Chinchilla care isn’t as hard as it sounds at first, but there are a few steps to follow. I love all types of pets, so I decided to write this guide and explain the best ways to house and care for your chinchilla. Some breeds of chinchillas can live up to 20 years, so getting the right setup when you first start caring for them can help ensure decades of happiness.
#1: Get A Comfortable Cage
The best chinchilla cages have flat, solid bottoms and plenty of space to move around. Chinchillas may hurt themselves on wire floors (or other irregular bases), so avoid them whenever possible.
The cage itself should be no less than 30 x 28 x 20 inches. Experts generally agree that larger pens are better, when possible. Big habitats give chinchillas more room to move around, explore, and customize to their liking. Larger habitats also provide extra space to add accessories and toys. Speaking of, let’s talk about those.
Learn more about how to find the best chinchilla cage.
#2: Buy These Essential Accessories
Chinchillas need many different supplies to thrive in a proper habitat. The good news is that most of them are affordable, and you generally only need to buy them once. Basic accessories include:
- Hideaway: A hideaway is an opaque shelter that your chinchilla can rest in without being observed. Hideaways give chinchillas a feeling of comfort and safety. Try to avoid taking them out of their refuge; if you need them, entice them out with treats instead.
- Water Bottle: This is just as important as food. Ensure you put their water bottle in an easily-accessible area and follow the instructions to keep the water inside pure and fresh.
- Bedding: Bedding gives your chinchilla somewhere soft and comfortable to sleep. Chances are they’ll move it to their preferred sleeping area.
- Ledges: Ledges provide an elevated place for your chinchilla to relax and look at the surrounding area. Wooden ledges have a natural smell, so they’re generally better than plastic platforms.
- Food Dish: A good food dish gives you somewhere to store their food and prevent it from getting spread all over the cage or mixed with droppings.
- Hay Rack: Chinchillas should always have access to plenty of fresh hay. This is a major component of their diet, so allowing them to eat hay freely is much better than trying to schedule meal times.
#3: Put The Habitat In The Right Area
Putting a habitat in the right area is a little trickier than most of our tips. Chinchillas do best when their environment is a steady 60 to 75 degrees, without too many seasonal fluctuations. This can be easier or harder, depending on where you live. You may be able to buy a small heater for the winter, but it’s often easier to regulate your whole house’s temperature.
Chinchillas have poor vision, so they don’t need cages in places with great views. However, they have excellent hearing, so they prefer being in areas that don’t have too many sudden or surprising noises. This means rooms with thick walls tend to be better habitats.
#4: Help Them Meet Their Social Needs
Chinchillas are fundamentally social animals, so they don’t like being alone. Most hamster breeds prefer solo housing, but chinchillas do better in pairs as long as you give them plenty of space. Personalities may vary, but litter-mates tend to get along well with each other.
Remember that chinchillas enjoy gentle cuddling, so be sure you spend some personal time with them.
#5: Let Your Chinchilla Get Used To Their New Home
It’s easy just to drop a chinchilla in their new home and assume they’re fine, but just like people, chinchillas take time to get used to their home. Give them plenty of time to explore, but check the area first. Chinchillas are chewers, so they may damage things unless you take steps to prevent that.
#6: Make Sure You Feed Them A Healthy Diet
Chinchilla diets should include about 20% protein, 5% fat, and 35% bulk fiber. The remaining 40% is somewhat flexible. Healthy diets are essential to a long life, so the better you feed them, the more time you can spend with your pet.
Remember, hay should be the primary component of their diet, and that’s why you should have a bulk hay feeder located somewhere they can easily access.
Learn more about the best chinchilla food.
#7: Give Your Chinchilla Sand Baths
Chinchillas have very thick coats, which help repel water when they’re in the wild. This means that, unlike many animals, they don’t like washing with water and you shouldn’t try that. Instead, give them sand baths several times a week, using special chinchilla sand. Do not use regular sand because that can hurt your pet. Chinchilla-specific products are always safer.
Learn more about how to find the best chinchilla dust.
#8: Handle Your Chinchilla Correctly
Chinchillas are relatively delicate pets, with thin bones. Squeezing or dropping them can hurt them, so handling them correctly is vital. To hold them, grasp them by the base of the tail (never the center or the tip) to lift them up slightly, then hold them by the middle of their bellies to carry them.
Many chinchillas do not like being held, so don’t overdo the handling. Also, make sure to keep them calm and comfortable. They may relax about being held through experience.
#9: Clean Your Chinchilla’s Cage Regularly
Clean your chinchilla’s cage of excess hay, shavings, urine, and feces daily. Clean the bedding and the litter box (more thoroughly) weekly, and give the entire cage a deep cleaning once a month.
Also, check for problems such as blood spots during your daily cleanings.
#10: Let Them Explore Other Areas
Chinchillas have a lot of energy and like exploring, so they prefer getting out of their cage for several hours per day. If possible, let them explore a chinchilla-proof room entirely at their own pace while under your supervision. This type of freedom is extremely healthy for them.
For an in-depth guide to chinchilla-proofing a room, click here.
#11: Make Sure Your Pet Is Happy
Finally, make sure your chinchilla is as happy as possible. Happiness happens when chinchillas get enough food, social interaction, environmental stimulus, and rest. Several signs that can help you determine whether your chinchilla is happy, including:
- Eating and drinking a lot
- Bouncing around when they see you
- Making squeaks or chirps
While personalities vary, chinchillas also love chewing, to the point you may need to find ways to stop that. Giving them treats (for no more than 10% of their diet) and chewable toys can also help them stay happy, peaceful, and content.
Did you enjoy learning these care tips? Chinchillas are great, snuggly pets once they get close to you, and developing a close bond with them is much easier than it seems at first. Following the tips above will help reduce stress, improve playtime, and ensure that your chinchillas have the best possible life.