Basic Chinchilla Tips
Chinchillas are very unique amongst the small animal pet world. They look like a cross between a squirrel, rabbit, rat, and who knows what else, but in reality... It's just a chinchilla. A cute ball of fur.
Chinchillas aren't as friendly and socialable as many of the other small animals out in the pet world, such as ferrets and rats, but with the correct socialization and training, they can be very sweet and docile. But, they will NEVER be lap pets. There is a very, very small percentage of people will get a chinchilla and sit and watch tv with it for hours. It's just not the most common situation in the world.
You can't potty train a chinchilla like you can a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, rat, mouse, or ferret. It's just not going to happen.
You can't trick train a chinchilla like you can a rat. So that means no 'roll overs,' 'sit,' or fetches. That, also, means that you can't agility train them. I've tried; they'll do the obstacles, just never on command.
If you're looking for a cute, trainable, and super socialized small animal pet, I'd go with a rat. But, if you're looking for a cute, semi- independent, socialized small animal pet, a chinchilla may be the way to go. I mean don't get me wrong, you can cuddle with a chinchilla and play with them, just not for long periods of time. They want to run and jump around.
Chinchillas need a special chinchilla formulated pelleted diet. I prefer Mazuri, as I feel it is the better brand in general, not just for chinchillas. Kaytee Timothy Complete, ZuPreem Nature's Promise, and Kaytee FortiDiet, are other brands that are suitable for chinchillas.
The one thing you really want to keep in mind when it comes to a chinchilla's pelleted diet is that it is composed of ONLY pellets, meaning no extras in the bag- no vegetables, fruits, seeds, or grains- because the extras are very fatty and should only be given as treats, not part of the everyday diet.
Chinchillas should, also, be provided with Timothy hay on a daily basis. You can supplement alfalfa hay on occasion, but you really want to stick with Timothy hay
As for treats that you can give a chinchilla... You can give them dried fruits such as apples, papaya, raspberries, and blueberries. They also love unsalted sunflower seeds, as well as pumpkin seeds. Vitakraft makes a Chinchilla Cocktail that my chinchillas have always loved.
Treats for Chinchillas
My number one all time favorite treats for chinchillas
Chinchillas need a cage that is taller than it is wide. Think about it, they're from the Andes Mountains, and not the bottom half, either... The top. My first cage was a nice starter cage; it was about three feet wide and a foot and a half - two fee tall, and there were two ledges. Now, this is a fine STARTER cage, as it only housed one chinchilla for just a few months before I upgraded to a much larger cage.
In general, chinchillas need space to jump. They need ledges and shelves.
As for ALL small animals NEVER use pine or cedar wood shavings as they contain high aromas and oils. Chinchillas are very sensitive and do not need that extra complication. Personally, I use aspen woodchips in all my small animal cages, to include my chinchilla cage. Care-fresh is a good brand to use as well. I would NOT use Kaytee's Total Comfort in a chinchilla cage, as it is VERY dusty, and they have sensitive respiratory systems.
Clean the cage out at least once a week. And, spot check for wet bedding. You do not want to leave wet bedding in the cage for too long, as it can grow mold.
Try to keep plastic out of a chinchilla cage as they will chew it. They chew EVERYTHING. In the photo above there is a plastic house, which has since been removed and placed in my rat cage. But, once in the body, the plastic will completely tear up the chinchillas digestive tract.
Chinchillas are prone chewers, they're teeth grow throughout their lives, so they MUST be provided with safe things to chew on. Pumice stone and wood blocks are great things to give a chinchilla to chew. You can even go to the bird section of the petstore, and purchase a hanging wood toy, and place in the cage. Having hanging wood toys will give the chinchilla something different to do versus hold a single wood block. Super Pet Nut Know Knibbler is a fun chew toy to give a chinchilla to munch on, as well.
Never get branchs or wood from outside or a lumber store, as you do not know what it has been exposed to. You do NOT want to give any small animal something has has been treated with any form of pesticide, stainer, or other treatments to chew on.
Chinchillas As Pets
I know that I said that chinchillas aren't the most social in the world, well that's just towards people. And, again, with work you can have a chinchilla coming to the door of the cage when you walk near the cage, it just takes time. But, when it comes to being alone, chinchillas, don't like it. And, unless you can provide them with tons of attention, you should really keep them in at least pairs. Having two boys or two girls really does make your chinchillas happier. They have a constant playmate and the constant attention they love and really do want.
Chinchillas are very delicate, and have sensitive respiratory and skeletal systems. You NEVER want to spray anything in the same room with a chinchilla. I have heard many horror stories of spraying febreeze, and the chinchilla dying within 24-48 hours without ever knowning anything was wrong. If you must spray in the room, spray on a rag outside the room and bring the rag in, or remove the chinchillas from the room. Your BEST bet is to just remove the chinchillas from the room.
As for skeletal systems, you do not want to squeeze a chinchilla, much less any animal. But, with chinchillas to much pressure can break their ribs.