Simple Chinchilla Guide: From Acquiring To Caring For Chinchillas
This cute furry friend has the best fur. It feels like velvet and you will always want to hold him or her. Caring for chinchillas is quite easy as you will see below. There are two species of chinchilla, chinchilla lanigera and chinchilla brevicaudata. Just to note, people usually confuse the lanigera species spelling with “laniger” and “lanigar.”
Chinchilla brevicaudata– thick neck and shoulders, heavily furred, coarse fur light grey in color and short ears.
Chinchilla lanigera-narrow neck and shoulders, lightly furred, silky fur dark grey in color and elongated ears.
See the difference? Chinchillas also come in a variety of colors. See more info on colors here.
A chinchilla has a lifespan of 15-20 years WITH PROPER CARE!!!!!
Where do I get a Chinchilla?
Where Can I Get A New Chinchilla?
- From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
- Reputable Chinchilla breeders.
- Reliable Adoption Agencies/ Rescues.
It is up to you, but Breeders are recommended. Why?
The minimum recommended age to acquire a young chinchilla is 3-4 months old. You can always get an older one if you want.
Can A Chinchilla Live Alone or Does He or She Require a Companion?
Do I Get One or More Than One Chinchilla?
Chinchillas tend to be colonial animals. They are social, however, not all. Getting two is great, but make sure you get to know the background of the chinchilla from the seller/ breeder so as to determine whether the two are social. In some few cases, chinchillas have been known to live on their own.
When you have two in the cage, you do not have to worry about getting two of everything. They will take turns with the resources. Just make sure food is available to satisfy both.
DO NOT handle your chinchilla around predator pets like cats, dogs and the like.
A Chinchilla is suitable for what age?
How Old Should My Child Be To Own A Chinchilla?
Chinchillas are fragile and this will depend on how your child handles things. 10+ years is recommended.
Is A Chinchilla Nocturnal?
Chinchillas are crepuscular. They are very active mostly during dusk and dawn.
CAUTION: Chinchillas chew on everything especially wood and plastic.
Chinchilla cage minimum dimensions:
- 30″w x 18″d x 48″h that is 76cm x 45cm x 121cm
- 30” w x 24” d x 48” h that is 76cm x 60cm x 121cm
The BIGGER the better. Chinchillas love to run, play and jump. The floor should be solid. Wire floors hurt your chinchilla’s feet. Glass tanks should be avoided as well due to lack of proper ventilation.
Heat is bad news to chinchillas. Keep the environment of your chinchilla as close to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) as possible. Humidity should be lower than 40%. Keep that cage away from direct sunlight.
When it comes to chinchillas’ cages, cheap is expensive. Do not look for the cheapest, look for quality. The cages below may seem expensive, but they will serve you for long. Recommended cages by most owners and experts are:
#1. Critter Nation for chinchilla (you can get a single or double unit. Whichever you prefer.) We recommend getting a double, so that your chinchilla has enough room.
#5. You can also DIY a chinchilla cage putting into consideration the minimum dimensions for a chinchilla cage. Your creativity will be required. You can google DIY chinchilla cages for ideas. If you go with wood, it has to be pet safe. Poplar or kiln-dried pine is recommended.
Caring For Chinchillas(Recommended chinchilla bedding)
When choosing the material to use, the key things considered are cost, absorbency, odor and safety to your chinchilla.
Avoid These Bedding Materials:
Cedar, pine, scented materials, corn cob, and newspaper. Carefresh bedding for chinchillas should be avoided. It apparently causes digestive blockage when the chinchilla eats it. Avoid these. Remember we need to keep the chinchilla healthy.
BEST CHINCHILLA BEDDING MATERIALS:
#1. Anti-Pill Fleece – Most chinchilla owners have tried almost all bedding and a majority have concluded that the BEST material for chinchilla is fleece. Do not just get any fleece. (Non-pill or Anti-pill fleece is recommended.)
It is actually preferred for the critter/ferret nation cage. It is important to understand more about fleece as it needs to be prepared before use. Read more.
When using fleece bedding in your chinchilla’s cage, in the litter pan/ box/ tray either use:
- Hardwood wood stove pellets
- ECO Straw by oxbow (has a smell like Beer when it is dry and granola bar smell when wet)
- Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding
#2. Hemp Floor for Small Pets/ Kerbl Hemp Rodent Mat, 40 x 100 x 1 cm – When using these hemp mats for your chinchilla, make sure to sprinkle some hemp chips (Dr. Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding) on it to lengthen its use. If you do not, your chinchilla will pee on it and it will smell bad quickly. Train your chinchilla to use the litter pan, so that the hemp mats go for very long before the next change.
If you opt to use a substrate bedding, you will require some bass pans for your cages made by bass equipment company. The bass pans will give your cages a place to pour your substrate. See video of bass pans in critter/ferret nation cage.
Here are some recommended chinchilla substrate bedding:
Chinchilla Cage Accessories
A chinchilla does not require any complicated care when it comes to this department.
Chinchilla Hideout/ Hideaway/ Sleeping House
- Kaytee Chinchilla Hut Hideout
- Kaytee Woodland Get-A-Way Extra-Large Rabbit House
- Emours Small Animal Warmly House Cage Hanging Bed with Bed Mat for Chinchilla
- Green Farm Chinchilla Bath House Hideout
- Kaytee Terra-Cotta Chew Proof Hideaway
- Kaytee Tropical Fiddle Sticks Flexible Hideout – Large
- Extra Large Animal House
Chinchilla Additional Shelves/ Levels
For those doing DIY cages you can either buy or make some kiln dried pine wooden levels. Here is a video on making levels/shelves.
Recommendations for buying include:
- Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Nick Wood Corner Platform for Mouse, Chinchilla, Rat, Gerbil and Dwarf Hamster
- Niteangel 2-level Wooden Platform for Chinchilla, Hamster and Other Small Animals
Chin spin chinchilla Wheel
Get a BIG one so that your chinchilla can run naturally without an awkward angle. DO NOT get a small one, your chinchilla will arch his or her back. Also, avoid plastic.
Chinchilla water bottle
If you get a plastic bottle, make sure it is located outside the cage and the sipper tube inside. For when you want the bottle inside, get a glass bottle, but add a PET SAFE rubber case over the glass bottle to avoid breakage.
Chinchilla food dish
Ceramic dishes are recommended. Good examples are:
- Living World Ergonomic Dish
- Petzilla Cat Ceramic Bowl for Food, Heavy Base Feeding Dish, Prevent Tipping or Spill Over
- Kaytee Paw-Print PetWare Bowl, Colors Vary
Chinchilla hay feeder/ box or rack
Recommended hay feeders are:
- Chinchilla hay feeder
- Kiln Dried Pine Chinchilla Wood House with Poop Guard, Balcony + Mounting Hardware
- Semi-Octagonal Hay Feeder
- Precision Pet Hay Manger
- Guinea Pig/Mini Bunny/Chinchilla Hay Feeder
- Rabbit Hay Feeder-slim fit
- Chinchilla, Guinea Pig Hay Feeder
Chinchilla Litter Tray
A glass baking dish is okay. Place in one corner where your chinchilla pees a lot. Some good recommendations can be:
- Utopia Kitchen Borosilicate Glass Oblong Baking Dishes 2-Pack Glass Bakeware – 1.8L (11.5 x 7 x 2 Inch) & 2.4 L (13.5 x 8 x 2 Inch) – Dishwasher Safe & Oven Friendly
- Amazon Basics Glass Oblong Baking Dishes – 2-Pack
- Yesterday’s News Unscented Paper Cat Litter
- Hardwood wood stove pellets
- ECO Straw by oxbow (has a smell like Beer when it is dry and granola bar smell when wet)
- Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding
Chinchilla chew toys
These are important to trim your chinchillas’ teeth. They love chewing. Recommendations are:
- Kaytee Nut Knot Knibbler Toy for Small Animals
- Willow Branch Ball for Small Animals
- Kaytee Perfect Chews for Chinchillas
- WARE BIRD/SM AN Barrel Roller Small Animal Chew
- MAIYUAN Apple Sticks Pet Snacks Chew Toys for Guinea Pigs Chinchilla Squirrel Rabbits Hamster
- 8oz and 17.5oz Apple Sticks Small Animals Molar Wood Treats Toys Chinchilla Guinea Pig Hamster Rabbit Gerbil Parrot Bunny and Small Animals Chew Stick Toys Treats
- Malier 400g (14oz) Apple Sticks Pet Snacks Chew Toys
- Bwogue 100g Pet Snacks Sweet Bamboo Chew Toy for Squirrel Rabbits Guinea Pigs Chinchilla Hamster (About 10-14 Sticks)
- Pawliss Teeth Grinding Lava Block for Hamster Chinchilla Rabbit (Pack of 6)
- Natural Small Animal 5pcs Lava Teeth Grinding Square Stone For Hamsters Chinchillas and Rabbits
Dust Bath Container
This should be made of glass or ceramic and heavy enough to not tip over as the chinchilla takes his or her bath. Recommendation:
A chinchilla’s diet is very special and care is needed.
Chinchilla commercial fortified pellets
The recommended brand is Oxbow (Oxbow Animal Health Chinchilla Deluxe Fortified Small Animal Feeds). Your chinchilla requires a particular diet that is catered for by the pellets.
DO NOT get the different bags of mixed nutritional supplements. With these bags, chinchillas tend to choose their favorite and leave the rest, thus fail to get full nutrition they require.
- You need to also give quality grass hay– some people give blue grass or fresh alfalfa, but they have different amounts of fat, protein, moisture and fiber. Timothy hay is recommended (to be taken with the pellets)- tip -to get it cheaper get it by the ten-pound box.
- Don’t forget to give your chinchilla FRESH WATER
- Some treats can also be given (Raisins, rolled oats, dried rose hips, dandelion leaves and hibiscus). However, DO NOT overfeed the treats. They are mostly used to reward during TRAINING. AVOID fruits and vegetables. Some examples of treats you can get are:
See video on how to train a Chinchilla using treats.
How often should I feed my chinchillas?
- Ensure that your chinchillas have a handful of Fresh hay available at all times.
- Give 1 or 2 tablespoons of pellets in the morning and evening.
- Ensure that your chinchillas have fresh water available at all times.
Can Chinchillas Be Potty Trained?
YES! You should know that they are “poop machines.” There is no need to let your chinchilla out of the cage. They will cause a mess as they nibble through your things. If you need to let him or her out, make sure you have a room where the chinchilla can run and play and you can control the mess made. Good to note is that you can train your chinchilla to pee but you cannot train him or her to poop.
How Do I Potty Train My Chinchilla?
Potty training is really easy. Place the litter tray (glass baking dish) in one corner, food on the second corner, sleeping area on the third corner and sand bath or water on the fourth corner. Your chinchilla(s) will not pee where it sleeps or eats and will be forced to pee in the litter. Poop will be everywhere. You cannot control it.
Do Chinchillas Smell?
No They Do NOT Smell: The best thing about chinchillas is that they DO NOT smell. There is little or no odor. If you notice any smell maybe you have gone for weeks without cleaning his or her cage.
Cleaning Chinchilla Cage!
Caring For Chinchillas (Cleaning Chinchilla cage)
It is recommended to spot clean the cage every 2 days.
Full/ thorough cleaning should be done at least once a week or when necessary for those using fleece.
How to go about thorough cleaning once a week or when needed when using fleece
- Remove your chinchilla from the cage
- Take out accessories
- Sweep out poop and hay
- Remove fleece and U-HAUL pads and shake thoroughly. Put in laundry basket to wash later. Machine wash and either sun dry or machine dry. You can use unscented free and clear detergent like All Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free & Clean. Also, add in white vinegar. DO NOT use scented detergents or any kind of softeners!!! DO NOT use dryer sheets!!
- Wipe down surfaces and trays with water and white vinegar with a clean rug and make sure they are dry. The ratio of mixture water to white vinegar 50:50
- Give the chin spin wheel a wipe as well as the accessories.
- Put in clean fleece and U-HAUL pads. (you will need to have a number of sets to be replacing each week or when needed).
- Wipe dry and put back in the accessories.
- Clean water bottle and food bowl. Put in fresh clean water and add some food.
See some helpful videos.
Chinchilla Bath and Hygiene
DO NOT pour any water on your chinchilla. It will not be easy to dry and they can die.
Provide a DUST BATH. This is how they naturally bath. Do it at least weekly. DO NOT permanently leave the dust bowl containing dust in the cage. Remove it when your chinchillas are done and put it in when needed.
Also, DO NOT use a plastic bowl, USE a ceramic bowl or glass container.
Travelling With Your Chinchilla
Before thinking of travelling with your chinchilla, think of getting a pet sitter or letting a family member or friend take care of him or her. Chinchillas are easily stressed. If avoidable, don’t travel with him or her.
What preparations do you need to take when leaving your chinchilla in the care of another person? See this video, it says it all.
If you are moving house or going to the vet for a short distance, which will take a few hours, then here is what you need to do:
Get a SAFE hard plastic or metal cat carrier/travel cage. DO NOT get fabric carriers!! Your chinchilla can chew through them. Here are a few examples of what to go for:
- Favorite Dog Cat Rabbit Two Door Top Load Car Travel Vet Visit Pet Carrier
- Yvettevans Portable Airline Approved Pet Kennel Cats Travel Cage Car Travel Vet Visit Dogs Carrier Crate Outdoor Kennel
- Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel
- Ware Manufacturing Home Sweet Home Pet Cage for Small Animals – Colors may vary
- Livebest Plastic Kennel Dark Blue Cat&dog Pet Carrier with a Steel-wire Front Door Sturdy and Roomy
- Wakray Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel
Some days before travelling, let your chinchilla spend some time in the carrier to get used.
Chinchillas jump a lot when scared, therefore, make the carrier as dark as possible (semi dark) for them to be calm. Cover the carrier using a light gran’s blanket or a light fleece blanket that can allow air to pass through for ventilation. Be careful of hot temperatures, they are not good for your chinchilla. DO NOT leave your chinchilla in the car!!!
Do not attach a water bottle throughout the travel journey. Attach it in intervals when you are not moving to prevent water from spilling in the carrier. It is also good to note that your chinchilla may spend the day asleep.
Inside the carrier
- Place fleece bedding or some towels to absorb urine.
- Put in hay and be generous with it so that the chinchilla can hide in it as well as feed on it. Scatter some food pellets as well.
- Chinchilla chew toys are important as well.
Chinchilla Health and Vet
Things to look out for when getting or looking after your Chinchilla
- Chinchilla’s diet is unique. Avoid treats like raisins or fruits and vegetables. Treats are for STRICTLY training. Lots of sugar is very bad for your chinchilla.
- All flooring MUST be solid. That is from the cage to the spin wheel.
- AVOID PLASTIC!!!!! Especially plastic exercise balls also known as death traps.
- DO NOT get those metallic hay balls!!
- Carefresh bedding can also be risky for chinchilla.
Perform health checks (once or twice a week)
- Eyes, ears and nose– look for discharge, crusty eyes and running nose or eyes. Look inside their ears to make sure they are clean and no bugs, fleas or parasites are in there.
- Fur- check for oiliness and scruffiness. They should not have hair loss, no bald patches.
- Respiratory health– Check how they are breathing. You should not see any wheezing or heaving. A healthy chinchilla will breath lightly, barely noticeable.
- Mouth– You should not see any drooling.
- Teeth– check length and color. They should be some shade of yellow NOT white. Check if there are broken or missing teeth. The teeth should also not be very long.
- Behaviors– Inactivity is a problem. Loss of appetite and weight. Hunched posture is also not good. Limps are not also good. Some chinchillas eat their poop; this is normal do not be so worried. If you notice any seizures, it is a problem.
- Anal and genital area should not be bloody, should not have any discharge, should not have faeces stuck to the fur. Check for diarrhea from droppings in the cage.
Try and get a chinchilla savvy vet not just a random one.(See a vet once or twice an year or when you notice something wrong with your chinchilla).