What should you expect from your chinchilla?

Chinchillas are intelligent, charming creatures that quickly become bonded to their owners. They are easy to care for and have little odor. Although basically nocturnal, chinchillas can be active during the day. They are fast, agile climbers, and they love to investigate everything, chewing up bits of paper, cardboard, or untreated wood along the way.

Although chinchillas tend to urinate in their cage or litter box, they are difficult to litter train. However, the fecal pellets are small, hard and dry, making them easy to remove.

One peculiarity of chinchillas is their need to bathe in fine dust. Bath dust is commercially available, and at least once or twice a week, the chinchilla should be allowed to roll (bathe) in the dust for about 15-20 minutes.

When chinchillas are stressed, they will chew their fur off, a process referred to as fur-barbering. Diarrhea (soft droppings) may also occur in an unhappy chinchilla.

Are chinchillas tame?

Chinchillas are one of the most affectionate rodents. They rarely bite and prefer to be cuddled and carried. Only if they feel trapped, or are restrained against their will, will they bite aggressively.

A chinchilla that is trying to escape can release clumps of fur from its body, leaving a large bald patch. The fur will grow back with time.

What should you feed my chinchilla?

A commercial pelleted diet formulated for chinchillas and unlimited timothy hay provides an adequate diet. Adults require 1 to 2 tablespoons of pellets daily. Treats, such as raisins, fresh carrots or green vegetables (no more than about 1 cup per day), may be offered sparingly, but sunflower seeds, peanuts, and other fatty foods should be avoided to prevent obesity. A sipper tube or water bottle is the best way to provide a clean, plentiful supply of water.

How should you house your chinchilla?

Chinchillas are very active, and are able to leap 3 feet straight up in the air. The larger the cage, the better. One that is 3 ' x 2 ' is a good starting point. Welded wire mesh is acceptable, with solid flooring in one area. Multiple levels should be provided in the cage for jumping and climbing; wooden perches or non-pesticide laden tree branches work well.

Housing for your chinchilla should:
  • Provide space for a dust box (sheet metal around 6" x 6" x 9").
  • Include a hiding box in a top corner for sleeping.
  • Have pine or aspen shavings or Carefresh as enclosure substrate.
  • Have multi-level perches or pesticide-free branches for climbing.
  • Be as large as possible since chinchillas are active, agile creatures.
  • Be located in a cool, dry environment.

How can you keep your chinchilla healthy, happy and safe?
  • Allow chinchillas to sleep in the daytime.
  • Schedule daily exercise/play time with direct contact for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Take special care to keep them cool and dry
  • Provide dust baths only, not water baths.
  • Supervise fully when the chinchilla is out of its enclosure.
  • Offer a consistent diet to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
  • Provide safe wood objects or branches for gnawing as their teeth grow continuously throughout life.
  • Restrain gently to avoid fur slip

Things you must keep away from your chinchilla:
  • Electrical cords
  • Dogs, cats, ferrets and other potential predators
  • Direct sunlight
  • Temperatures higher than 80 degrees
  • Water baths
  • Cedar substrate for enclosure
  • Hay with mold, insects, insecticides or fecal contamination
  • High fat treats
  • Running loose in the home