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Basic Chinchilla Tips

Updated on March 7, 2012

Chinchilla Temperament

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.

The Timothy hay's all his.
The Timothy hay's all his.

Chinchilla Diet

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

Chinchilla Treats

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.

Housing 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.

My first upgraded chinchilla cage. It's a Ferret cage. Cages with plastic ledges and parts should be used with caution.
My first upgraded chinchilla cage. It's a Ferret cage. Cages with plastic ledges and parts should be used with caution.
After chewing the platic pieces off their first cage, I had to upgrade to a Martin's Cage, that is all wire.
After chewing the platic pieces off their first cage, I had to upgrade to a Martin's Cage, that is all wire.

Chinchilla Behaviors

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.


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    • profile image

      Ray 4 years ago

      My daughters chinchilla is lifeless what is best way to nurse it back to health?

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      Sam 5 years ago

      You CANNOT get a chinchilla wet, their fur is too dense to dry and they will mold, get sick, and die.

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      tonio ximenezypulong 5 years ago

      is the dust bath manditory or can i just bathe him?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 5 years ago from Georgia

      I would highly recommend changing it to Mazuri

    • profile image

      Keri 5 years ago

      I am getting a chinchilla from a lady that cannot care for it anymore. It is currently being fed 'charlie chinchilla food'. I just wanted to know if i should change his diet to pellets? Thanks!

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      Chinlover 5 years ago

      My very first chin just died last weekend. I loved her like she wss my own kid. Im eleven years old and I did fine with her. She was only about six when she died dont know what happened. M uh parents A

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      Kate 5 years ago

      Chinchillas can be potty trained to and extent. They will poop wherever (it's easy to vacume up )but they will pee in one specific spot. I let my chinchilla run around my room and he comes when I call. He is very attached to me and climbs and sits on my head whenever he gets the chance. My chin only need an hour of attention and you can change their sleeping habits just give it attention during the day. I don't give mine treats I just put my hand in the cage and talk to him it got him used to my voice eventually he started climbing up my arm. You can also read books to it. And as for chew toys bird toys are usually toxic wood to chinchillas I'm very careful with what I give to my chinchilla.

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      Liliza 5 years ago

      When I put my chinchilla out of his cage, he is wild. I put him in my room and closes the door. I can't cath him and he hides in places I can't get him. What must I do?

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      Anna Jane Manchester 5 years ago

      i have chinchillas they are cute

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      Angel 5 years ago

      So i adopted an older chinchilla. She is very shy and timid. I was just wondering how would I break her out of that. I am familiar that they are not social animals but when ever I go and try to pick her up she makes this noise and jumps up and runs away. I was just wondering why she is like this?

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      Bekah 5 years ago

      Ok... so im thinking about getting a chinchilla... they have always been so cute to me and i believe i could be a good chinchilla owner im just scared that the chinchilla may not like my family... i have a 9year old brother and a 14 year old sister... also are there books to potty train a chinchilla? How do you know a chinchilla is the right pet for you? i want a pet i can play with and hold and pet... but dontwant a dog or cat..... is a chinchilla the right kind of pet?

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      sarah 6 years ago

      hi to answer both amanda and amy's questions

      amanda: i have had a chinchilla for 10yrs and i had a similar problem and i found the best way to stop it was to have my family members give him the treats instead of me. (still no more than 2 a day)he eventually stopped being aggressive and lets everyone in the house pet him and love him. hope it helps

      amy: chins are nocturnal and crepuscular (twilight), so leaving them during the day is fine. mine usually won 't come out of his house until about 6:30 pm. so that should not be a problem, just make sure that ur ready for sleepless nights if he's ur new roommate because they make tones of noise at night. and it takes some time to get used to.It's happened to me more than once where I'm being woken up at 4:30 am the night before an exam because my chin was especially active that night

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      Amy 6 years ago

      Hi I'm looking to buy a chinchilla a male one, is it okay to leave them during the day because I go out to school at 8.10 and come back at 3.50 I know they are nocturnal but would he still be asleep? Also I have two dogs and I have to take them out at 4.30, and come back at 5 would he be awake by then so I can let him out of his cage. I'm doing a lot of research on them because I think I might be getting him in January. Thank you.

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      Amanda 6 years ago

      I was wondering about my chinchilla. He is a grey male and he is 3 years old. He is living alone right now. I don't know why but he seems to hate my brother and would randomly bite him and bark at him. He also doesn't seem to like my other family members that much, but he never bites me or barks at me. He is very friendly with me. Any ideas on how to solve the problem?

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      Crimson 6 years ago

      So, I got a chinchilla from a friend around a year ago.

      It has a 3 story wire cage, but I give it normal rodent food rather than pellets since it just wouldn`t eat pellets, and I worried it would starve. Also, his sand bath is just store bought sand from the pet shop, and is made of plastic, yet he never chews that.

      I let him loose often, but only in my room, since I was told it needs attention. It always goes between my bed and the radiator, but starts squeaking without warning though. It used to do that when it went between my rabbit cage and the wall too, so I thought it was stuck, but it wasn't.

      So, why does it squeak? The rabbit`s good-natured so never does anything if let out at the same time, so what`s wrong with it?

      I heard from the pet shop owner that they like tight areas, so I gave it a shoe box, and it loved that. Anything there that could`ve damaged it?

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      LT 6 years ago

      KILN-DRIED pine is perfectly safe and even a recommendation for chinchillas. It's baked so that any harmful chemicals, residues, or parasites are killed. Aspen is, of course, the best, but not everyone has access to aspen wood. As for potty-taining, it's VERY possible, just as training them to do small tricks is possible. My new 2 month old is using a litter pan already. We placed it in the furthest point away from her food, which was important. Just because you weren't able to do it with yours, doesn't mean it's not possible. They're highly intelligent little animals, and they have fairly good memories.

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      Vanessa 6 years ago

      the martins cage you have pictured on this page, is it the chinchilla skyscrapper , or the chinchilla high-rise? because the skycrapper looks smaller then the cage you have im just not suree.

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      Miranda 6 years ago

      The dust bath won't stress him out. They love taking baths!! :) as for the previous comments about the chinchillas fur matting or getting clumps in it... It's happening because their fur was somehow getting wet. The fur can't get wet or this will happen. I noticed a while ago that my little guy had these terrible clumps... Some under his chin and some on his rear haunches. When I tried to tug on them he would yelp at me but he let me groom it. He actually sat still while I took a pair or scissors to his precious fur to get all of the clumps out because that's what it took. Those things are brutal. After some detective work, I found out that I was hanging his bottle too low and it was leaking down his chin when he drank... And he pushes his food bowl just so that when he ate, he pushed his little butt into the water bottle and it leaked on his haunches. Once I cut out the clumps and moved his food dish to another level, he was a happy chinch and all of our problems have been solved. :)

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      may 6 years ago

      hi. My chinchilla who is nearly 5 years old hates dust baths. Her dust bath is in a little box, enough for her to roll around. I normally give her baths once every two weeks (I read that it should be a weekly basis but I am afraid that it stresses her out if its too frequent) Is this ok?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      No, it is not ideal to do that.

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