Chinchilla Care Sheet
Chinchillas can live for 8-10 years and are not solitary animals. They should be kept in pairs. Pairs of opposite sexes need to be neutered or, if of opposite sexes they need to be neutered or spayed before being put together. Daily handling is recommended to prevent them from being afraid and more likely to bite. This is best done from a young age to help insure they don’t revert to biting. Once the animal is older it is less likely to break them of fear from handling. Also chinchillas are prone to a safety mechanism called fur slip. This happens when they are grabbed and only part of their skin or tail is grabbed. You can be left standing with your pets fur or tail. This is yet another reason to handle your pet daily to prevent the flight response and loss of its fur or tail.
Healthy animals have bright eyes, spirited curiosity and carry their curled tail high. They are very active, acrobatic and vocal animals that require a lot of space (6.6×6.6x 3.3ft ideal) Large multi-level cages with lots of hiding spaces are optimal (4-5inch diameter PCV pipes/elbows work great). Substrate of paper shavings or a bedding like carefresh are ideal (wood shavings predispose pets to upper respiratory infections). Some chinchillas will use large wheels and enjoy games of foraging with small treats. They are nocturnal unless handled a lot and over 70% of their eating and activity is done at night.
To keep their coat healthy daily dust baths are ideal. However limiting baths to 15-30 min a day is essential to prevent some health problems. If daily baths aren’t possible at least several times a week may be acceptable. DO NOT use beach or playground sand. It is safer to use commercial dust baths made for chinchillas. A shallow inch deep pan with about 2-3 cm deep of dust is ideal. Remove the pan after the allotted time to prevent your pet from dirtying up the dust and prevent other health issues.
Their teeth grow continuously their entire life so diet is extremely important. They should be fed ad lib hay (timothy is best, alfalfa is ok) with only 1-2 tablespoons a day of commercial chinchilla pelleted diets. Limit treats to less than 1 teaspoon a day. (NO FRUIT, CEREAL, NUTS or any sugary food) Acceptable treats are dark leafy greens and veggies. Fresh clean water should be available at all times (they can be taught to drink out of drip water bottles).
Even though they are a little rodent they suffer from many of the same diseases humans and other animals do. From heart disease, cancer, dental disease, arthritis to renal disease and bladder stones these guys can get very sick. A sick chinchilla may not eat, be lethargic, have a dull coat, discharge around eyes (keeps eyes closed or they are red), and may have feces around their rump area. Handling may also be easier since a sick pet may just not seem to care anymore. Below is a short list of some of the more common problems you can encounter when you own these cute furry pets.
1. Teeth issues: This can occur from improper diet causing abnormal wear of their teeth, or even abscessed teeth. May also be a genetic issue that they were prone too from their family. It is important to have their teeth checked regularly to hopefully catch problems early. Many times dentals can be done regularly to prevent future eating problems.
2. Constipation/diarrhea: Normal stool should be plentiful, odorless, and the size of a large, plump, soft grain of rice. Normal colors are black or dark brown. Constipated pets will strain to defecate. The stool will be short and hard sometimes with blood present. Diarrhea is the opposite problem, the stool will be watery, and sometimes include mucus. Both of these can be signs of a more serious problem such as bloat, infection, parasites, improper diet, and teeth issues.
3. Heatstroke: Chinchillas do well at temperatures between 65-80 degrees Farenheight. A good rule of thumb is to add the ambient temperature to the percentage of humidity. If this is over 150 degrees your pet is in danger of heatstroke.
For example if it is 75 degrees and the humidity is at 65% (75+65 = 140) then the pet should be ok at this temperature. It is also not recommended that their cage be placed by a window or any place that can cause the temperature to rise without your knowledge.
4. Fur-Ring: This is only a common problem in male chinchillas, basically a buildup around the penis occurs and the pet shows with problems urinating, excessive grooming, and or the inability to pull their penis back into their body. It is recommended that males be checked 4x a year by a veterinarian.
5. Conjunctivitis: This is when the pet has red eyes, keeps their eyes closed, or has discharge from their eyes. This can be a sign of systemic disease or an allergy from excessive dust bathing, or type of dust. See a veterinarian if your pet develops this and they can discuss prevention and treatment.
Chinchillas make great pets when handled often and regularly. Hopefully with this information and regular vet care your pet will be a part of your family for many years.
Feel Free to call us at
Cumberland Animal Hospital
1775 Pamalee Dr.
Fayetteville, NC 28301
(910) 822-3337 and schedule an appointment.