Lifespan – 15-20+ Years in captivity
Chinchillas Require Temperature Control Always! – if exposed to temperatures over 74-75 degrees they can begin to experience heatstroke. Do not acquire a chinchilla if you can not provide this because it is not optional.
Chinchillas can live in same-sex pairs. Please note that bonded pairs can become separated and would require separate caging.
Chinchillas are not nocturnal but they are crepuscular, which means they are most active during twilight hours (dawn and dusk).
To be ready for a Chinchilla you will need:
- Central Air or a Window Air Conditioning Unit in the room where the chinchilla will be that will maintain a temperature below 74*F. Portable AC units are not recommended.
- Large metal enclosure (if there are plastic shelves or other pieces they need to be removed or covered in anti-pill fleece. Chinchillas can not digest plastic and can have fatal consequences). We like Ferret Nation or Critter Nation cages because they are easily modified for more enrichment.
- Large 14-16” Metal Flat surface wheel.
- Chinchilla pellets (Oxbow Essentials (red bag only) or Mazuri Chinchilla pellets) do not get food with other items mixed in.
- Timothy Hay (we like Small Pet Select 2nd Cut on Amazon, or you may check with your local feed store).
- Food/Hay Container (Do not use Hay balls, chinchillas have been known to become stuck inside and perish).
- Glass Water Bottle – Chinchillas can chew up plastic bottles.
- Dust & Dust Bath (Do not get sand it does not clean their fur like dust)
- Ledges – we make kiln-dried pine ledges for our guys to have more vertical space in their cages as they would use in the wild. Once they chew on them too much, we replace them with fresh ones.
- Hides, Hammocks & Toys – there are Etsy stores with a lot of safe options.
- Chews – chinchillas need chews all of the time! (Lava blocks, applewood sticks, and willow are favorites here, but there are many more options).
- Bedding – we use anti-pill fleece (with an absorbing layer under) over our plastic critter nation pans. We also set up a potty with ASPEN shavings inside for them to use as a toilet (not all are pee trained but many take to it quickly).
- Travel Carrier (cat carriers usually work well, we usually put some hay on the bottom).
- Small shop vac for cleaning up after your Chinchilla(s) -optional but useful
*Please understand that some items will need to be replenished monthly.
Here at the rescue for Chinchillas, we use Critter Nation Cages because they are easy to modify on the inside quickly depending on the animal we are intaking. (for most pet chinchilla owners we recommend the Ferret Nation) The Ferret/Critter Nations also have large front opening doors which makes cleaning much easier. With chinchillas, the taller the better, but you don’t want large areas open where they can easily fall from the top to the bottom of the cage. Another affordable option is the feisty ferret cage, but we don’t feel the quality is as good. The recommended cage size is approximately 2’x 2’ x 3′ to 4’ high with bar spacing between .5-1” wide. If the bar spacing is over 1” your chinchilla will be able to escape.
Feeding – Feed your chinchilla high-quality pellets and they should have access to unlimited Timothy Hay and Fresh Water. Treats such as organic dried safe flowers or organic bee pollen can be given in very small limited amounts.
Dust Baths – Chinchillas should have a dust bath 2-3 times a week so they can clean their dense fur. Do not leave the dust bath in their enclosure all of the time because it can dry out their skin. Chinchillas should never be bathed in water. If you get a chinchilla wet fur will trap the water close to the chinchilla’s skin and can lead to fungus growth if the chinchilla is not dried properly. If you’re doing out-of-cage time in a bathroom be sure to close the toilet first and make sure the tub is dry. We currently use Oxbow Dust.
Chews – chinchillas’ teeth grow throughout their lives and should be an orangey color (this means they are healthy) so having access to hay, chews, and other toys will help them keep their teeth properly worn. If you notice drooling or wetness around your chinchilla’s mouth please seek your exotic veterinarian to assess the teeth via X-ray.
Wheels – Chinchillas need large 14-16” diameter metal flat wheels to exercise on.
Bedding – If you have any plastic in your cage it needs to be covered and inaccessible to your chinchilla with anti-pill fleece. If you’d like to use shavings you can use Aspen Shavings only. Do NOT use softwood, cedar, pelleted, or paper bedding. Do not use cotton nesting materials. No beds stuffed with fibers.
Ledges/Shelving – We do not recommend using plastic or mesh wire shelving because it can cause bumble-foot in chinchillas’ little feet. We recommend ledges main from kiln-dried pine (common in most home improvement stores). We do make them here for adopters to be ready on the day of the adoption if you wish. They come ready to install with hardware.
Cleaning the Enclosure
You should spot-clean the cage every 1-2 days as chinchillas poop 150-250 times a day. Dump the litter box 1-2 times a week (if you use one), and replace it with fresh aspen shavings. Change out fleece covers and wash as needed (some chins are better at using a litter box than others). I do not recommend using vinegar to clean metal cages. We recommend using dish soap and water with a good non-scratch sponge. Dry pans well before re-covering with anti-pill fleece.
Taking your chinchilla to the vet for regular check-ups may not be necessary and can be stressful for your chinchilla.
If you own a male chinchilla you should watch for excess grooming of the penis for what is called a “fur ring”. Sometimes hair can get caught around the penis making a “fur-ring”. Most males are good about cleaning themselves, but some will get these hair rings and will need assistance getting them removed.
There are some serious signs you may want to watch out for in your chinchilla that you would want to seek Veterinarian promptly (as you go down the list the issue is MORE serious):
- Change in poop (large change in consistency, having a foul smell, or if it contains blood/mucus)
- Change in behavior
- Hunched over
- Drooling (consider malocclusion, this can be checked via x-ray not orally)
- Trouble breathing (noisy breathing, discharge around nose/mouth)
Chinchillas can live for 20+ years. Please be sure your chosen Veterinarian specializes in the needs of chinchillas.
Your chinchilla will need a carrier for trips to the veterinarian and when they come home with you. Moves can be stressful so include some hay and a piece of anti-pill fleece. If traveling further a larger carrier may be needed so that your Chinchilla has access to food and water. If you have a bonded pair, it is best practice to take both together.
Socializing & Bonding
Socializing your chinchilla with yourself and taming it for handling should be gentle, You should never introduce your chinchilla to any other animal (unless it is a chinchilla of the same sex or a neutered male with a non-spayed female). When you first bring your chinchilla home you should put your hands inside the enclosure and allow the Chinchilla to come to you in its own time. You may try to encourage your chinchilla to come closer with treats (dried organic rosehips, organic bee pollen, etc.). Once you and your chinchilla feel comfortable interacting within the enclosure you can begin attempting to pick them up.
How to pick up your chinchilla
To pick up your Chinchilla, it is recommended to put your hands underneath their body and scoop them up (imagine like an ice cream scoop) and carefully lift under them and cup them in your hands. We recommend talking to them softly the whole time. Please be cautious because chinchillas can jump from your arms.
Holding your chinchilla
Holding your chinchilla firmly, at the base of the tail keeps them from leaping from your arms and breaking bones, or potentially worse. We will go over proper tail holds during our adoption appointments.
Out of Cage Time
We recommend approximately 30 minutes each day outside of the enclosure for your pet. Ideas can include: free roam in a chinchilla-safe area (watch for electrical cords and anything in your chinchilla’s reach), playing in a dry bathtub, or a hamster playpen. Ensure other pets are put away to ensure your chinchilla’s safety. If you can not provide a safe play area, it is best to not have any out-of-cage time.
We DO NOT recommend the following:
- Small Enclosures, or ones made mostly of Plastic or Wood
- Plastic (hamster type) exercise balls aka death balls.
- Inappropriately sized wheels (under 14-16”), or wheels made of plastic, barred, mesh, or wire wheels
- Poor Quality Food such as Kaytee Fiesta, All Living Things Market Medley, or Oxbow Garden Select, foods with colorful pieces, seeds, etc.
- Fruit (fresh or dried), Vegetables (fresh or dried), Nuts, Seeds. This also means any treats containing these items as well.
- Cedar, Softwood, unknown woods.
- Cotton or fibrous bedding
- Snak Shaks or Logs
- Harnesses or Leashes can break fragile bones