What’s adorably fluffy, inquisitively curious, and full of life? That’s right – a chinchilla! These playful cuties entered the pet world almost 100 years ago. If you’re adopting your first-ever chin, his tiny size and sprightly nature might make you think caring for him is a lot of work.
But is it?
Our chinchilla care sheet below has all the details you need to care for your new baby! We’ve got you covered, from what to feed your pet chinchilla to how to keep him entertained.
Chinchillas can live up to 15-20 years as pets. Give them a roomy, multi-level wire cage with sufficient ventilation, dye-free paper bedding, and a temperature between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the humidity below 40-50%, feed them Timothy hay, and help them socialize – that’s their happy life!
Ready to nail your chinchilla parenthood? Check out the details on basic chinchilla care below.
Table of Contents
Step-by-Step Chinchilla Care Guide
Chinchillas, the cloudy balls of fur, are native to the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains in Western South America. There, they live at 9-15 thousand elevations in arid climates and survive for 8-10 years. Pretty resilient for that tiny body, eh?
Does that mean caring for a chinchilla is a walk in the park?
Not exactly! If you’re bringing one (or two) to your home, you must know the basics about caring for these energetic whiskered darlings.
These details will help you better raise your pet chinchilla. Ready to kill it as a chinchilla parent? Let’s find out how to take care of a chinchilla the right way.
#1 Get a Healthy Chinchilla
Are chinchillas easy to take care of?
If you purchase a healthy chinchilla, it’ll be a breeze caring for him. No funky discharge, no creepy bald patches, no recurring dental diseases. Just a happy, healthy, playful munchkin ready to give you some cuddle time.
But what does a healthy chinchilla look like?
Chinchillas are small animals that grow up to 9 to 14 inches long. Their bushy tails reach up to 3-6 inches, which is almost half of their body size. They have large, mouse-like ears, broad heads, and big bright eyes.
Chinchillas are most famous for their dense fur. Each follicle on their fur has 60 hair.
Most chinchillas are silver-gray with a black stripe running down the back, but you can also find them in cinnamon, beige, black velvet, and sapphire blue coats.
This information will help you pick a healthy chinchilla when you hit pet stores.
Here’s a quick checklist of chinchilla characteristics that signal good health:
- A clean, fluffy, and healthy coat with no bald patches
- Bright eyes with no discharge
- Ears that are free from mites
- Teeth that are neither overgrown nor discolored
- No signs of skin infections or wounds
#2 Understand a Chinchilla’s Temperament and Behavior
Chinchillas are curious little critters that love social interaction. They enjoy playing with their owners and other chinchillas of the same sex. Chinchillas even perform acrobatics like somersaults when excited.
But that’s not all. These rodents are pretty communicative. They vocalize through various sounds to express their feelings.
Here’s a table that’ll help you understand each chinchilla sound so you can better tend to your little cutie.
|Low, gentle squeaks||Healthy and happy|
|Continuous, high-pitched chirping||Extremely excited|
|Barking (sounds like a quacking duck)||Feeling territorial and angry|
|Screaming (extremely high-pitched squeaks)||Distressed, scared, in pain|
|Kacking (sounds like sharp coughing)||Angry|
|Alarm Call (sounds like barking in short spurts)||Scared|
|Crying (sounds like screaming)||Scared, in pain|
Apart from making sounds, chinchillas also show their emotions through actions. So, if you want to be a good chinchilla buddy, picking up on their body language is essential.
Here’s a list of what each movement means.
|Nibbling your hand||Showing affection|
|Wall surfing||Super excited|
|Poop throwing||Angry and agitated|
|Biting||Showing dominance, angry|
|Chewing his fur||Health problems|
|Lethargy||Stressed and ill|
Bonus Tip:Female chinchillas are territorial, whereas males are friendly. If you’re a first-time parent, get a boy!
#3 Give Your Chin a Spacious Home
Score some major points with your pet by acing the chinchilla cage setup game. We’ve highlighted two main elements you need to consider when buying your chinchilla’s cage.
Chinchillas are like mini powerhouses, always buzzing with energy. They’re pro jumpers (can leap up to 6 feet!) and even do wall climbing. That’s why tight, packed cages are a total non-starter.
For their pad, you want something tall and roomy. So, look for ones that measure at least 4 x 4 x 3 feet. If you’re getting a bigger crib at a steal price (and you’ve got the space), grab it! It’ll give you enough space for the accessories and decorations.
Tip: A multi-level cage is a chinchilla favorite. It allows them to climb, hide and jump around. Get it! It is a must-have if you own more than two pet chinchillas.
Be very careful when selecting the material for your chinchilla’s cage. Plastic isn’t suitable. If they munch on it, it’ll mess up their tummies big time.
So, should I get a wooden cage, then?
Nope! Wooden cages, unless adequately treated, aren’t safe for chinchillas either. They may contain resins or toxins that can kill your pet. Even if you source the safest wooden cage, it won’t last long as chinchillas are super chewers – that thing will be gone in a flash.
The best material for your chinchilla’s cage is a metal wire with a hard floor surface. It allows air to flow freely and is chew-proof. Plus, you can find these cages easily in pet stores and online. Just make sure the bars aren’t spaced more than 0.5 inches apart so your adorable chinchilla doesn’t get stuck mid-squeeze.
#4 Choose the Right Bedding for Your Chinchilla
Once you have your cage, it’s time to cozy it up. Fill it with 1-2 inches of suitable bedding so your chinchilla can sink in and snooze.
Which bedding material should I go for?
Hay, shredded dye-free paper, cardboard litter, and recycled wood pulp are solid picks. Avoid shavings from aromatic woods like sandalwood, pine, cedar, and eucalyptus. These scents can mess with your little buddy’s lungs. Plus, if they accidentally munch on them, you’re looking at some severe kidney or liver trouble!
#5 Place the Cage in the Right Location
The thick chinchilla fur is built for cold and dry climates, not hot and humid ones. So, make sure you place their cage in a spot away from direct sunlight or any heat sources like radiators.
The temperature in the cage must stay between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5-21.1 degrees Celsius), with a humidity level set at 40-50%.
Chinchillas love their owner’s attention and prefer being around the action. So, find a spot in your home that’s central yet quiet. This will help them get used to the movements without getting too stressed out.
If you have canine or feline buddies, keep them away from your whiskered munchkins. They might think the chinchilla is one of their chew toys or try to chase it.
#6 Fill the Cage With the Right Accessories
You can’t leave your chinchilla’s home empty. It needs some furniture, a few care essentials, and sources of entertainment.
Ready to become your chinchilla’s interior designer? Let’s check out what you need.
A chinchilla cannot even take one step without something to climb on. So, invest in a few shelves and ladders that they can jump around or sleep on. You can also get them hideouts for when they need their alone time. Hammocks make a fantastic addition as well. Make sure you buy something that’s soft and doesn’t irritate your chinchilla’s fur. Fleece is a good option.
Chinchillas love munching on hay, but if you don’t want them to pee on it (and eat it later only to get infected by internal parasites), invest in a hay rack. It’ll keep your chinchilla’s top-favorite food off the floor and in one place.
Water Bottle and Food Bowls
You’ll also need at least two food bowls to serve pellets and treats in. Ceramic bowls are solid picks; they won’t tip over easily. And, of course, a non-drip water bottle with a sipper.
Chinchilla Dust Baths
Chinchillas can get icky because of all the oil secretions. However, the good thing is that just like gerbils, chinchillas love grooming themselves and each other. Give your pet some chinchilla bath dust and let him roll in it a few times a week.
No one likes staying cooped up in the same corner all day long. So, make sure you keep your pet entertained by placing a few toys in his cage. Here are some your pet will love:
- Chew toys
- Exercise wheel
#7 Feed Your Chin Good Food
Well, a worked-up chinchilla is definitely a hungry chinchilla, so you do need to feed him a good hearty meal. But is it challenging? No!
These little guys are easy to feed. They enjoy mealtimes, provided you give them the right food. All you have to be careful about is not overfeeding them. Obesity comes with health risks. Also, avoid giving them too many sweet treats.
If you want to keep your chinchilla healthy, give him a balanced diet. Here’s what it should include:
- Timothy Hay- This makes up 80% of your chinchilla’s diet.
- Chinchilla Pellets – These tiny pellets contain hay, flaxseed, oats, and wheat. 1-2 tablespoons a day of high-quality pellets will do the job.
- Treats – Give your chinchilla small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables as treats now and then. Don’t overdo the treats. Too many greens can trigger bloat and colic in your pet chinchillas.
- Water – Chinchillas need at least 55ml of water per day. They lose water when they breathe out.
Are there foods that are off-limit?
Yep! Foods high in fat shouldn’t make it to the menu. They can cause liver disease. So, no nuts! Other foods to avoid include:
#8 Watch Out for Health Concerns
A well-maintained chinchilla is a healthy one. But you can never be too sure about the health of your pet. So, it’s best to keep an eye out for any signs that might indicate health concerns.
Look out for excessive scratching and nibbling on body parts which could point to fur mites or skin fungi. Abnormal droppings or a sudden change in weight might mean internal parasites. And runny eyes and sneezing could be signs of respiratory infections.
Other health concerns that are common among chinchillas are:
- Heat stroke
- Dental disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
Don’t wait till a major health concern knocks your chinchilla out. Conduct routine health checks to make sure your chinchilla is at his prime.
- Inspect his ears for mites and fleas. If you spot any discharge, it’s a sign of an infection.
- Look at your chinchilla’s eyes; they mustn’t be swollen, watery, or dull.
- Check if your pet is drooling excessively; it indicates dental issues.
- Run your hand gently over the fur to rule out any bald patches and injuries.
#9 Maintain Your Chinchilla’s Cage
Taking care of your chinchilla’s health doesn’t stop at feeding him the right food or spotting illnesses early. You also have to keep his home free of germs and bacteria. If you have ever cleaned a gerbil’s cage, you know how to do one for a chinchilla – it’s pretty much the same.
Here’s a quick overview of a good cage-cleaning schedule:
Spot-clean your chinchilla’s cage daily. It includes removing droppings, soiled hay, and anything else that’s unclean.
When it comes to chinchillas’ bedding material, remember to replace it every two weeks.
Once a month, give the cage a thorough clean: remove all objects from the enclosure and soak them in warm water and mild soap. Rinse everything thoroughly afterward to make sure there are no soapy residues left on the surfaces.
#10 Learn How to Handle a Chinchilla
Chinchillas are social animals that love companionship. So, take out time for your pet pal every day. Give him some snuggles and cuddles, play with him (not too rough!), and let him explore his environment outside the cage.
However, chinchillas are also quick to get scared.Talk to them softly.
Here are some more tips on handling your chinchilla right:
- Let the jumpy guy come to you.
- Never hold your chin by his tail; it’ll stress him out.
- Chinchillas have fragile ribs, so avoid squeezing them too tightly.
- Pick up your chinchilla only when necessary and always with both hands. Place one hand on his chest and another supporting his bottom!
Caring for Pregnant Chinchillas
Housing a male and female chinchilla in the same cage? Oops! You’re probably going to become a grandparent soon!
Okayyyy…what should I do?
Well, first, be sure that your female chinchilla is expecting. Her dense fur can make it hard to tell by just looking at her. So, your best bet is to observe her for the following signs:
- Increased appetite
- Steady weight gain
- Enlarged nipples
- Mood swings
If you still can’t tell for sure, take her to the vet.
Once the pregnancy is confirmed, it’s time for you to play grandma! First things first, separate mommy and daddy chinchillas.
Chinchillas can breed again within 72 hours of giving birth. It isn't healthy for your female. If you have space, we recommend giving her an entirely separate setup. She might not like being around other same-sex chinchillas as well.
Here’s more on what you need to do:
Make Changes to Her Cage
A pregnant chinchilla’s cage can’t have exercise wheels and ladders. It’s too risky for the baby chinchillas.
Also, the cage should have a soft lining and no sharp edges that could harm the newborns. Line her bedding area with towels or blankets to keep your little angel safe from bumps and bruises!
Adjust Her Diet Accordingly
Your pregnant chinchilla needs more calcium than ever. It’ll help her produce milk and keep her bones strong (she’ll need it for the delivery). So, in addition to Timothy’s hay, give her alfalfa hay and top-quality pellets.
Remove Dust Baths Closer to the Due Date
Pregnant chinchillas can groom themselves in dust baths all they want until the final days. Bathing in dust close to the due date can cause vaginal contamination, which can cause further complications.
Caring for Baby Chinchillas
Chinchilla babies, also known as kits, require a little more love. These adorable munchkins only weigh about 35-50 grams, with an average weight gain of 1-2 grams per day. Aw!
If you’re new to this whole caring-for-a-kit act, here are some tips that’ll help:
- Rotate the kits with the mom so that each one can nurse properly.
- Don’t separate the kits from their mom until they are at least eight weeks old.
- Keep the kits warm by either fostering them with another female or placing a heating pad under the cage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Chinchillas Good Pets for Kids?
Chinchillas are fantastic pets for patient pet owners. But because they are quick and agile, young kids might not be able to handle them well. However, if your child enjoys watching their pet from afar, doing somersaults and playful jumps, then a chinchilla could be the perfect pet for them.
Are Chinchillas Difficult to Care For?
Ah, no, they aren’t. If you give them a roomy, well-furnished cage, the right food, and lots of social interaction, chinchillas will happily be your playful buddies for as long as they shall live.
Are Chinchillas Expensive to Care For?
Taking care of a chinchilla won’t break the bank. You need about $25 per month for food, chew toys, dust baths, and treats. You can also buy in bulk to cut down your expense.
Medical expenses can cost between $50 and $300 per year. As for cage maintenance, $150 a year is the max you need to invest.
Embrace the Fluff: A Journey Through Chinchilla Care
Are chinchillas difficult pets? How to care for them the right way?
If you’re getting a new chin, these questions make complete sense. Thanks to our guide on chinchilla care for beginners, we have learned that chinchillas aren’t really hard to care for. All they need is a roomy home with enough ventilation and cool temperatures, a yummy and healthy diet, some fun toys, and a lot of love.
If you want your chinchilla to live his best life with you, understand his temperament and behavior. He’s trying to tell you something in his own way.
Also, keep an eye out for common health issues and take him to the vet when things seem off. Save this chinchilla care sheet so you can refer back to it when needed.
Did you find the information in this article helpful?
At Oddly Cute Pets, we strive to provide you with the latest and most accurate information about chinchilla care. We know how important your furry pal is to you, and we want to make sure they’re happy and healthy for as long as possible.
If you want to learn more about other rodents, check out the related articles on our website. We’re sure you’ll find something useful.
Happy cuddles with your chinchilla!