilla, as it typically involves holding out a treat and calling their name. This makes it the perfect starter trick to train to get both you and your chinchilla get used to things and build trust for each other.  

For this trick, we recommend holding a treat in your hand where your chinchilla can see you calling them over. 

Chinchilla stepping into owner's hand from it's cage.

Eventually, you can begin to hide the treat and call them over, rewarding them after they come to you. Once your chinchilla can come over without seeing the treat in your hand, you can begin to call them without needing to reward them.

How To Potty Train A Chinchilla

Training a chinchilla to use the litter box can be a tricky thing to do, and is typically best after your chinchilla is older than 6 weeks as they don’t have as much control of their bladder until then. 

Young Chinchilla on a cage.

It must be noted that you can’t control where your chinchilla poops, but since their poop is mostly odorless and solid, this isn’t as much of a problem as pee can be. 

Your chinchilla’s litter box must be large enough that they are comfortable standing in it and using it. By doing so, they will be able to use it more comfortably and be more motivated to use it. 

We recommend this litter box, as the wire mesh floor keeps your chinchilla from having access to the litter itself. 

Chinchilla on a Quality Cage litter box.

It’s also important that no matter the litter box you choose, your litter is a chinchilla-safe material, such as kiln-dried pine shavings or litter formulated specifically for small animals like chinchillas. Examples of unsafe chinchilla litter include cat litter and wood shavings like cedar, as these are dangerous if ingested 

Once you have the two above items, you can place the chinchilla’s litter box in a corner away from their food and water and move some of the soiled bedding mixed into the litter that is in your litter box. 

If you use non-pill fleece, you can place the litter box over the spot where your chinchilla urinates and move it gradually to the desired location. This can help you make sure that your chinchilla pees where you want them to. 

You can also potty train by giving them rewards for using the litter box, but it may be hard to continually praise this behavior as you won’t be able to catch it every single time they use the litter box.  

To potty train, patience is especially important, as this process can take many weeks or months until they’re able to consistently go to the litter box to pee. 

How To Train Your Chinchilla To Let You Hold Them

There are many benefits to teaching your chinchilla to be comfortable with you holding them. Whether it’s for the purpose of transferring them to a playpen or carrier or inspecting their fur for ringworm, it can be vital to have your chinchilla comfortable with the process. 

Chinchilla jumping on hand.

Training your chinchilla to let you hold them can be fairly similar to getting them to come to you when called, with a few steps added into the process. 

Rather than immediately giving your chinchilla a treat when he or she comes up to you, hold the treat right above your palm (or on your palm) and wait for them to jump on it before you give it to them. 

As soon as you have this part down, you can gradually start to work on getting them used to being picked up into the proper position from there on in. 

Some owners will even gradually train their chinchilla to jump onto their shoulder so they can walk around hands free. This can be helpful if you need to have your hands free for any amount of time, such as when you need to get medication ready for them.

Chinchilla on shoulder. 

How To Train A Chinchilla To Stop Bad Habits

It is very common to encounter a number of undesirable habits when you own chinchillas, such as biting their cages, biting their owners or other chinchillas, and spraying. 

There is good news, however, in that many of these behaviors can be retrained or rerouted in a healthy direction. 

The most important thing to do is to figure out why your chinchilla is displaying the behavior. Usually, bad habits or behaviors have an underlying cause that, when addressed, can be corrected. 

In the case that you find that your chinchilla is chewing on their cage or their cagemate, it may be possible that your chinchilla's cage is incorrectly sized, as this can cause agitation and anxiety that results in aggression. 

If this is the case, we recommend replacing your chinchilla’s cage with a larger one so they don’t feel as cramped in their space. Until you can replace it, we recommend setting up a playpen for them and taking them out more often. 

As a reminder, when it comes to a cage that holds a single chinchilla, it should be at least 24 inches tall, and 30 inches wide. Two chinchillas can fit in here, but we recommend a minimum height of 36 inches for more than one chinchilla. 

When your chinchilla bites you, it is typically out of fear when their space is invaded. As wild chinchillas from the Andes Mountains in South America are prey animals, it is quite likely that your chinchilla will believe that you are attacking them, especially if you enter their personal space too quickly

In order to get your chinchilla to trust that you won't hurt them, use one of the above training methods to allow them to be comfortable with your hands being near them. 

Like biting, spraying is probably a behavior the chinchilla is demonstrating as a result of fear or agitation. If your chinchilla has a cage mate and routinely sprays, it may be best to separate your chinchillas temporarily or permanently. 

If you only have one chinchilla and they’re spraying on you, we again recommend training them to feel more comfortable around your hands. It’s also important to clean any parts of the cage they spray on so they don’t associate that area with urinating. 

In Conclusion

Whether it’s litter box training, basic commands, or persuading your chinchilla away from bad behavior, training your chinchilla is possible with some patience (and a small handful of the right treats!) 

We aim to make our blogs as accurate as possible to make sure you get the best and most up-to-date information on the care and keeping of your chinchilla. 

Have you ever trained your chinchilla? We'd love to hear about your story, and also, we'd love to see photos if you have them, too! 

You may send us your story and photos to cages@qualitycage.com so we can attach them to our blog. If we use your story on a blog post, we'll give you a $10 Gift Card.

Questions?

Have Questions About Chinchilla Training 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.

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