Chinchilla Pet Guide 101
Here you will find information on What Chinchillas Are, Need To Know Facts,Basic Requirements,Important Warnings, Personal Recommendations and Much Much More!
PHOTOS: The pictures Shown above are my 3 gorgeous Male Chinchillas. The chinchilla on top to the furthest left is my Black/Ebony Male "King Kong", to the right of him is his partner in crime a White Mosaic Male named "Coconut" , and last but certainly not least, is our newest addition found to the furthest right of them; the wholy terror of them all, our standard grey... "Baby Snuggles".
What Is A Chinchilla & Where Do They Come From?
A Chinchilla/Chin is a squirrel like rodent native to the mountains of South America and is widely raised in captivity for its soft dense fur. Pet stores/breeders normally charge $99 and up for one, and although they can be found in various colors, the most commonly found color is the Standard Grey. In addition to the Standard Grey being the most common color of the breed it is also considered to be the healthiest also.
Chinchillas as Pets:
As with any animal, research is crucial prior to purchasing one of these adorable creatures.
Their average lifespan is 10-15 years on average, although they can live 20+ years
A chinchilla is also a very delicate/fragile pet and must be handled with extreme care...this is one of the reasons they are not recommended for small/younger children.
Chinchillas are nocturnal(sleep during the day and are active at night)-For most people this poses difficulty to give them the proper attention, because most people on average sleep during the night.
Chinchillas "Cast" fur (throw fur from their body) when they become startled/frightened
Chinchillas can make numerous sounds with the most common being "Hacking"(sound of aggression), "Barking" (sound of unfamilarness...Ex: First time hearing a vacuum), and an "OOoo Monkey-like call" (sound of loneliness/companionship) being the most common of them.
Chinchillas are unsuseptable to fleas and ticks due to their thick fur being dense.
Chinchillas DO NOT have the ability to sweat due to their thick dense fur, therefore they are unable to lower their own body temperature and are prone to heat exhaustion.
Some Chinchillas DO NOT like to be held and cuddled while others do. Each is just as unique as any human being...with each having it's own likes and dislikes.A prime example of likes and dislikes is how one Chinchilla will love "Scritches"/rubs under the chin; whereas another Chinchilla may not even like to make his/her presence known unless you have a treat readily available for him/her.
With proper knowledge,handling and care- they can quickly become a healthy loved member of any family!
Requirements and Things to be Aware of:
First, Find out prior to purchasing one of these animals wheter or not you have an exotic vet in your area. An Exotic vet may not only be difficult to find, but can also be very expensive should you ever need their services. Most dog/cat vets WILL NOT treat a chinchilla (not because they don't want to...but because they know little/nothing about chinchillas and their common ailments).
Secondly, you need to be aware that they DO require fairly cool temperatures (they are originally from the cool Andes Mountains). I have even read where anything above 70 degrees farenheit will kill them due to heat exhaustion;so for this reason an air-conditioning unit or having central air will more than likely be a necessity in order to maintain temperatures below this. I maintain a room temperature of no higher than 70F for my chinchillas by using airconditioning,and at times a fan(never aimed directly at them) to circulate the air, and they are perfectly happy.
Thirdly, they require a large cage away from direct sunlight with ample room/ledges (with ledges being no further than 6 inches apart) for jumping to and fro along with a house/box for hiding (chinchillas like to sleep up high away from predators and overcast shadows--so make sure to place their house accordingly). The smallest cage recommendations that I have read in various books state for 1 chinchilla the minimum acceptable size is 30" x 18" x 24", however I personally feel larger is definately better! The best cages for chinchillas are normally ferret/parrot cages since they are usually quite tall. Avoid any cage that has a wired bottom because their feet are very small and likely to get caught in the wire causing amputation/breaks. Ferret cages work best!
Fourthly and most important of all, Chinchillas should ALWAYS HAVE READILY AVAILABLE Fresh FILTERED Water, Fresh Pelleted Food (pellets only-none with treats mixed in such as raisins) and Fresh Hay (preferably 2nd cut Timothy Hay) available to them AT ALL TIMES! In addition to the above requirements they also need to be provided with a DUST BATH (absolutely no water for them what-so-ever!) filled with aprox. 2 inches of CHINCHILLA DUST at least once a week. Below I have taken the time to list my personal recommendations on various Chinchilla products & items that will make taking care of your Chinchilla easier.
A WARNING TO HEED:
1. Chinchillas are from the rodent family..so they will Definately chew/destroy anything they can get their tiny paws & mouth on! This includes plastic cage bottoms, water bottles, food dishes, walls, plugs..etc.
2. Homemade cages are great as long as you do research on safe materials to use with Chinchillas. Many woods are toxic to these furry little critters.
3. Critter Balls or any product that "locks" animals in and rolls when the animal moves are most definately dangerous despite what the package or pet stores may tell you because:
A) they have inadequate air-flow and can cause heat exhaustion/suffocation
B) for the fact that many animals DO NOT have "flexible" spines/backs that allow for this type of movement (animal has to arch like a backward C in order to move) and when forced can cause trauma to your beloved pet
C) Pet can escape EX: ball falls off bed or down stairs and comes open at seams and pet can escape or become injured if he lives through the accident
A FEW SAFE MATERIALS TO USE IN YOUR CHINCHILLA'S ENCLOSURE:
galvanized metal (chew proof)
terra cotta planters (provide great cooling spot for warmer days/also good for hiding in)
showerboards (great for backs and sides of cage due to being waterproof and wipeable - can be found at local hardware stores such as home depot and lowes).
Woods that are Chinchilla safe: Apple, Arbutus, Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Cholla (a form of cactus), Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Hawthorn, Larch, Magnolia, Manzanita, Mulberry, Pine (kiln dried or baked), Pear, Pecan, Poplar, Sequoia (Redwood), Willow
PRODUCTS I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND:
1. CAGE - You'll want one that is tall, normally most ferret cages work due to there height.
Ferret Nation Model 141 is a single cage with storage shelf and wheels.This cage is large and roomy, heavy duty construction, wheels for mobility, secure locking doors should help prevent younger children from opening without your knowledge, and also easy to clean. The model 141 (single unit) Dimensions are 36in L x 25in W x 38in H
Ferret Nation model number 142 is a 2 story cage with storage shelf and wheels (excellent cage for single - multiple chins). This cage is very large and roomy, heavy duty construction, wheels for mobility, secure locking doors should help prevent younger children from opening without your knowledge, and also easy to clean. The model 142 (double unit) Dimensions are: 36in L x 25in W x 62in H.
The model 143 (add-On expansion) Dimensions are: 36in L x 25in W x 24in H
**The only downside I see with this cage is the low lipped lining that doesn't contain litter...however, if you fasten a urine gaurd or some 3"-4" KD Pine using fenderwashers and galvanized screws that will solve the problem. You can also order galvanized stainless steel pans from Bass Equipment (Ferret Pans/Chinchilla Pans...FP1/FP2 if you have the ferret nation).
WATER BOTTLE - I recommend Lixits Glass Water Bottles with Stainless steel ball dispension and Glavanized hanging Bracket. The large versions which are sold as Large Bird/Parrot water bottles can be hung inside/outside of the cage, are pet indestructable, dishwasher safe, and can be filled with small ice cubes/crushed ice for the warmer days. Chins can easily use these to drink from!
FOOD & BOWL - you will want a food with PELLETS ONLY. Most pet stores will try to sell you food with raisins and banana chips in it...this is not a safe chinchilla diet by no means!!!
I highly recommend using MAZURI Chinchilla Diet. I use a stainless steel feeding bowl with a bolt clamp on holder (lasts a lifetime, easy to disinfect & fill). Some label them as Clamp-On Coop Bowls.
HAY & APPROPRIATE HANGAR-
For Fresh/Loose Hay I highly recommend using Meadow or Timothy hay and stuffing it into a hay rack. This keeps the hay off the floor and from urine and feces from getting into/on it.
BunnyBale's Metal Bunny Bale feeder kit is a great choice because it is galvanized, chew proof, the box slides out for easy refilling, and the slanted casing keeps your pet from using their hay rack as a litter box. Also it does not have sharp edges which can cut your pet and holds a massive amount of hay which reduces the need for daily refilling.
You can also use a large galvanized bowl (like the ones you see in welping boxes for puppies that are large in diameter and shallow in depth. To date wal-mart carries them in their dog food aisle by the canned dog foods. Placement and availability may vary by store).
Another Option is Compressed Cubed Hay. You can get this VERY affordably from Tractor Supply Company and most feed feed stores.
Drill a hole through the center and "string" it through a hangar (Galvanized wire/chain attached to a lanyard hook or pear link) or Place in a bowl (Terra cotta planter bases work nicely).
A great ebayer that sells affordable fresh pet hay is fmrdave. I have purchased hay & apple thin sticks numerous times from him and my chinchillas absolutely love his products!
DUST BATH & DUST - Chinchillas should also have a dust bath/fairly deep open bowl filled with chinchilla dust(volcanic ash) available to them at least once every week. You can purchase special bath houses for chinchillas that can be filled with dust for their bathing purpose. Absolutely no water and soap for your chin...DUST only- the finer the grain the better!
A non-chewable dust bath could be a glass jar (think pickle jar size, or goldfish bowl size). I've recently converted over to this from my former superpet dust bath house. I'm using Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill 1-Gal Jars from Wal-mart & have found them easier to clean, refill, & have even found less dust scattering.
I normally need to change my dust every 3 days along with cage...however I do have 3 wonderful chinchillas.
Reyerson's has a great online store (ryersonchinchilla.com) to get dust and food in bulk if you don't have a feed store that stocks chinchilla feed and dust in bulk qty. (Of course where you purchase your supplies for the best value solely depends on where you live...especially when it comes to shipping and handling fees...so be sure to look around first). Blue Cloud & Sparkle are 2 of the best dust brands available for chinchillas.
LITTER PAN - I also recommend purchasing a rabbit/ferret litter pan for your chin. They can be taught to use it to urinate in. All You need to do is put the wet litter where they last urinated into the litter pan... and within a few days most chins will goto the litter pan when they have to pee. Chins are similar to rabbits and guinea pigs when it comes to feces. They leave numerous firm small pellet sized droppings EVERYWHERE.
I highly recommend Teresa's (Ebay: lotsofchinchillathings) Corner Metal Litter Pan. These things ARE tall , but wonderful because they are the only chew proof one on the market to date.
LITTER - If you want the best for allergies, I advise using Fleece. To find directions on how to make reverse stitched liners check ChinNation, where they even have a video of how to do the "hidden" whip stitch. If your not a sewer and don't want to spend the money to get them sewn then simply wash the fleece first, then cut it to the size of the bottom of your cage.
Another choice is Carefresh Ultra because it is dust and allergy free (as is Carefresh Natural, Carefresh Colors, Carefresh Confetti). I've used this product for years with no negative effects, but I have read where others had chins that ate this product and became impacted due to the product expanding in order to absorb any moisture/wetness. As of April 24, 2010 the cheapest places I have found for Carefresh Natural 60ltr are PetfoodDirect (FreeShip70) = $13.39 per bag & Petco (Free Shipping on $60)= $15.65 per bag.
If you want the cheapest, Kiln Dried Pine bedding can be used and found in VERY large bags at Walmart & Kmart for under $6.00 in their pet aisles (this bag is the aprox. equivalent of a large garbage bag when uncompressed). .
LEDGES - Chins love leaping to and fro and ledges make this possible. SuperPet makes Leap-n-Ledge & Sleep-n-Ledge, but you can also make your own using Untreated Pine wood, Sand paper, Large Fender Washers,Wood Screws, and a ScrewDriver.
1. cut Pine to appropriate shape/size (ie. square, round, oblong, etc).
2. Sand it until smooth
3. Align ledge inside the cage against the bars (have someone hold it if possible)
4. Align Fender Washer to outside of cage behind the ledge's edge & attach with wood screw through the center of the fender washer.
SHELTER/SLEEP HOUSE - Chins love feeling secure, and due to the predators where they originate they like to have something over there head normally when they go to sleep to feel safe.
Recently, I have found various people making ones that are fleece which include a nice comfy fleece "pillow". I have since done away with the SuperPet Waffle Ones which were plastic & now strictly use the fleece ones.
I refrain from wooden houses because once they urinate on it and you're unable to do much about it (cleaning wise that is, besides using vinegar and sanding it down).
EXERCISE - Flying Saucer wheel standard size is hands down the best, I have 3 chinchillas and all 3 love to run and spin on their wheels! The wheel along with animation of it in motion can be found at qualitycage.com for $75.00 plus S&H as of April 24, 2010.
This wheel is very expensive, however should last a lifetime in contrast to the ones that the pet stores sell that can easily be chewed and entrap your pets limbs.
I've already had mine for over 6 years and would say it was the best investment for the chins thus far.
It's measurements are 9in. H x 13 & 3/ in. in diameter
TO KEEP CHINCHILLA'S COOL - you can use a SuperPet Chin-Chiller Granite Cooling Stone (can even stick them in the freezer/deep freezer to have handy in emergencies), Terra Cotta Planter, and when the power's out I've even used small flat lock n lock containers filled with icecubes followed by battery operated dog crate fans.
EASY CLEANING - A dust pan with brush and a wastebasket are very useful when it comes time for cage cleaning when your cage doesn't have a slide out pan, Also Unscented Baby Wipes are great for fast wiping and freshening up your animals enclosure!
I also recommend the Swiffer Dusters to dust over the cages & any walls or any furniture that is in close proximity to the chinchilla's enclosure. The Swiffer Dusters attract dust, rather than just spreading it around and allowing it to fall onto the floor...and the kit with the long handle allows you to clean just about anywhere you can think of...including the bars on the cage! You'd truly be amazed how far the dust scatters from these lil' buggers.
On further note, If you have a fan, airconditioner, or vent in their room be prepared to clean it routinely from dust and fur (ie. filters/blades)!
Chinchillas have a fondness for cheerios, mini unfrosted shredded wheats, banana chips, Super Pet Critter Cones, and apple branches...amongst other things, but any treat must be given in moderation. As for raisins, the debate continues to go on as to whether or not raisins are harmful so I advise to simply avoid them rather than risk you chins health.
Most treats=sugar...which to a chinchilla can be lethal because:
A) a chinchilla can become diabetic &
B) Snacks can cause diarhhea- which can also become deadly very quickly. And you definately don't want that!
Just remember- Less is best when feeding treats :)
As for toys, you will want to provide stimulation for your pet. Chew toys are best since not only do they provide stimulation, but also they serve the purpose of keeping your chins teeth maintained since their teeth continue to grow throughout their life. Toys are also extremely useful in reducing stress and preventing medical conditions such as fur biting. Below you will find a few types of toys that will provide an excellent source of entertainment/stimulation for your pet.
* Pumice stones/blocks are great for gnawing and mineral blocks.
* Wooden chew toys hung on galvanized wire are great for playtime as long as the wood/dyes are safe. Vegetable dyes and food coloring are both safe & non-toxic to pets.
* Birdie Bagels are cardboard like rings that are sold for birds, but are also greatly appreciated by chinchillas as they love to tear the cardboard layers apart.
* Cardboard toilet paper rolls and paper towel cardboard rolls left over once the paper has been completely used are also great for chins as long as the paper has been completely removed from it- You can also stuff these with a handful of hay for added stimulation.
* You can make your own tunnels like I do using a can and the Kuhn Rikon Slim Safety LidLifter. The Safety LidLifter will remove the top and the bottom of the can leaving the edges smooth so they won't cut your pet.
If you want to "hang" the can or affix it to the cage simply drill a hole in the side and put a fender washer on the bottom and top of the hole. Next insert a bolt through the "inside" of the can and finish the top threaded part of the bolt a wingnut to attach. OR you can purchase one from places such as fuzzieskingdom. I've found Bulk Food Cans and Coffee Cans to be of more than ideal size. The one's I currently use are about 6" in diameter just to give you an idea.
You can purchase the above types of tunnels from various places, in addition to being able to purchase fleece to cover it for a more cozy feel. I simply prefer to use the bare tunnel, no need to constantly remove, less to wash and I simply vacuum it out with each cage change and then wipe them down with a unscented baby wipe.
* Super Pet Roll N' chew is great for rolling about and nibbling (actually a large majority of the SuperPet brand items are great for chins)
* OPEN Wheels are great for exercise, but do not get one with spokes or wire-they can cause injuries/fatalities. I use and highly recommend Flying Saucer Wheels. They're quiet, chew-proof and easy to wipe down. I will warn you..they are pricey, but they are a good invest considering they will last a lifetime compared to squeaky plastic ones that will need to be replaced as they are devoured.
* Another widely known way to entertain your chin when your unable to spend quality time with them is by leaving a tv on for him/her to watch with the cartoon channel on. They love to actually watch tv at night! Avoid spookers due to the high pitch sound and screams...this will definately scare your chinchilla.
About PLAYTIME (out of the cage):
Chins love to be out running about(about 25-30 minutes a day will be enough to wear out the little bugger)-bathrooms are usually a good place..just be sure to chin proof the area first. Check to make sure plugs/wires are up and be prepared for anything that they can reach to be chewed upon. Supervision is the key to playtime!
Take the time to talk to your chinchilla. He/she is highly intelligent and will learn to recognize his/her name and even some simple commands such as the meaning of No as long as its not over-used. They even learn to come to the sound of a boxful of raisins being shook. Hint: Shaking a box of raisins to get your chin to come back to you when playtime is over is a great re-capture technique...just make sure you follow through by giving him/her a raisin immed. upon capture...this reinforces that coming to you when the box is shook is a good thing.
To summarize...chins need attention, monitoring , commitment and love. If you feel you can not freely provide this..I definately wouldn't recommend purchasing a chinchilla.Hopefully this review will provide you with some of the information you were looking for and will serve as a helpful resource on Chins.
Last, But Definately Not Least...HOW TO SELECT A HEALTHY CHINCHILLA!
When selecting a chinchilla as a pet the first thing you want to do is spend as much time watching them in their enclosure. You should be watching to make sure the animal is eating & drinking, moving around without any difficulties, and emitting firm/formed cylinder shaped pellets.
The next thing you will want to pay attention to is the chinchillas coat/fur. The coat/fur should be fairly even and "dry" without any missing "patches" or "bald spots" (unless the animal hasn't had proper access to dusting, then it is possible for the animal to have a somewhat "greasy" appearance to its coat).
After looking over its quality and condition of coat, you'll want to check over the animals eyes. The eyes should be shiny and clear without any sign of irritation or discharge emitting from them.
After checking the eyes you'll want to move on to doing a general look over, checking for things such as lacerations or abrasions...improper meeting of the bones...etc.
Once you have completed the above, in addition to the general look over...your almost in the home stretch. The last thing you will want to check is the chinchillas teeth, I have to warn you in that most are definately NOT keen to a dental exam, this is why I have left this step for last. The top two teeth should be obviously longer than the bottom two, in addition to meeting evenly. The bottom two teeth should be short in comparison to the tops and also meet at the same point. Healthy teeth should be a yellow to orange tinge in color and should have no signs of looseness, cracking, or decay.
Chinchillas can often be "standoffish" at first, but normally with time to adjust will slowly begin to come around. In bonding with a chinchilla, your goal is to earn THEIR trust! But you also need to be fully aware that each chinchilla is similar to a human in that they each have their own unique personalities (ie. grouchy, friendly, high strung, lazy, shy, skiddish, etc.).
If you have any questions, are unsure if something is Chinchilla safe, etc please feel free to contact me through Ebay and I'll do my best to assist you.
Have a Great Day! :o)