How to Care for Chinchillas

Опубликовал Admin
22-10-2018, 13:00
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Expert Reviewed Chinchillas are adorable, gentle animals that need attentive care in order to thrive. They make great pets but are sensitive, so they should be handled delicately and housed properly. To keep them happy and healthy, you also need to provide them with a proper diet, give them opportunities for exercise, and keep their cage clean. With planning and ongoing care, your chinchilla will be a wonderful and enjoyable pet for years to come.

Getting the Right Cage

  1. Provide a large, wire cage. Chinchillas should be kept in cages made of metal. Since they are extremely active animals, the larger the cage, the better. Your chinchilla's cage should be 16 by 18 by 16 inches (41 × 46 × 41 cm) at minimum.
    • A tall and wide cage is the best, but tall is better than wide if you can't get both.
    • Chinchillas love to jump, so multiple levels are great for them. Try to get a tall cage because they can jump up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) high.
    • Glass cages are not good for chinchillas because the glass severely limits air flow.
  2. Make sure the cage has a solid bottom. A chinchilla can get its feet caught in wire floors, which can cause serious physical harm. A solid floor can be made of hard plastic or plywood and it is helpful if the bottom piece is removable so it can be cleaned thoroughly.
  3. Ensure that the cage bars are close together. It's important that the chinchilla can't stick its head through the bars. If its head fits through the bars, its whole body will fit through and it can escape. These animals have a lot of fur and small bodies underneath.
    • If you choose a wire cage, ensure that there are no bits of wire poking out that your chinchilla could cut itself on if it does try to squeeze through the bars.
  4. Provide a nesting box for your chinchilla. A nesting box will give your chinchilla somewhere to take refuge if it is scared or tired. This box should measure at least 20 in (50 cm) in length and 10 in (25 cm) width and height, and can be made out of a chew-proof material. The nesting box should be placed on the floor, not on any shelves, because the chinchilla might knock it down.
    • Proper nesting boxes can be purchased through pet supply retailers online and in some pet supply stores.
  5. Place the cage in a high, quiet area. It's important to keep their cage in an area where it is quiet during the day so their sleep cycle is not interrupted. Also, chinchillas do not like being looked down on. You should keep their cage on a counter top or somewhere relatively high up. If you look down on them, it can severely scare them.
    • Chins have different psychology from cats and dogs, which are predators. They are prey animals, so they are always fearful of being attacked and eaten.
    • Do not put a chinchilla's cage in a spot where a dog, cat, or anything else can harm or injure it.

Providing the Proper Environment

  1. Keep your chinchilla cool. Chinchillas overheat easily, so it's ideal to keep them in a room that is between 60 °F (16 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C). They cannot survive temperatures over 80 °F (27 °C) or below 50 °F (10 °C). Also, keep their cage in a room with lots of air flow and make sure their cage is not in a spot where the sunlight can directly land on them. Any amount of direct sunlight can cause them to become overheated very quickly.
    • Do not allow them to be in high humidity, either. If you have a humid home, put them near a dehumidifier.
  2. Provide healthy bedding. Try to use kiln-dried aspen on the floor of your chinchilla's cage. You can also use Carefresh or any other paper bedding, but be aware that, when ingested, the paper will expand in the animal's system, causing possible blockage in the digestive tract.
    • Some people use fleece fabric on the bottom of their chinchilla cages. If you do this, the fabric needs to washed weekly and you need to be careful to use only fleece and not other fabrics.
    • Also, never use cedar shavings as bedding, as the phenols in the cedar are very strong and cause serious respiratory, skin, coat and liver problems. They are also poisonous to chinchillas if they try to eat them.
  3. Remove soiled hay and bedding from the cage daily. It's important to keep the bottom of the cage clean so that the animal stays clean and disease doesn't spread. Pick up soiled bedding in areas where the chinchilla goes to the bathroom as soon as you see their waste and put new, clean bedding in its place right away.
  4. Wash the cage with hot water weekly. It is generally suggested that you use no soap or chemicals on the inside of your chinchilla's cage. Instead, simply use hot water to clean the cage. Swish some water around the cage's plastic pan, then clean it thoroughly with hot water and let it air dry. This is a good way to kill most of the bacteria that can harm your chinchilla.
    • Don't ever use bleach or any other chemicals on the cage that could harm your chinchilla.
    • If you are housing more than 1 chinchilla in a cage, that cage should be cleaned more than once a week.

Feeding a Chinchilla

  1. Provide a constant supply of timothy hay. Your chinchilla should have a supply of good quality timothy hay available to them at all times. Provide it in a bowl or loose on the bottom of the chinchilla's cage.
    • You can provide timothy hay in racks and hay balls, but be aware that chinchillas are known for getting stuck in them.
    • Providing hay gives your chinchilla necessary fiber. Chewing hay helps them avoid tooth overgrowth.
  2. Give your chinchilla pellets daily. Pellets provide your chinchilla with a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Choose a pellet that is designed for chinchilla nutrition needs and follow the instructions provided with it for portion sizing. Place the pellets in a food dish and make sure that dish is cleaned daily before the pellets are put in it.
    • Most adult chinchillas should eat around 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of pellets every day, depending on what type of pellets they are given.
  3. Feed chinchillas treats infrequently. Feeding them other snacks too frequently can cause digestive problems. Safe treats include raisins, carrots, apple, oats, dried blackberry leaves, rose petals from plants that have not been sprayed with poisons of any kind, unsweetened cheerios, unsweetened shredded wheat, dried rose hips, and safe wood chew sticks. However, these should be given in very small servings and should only be given once or twice a week.
    • Never give fruit, vegetables, nuts, or other treats that are not listed as safe.
  4. Replace the drinking water daily. Use either filtered water or chemical-free tap water and place it in a water bottle with a sipper tube on the end of it that is connected to the side of their cage. Make sure that they have water in that bottle at all times and put clean water in it every day, even if it still has water in it from the day before.
    • Remember to sterilize the water bottle when changing the water. The algae that grows in their water can cause liver problems or severe diarrhea, or even kill a chinchilla.
    • Chinchillas cannot handle some naturally occurring bacteria or parasites in water like humans, dogs, and cats can, so you need to be sure that the water you give them is clean.

Handling a Chinchilla

  1. Begin handling a chinchilla weekly from an early age. If they are handled from birth, they will be tame and docile. If they have no positive physical contact with people until they are full-grown, they will likely not adjust well to being handled unless they are given extensive training.
  2. Read a chinchilla's cues to determine if they want to be handled. Chinchillas are usually very friendly but shouldn't be over-handled. Make sure your chinchilla does not bark as you go to pick it up. If it does, don't pick it up. This is one of their ways of telling you to back off.
    • Chinchillas have other defenses as well, such as losing fur, biting, and spraying urine. If your chinchilla is doing any of these things, you may be handling it too much.
  3. Lift your chinchilla properly. Lift your pet like you would for a rabbit. Slide your hand under the chinchilla's belly and place your other hand on top of the chinchilla. Use the hand under the chinchilla to support its hind legs and bum so it feels secure. Don't hold the chinchilla too tightly, but do remember that they can be squirmy, so you need to hold them firmly.
    • It is very important that you don't squeeze, especially around the upper torso. Chinchillas have what is known as a "floating ribcage" and you can cause severe internal injuries to it by squeezing that area.
    • Make sure to be gentle with them to avoid scaring them.

Keeping a Chinchilla Healthy

  1. Give your chinchilla something to chew on for dental health. Chinchillas' teeth grow continuously and can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) a year. To avoid overgrowth, which can impact a chinchilla's ability to eat, purchase a special block of wood or pumice stone for your chinchilla to chew on. These are typically available at most pet supply stores.
    • Also provide your chinchilla with branches that can be climbed and gnawed on. Ensure that these branches are not cut from trees that have recently been sprayed with chemicals, or that are poisonous, such as yew, laburnum, and fresh pine.
    • Recommended trees are sycamore and manzanita, as they provide straight wood that is quite resistant to the chinchilla's sharp teeth. Apple tree branches are another good alternative that can be found quite easily.
  2. Give your chinchilla dust to bathe in. Water can harm the chinchilla's fur, so you can't give it a bath with water. Instead, give them a dust bath. The "dust" bath is made with a mix of dusting powder made of volcanic ash or activated clay and is available from most pet supply businesses. Place the dust in a metal pan that is at least 6 inches (15 cm) by 12 inches (30 cm) and only allow the chinchilla access to it for about 10-15 minutes 2 to 3 times per week.
    • The dust baths help the chinchilla get rid of excess grease in their fur.
    • Do not get chinchillas wet. Their fur does not dry out like a normal animal, causing it to get damaged and moldy.
    • Letting your chinchilla have too much time in the dust bath will cause too much dryness on the animal's coat. However, too little dust bathing will cause their coats to build up oils, which can cause a disfiguring and deadly fungus to grow on their skin.
  3. Provide exercise opportunities. Chinchillas are very active animals and should have an opportunity to exercise every day. This exercise can be a combination of running around inside their cages and giving them time to run around outside of their cage.
    • If you do let your pet out of the cage for supervised play time, it should be in a small room and the room should be chinchilla-proof, which means there are no wires, furniture, or other things for them to chew on.
    • Keep in mind that chinchillas can jump several feet (nearly 2 meters) in the air and can squeeze through tiny spaces when you let them out of their cage.
    • Chinchillas are nocturnal animals, so exercise time outside of the cage is best in the evening in a big area where they can run around.
  4. Be wary of using an exercise wheel or ball. Do not provide a wire exercise wheel in their cage. Using wheels like this can cause them to injure their feet. If you want to give them a wheel, make sure it has a solid surface and is large in diameter, so they don't bend their backs too far and injure them.
    • Also, never use the giant hamster balls pet stores try to sell you. Instead, let them out in a supervised air-conditioned room, and allow your chinchillas to run freely.
  5. Watch out for signs of illness. Keep an eye on the general health of your chinchilla so that you can catch health problems early and get them treated. Assess the animal's energy level and physical health daily, looking for changes in how it moves and how much it is eating and drinking. Also look over its coat, making sure there are not areas of fur loss. If you see any of these problems, consult with your veterinarian.
    • Look at the clarity of the chinchilla's eyes and for excess drainage from the nose, which can be signs of an infection.
    • Also look at the state of the chinchilla's feces. If the consistency changes dramatically, it may have a digestive problem occurring.


  • Don't try to hold or get up close with your chinchilla until you earn their trust, because they are shy animals and it can be stressful for them whenever they are cornered in an unfamiliar place.
  • Check when you buy any item for a chinchilla from a pet store that it is made specifically for chinchillas and that it is safe.


  • Never feed chinchillas human food.
  • Keep flimsy plastic away from chinchilla cages. Ingesting plastic can cause sickness and/or death.
  • Chinchillas are typically not good for children, because of their rather reserved nature and delicate bodies.

Things You'll Need

  • Large wire cage with a solid bottom
  • Wooden or cardboard nesting box
  • Bedding
  • Food, including mostly timothy hay
  • Water
  • Water bottle and food dish
  • Dust for dust bath
  • Chew toys
  • Wheel with a solid base to run on
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