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Chinchilla care

 

Yogi (TOV Ebony, Color Champion)

  

Caring for your Pet Chinchilla

Chinchilla Cages: 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 24" x 24" x 18" as this allows a single chinchilla some running room. Two-story cages and larger are always 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 ½" x ½" wire on the bottom and 1" x ½" 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 1" x ½". Also, if you have babies, it is best to have them in a single story cage with no shelves or wheel as they can fall or be injured by a jumping/running adult.

 

Matisse (White Mosaic)

 

Blizzard (white ebony)

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. Do not use cedar shavings as they can be toxic to chinchillas. If you choose a wire mesh bottom cage, the size of the mesh is extremely extremely important. The mesh bottom of the cage should be no larger than ½" x ½". 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 a 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 harbor bacteria). Chinchillas can develop sores on their feet from the continued direct contact with the wire.

Chinchilla Wheels: When choosing a wheel, do not select a wire mesh wheel or hamster wheel. Many chinchillas have had legs amputated and been killed when caught in these wheels. Choose a wheel that is solid all the way around.

 

Chessie (Dark Tan)

 

Cadbury  (dark tan)

Chinchilla Toys.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. It is important that chinchillas have adequate items to chew as their teeth continually grow. We often supply wood blocks, hanging toys, pumice blocks, booda bones, etc. If you use any wood in the cage, be sure to change it often as wood can harbor fungus and bacteria.

Be sure your chinchilla has a little hideaway house so s/he can have somewhere to go when s/he needs to feel safe. They do truly enjoy their houses and often feel comfortable lying on their sides or backs totally relaxed.

Water Bottles. Many good water bottles are available. Heavy glass water bottles are nice because they can be sterilized in the dishwasher, but be sure the drinking tubes are very heavy glass so the chinchilla does not bite through them. There are also many varieties of plastic water bottles from Lixit and Nivek which also work well. Be sure 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 has worked very well. Also, be sure the water bottle is securely fastened to the cage as the chinchillas enjoy unhooking the wires that hold it to the cage. Change the water daily as a constant supply of fresh water is vital to a chinchilla's health.

Food Dishes: We like to use stoneware crocks that sit on the bottom of the cage. This allows us to monitor the food intake to be sure the chinchillas are eating well. Although, sometimes the chinchillas will soil the dishes and the food, they can be easily washed and refilled. We tend to use different size crocks depending on the number and age of the chinchillas in the cage. Crocks that are 4" and 5" tend to work well. There are also metal feeders which hook onto the side of the cage. However, with these, the chinchillas tend to pull out the food and it scatters over the cage bottom.

 

Piper (White Violet TOV)

Food. A good diet is so important to chinchilla health. We recommend feeding your chinchilla twice per day (morning and evening). Chinchillas enjoy a routine and look forward to being fed at the same time each day. We have used Mazuri pellets and occasionally mix in a bit of calf manna "enhancer" just for a bit of variety. We use 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons of Mazuri pellets per chinchilla per day. Our chinchillas have maintained excellent health on this diet. We offer Timothy Hay, alfalfa hay  and alfalfa cubes. If we use loose Timothy hay, we offer it in the morning and evening . It is good for their digestion and keeps things moving. You can’t give a chinchilla too much fresh hay. Always be sure that any food, timothy hay or alfalfa you use is fresh, free of mold, mildew and toxic weeds. If your chinchilla eats "bad" hay, diarrhea often results. This can sometimes lead to intestinal problems which, if untreated, can lead to an untimely death to your pet.

Treats: We all love to spoil our animals, but do not give your chinchilla too many treats. We usually give ours a tiny piece of dried whole wheat toast or a little piece of plain shredded wheat cereal in the morning when we feed them. We will give one of the following in the evening (usually after their dinnertime): a raisin, a craisin, a dried banana chip, a tiny piece of dried guava, an unsalted sunflower seed.. Too many treats, especially raisins can cause diarrhea. Some chinchillas can tolerate a raisin per day just fine, but others cannot and it is reflected in their droppings. Be careful in giving a chinchilla nuts.  They have an inability to digest large amounts of oil and this can lead to an untimely death.  Some chinchillas do not do well on fruit or nut treats at all and in cases like this, the wheat toast makes a nice treat.

Pregnant/lactating females: We usually supplement their diet with a small amount of calf manna "enhancer" and sometimes an 1/8 tsp. yogurt as a treat. Our chinchillas tend to favor the strawberry, banana or mixed berry yogurt flavors, and usually make a terrible face the first time we offer it. However, after we put a tiny dab on their mouth, it ceases to be repulsive. Yogurt also works well to help restore the intestinal fauna in your chinchilla.   .

DO NOT give baby chinchillas calf manna or nuts.  DO NOT give baby chinchillas treats until after they are 4 months old. And even then, do it gradually. Their digestive systems are not developed well enough and the treats can cause diarrhea. A baby chinchilla with diarrhea is not fun for the baby, the mom, its siblings or for you to clean up. Many times, we’ve had a mom push her messy baby to the cage door at feeding time and look at us as if to say, "Here, you clean him up this time."

Water: Chinchillas need access to fresh water at all times. It is important to change their water daily and keep the water bottles clean so as not to breed bacteria.

 

Joshua (Medium Tan)

Dust Bathing: We offer our chinchillas a dust bath daily or every other day as time permits. They love to bathe and their coats look wonderful. We put 1/8 to ¼ cup of dust in a container and put it in the chinchilla’s cage and then watch as they frolic. You can use many types of containers from Pyrex bakers to Tupperware. Our favorites are the chinchilla bath houses because they contains the dust well. The best type 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. We remove the dust bath after 3 or 4 minutes otherwise the chinchilla will soil the dust with droppings or urine.

Heat: Chinchillas generally will not survive temperatures over 75 degrees for extended periods. They can become very stressed even at 70 degrees if humidity is high.  If kept over 80 degrees, chinchillas can suffer heat stroke and die. Please be aware of this in the summer months. Keep your chinchilla in a cool place, being careful to avoid drafts. It is important to have good exchange of air in the room.

Exercise: It is important for chinchillas to have exercise. A safely constructed wheel (not wire) in your chinchilla’s cage provides both entertainment and exercise. A wheel (if your chinchilla enjoys using it) also helps to keep your chinchilla from becoming overweight and lethargic. If you have a spare room, a closet or a bathroom that you can "baby proof," your chinchilla would love the opportunity 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. We usually take a few chinchilla toys (toilet paper rolls, PVC pipe tubes, wood blocks, Whiffle 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, s/he wears himself out and then goes right to sleep when you put him/her back in the cage.