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General advices


Cage bedding

Sleeping house

Food dishes / hayracks


Water bottles


Dust bathing






Chinchillas are ideal pets for anyone, even apartment dwellers. The best habitat for a single chinchilla is a cage at least 100 cm long by 60 cm wide by 60 cm high. The bigger, the better. Select a cage that the animal won't gnaw; galvanized grating or galvanized wire mesh are suitable materials. Cages with slide-out bottom drawers make cleaning easier.

When selecting an area to keep the cage, remember the chinchilla's origins: a dry, cold climate. In other words, don't put the cage in a hot, damp room. Try to keep the room temperature always around 21°C (extremes are 0° and 30° C), and provide good ventilation, but don't put the cage somewhere draughty. Do not place the cage in direct sunlight or near a source of heat.

Good bedding choices include corncob litter or white pine shavings; avoid cedar shavings. Spread a layer about 5 cm thick on the bottom of the cage, and completely change the litter once each week. Chinchillas tend to choose one spot in the cage to eliminate, allowing observant owners to place a small pan of no clumping cat litter in one corner, making cleaning easier.

Your chinchilla needs a sleeping house, enclosed on all sides with just a small entry hole, as a retreat and resting place. Place the sleeping house on the highest sitting ledge, and anchor it firmly. Line the house with straw or litter. Other items your chinchilla will appreciate include climbing branches (choose branches from beech, willow, hazelnut, pine or fruitwood trees) and sitting ledges placed at different levels with the cage. A hayrack is a convenient place to hold the chinchilla's hay supplement.

Like most pets, chinchillas require regular bathing--but not a traditional wet bath. A wet bath will wash away natural oils, inhibiting the animal's ability to keep warm, maintain a healthy coat and protect against skin disease. Chinchillas need dry dust baths to keep their beautiful fur soft and shiny. Twice each week, provide your chinchilla with a bath of chinchilla dust, which is readily available in pet stores. Put the dust in any container that is large and deep enough for the chinchilla to get down and roll around in. Watching a chinchilla take a dust bath is quite amusing. The flips and rolls it performs are hilariously funny. Be sure to remove the dust when the bath is done.

Part of your chinchilla's daily care includes observance of the animal's health. If you are familiar with your pet's habits when it is healthy, you are more likely to notice when something is amiss.

Though basically hardy animals, chinchillas can become ill. Some ailments you may encounter in your pet include diarrhoea, constipation, colds, eye infections, skin fungi, and convulsions, problems with the teeth, broken bones and wounds. If you notice any of these conditions, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Some common sense care practices can help prevent these problems. Keep your chinchilla in a quiet room during the day where it can sleep undisturbed. Do not suddenly change the pet's diet, feed old chinchilla pellets or give the animal inappropriate treats. Replace hay and bedding before it becomes damp or mouldy. Pay attention to the composition of the chinchilla's faeces, and remove any dirty hay daily.

© Sf chinchilla


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There are many types of cages which will make a wonderful home for your chinchilla. As chinchillas love to run around, choosing as large a cage as you can accommodate comfortably would be a wise decision. We don’t feel a cage should be smaller than 60 cm x 60 cm x 50 cm as this allows a single chinchilla some running room. Two-story cages are larger and nice if you are accommodating several chinchillas. You can buy your cage or make it yourself. It is nice to incorporate shelves, a hideaway house, toys and a wheel for exercise. Our preference is to use 1,2 cm x 1,2 cm on the bottom and 2,5 cm x 1,2 cm on the sides and top. This is especially important if you are planning to breed a pair of chinchillas. Babies are great escape artists and can get out of wire mesh that is larger than 2,5 cm x 1,2 cm. Also, if you have babies, it is best to have them in a single story cage with no shelves as they can fall or be injured by a jumping adult.

You can choose to have a wire bottom cage or a cage which rests in a pan. If you choose a cage that rests in a pan or has a solid metal bottom you will want to use natural pine shavings that contain no oils or tars. Traditionally pine shavings have been used as bedding material for these animals, but recent studies indicate that the phenols in pine that cause their aroma,  also can lead to health problems in animals that have direct exposure over an extended period of time. Aspen bedding is a much better and safer choice. Never use cedar shavings for Chinchillas, as the phenols are very strong and cause serious respiratory, skin, coat and liver problems.

If you choose a wire mesh bottom cage, the size of the mesh is extremely important. The mesh bottom of the cage should be no larger than 1,2 cm x 1,2 cm. If the wire is larger, a chinchilla can get a foot caught in the mesh. In its distress, a chinchilla can chew off its foot, break its leg or the leg trauma may necessitate amputation. Why take a chance! If using a wire bottom cage, be sure the chinchilla has areas where it can sit or rest where its feet are not directly on the wire. We use houses or shelves and sometimes wood planks (which we change regularly because they can harbour bacteria). Chinchillas can develop sores on their feet from the continued direct contact with the wire.

Chinchillas kept in small cages may develop behavioural problems if not let out for long periods each day. It is however better to be in a smaller cage with plenty to play and lots of attention with than a large cage with nothing to do.

© Oxford chinchillas

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The types of bedding that you absolutely should not use are cedar shavings or kitty litter. You can use any type of pine shavings or newspaper. If you have a paper shredder, you can shred your newspaper and use that as your bedding; or you can even just line the droppings tray or bottom of the cage with newspaper. This makes it very easy to clean, because you can just fold the mess into the newspaper and throw it away.

You should remove soiled bedding from the chinchilla’s cage daily to prevent dampness and bacteria growth. You should remove the entire bedding and disinfect the cage weekly or as needed.

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A chinchilla should always be provided with a sleeping box. This box gives the chinchilla a safe haven, especially during the day while they sleep. You can either purchase these, or build one yourself. If you are going to purchase one or build one out of wood, the safest wood to use is untreated pine. Do not use cedar, redwood, or plum; these are toxic to chinchillas. Your chinchilla will chew a wooden sleep house up, so you will eventually need to replace it. You can manage to find a sleeping box made out of metal or very hard plastic that can be used for a wide variety of small animals, including chinchillas.

Be sure your chinchilla has a little hideaway house so it can have somewhere to go when it needs to feel safe. They do truly enjoy their houses and often feel comfortable lying on their sides or backs totally relaxed. A hiding space is essential, especially when breeding.

© K and D exotic pets


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It is very important to choose very heavy feeding dishes, such as the bottom-heavy ceramic dishes, so they are unable to knock their dishes over. You will need one feeding dish for their pellet mixture and one large one for their hay (if you are unable to find the hayracks made for small animals). The hayracks work much nicer than using a feeding dish. Your chinchilla will just pull their hay right out of the feeding dish.

© K and D exotic pets


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Many chinchillas enjoy hanging toys with bells on the bottom and wood blocks (usually pine or fir) stacked on the chain. They delight in chewing off the blocks and like the sound of the bell. If you use any wood in the cage, be sure to change it often as wood can harbour fungus and bacteria.

Chinchillas' teeth grow continuously, so it is quite important to give them something hard to chew, so they can keep their teeth down to a good size. Some people take their chinchillas to a vet so the vet can dredge them down, but this is totally unnecessary since you can easily provide them with a chew block. You can use the chew sticks that pet stores carry for hamsters or you can use a branch from an apple, pear, or mulberry tree. You can also use a block of unfinished pinewood. Do not use branches from a cherry, plum, or citrus tree; they are toxic to chinchillas. You also need to make sure that the trees you get your branches from have not been sprayed with pesticides of any kind. You can also use branches from a pine tree as long as they have dried out and contain no pine tar. Another wood that you can use safely is manzanita wood.

© Oxford chinchillas

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Many good water bottles are available. Heavy glass water bottles are ideal, because they can be sterilized in the dishwasher, but be sure the drinking tubes are very heavy glass so that the chinchilla does not bite through them and cut its mouth up. If you cannot find a glass bottle, make sure you purchase a plastic bottle that hangs outside the cage. The bottle holder (clasps) should be made of something other than plastic. Be sure that the bottles do not leak, especially if the chinchillas sit on litter. Damp litter is very unhealthy for the chinchilla. If using plastic water bottles, it is important to put a sheet metal guard between the water bottle and the cage. Chinchillas will chew through a plastic water bottle at every opportunity. We cut a piece of sheet metal large enough to shield the water bottle and make a hole for the water nozzle. This works normally very well. Also, be sure that the water bottle is securely fastened to the cage as the chinchillas enjoy unhooking the wires that hold it to the cage.

If you follow these tips, a water bottle will last a while; otherwise, you could go through a water bottle every day (chinchillas love to chew).

© Oxford chinchillas

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It is important for chinchillas to have exercise. A safely constructed wheel in your chinchilla’s cage is a must for a chin’s health and provides both entertainment and exercise. It also helps to keep your chinchilla from becoming overweight and lethargic. When choosing a wheel, do not select a wire mesh wheel or hamster wheel. Many chinchillas have had legs amputated or have been killed when caught in these wheels. Choose a wheel that is solid all the way around. A wheel should be at least 30 cm (12”) in diameter, but 40 cm (15”) would be much better, in order to prevent the chinchilla’s back to curve too much and to damage consequently. These kinds of wheels (solid and large) can be very hard to find and are normally available only in the USA. Wheels are very good for chinchillas that are at least five months old, and for chinchillas that are not pregnant.

If you have a spare room, a closet or a bathroom that you can "baby proof", use this for your chinchilla to run free. They leap, jump and ricochet off the walls with abandon. If you are sitting on the floor, they will use you to leap upon as well. It is important to be there to supervise a chinchilla’s playtime to insure there are no mishaps. Be sure toilet seats are down, garbage cans are covered, no cupboards open, no electric outlets are exposed or cords accessible to the chinchilla. It could be an idea to take a few chinchilla toys (toilet paper rolls, PVC pipe tubes, plastic balls, waffle balls, etc) and spread them on the floor. Chinchillas are very nosy and love to explore the toys, carrying them around the room. Often your chinchilla plays so hard, it wears himself out and them goes right to sleep when you let it back in the cage.

© Oxford chinchillas

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Your chinchilla will require a dust bath at least 2-3 times a week. They love to bathe and their coats look wonderful. You can purchase the dust for your chinchilla at a pet store. Specific dust bath containers are sold as well, but a number of things will work well and be cheaper to purchase. Very frequent are the chinchilla bath houses because they contain the dust well. You can use many types of containers from Pyrex bakers to Tupperware. You could recommend purchasing a cat litter box with the attached hood. These work great; just put your chinchillas in there and they can roll around all they want without hurting themselves or making a huge mess. These boxes are very easy to clean and sterilize, if the need ever arose. It is not recommend leaving the bath container in the cage, because the chinchilla will urinate and defecate in it, making it un-usable.

The best type of dust to use is "Blue Cloud" as this does not damage the coat or irritate the eyes as some of the others do. Another good dust is Kaytee, but only the type in the clear plastic bottle.

Provide dust bath at least daily in the summertime to keep the fur from matting down and overheating your chin.

© Oxford chinchillas

© K and D exotic pets


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Chinchillas generally will not survive temperatures over 30° C (86° F) for extended periods. They can become very stressed even at 21° C (70° F) if humidity is high. If kept over 27° C (80° F), chinchillas can suffer heat stroke and die. Keep your chinchilla in a cool place, being careful to avoid drafts. It is important to have good exchange of air in the room. You should consider acquiring an air conditioning unit if you have chinchillas in your home (and perhaps a back-up unit if you have many chinchillas). People must be aware of the heat dangers to chinchillas, since they cannot perspire like we do. Chinchillas should not be put outside during the summer months because of the risk of heat stroke. If you leave your chinchilla outside in the sun, on a porch or even under a tree during very hot weather, you will be killing your pet. So many chinchillas die from heatstroke every year and it doesn't have to happen!

A heat exhaustion can cause breathing problems and chinchillas will lay down on the side without moving.

High humidity plus high (or even low) temperature is the biggest menace. It is absolutely vital that the total of temperature (say, 21° C / 70° F) plus humidity (say, 80%) in your chin's environment does not reach or exceed 65° C / 150° F ! At that point, heat stroke or heat exhaustion leading to death is imminent.

© People misters (pictures)

You must purchase an air conditioner, at least for the chin's room, in climates where the temperature can reach 30° C (86° F). When transporting a chin, air conditioning is vital then as well. For areas where frequent high humidity is a factor, a dehumidifier is also required.

Chinchillas can tolerate cold far easier than heat (of course, they have a nice fur coat). Humidity should be around 30% to 40%. Remember, if you are uncomfortable either from heat or humidity, your chinchilla will also be uncomfortable. If you are in danger, how much more your chinchilla, which cannot sweat nor take off its nice fur coat!

There are items that bring cool relief after some time in the freezer: dust bath, terracotta planter / pipe, metal tube, ceramic tiles, ice cubes in a spill-proof bowl for licking.

© Oxford chinchillas

© Joy of Chinchillas (Lani Ritchey BSc.AS, Elizabeth Current Cogswell MR MS PHN, and Roxane Beeman )


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