Pet chinchillas are often sold or adopted in pairs, and there’s good reason for this. In the wild chinchillas live in groups. They’re social animals and need regular social interactions for their mental health and well-being. That’s why many pet chinchillas go to their forever home with a same-sex relative that they are bonded to (either a set of siblings or parent/child). This is the ideal situation for most chinchillas, but there are scenarios where a chinchilla is best living alone. We’ll cover the special circumstances that lead to single chinchillas and how to make sure your solo chin stays happy and healthy.
When Should Chinchillas Live Alone?
Can a chinchilla live alone? Technically, yes. Since they’re social creatures, chinchillas do best living with other chinchillas, but there are many solo pet chinchillas living happy lives. Bonded chinchillas should not be separated and if you’re buying or adopting a new chinchilla that is living in a bonded pair, you should take both. They will be happier together in the long run.
But here are a few of the scenarios where chinchillas should live alone.
Chinchilla’s Personality Doesn’t Work with a Cagemate
Some chinchillas just want to be alone. Like people, chinchillas have their own personalities and temperaments. Some chinchillas just aren’t suited to share a cage. Often the chinchilla is territorial and even the largest chinchilla cage doesn’t give them enough space.
Adult chinchillas who have lived alone for most of their life may not adjust to living with a cagemate again. You can attempt bonding them with a new chinchilla, but if that’s not successful they might be meant to live alone.
Death of a Cagemate
The loss of a cagemate can be very difficult for the surviving chinchilla. Many eventually go on to bond with a new cagemate, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. An owner may not choose to get a second chinchilla, especially if the remaining chinchilla is older. In these scenarios, the surviving chin can eventually adjust to living alone with the help of their owner (see the tips in the next section).
Bonded Chinchillas Have a BIG Fight
Just like human couples break up and move out, sometimes chinchillas have a fight they cannot recover from. Even bonded chinchillas may have small squabbles from time to time, but if it escalates to a big fight their bond can be damaged. A general rule shared among chin owners is if a chinchilla fight draws blood or causes some type of injury, then those chinchillas need to be separated and cannot be housed together. It’s rare in chinchillas that have been together a long time, but it can happen.
How to Care for a Single Chinchilla
A solo chinchilla can still have a happy and fulfilling life. The owner will have to step in to make up for the socialization the chin will miss from not having a cagemate.
Spend Time with Your Chin Every Day
Without a cage mate, the humans in your chinchilla’s life will be their only source of socialization. That means you should plan to spend some time with your chinchilla every day. This can include out of cage play time as well as spending time with them while they’re in their cage. Talk to them, pet them, and offer chew toys or chinchilla safe treats. If you walk by their cage and see them begging for attention (mine likes to sit at the cage bars like she’s in prison), stop and give them a little love.
Keep Their Cage Near the Family
A single chinchilla shouldn’t be tucked away in the house. Keep their cage in areas where you frequently throughout the day so they can see and hear you (and you can give them a little attention here and there). Since chinchillas are most active in the evening, putting a cage in a place where you hang out around that time (like a living room or bedroom) will let them be a part of the action. Some chinchillas enjoy watching TV so they’ll appreciate joining your Netflix binge. While I worked from home, I kept my chin’s cage in my office so I could take breaks to hang out and play with her. It was a big mood boost for both of us.
Get Them a Cuddle Buddy
Chinchillas are adorably cuddly, especially with bonded cagemates. Luckily solo chins can get in on the adorable cuddles with the help of a stuffed friend. Since chinchillas will chew anything they can get their hands on, many stuffed animals aren’t appropriate. Chinnie Buddies are the perfect solution. These handmade friends are made from anti-pill fleece so they’re a safe option for your single chin to cuddle with.
Nothing is more exciting than the day you bring home a new pet chinchilla (or two!). But what is an exciting day for the humans in your household is often a scary day for a chinchilla. While you would hope your new pet will gladly hop into your arms like an excited puppy, you will need to take the time to get to know your chin and earn their trust.
When you first bring your chinchilla(s) home, put them in their cage and let them be! I know you’re excited and want to play and cuddle them, but this move has been a scary experience for your chin. Make sure they have plenty of food, hay, and fresh water and then leave them alone to get used to their new cage. For the first few hours, try to keep the room quiet and calm. This will allow them to relax from the stress of the car ride and explore their new home.
Introduce Yourself to Your Chinchilla
Everything from this point on should be done on your chinchilla(s) terms. Depending on how tame they are and their personality, they may warm up to you quickly or they may take a lot of time. Don’t be surprised if you’re adopting a rescue chin that they may never warm up enough to be cuddled or easily held.
Chinchillas tend to sleep during the day and are more active in the evenings and at night. You may want to try to bond with your pet in the evenings when they’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
After a day or two in your home, if your chinchilla seems calm, you can introduce yourself. The best way to do this is to open up a cage door (carefully, so your chin cannot escape) and stick your hand in the cage. Be quiet and still and eventually your curious chinchilla will come over to investigate. Don’t be surprised if your chinchilla gives your hand a little nibble, this is a part of their investigation.
During a time when you need to refill their food bowl, put some pellets in the palm of your hand and hold them inside the cage. Be still and eventually your chin will approach and eat out of your hand. Be still and quiet the first time. Repeat each day, adding on a little to your interaction. Try talking gently to them. Then try wiggling your fingers while they eat. Try putting both hands in the cage (one empty). Try petting the side of their face (this is a big one that may spook them and take some time).
Any time your chinchilla gets spooked and run away, stop doing the new activity and go back to the previous iteration. The next day try again. Over time you’ll get a sense of your chinchilla’s boundaries and as they become more comfortable with you it will become easier.
Occasionally you can offer healthy treats like cheerios, oats, or rosehips to help encourage the bonding, but you must limit this to once or twice a week to avoid overfeeding.
Over time, your chin will become comfortable enough they may start to hop on your hands. Passively let them do this so they become comfortable with the idea of being held by you. Once your chinchilla is comfortable enough to climb onto and sit on your arm and hand, you can hold and pick up your chinchilla. When you and the chinchilla are comfortable with this interaction, you can take the chinchilla to a safe play area in the home to run around and play. This playtime should become a daily activity for the chinchilla.
How to Avoid Scaring Your Chinchilla
It’s very easy to do something you think is benign that is terrifying for your pet chinchilla, and those actions can set back your bonding timeline.
Never push beyond what your chinchilla is comfortable with. If they run away or back into a corner of their cage then they are scared or uncomfortable. You should stop what you’re doing and give them a chance to calm down. A snapping bark or bite means you’ve really overstepped their boundaries and you need to stop whatever you’re doing.
Avoid chasing or pursuing your chinchilla. If you need to pick them up, scoop them up from below with both hands. Do not come from above. Chinchillas are prey animals and their instincts are that preditors will try to capture them from above. Similarly, most chinchillas will not want you to pet their back, so keep the scritches to their chin, neck, and top of their head between their ears.
With time and experience, you’ll soon figure out how to read your chinchilla’s body language. Your chin will bond with you in their own time and recognize you as a family member rather than a threat. Just be patient and loving and it will all be worth the hard work.
Owning a chinchilla is a joy, but these delicate pets need to be cared for properly to ensure a long and happy life (they have a life expectancy of 20+ years!). There’s a lot of misinformation out there about caring for pets, much of it perpetrated by pet supply companies marketing food, toys, and other items for chinchillas that are extremely unhealthy or dangerous for them. So if you’re a new chinchilla pet owner or considering adding a chin to your family, check out these 10 items you should never buy for your pet chinchilla.
Never Buy Your Chinchilla these Foods, Toys, & Supplies
Frequently I see new chinchilla owners online squeeing about how much their chinnie loves raisins. And that’s true, chinchillas absolutely love raisins. It’s basically like giving a kid candy–and raisins are as healthy for chinchillas as candy is. Why are raisins bad for chinchillas? They aren’t toxic, but the high sugar content is the issue. Chinchillas do not eat fruit in their natural diet, so their bodies have not evolved to process the sugar properly. Over time, eating raisins and other fruit can cause health issues like obesity and diabetes.
Exercise balls are commonly used by rodent owners to give their small pets some exercise to run freely around the house. While they seem like a fun and cute way for your chin to exercise, they are extremely dangerous for chinchillas. There are several reasons these balls are bad for chinchillas.
Many owners call them “death balls” because a chinchilla can easily overheat inside of one. Since chins are temperature sensitive, overheating can quickly become fatal. These plastic exercise balls are also too small for chinchillas, which can cause injury to their spine while running. Also, these balls are usually designed with ventilation slits, which are just wide enough for tiny chinchilla toes to get caught in and cause injury. The final flaw, while not fatal, is just gross. Chinchillas will often pee and poop inside an exercise ball, which means the waste will get in their fur while running. Overall, exercise balls are a big NO when it comes to chinchillas.
If you want to give your chinchilla more opportunities for exercise, instead consider getting a chinchilla safe exercise wheel for their cage or giving them playtime in a chinchilla proofed room or a playpen
3. Plastic Toys & Cage Accessories
Like other rodents, chinchilla’s teeth are constantly growing, which means they need to frequently chew to keep them worn down. Chewing is a natural behavior that should be encouraged with safe woodtoys and accessories. The pet store has other ideas, with shelves filled with plastic toys and accessories.
Plastic is extremely dangerous for chinchillas because when they chew on it they can swallow small pieces of it. Their bodies cannot process the plastic, which can cause blockages in their digestive system. These blockages can lead to discomfort, illness, and even death.
Make sure to replace any plastic shelves with wood or metal shelves and provide plenty of wooden chew toys for your chinchilla.
4. Salt & Mineral Wheels
Salt and mineral wheels are regularly sold in the small pet section of the pet store and advertised for all kinds of pets. Chinchillas just don’t need them. If you’re feeding them a proper chinchilla pellet food, then they have all the salt and minerals they need in their diet. Buying a salt wheel is just a waste of money and excess salt in their diet can cause health issues in chinchillas.
5. Colorful Chinchilla Food Mixes
Humans need variety in their diets, chinchillas do not. While the bright food mixes you see on the pet store shelf look appealing, they are TERRIBLE for chinchillas. Feeding a chin a food mix is like putting vegetables on a toddler’s plate and then dumping candy on top. The kid will eat the candy and ignore the nutritious food. In fact, if you ask most chinchilla owners who feed their pet a mix, they will mention that their chin only eats the seeds, dried fruit, and other treats and leaves the pellets behind. These food mixes can lead to health issues, weight gain, and shortened lifespan.
A chinchilla should only be fed an alfalfa based pellet. Oxbow and Mazuri are the best brands and can easily be bought online or at many pet store chains.
6. Unverified Wood Toys & Accessories
Okay, so we know plastic is bad for the chinnies, but that doesn’t mean you can just pick up any old wood toy at Petsmart and give it to your chinchilla. While there’s plenty of safe wood for chinchillas, there is also wood that is toxic. Some small pet toys may use treated or painted wood, which is also unsafe for chinchillas.
When it comes to shopping for your chinchilla, err on the side of caution. Avoid any toys that don’t state the type of wood used, whether it’s treated, or if there are toxic adhesives or paints used in the production. To stay on the safe side, buy toys online from chinchilla rescues or savvy entrepreneurs. You can also make your own toys from safe woods.
7. Yogurt Drops & Dandelion Drops
This is another case of pet store gone bad. Yogurt drops are a very popular treat advertised for small pets, but they are absolutely horrible for chinchillas. They look like white or green chocolate chips and they have a ton of sugar in them, which we’ve already learned is terrible for chinchillas.
What looks like a fun way to provide your chinchilla with fresh hay is actually an injury waiting to happen. Since chinchillas are quite bouncy, it is incredibly common for them to jump on top of these wire hay balls. If a chinchilla gets an arm or leg caught in the ball, they can break it or otherwise injure themselves. They can also get their heads stuck in them, which can be deadly. It’s better to be safe and not buy one.
Instead, you can use a hay rack to provide your chinchilla with fresh hay in their cage.
9. Plastic Igloo Hideouts
Plastic igloos are incredibly popular at pet stores for all kinds of small pets. When it comes to chinchillas, they’re a bad idea. While you should provide your chinchilla with a house or hideout, a plastic one is a bad idea. Your chinchilla will inevitably chew on their house and ingesting plastic can be deadly. Instead, get a metal or wood house for your chin to sleep in.
10. Wire Chinchilla Wheel
While a chinchilla wheel is a great way to let your pet get extra exercise in their cage, wire chinchilla wheels are incredibly dangerous. They’re often way too small for a chinchilla to use safely (the one pictured only has a diameter of 11″) and the wire mesh creates opportunities for a chin to get a foot or toe stuck and injure themselves.
A lot of times when people add a new chinchilla or two to their family, they have a huge shopping list of supplies and accessories to get. In addition to a nice big chinchilla cage, accessories, and healthy food you need to be prepared for some “worst case scenarios,” like if your pet chinchilla gets sick or injured. Just like you have a first aid kit in your home for your human family members, you want to have supplies on hand for your furry family members as well. That is why a chinchilla first aid kit is an essential “supply” to have on hand.
While you may think your chinchilla is young and healthy and won’t have any health problems, you never know when there will be an emergency situation. And in my experience, these emergencies–big or small–always seem to happen late at night or on the weekends when the vet is closed or it’s hard to get to a store to buy supplies. Having a chinchilla first aid kit on hand means you will have what you need when your pet is sick or hurt and can make a difference between life and death in some situations. And if there is some sort of emergency or disaster where you have to evacuate your home, you’ll be really glad you put together a kit you can grab and go.
This article has everything you need to put together your own DIY chinchilla first aid. If you don’t want to go through the work of gathering all of the elements separately, you can buy a Chinchilla Home Emergency Kit from Pandamonium Pets on Etsy.
Note: This kit is to help you prepare for minor injuries and illnesses. If you’re currently experiencing an emergency with your chinchilla, go to the vet now!
DIY Chinchilla First Aid Kit
If you’re putting together your own chinchilla first aid kit, the following is alist of supplies your should have on hand. Many of the items are common first aid items that you may already have around your home or can be easily purchased at a pharmacy. For the items that are a little more difficult to find, we’ve included links to Amazon where you can buy them. Since some of the food and medication items will have expiration dates, make sure you are regularly replacing them.
All of the supplies for your kit should be stored together in a watertight container like a plastic box. This will make it easier if there is an emergency where you need to evacuation so you can just grab the kit and go. You can use any container you already own or purchase one like the first aid box pictured to the right. Once you have your box, fill it with the following essential items.
First Aid Kit Checklist
Vet Contact Info – If you have a business card for your exotics vet, include that in the kit or write their contact information on a piece of paper. Include info for an emergency vet or other emergency resources (like a chinchilla rescue) that you may want to contact in case of a medical emergency.
Antibiotic Ointment – Avoid any with pain relieving ingredients
Cotton Balls or Pads
Vetrap Bandaging Tape (Buy on Amazon) – Self-sticking bandage tap frequently used by vets. Does not stick to fur or skin.
Oral Syringes – For administering medicine, Critical Care, and fluids. 35 cc is best for feeding and a smaller size is good for medicine.
Pedialyte – Good for dehyrdrated chins and constipation. Fruit flavors like apple are most liked by chinchillas.
Oxbow Critical Care (Buy on Amazon) – This food replacement is meant for hand feeding chinchillas who refuse to eat. It’s mixed with water and fed through a syring. Can be bought online or at your vet.
Simethicone Infant Drops (Buy on Amazon) – These gentle gas drops are good for bloat or gas, helping to break up gas in your chin’s tummy.
Fresh Pineapple Juice – Pineapple has natural enzymes that break-up intestinal blockages. It has to be fresh because processing destroys the enzymes. The besy way to store it is to get a ripe pinepple from the store and free the juice from it. When your chinchilla needs it, you can thaw the juice and feed with a syringe.
Eye Wash – To flush dirt or debris from their eyes. Find a solution that does not have saline, because it can be irritating.
Vasline – to reove hair rings in male chinchillas.
Betadine (Buy on Amazon) – To flush wounds. Dilute to 10% betadine and 90% water.
Acidophilus Tablets (Buy on Amazon) – Balances bacteria in the stomach to avoid intestinal upset while taking antibiotics. Keep refrigerated.
Ice Pack or Marble Tile – To help keep your chinchilla cool or cool down an overheated chin. Keep a marble tile in the refrigerator so it’s ready whenever you need it. (Learn more about keeping chinchillas cool. For the ice pack, use one you fill with ice, not the ones with toxic gel inside.
Towel or Fleece Fabric For restraining chinchillas while giving medications or to line their carrier during transportation.
Heating Pad or Hot Water Bottle – To keep sick chinchillas warm. Wrap in fleece or place under cage.
Unscented Wet Wipes (Buy on Amazon) – To clean fur dirtied with medicine, food, or excrement.
Blu-Kote (Buy on Amazon) – Anticeptic and fungicidal perfect to dress wounds and treat infections.
If you don’t already have a chinchilla carrier buy one ASAP so you can easily transport your chin to the vet in an emergency.
When Should a Chinchilla Go to the Vet?
Many chinchilla owners and breeders agree that chinchillas should have yearly check-ups with an exotics vet. At the same time, many chinchilla owners do not take their pets in for annual check-ups. The reasoning behind this is because a vet trip is a very stressful experience for a chinchilla and they will immediately go into “prey” mode. Their behavior will change and they will try to hide anything that’s wrong with them. If your chinchilla has a personality where they get very stressed in new situations, it may be detrimental to expose them to that extra stress if they are healthy.
However, if you have a chinchilla that has health problems, they should have regular check-ups no matter how skittish they are. It’s also good to have an initial check-up with a new vet to help them become familiar with the doctor and get used to the process.
Since chinchillas are prey animals they are very good at hiding sickness or injury. Because of this, whenever you see any change in personality, behavior, appetite, or poops, you should take them to a vet as soon as is reasonably possible.
In an emergency with a lethargic chinchilla or a physically injured chinchilla, go to an emergency vet ASAP. Do not wait as it could be a life or death situation.
To prepare for the worst case, you should know the location and contact info for an exotics vet and the nearest emergency vet. Include this information in your chinchilla first aid kit so you have it in the case of an emergency. A good relationship with an exotics vet that specializes in chinchillas should be established before an emergency. They will be an invaluable source of information if you have questions about your chin’s behavior or symptoms and the first place you’ll call when your chin needs medical attention.
How to Find a Veterinarian for a Chinchilla?
Unfortunately, because chinchillas are an exotic pet, not every veterinarian is capable of treating them. Some vets will say they treat chinchillas, but they may not have the knowledge or training necessary to care for these special pets. You should do your research before selecting a vet.
The first resource I would recommend is to talk to your chinchilla breeder and see what vet they recommend. If you did not get your chinchilla from a breeder, search Google to see if there are any chinchilla breeders in your area. They may have vet recommendations listed on their website or you can call or email them for the info.
If there are no breeders near you, Chinchilla Club has a vet directory you can use.
When you select a new veterinarian or animal hospital, make sure to ask them questions about what training they’ve had (they should be exotic certified) and how often they treat chinchillas. Forever Feist Chinchilla has a great list of qualities to look for in a chinchilla vet.
One of the most important parts of chinchilla ownership is making sure your pet lives in an environment that maintains a cool temperature. In the wild, chinchilla live in the mountains, which is a cool environment. Their bodies evolved to suit that environment, which means they’re not fit to live outdoors in many of the places where pet owners have domestic chinchillas.
Chinchillas are very prone to overheating, especially at temperatures above 75F. They don’t have sweat glands and because of their dense fur, their bodies become hot much more quickly than other small mammal pets and have a harder time cooling down. Chinchillas can experience heatstroke at temperatures that most people find comfortable, especially if they’re active or running around. The room their cage is in should be kept within 60 – 70F, and should never be above 74F. If this is not something you can maintain, you should not have a pet chinchilla in your home.
If you’ve recently brought a new pet chinchilla home or are considering adding one to your family, you probably have a lot of questions about how to keep your pet safe and healthy. In this article, we’ll cover how to keep a chinchilla cool, how to recognize heat stroke in a chinchilla, and what you can do to help your chin stay comfortable during hot summer months.
How to Keep a Chinchilla Cool
The first and most important thing, if you live in any part of the world where the temperature goes about 70F, you must have an air conditioner for the room your chinchilla lives in. Let me say it again: your chinchilla must live in an air-conditioned room. This is not optional. If you cannot provide this for your pet, it is morally wrong for you to have a chinchilla in your home.
If your home doesn’t have central air, you can purchase a window AC unit or single room air conditioner to help maintain the correct temperature for your pet. If you’re worried about the electricity cost, there are a few ways to help mitigate those costs. First, you should be smart about selecting a room for your chinchilla’s cage. Heat rises in homes, so a room on the ground floor or in the basement of your home will be much cooler than a second floor or attic. If you can, select a room that doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight or invest in energy-efficient blackout curtains to block out the sunlight and the heat.
Once you’ve selected a room, position the cage so your chinchilla will not be in direct sunlight or utilize curtains and blinds to keep the sun off your chinchilla. This will help keep them from overheating. It’s also a good idea to keep a thermometer in the room near your chinchilla’s cage. Even if you have a programmable central AC unit, you will not have consistent temperatures throughout the house. You may find the room your chinchilla is in needs more or less AC compared to the rest of the house. (It’s also important to remember in the winter months to not position the cafe near a heater vent or radiator. They can easily overheat next to a heat source even if the rest of the house is much colder.)
Humidity can also be an aggravating factor when it comes to maintaining your chinchilla’s body temperature. If you live in an area that has very hot and very humid summers, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier to help keep the humidity under control. The dehumidifier combined with your AC will help keep your chinchilla comfortable and healthy.
Air Conditioning Versus Fans
Many people think that fans will be enough to keep their pet cool. What works for humans does not work for chinchillas. Fans only circulate air, they do not lower the temperature of the air. For humans, we sweat and fans help the sweat evaporate from our skin, which lowers our body temperature. For chinchillas, since they do not sweat, a fan just makes the air move but does nothing to cool their bodies. The only option to keep your chinchilla cool, comfortable, and healthy is to use an air conditioner to maintain an air temperature in the safe range for chinchillas: 60F – 70F.
Other Tips to Keep Your Chin Cool
Before playtime in the summer months, lower the temperature in their room by a few degrees to prevent overheating from the extra activity. Consider scheduling playtime in the morning or evening hours when the outside temperature is cooler.
Never transport your chinchilla in a vehicle without an air conditioner. Never leave them in a car unattended.
Never use an exercise ball for your chinchilla. They will overheat within minutes in such a small space. Their playtime should be in a chin-proofed room or a playpen.
Cage Accessories to Cool Your Chinchilla
Chin Chiller Granite Stone
Whenever people ask me about how to keep a chinchilla cool, the chin chiller is always the first product I recommend. This is one of the most well known and cleverly named products available for chinchillas. It’s a very straightforward product: a slab of naturally cooling granite stone cut to the perfect size for your pet chinchilla. It’s great to use in your chin’s cage or offer in their play area as a cool respite (it’s also a great option to offer to other small pets like rabbits and rats). Granite naturally maintains a temperature below room temp but can be made even cooler by placing it in the refrigerator or freezer. They’re easy to clean, either by spot cleaning or soaking to disinfect as a part of a regular cage cleaning.
At 6″ x 10″, it’s the perfect size to fit on many cage shelves. I recommend buying a couple of them. I like to keep some in the freezer and rotate them in the cage throughout hot summer months. Even in an air-conditioned room, my chin appreciates laying on something cool, especially after play time.
Another fantastic cooling option for your chinchilla’s cage is metal shelves. These are light weight, easy to clean and dissinfect, while doing a double duty in your pet’s cage. They provide a shelve to jump, perch, and sleep on, while also provided a cool surface to help keep your chinchilla’s body temperature down.
These shelves are custom made by Tiffany’s Chinchillas and come complete with hardware to bolt the shelf safely to the cage wall with wing nuts. A big pro of these metal shelves is that your chin can’t chew them up and they’re easier to clean and disinfect if your pet pees on them. One or two in your cage will give a nice cool place for your chin to nap on warm afternoons.
While this terracotta hideout can’t be mounted in your chinchilla’s cage, its a great option to give them a cool a hideway on the floor of their cage. It also works well as a floor toy to give them a break from the heat during play time. Shaped like a tube, your chin can run through it, hop on top of it, and snuggle up or sprawl out inside of it for nap time.
Terracotta is easy to clean and disinfect. It also has the same effect as granite since it stays cooler than room temperature. I don’t recommend freezing terracotta since it can crack and break at extreme temperatures, but an hour or two in the fridge shouldn’t harm it. This is also a good chew-proof alternative if your chinchilla keeps destroying all of their hideouts.
If you’re looking for a budget option to help your chinchilla stay cool, terracotta flower pots work as well as the hideout. You may even have some stacked somewhere in your garage, or you can pick some up for a reasonable price at your local garden center or home improvement store. I would recommend buying a pot large enough that your chinchilla can fit inside the pot or sleep on top of it when turned upside down. The drip trays that come with the pots also work well as a little bed for your chin to cool off on. I would recommend something 9″ or larger for a single adult chinchilla.
If you’re reusing a pot found around your house or purchased at a secondhand store, make sure to clean it thoroughly and disinfect it so you won’t pass any bacteria on to your pet chin. Again, don’t free terracotta since it is a little fragile, but feel free to put it in the fridge to lower its temperature even more.
Keeping Your Chinchilla Cool in Emergencies
Even if you’ve done everything you can to create the perfect indoor habitat for your pet chinchilla, there may be situations outside of your control where you can’t control the temperature. During summer heat waves, it’s extremely common for there to be power outages and brownouts or for an AC unit to suddenly die. There are some ways to help your chinchilla stay cool until your air conditioner is working again.
Provide Cool Surfaces to Lounge On – An ice pack wrapped in fleece, a granite slab like the Chin Chiller, or a metal pan or shelf can help lower your chinchilla’s body temperature. Put the marble or metal in the freezer to make it extra cool. Some chinchilla owners will always keep a chin chiller in the freezer in case there is an emergency, or just to offer in their pet’s cage during summer months.
Cover All Windows with Heavy Fabric or Energy Efficient Curtains – Keep the existing cool air in and the hot air and sunlight out by covering the windows.
Relocate Your Chinchilla to a Cooler Area of the House – If you have a basement that is significantly cooler than the room your chin’s cage is in, it might be worth it to temporarily relocate them in their cage or a playpen until the AC issue is resolved. Make sure you’re monitoring your pet if you’re moving them to an environment that isn’t chin-proofed.
Limit Activity – If your AC is out, playtime can wait. You should not take your chinchilla out of their cage to exercise or play, and it may be a good idea to temporarily remove your chinchilla’s wheel to encourage them to chill out and not raise their body temperature.
Chinchilla Heat Stroke Symptoms
One of the most important reasons to know how to keep a chinchilla cool is to prevent heatstroke. If your chinchilla gets too hot while playing or because the temperature in the room is above 70F, it can be very dangerous. If your chinchilla gets heatstroke they can die. You should learn to recognize the symptoms of both overheating and heat stroke and be able to prevent it (by using the tips given previously in the article) and also treat it.
Signs of an Overheating Chinchilla
If you see these symptoms in your chinchilla, that means they are overheating:
Lying sprawled out on their side
You may see these symptoms after your chinchilla has run around for their out of cage time. If you see any of these signs of overheating, you must act immediately to lower your pet’s body temperature. If they’re not already in an air-conditioned room, they must be taken to one immediately. Provide cool surfaces for them to lie on or lean against (like a frozen water bottle covered in fleece or a granite tile). You can even take your chinchilla and hold them in front of your open refrigerator to help cool down their body temperature rapidly.
These solutions should be utilized until your chinchilla’s ears are no longer red and their breathing calms. If your chinchilla seems to be overheating frequently during playtime, lower the temperature in their room and provide some cool surfaces for them to utilize when their body temperature gets too high.
Signs of Chinchilla Heat Stroke
Extremely low energy or lethargy
Difficult or innability to walk or stand
Plus the symptoms described for overheating
If your chinchilla is suffering from heat stroke, it is an emergency. You must bring their body temperature down immediately.
Find a container or bowl large enough to fit your chinchilla. Fill the container with cool water (do not use cold water, ice, or water that has been kept in the refrigerator. Water that is too cold can actually send your chinchilla into shock).
Holding your chinchilla gently, but firmly, submerge them in the water. Keep their head above the water level so they can breathe. It should take 16-20 minutes to bring their temperature back to normal levels, keep them submerged the whole time.
When your chinchilla has cooled down, remove them from the water and dry their fur thoroughly with a towel (do not use a blow dryer, it will just overheat your chinchilla again).
If your chinchilla is willing, offer them some cool water to drink.
Now that your chinchilla is cool, take them to an exotics veterinarian immediately for an examination. This is an emergency. If you cannot take your chinchilla to a vet (the only valid excuse would be if there is not an exotics vet within driving distance of your home), take your chinchilla to a cool area of your home with a temperature under 70F. Make sure there are no drafts or breezes in this area. Observe your chinchilla closely, but do not disturb them too much so they can rest.
Chinchillas love to chew. Their teeth are constantly growing, which drives their urge to chew everything in sight. Because of this, you should provide healthy chewing options for your pet chinchilla. One of the best options for chew toys and cage accessories is wood. Unfortunately, many kinds of wood are toxic to chinchillas, so you should only provide chinchilla safe wood. Because chinchillas love to chew so much, you should try to prevent their access to any wood that isn’t safe, including furniture and other items you don’t want to them to chew on.
We’ve compiled two lists, one of chinchilla safe wood and another of other safe natural materials to make chinchilla toys out of. These come from consulting various online sources, exotic vets, and longtime chinchilla owners. If a wood or material is not on one of these lists, assume it is toxic to chinchillas until you’re able to research it further.
Chinchilla Safe Wood
When giving your chinchilla wood, you want to try and take a few other precautions as well. Make sure any wood you provide came from organic and pesticide-free trees, and it should be untreated, without glue or paint. Before the wood can be given to a chin, make sure it’s been cleaned and baked (either by you or whoever you purchased it from).
Arbutus (Strawberry Wood)
Black Currant, Red Currant, Gooseberry
Elm & Red Elm
Grape & Grapevine
Ocotillo (from the desert)
Pine (oven baked or kiln dried only)
Willow (goat, weeping, or pussy willow)
Other Safe Materials for Chinchilla Toys
Cardboard (monitor you chin to make sure they’re not eating it)
Loofah (unbleached only)
Pine Cones (cleaned and baked only)
Unsafe Wood and Other Materials
Any wood on this list should not be given to chinchillas.
Chinchillas, like any pet that lives in a cage, need their home to be cleaned regularly. This helps them remain healthy and happy while also reducing odors and mess in the cage (and the room the cage is in). This important part of chinchilla care needs to be done on a daily (tidying) and weekly (deep clean) basis, using safe cleaning supplies.
In this article, we break down all the things you need to clean a chinchilla cage and what you need to do to create a clean home for them.
How to Clean a Chinchilla Cage
For spot cleanings, you can probably do those while your chins are in the cage, but for deep cleanings and the weekly cleaning, it will be easier to take them out for playtime and then clean the cage. (Note: If you are removing shelves or other structures from the inside of the cage, you must remove your chins from the cage and not let them have access to it again until everything is back in place. Chinchillas memorize the layout of their cages and will often leap without looking to make sure their favorite ledge is there. This can lead to injury.)
Before you start cleaning, you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary supplies to safely clean your chinchilla’s cage.
Chinchilla Safe Cleaning Supplies
Paper towels and clean rags are good for wiping and cleaning the inside of the cages and other surfaces. For deep cleaning, you may want to buy a scrub brush.
As far as cleaning chemicals go, you want to avoid any commercial cleaners and use one of the following:
White vinegar mixed with warm water (50/50 mixture, or 30/70 if you find the smell of vinegar overpowering)
Bleach and water (1 part bleach, 10 parts water)
Note: if you are using bleach, you want to make sure to rinse the items several times to remove any residue.
The vinegar or bleach solutions can be mixed in a spray bottle for spot treatments, or used to soak shelves, toys, etc. in a sink or bucket. DO NOT use vinegar and bleach together. They will create a toxic mixture. Use one or the other, NOT BOTH.
I would also recommend having a small dust pan and brush on hand to easily clean up hay and droppings from small ledges and corners in the cage. You may also want to buy a bottle brush set to make it easier to clean your chinchilla’s water bottle.
Daily Chinchilla Cage Cleaning
This is a light cleaning to remove any messes and make sure food and water dishes are clean.
This weekly cleaning is to make sure your chinchilla’s cage is in tip top shape and remove dirty bedding.
Wash water bottle and food dish with your choice of cleaning fluid.
Dump litter pan or sweep out waste tray. Wash with cleaning fluid. Replace with fresh bedding or litter.
Sand down or soak any shelves, houses, or toys as needed.
Note: if you have more than one chinchilla in a cage, you may need to change out the bedding or litter pan more frequently than once a week.
Deep Cleaning a Chinchilla Cage
Every few months you should give the cage a deep clean to remove any grime and germs, and also replace cage shelves and accessories as need. Everything in the cage should come out and be soaked in your preferred cleaning fluid, then rinsed in clean water. (Remember, if you’re using bleach, everything needs to be rinsed multiple times before you return it to the cage.) The inside of the cage, including the cage bars, should be wiped down with your cleaning fluid and then again with a clean damp rag to remove any residue.
Shelves, toys, and other wooden accessories that are excessively dirty or chewed should be replaced.
Your chinchilla should not be in the cage while you are deep cleaning it. Removing or relocating items from the cage will stress out the chinchilla and they may injure themselves. Take them out to play in another area, like a chinchilla playpen, and only return them to the cage when all items have been replaced and are dry. If you need to dry the items more quickly, set them out in the sun.
Chinchillas are unique in that they bathe in a way that is very different from other pets. Because of their dense fur, a chinchilla cannot get wet. If they do get wet, their fur would clump and mat and not be able to dry thoroughly. Because of this, chinchillas should never be given a traditional bath with water.
Chinchillas mostly groom themselves by using what is called a dust bath. To give a chinchilla dust bath, you just need to put chinchilla dust or sand in a pan or dust bath house and let your chinchilla go to town. They will roll around in the dust, which will absorb any oils on their hair. Generally, they only need a dust bath 1-3 times a week, though you can increase the amount in humid weather and decrease during dry winter weather. Too much dust can dry out a chinchilla’s skin.
Offering a dust bath is not only an important part of caring for chinchillas but watching a chinchilla take a dust bath is also super fun. They roll around and shake their bodies like they’re having the best time. Check out this cutie enjoying a messy chinchilla sand bath [source]:
If you’re getting set up with chinchilla supplies for the first time, here are some recommended chinchilla dust and bath houses and pans.
Chinchilla Dust Bath
You should always use store-bought chinchilla dust or sand for bathing your pet. It’s specifically made for chinchillas to bathe in. Do not use dust or sand made for other types of exotic animals or pets. Do not use decorative or playground sand. (Many people will refer to it as “chinchilla sand bath” when really the texture of a good chinchilla bath dust is much finer.)
In the wild, chinchillas roll around in volcanic ash and dirt in the Andes mountains to clean their fur. For pet chinchillas, a good quality dust bath is made from ground natural volcanic minerals, known commonly as pumice or aluminum silicate. You want to look for a dust that has no additives or “filler” materials that may stick to your chinchilla’s fur or scratch their skin. Do not use scented bath dust because it can cause respiratory problems for your pet chinchilla.
Chinchilla dust is easy to buy at most pet stores or to order online. Here are some recommended brands to consider.
Oxbow Blue Cloud Chinchilla Dust Bath
Made by the trusted exotic pet brand Oxbow, this chinchilla sand is a great option for your pet. This bath dust is made from all natural, 100% pumice stone, which makes it a perfect option for your pet chinchilla (and also a great option for degus, hamsters, and gerbils). Blue Cloud dust is the prefered type of dust for most chinchilla breeders and long time owners.
Oxbow uses a sustainable collection process for their dust, meaning there is no strip mining, explosives, or tunneling used. That also means you can feel good about using this product.
Your chinchilla will happily roll around and bathe themselves every time you offer Blue Cloud chinchilla dust.
This chinchilla sand bath from Lixit is another sustainable option. It is mined from the Blue Beauty Mine in Southern California and made from a fine aluminum silicate powder. The texture is so fine that it easily shakes out of your chinchilla’s fur.
Though it is not Blue Cloud dust like the Oxbow brand, many long time chinchilla pet owners use it and say the quality is good. So if you are not particular about using Blue Cloud dust, this is a great option for your chin.
This jar contains 3 lbs of chinchilla dust and a scoop.
Kaytee is a very common brand found in national pet stores and they make a good quality chinchilla dust. Their dust is made from pure ground pumice, but some chinchilla owners feel the quality is not as good as Blue Cloud dust. Others think it works just fine, especially for a cheaper price and the ease of buying it.
The jar contains 2.5 lbs of dust.
Note: Kaytee also sells a bath SAND in many pet stores. You should never buy the bath sand for your chinchilla. Always get the chinchilla dust which will have a very fine texture.
Quality Cage Crafters is a small business specializing in exotic pet supplies. They’re based in Idaho, USA, which is also where their chinchilla dust comes from. This pumice dust is mined locally to create a fine, unprocessed dust that is safe for chins to use.
They sell is in a variety of sizes so if you enjoy it you can really stock up!
For a dust bath, you can use many different types of containers. The main thing you want to look out for is that the container is stable and cannot tip over. Dust bath houses are good and will help contain some of the dust mess. You can also use glass and crock containers that are large enough for your chinchilla to fit in and roll around.
Here are some suggested dust bath containers that owners use for their chinchilla care:
Kaytee Chinchilla Dust Bath House
This cute dust bath house from Kaytee is a great option for your chinchilla. The house is fully enclosed except for an opening on the front for your chinchilla to hop in and out. It helps contain the dust so your chinchilla won’t make a big mess.
The bath house is made out of a sturdy plastic and comes in a variety of bright colors. There are also two hooks on the back so you can attach it to the side of your chin’s cage while they’re using it (but do not leave it in the cage when bath time is over!).
Dimensions: 9-Inch long, 9-1/4-inch wide, 8-1/2-inch high
Check out a video of this chinchilla dust bath house in use.
This unique design from Lixit allows your chinchilla to have their bath in a pod-like tub. The removeable lid helps to keep the dust contained so your chin makes less of a mess. Both peices are made of sturdy plastic and easily come apart for cleaning and storage.
Your chinchilla can easily groom itself in this bathhouse while looking like a chin traveling from the future!
If you’re sick of the bath dust mess and how much your chinchilla likes to chew on plastic dust bath houses, here is a fantastic alternative! Chinovations handmakes these wooden dust bath houses made of chinchilla-safe kiln-dried pine. The real cleverness is in the design–when you lift up the list it reveals a “foyer” that separates the dust area from the entrance. The design helps reduce the amount of dust mess your chin makes. Keep an eye on your chin and the dust level through the “window.”
A great budget option that you can find at any petstore is a plastic litter pan. These are usually sold in the cat section and come in a variety of sizes and colors. The sides are higher than most crocks or pans, but since it has an open top dust will still go flying when your chin rolls around in it. If mess is a concern for you, try one of the bath houses listed above instead.
Because you can get them in so many sizes, this is a great option for households with multiple chinchillas who want to bathe at the same time. The jumbo size has room for everyone.
If your chin is a prolific chewer, this metal dust bath is an excellent alternative to plastic houses. Handmade by Quality Cage Crafters, this dust bath is an all metal pan that is easy to clean and completely chew proof. At four inches deep, it does a really good job of keeping most of the dust contained while giving your chin plenty of room to roll around.
You can also buy it as a bundle with their excellent chinchilla dust.
There are a lot of pros to using a vase, terrarium, or glass fishbowl for your chinchilla dust bath. The glass is heavy so it’s hard for the chinchilla to tip it over. Since it’s made of glass, that also means your chin won’t be able to chew it up. It also looks cool on display and when they use it.
The angle cut on this bowl makes it great for chinchillas because they can easily hop in and out and there are still high enough walls to keep most of the dust contained. Make sure to get a glass container that is large enough for your chinchilla to roll around in. There are plenty of glass terrariums and fishbowls available online or at home and garden stores.
Watch a video where a chinchilla uses a glass vase for their dust bath.
This is an easy option that you may already have available in your house (though I would recommend making sure you have one that is dedicated solely to chinchilla bath time). Baking dishes, especially pie pans, are great to use for a chinchilla bath. They are deep enough to hold enough dust for bathing and are easy to hop in and out of.
Not only is a baking dish affordable, but they’re easy to clean. You can just dump out the dust and toss the pan in the dishwasher. Metal pans and glass pans are both great options for chinchillas. Note: glass pans are heavier which makes it harder for chinchillas to accidentally tip them over and spill the chinchilla dust everywhere.
One to three times a week, take your preferred dust container or bath house and add about an inch of clean bath sand or dust. You can offer this to your chinchilla during exercise time outside the cage or inside their cage. Evenings are recommended as the best time for grooming because this is when chinchillas are most active.
Leave the dust bath available to your chinchilla for 5-10 minutes. This will give them enough time to roll around in the dust. Make sure you remove the container and clean up any excess dust when they’re done. If you give the chinchilla unlimited access to their bath they may overuse it, sleep in the container, or even use it as a litter box.
As long as the dust is clean and not clumpy, you can reuse it for multiple baths. Make sure to scoop out any poops that may be deposited in there before offering it to your chinchilla.
If you have more than one chinchilla, they can bathe together. You’ll want to get a bigger bath pan for them, like a litter box or a baking sheet. Watching multiple chins groom together is 100x as fun. Check out this cute tutorial video to see an example: