Over 60 percent of American households include a pet as a member of the family. Some of those include the obvious, like dogs and cats. But there are plenty of other smaller furry friends you might be considering.
Chinchillas are one great option. But how do you take care of these small pets properly?
We’ve got the information you need. Read on to find out how to take care of chinchillas.
Create The Right Environment
Provide your chinchilla with a spacious cage made of metal wire, as they love to climb and jump.
Chinchillas are active climbers, so provide them with multiple levels, platforms, and ledges inside their cage. These additions allow for vertical movement and mimic their natural environment. Use solid platforms rather than wire mesh. This will help prevent foot and leg injuries.
Avoid using cages with plastic bottoms. Chinchillas can chew on them and potentially ingest harmful materials.
Line the cage with bedding material such as shredded paper or aspen shavings. Avoid cedar or pine bedding, as they can be harmful to chinchillas. Provide nesting material like timothy hay or fleece for your chinchilla to burrow and create a cozy resting spot.
These small pets are sensitive to heat and humidity. So, keep them in a cool, dry area of your home.
The ideal temperature range for chinchillas is between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 24 degrees Celsius). Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or drafts.
Take Care of Their Cage
Regularly clean your chinchilla’s cage to keep it fresh and hygienic. Remove your chinchilla to a safe temporary holding area while you clean.
Dispose of any soiled bedding, and thoroughly wash and disinfect the cage using a safe, chinchilla-friendly cleaner. Rinse the cage thoroughly to remove any residue from the cleaner, and allow it to dry completely before adding fresh bedding and returning your chinchilla.
Spot-clean the cage daily by removing any soiled bedding, droppings, or uneaten food. This helps maintain a clean living environment for your chinchilla and prevents odors and the buildup of bacteria.
Clean your chinchilla’s water bottle and food dish regularly to prevent bacterial growth. Wash them with warm, soapy water, rinse them thoroughly, and dry them completely before refilling them with fresh water and food.
Feed Your Chinchilla Right
Chinchillas have specific dietary needs. Their diet should consist mainly of high-quality hay. The hay helps maintain healthy digestion and wears down their continuously growing teeth.
Pellets formulated specifically for chinchillas can be given in moderation. But avoid ones with high sugar or fat content. Provide fresh water daily in a sipper bottle.
Chinchillas can enjoy small amounts of treats like dried fruits (like raisins or cranberries) or occasional wood chews to help wear down their teeth. However, treats should be given sparingly, as excess sugars can lead to health problems. You should make sure your chinchilla is getting enough vitamin C since vitamin C is beneficial for their dental health.
Chinchillas can have small amounts of fresh vegetables as occasional treats. Safe options include leafy greens like kale, cilantro, and dandelion greens.
Introduce new vegetables gradually to avoid digestive upset and observe how your chinchilla tolerates them. Monitor your chinchilla’s stool after introducing new vegetables to ensure they are digesting them properly.
Chinchillas are active animals that require daily exercise outside their cage. Provide them with a safe, chinchilla-proofed room to explore. Ensure there are no electrical wires, toxic plants, or small objects they could ingest.
Provide a large, solid-surface exercise wheel specifically designed for chinchillas. Avoid wheels with wire rungs, as they can cause injury to their delicate feet. Chinchillas love running on wheels. It helps them burn off excess energy.
Place tunnels, tubes, and hideouts in your chinchilla’s enclosure. They love to run through and explore these tunnels, which provide mental stimulation and opportunities for physical exercise.
Hide small treats or pieces of hay around your chinchilla’s play area to encourage natural foraging behaviors. This provides mental stimulation and physical exercise as they search for hidden treats.
Socialization is important for chinchillas to ensure they remain happy, healthy, and well-adjusted pets. Chinchillas are naturally social animals. While they can be content living alone, providing social interaction is beneficial.
If you have a single chinchilla, consider getting them a same-sex companion. Chinchillas tend to be more active and exhibit natural behaviors when they have a cage mate.
However, it’s important to introduce new chinchillas gradually and monitor their interactions to ensure compatibility. Introductions should take place in a neutral territory. It should also be supervised to prevent any aggressive behavior.
If you know other chinchilla owners in your area, consider arranging chinchilla playdates. This allows your chinchilla to interact with other chinchillas in a controlled and supervised environment.
It’s important for chinchillas to socialize with you and other humans, too. But, keep in mind that chinchillas can be initially skittish. They may take time to warm up to being handled.
Start by sitting near their cage and talking softly to them. This lets them to become familiar with your presence. Gradually introduce gentle touch by offering treats from your hand.
Allow them to sniff and investigate you. Once they are comfortable, you can start handling them by gently scooping them up and supporting their body.
Spend time with your chinchilla every day. Talk to them, offer treats, and gently stroke their fur. This regular interaction will help build trust and strengthen the bond between you. Chinchillas are crepuscular animals. So plan your interaction time accordingly.
Training For Chinchillas
Chinchillas are intelligent animals that can be trained using positive reinforcement. You can teach them simple commands or tricks, such as coming when called or jumping onto your hand.
Use rewards like small treats or praise to reinforce desired behaviors. Keep training sessions short and fun to maintain their interest and enthusiasm.
Chinchillas can learn to come to you when called. Use a consistent cue, such as saying their name followed by a specific word like “come.”
When you call their name and they come to you, reward them with a treat and praise. Practice this in a safe, chinchilla-proofed area to avoid any accidents.
Target training is another option to try with chinchillas. Chinchillas can be trained to follow a target stick or your hand. Use a small object like a wooden dowel or your finger as the target.
Hold the target near your chinchilla and reward them with a treat when they touch or come close to it. Gradually move the target around, and reward them for following it. This can be a fun and mentally stimulating game for your chinchilla.
Taking Care of Pet Health
Like with any pet, a chinchilla will need the vet every so often. Look for a veterinarian who has experience and knowledge in treating chinchillas.
Regular check-ups are important for preventive care and to address any potential health concerns. Your vet can provide guidance on proper nutrition, dental health, and other aspects of chinchilla care.
Chinchillas are prone to dental issues. Monitor their teeth for overgrowth or malocclusion.
Stay vigilant for any changes in your chinchilla’s behavior, appetite, water consumption, or appearance. Common signs of illness include loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, respiratory issues, or any visible abnormalities. If you notice any concerning signs, consult your veterinarian promptly.
You should also ensure that you’re properly grooming your chinchilla. Chinchillas have dense fur that requires regular dust bath.
These help remove excess oils and keep their fur clean and healthy. Provide a dust bath a few times a week using chinchilla-specific dust.
Place the dust in a suitable container, such as a shallow dish or a dust bath house. Allow your chinchilla to roll and frolic in the dust for about 10-15 minutes. Avoid leaving the dust bath in the cage for extended periods, as chinchillas may use it as a bathroom.
Chinchillas have fur that can become matted or tangled. Use a soft-bristled brush or a chinchilla-specific grooming comb to gently brush their fur.
Brushing your chinchilla regularly helps remove loose hairs and prevents matting. However, be gentle and avoid pulling or tugging on their fur.
Adopt Your Very Own Chinchilla Today
Chinchillas aren’t as tricky to take care of as you might have thought. Just make sure you have all the necessary supplies and equipment together before you adopt one!
Do you need more advice about pet care and so much more? Read through a few of our other posts for all the help you need.