Owning a Chinchilla

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Bringing your Chin Home

Bringing Your Chinchilla Home

  This is an exciting time for you when you first bring you chinchilla home.  Most people are a bit nervous around their chins and aren't sure how to handle them.  I think the biggest worry is getting bit.  Unlike other small critters, chinchillas do not bite for the most part.  I have been bitten one time where it drew  blood by a new rescue. If a chinchilla doesn't want to be bothered they will sometimes give a nip but it doesn't break the skin. Grooming can also be mistaken for a bite.  They will nibble on your hand or arm which can get a tad annoying but they are just cleaning you up.


The best advice I have when you bring your new chin home is to give your chin time to adjust.  Do not drag it out of the cage time and time again to show everyone your new pet.  Let your chin be and let them get used to their new home.  That includes their new cage and the new surroundings.  They won't be used to the noises, smells and people.  Patience is the number one key when bringing home a new chin.  I like to let them be for at least 3 days so they get used to things.  It will be easier if they are used to things before you give them playtime.  


Handling will come with time. Some people don't ever pick up their chins but once your chin is settled in you should be able to handle your chin should you need to.  

Bonding with Your Chinchilla by Pam Snider of Alderbrook Chinchillas

Bonding with your Chinchilla

So, you have everything ready for your new chinchilla and are about to bring him/her home. Be sure everything is set up before hand. The last thing your new chinchilla needs, is to be sensing your stress as you fumble around to get things ready!

When a chinchilla is exposed to a new environment it can be a very stressful period. The best thing to do is leave them alone! A lot of first time owners are eager to hold and interact with the chinchilla, but it needs time to adjust to the new environment.

Most reputable breeders will tell you it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months for a chinchilla to become accustomed to their new environment. Resist the urge to fuss with them. Let them be and go about your daily business so they can get used to the new environment.

Use the chinchilla as your guide as to how quick to move forward. You want everything you do to be a positive experience for the chinchilla.

Spend time in the room, doing basic everyday things, perhaps sit and read. This allows the chinchilla to get used to your scent, your habits and learn that you are not a threat. Start to approach the cage, if the chinchilla shows any sign of stress such as it runs and hides or barks loudly, then backs off, go back to 'ignoring' it. Again, the chinchilla will let you know how fast to progress.

Once the chinchilla no longer runs from your presence, begin to introduce it to your hand. Open the cage door and just set your hand in the opening. Chinchillas are incredibly curious and it will not be able to resist coming out and seeing what you are all about. Continue doing this for the next few days. After some time of doing this and your chin becoming used to it and relaxing he will come over and sniff your hand. Keep it still and let him sniff or groom you. After he seems to relax you can slowly start to move your hand a bit. At first he will probably run away but over time he will become used to you movement and relax.

Once your chin gets comfortable with this he may hop onto your hand. Try not to react. Hold it still and he will do it often. When the chinchilla is sitting fully on your hand, start to lift it up, slowly just a few inches a then just let your hand hover above the floor of the cage. The chinchilla will probably jump off several times, but will eventually start to realize again, that no harm will come to it. Make sure to keep your hand in the cage while you are lifting so if the chinchilla spooks it does not fall to the floor. Once the chinchilla is comfortable with your movement, you can try bringing it to your chest. Remember, chinchillas are prey animals. They are often afraid of anything coming over them, their instinct is to run. As you are lifting the chinchilla out of the cage, the best thing to do is hold it at the base of the tail (nearest the body, not the tip). This will give you a secure hold on the chinchilla should it unexpectedly jump. Once the chin is against your chest talk softly to it. Giving it a small treat will positively re-enforce the experience. If the chinchilla struggles or starts to slip fur, allow it to go back to the cage. You don't want to stress it out. Always keep in mind as well, that most chinchillas are not cuddlers and will not want to be held for any extended period of time.

Once the chinchilla has accepted you and allows you to handle it, you can start to allow the chinchilla free time outside of the cage. Make sure the room you use is completely closed off, all wires and other dangerous chewable materials are blocked off or removed. Do not use a baby gate to block a doorway, a chinchilla can easily jump over it. The best room to use is the bathroom. It's easily shut off, there are usually no electrical cords and very few other dangers. Be SURE to close the lid on the toilet and dry the bathtub. I also recommend putting the plug (stopper) in the bathtub and sink drains so that there is no chance that the chinchillas leg can get caught. If possible, bring the cage to the bathroom, open the lower door and let the chinchilla come out on it's own. The cage will act as a safe house should the chinchilla get spooked. Alternately, if the cage is too awkward to move, or does not fit in the bathroom, transport the chinchilla in the dust container and it then will act as the safe house. Should the chinchilla choose to do something you wish to correct (say start nibbling at the baseboards) I find a sharp clap, followed by a firm no will distract them.

Never chase, hit or otherwise terrorize your chinchilla. Remember, they are a prey animal. You will seem like a big scary predator and they will lose their trust of you. Plus they are much smaller then you, a small smack from you can break bones in a chinchilla. Physical reprimands should never be used. Most chinchillas will return to their safe house once they are done, however for some that could be several hours! So, should you need to return your chinchilla to its cage before it decides it wants to the following methods work best.

1. Put fresh dust in the bathing container, for most it's a chin magnet. Once the chin is inside, pop the container back in the cage.
2. Bribery. Use your chins favorite treat and lure him onto your hand.
3. Curiosity. Use your chinchillas sense of curiosity against them and lure them towards you with an open faced hand. Once they come up to look at what you have, scoop them up!

Remember, the above methods work best with a sense of trust between you and your chin, if there is no trust you won't catch them. NEVER chase the chinchilla. All you will do is further it from you and cause undo stress.

Chinchilla Introductions (Thanks to Alderbrook Chinchillas for this!)

If you are bringing a new chinchilla into your home then you will need to quarantine it by keeping it in a separate cage initially. This will give you time to check that the new chinchilla is healthy and will not pass any infection to your resident chinchilla. A quarantine period of 30 is recommended. Each chinchilla should be kept in a different room for that period of time. You should take precautions to ensure that no germs are passed back and forth by washing your hands in between playing with each chinchilla and by allowing playtime in a separate room or area.

Tried and tested method used to introduce chinchillas

Once quarantine is over keep the chinchillas in the same room but separate cages for approx. 2 weeks - 1 month. Start off with each cage next to the other so that the cages have lots of area exposed to each other, but far enough apart so the chins cannot reach each other - many a chinchilla has lost a toe to a stranger when the cages have been too close! ****As far as I am concerned THIS is the most important step. This is the safest environment for the chins to meet and grow accustomed to each other. Rushing things by not doing this step will ensure a failure.

As they get used to the sight, sound and smell of each other gradually move the cages closer until they are right next to each other and touching. Once they have no reaction to each other after a month or so the next step is to allow play time together.

When the time comes to allow them to meet take them to a neutral area where neither ones scent will be, i.e. an area which neither are familiar with. Allowing them access to baths and toys during the meeting may assist here.

Some dominance sparring, or dominance mounting may take place, but if there is any real violence such as biting or spraying separate them IMMEDIATELY and return them to their cages. In a serious fight chinchillas can do each other real harm! Take this very slowly and allow it for a very short period of time at first only lengthening it once they are interacting peacefully. Be ready to separate at any time there is a conflict.

You should also make the two cages joint territory by switching the chinchillas between cages every few days.

Using the same dust bath should also help. After one chin has bathed pass the bath to the second chin, this way both their scents are in the sand.

NEVER leave them alone together unless you are sure they are ok together.

When they are playing together peacefully outside the cage the next step is to introduce one to the others cage:

Female chinchillas are more territorial than males so it may take longer with females to bond.

If any confrontation occurs then remove the visitor and try again the next day. You don’t want any chasing or fur pulling or biting. If any of this takes place remove them and try again another day.

Introduce them to the same cage at a time when you will be around to keep an eye on them. Mornings are good as they should be less active, and by nightfall you should know whether it is safe to leave them together. Most chinchillas after all this preparation will be fine with each other at first. It usually takes an hour or two before a conflict might break out. If they make it past the first few hours it is a good sign.

Again, never leave them alone together unless you are sure they are ok together.

You can also remove them at night while you are unable to watch them for the first few days.

Other Pets

Letting your chinchilla play with other pets is not a good idea for a lot of reasons. First of all, chinchillas are a prey animal and letting them play with dogs and cats who are predators is not fair for the chinchilla.  Even if the chinchilla appears to be having a grand time, chances are they are stressed and not sure what to do.  EVEN the most laid back cat or dog could easily injure or kill a chinchilla.  

The other thing to worry about if you let your chin around other pets is the transfer of disease or illness.  Things that won't harm the cat, dog, rabbit, etc can be FATAL to a chinchilla.  80% of all rabbits carry Pasteurella which won't harm the rabbit in its dormant form but can be transferred to a chinchilla which is FATAL.

Dogs and cats can pass on  Bordetella, Ringworm, Pinkeye and other diseases that you won't want your chinchilla picking up.

It's just not worth the risk.  Keep your other pets away from your chinchilla.  It's much safer!