Owning a Chinchilla

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Chinchilla Shopping List, Unsafe items and fun facts!

Chinchilla Shopping List

Owning a chinchilla doesn't cost much on a monthly basis to buy food and supplies BUT the start up costs are VERY high. Not to mention if you need a vet, vet costs for chinchillas can get very high, very quick.   It's best not to waste your money on items that pet stores will try to market as being safe for chinchillas.  Most items in pet stores are not safe and even some online stores have items I would NEVER buy or use.  This is a list of everything you would need to buy if you are getting a chinchilla. If you have ANY questions about an items, please feel free to email me [email protected]  EVEN if you aren't adopting a rescue I am always willing to help out with chin owners.


A Metal Cage- A ferret nation is the top choice but it does need to be modified (see: http://owningchinchillas.webs.com/your-chinchillas-cage on how to make a ferret nation cage safe). If not using a Ferret Nation, make sure the cage is all metal with NO ramps. NOTE: the Critter Nation which is very similar to the Ferret Nation is not as strong as the FN. The bars will break with use of wood shelves. The pressure and force a chin puts on the shelves just makes the critter nation bar snap over time. 

Metal Pans for a Ferret Nation can be bought at Sunny Meadows Cages:   http://www.sunnymeadowscages.com/trays.html   or Grandview Rabbitry: http://grandviewrabbitry.com/store/categories.php?category=Trays 

Or Flowertown Chinchillas has the coated pans which are very nice. 

KD Pine Wood Shelves-  If you want to buy these check out Zoey and Lilo's Toy Box but you can make these yourself after buying everything you need at Home Depot, Rona or Lowes http://owningchinchillas.webs.com/resources-how-to-s

Glass Water Bottle- I prefer Lixit bottles as I find the Super Pet and Living World tend to leak. Glass is easier to clean and they can't chew it. Always check that the water bottle is working by touching the ball. 

Metal or Ceramic Food Dish

Fleece Hammock- You can buy this from http://www.zoeyandlilostoybox.com/ or make your own: http://owningchinchillas.webs.com/resources-how-to-s

Fleece Tube  You can buy this or make your own (links above)

Metal Chin Safe Wheel- Don't be fooled by wheels in pet stores.  There are very few wheels that are safe for chins. They are all very expensive but WORTH the cost as they will last a lifetime and all must be purchased online.  Here are links to them:

Quality Cage (my referral link is imbedded)


Flying Saucer

Hidey House- There are unsafe ones with nails at pet stores.  I like to use Fiddlesticks or ones you can make yourself.  They will last a lot longer.  The Woodland Hidey Houses are fine to use but they have LARGE metal staples in the corners you can remove.

Hay Holder- DO NOT use wire hay racks or plastic ones.  I use a fleece bag or a metal hay feeder but most times I just put a handful of hay in the cage.

Chin Chiller- you can go to a home improvement store and get a marble tile as well.

Cuddle Buddy- some chins like to have a fleece toy to cuddle with or if it's a male do "other" things to it.

Fleece Liners- Some people like to use liners, this isn't something you have to use just personal preference. You can make you own or buy them.

Litter Tray- Metal or glass ( a glass pie plate works great)

Aspen or KD pine shavings.  DO NOT USE carefresh, pellet paper, cedar or cat litter. (yes I have seen people use cat litter- BAD IDEA!)  Carefresh can be eaten and cause impaction, cedar is toxic and one of the unsafe woods for chins. 

Fleece for the top of the cage- I find this helps a new chin relax and they like to feel nothing can get them from above!

Perches or Lava Ledges

Chews- Like lava bites, apple twigs, or other safe chews

Toys- http://www.zoeyandlilostoybox.com/ has a great selection

Duster- a glass fish bowl works great

Dust- Blue Cloud was the best but the mine is shut down. I use Lixit or Oxbow dust since I can no longer get a 50lb bag. 

Digital Scale- Monthly weigh ins are a good indication of chin health.  A kitchen scale from Walmart is perfect and is usually under $20

Pellets- Oxbow Essentials or Mazuri are the two most easily found in Canada

Hay- Timothy hay is the staple but you can add orchard grass and other hays. Loose hay is best

Treats- Stay away from pet store treats!  Instead get Rosehips, Cheerios, Uncooked old fashioned oats, plain shredded wheat

Carrier- cat carriers are okay to use BUT metal chin carriers are great for chinchillas: http://www.ryersonchinchilla.com/arc_010.htm

Playpen- you don't have to have one of these but if your chin is a baseboard chewer it's nice to have.  I like the midwest playpen(it's the second one on the page and is white): http://www.midwesthomes4pets.com/category/default.aspx?submenu=2&catid=26

Water Filter- Giardia is something you never want to deal with so you should have a filter for your chins water.  Look on the filters and make sure it's filters Giardia. 

First Aid Kit- this is not necessary and should NEVER take the place of getting to a vet but it's good to have these items on hand for minor issues.  Saline, Simethicone, Blu Kote, Bag Balm, and Tinactin. There are many other items you could have but those few items will cover things such as minor eye issues, gas, small injuries, fungus and dry ears and feet.

Vet that knows chinchillas and money for a vet visit: Make sure you know a vet that is chin savvy.  Ask around and make sure people have had a good visit with that vet.  Many vets do not know chins well and will sometimes treat them like rabbits and guinea pigs.  If your chin is sick you may have to drive far to get them to a chin savvy vet.  A vet visit will cost a lot if needed but you have no choice if your chin is sick.  Even minor issues add up quick.

Unsafe Items

There are MANY items you will find geared towards chinchillas that are NOT safe. MANY items will have a picture of a chinchilla on them but don't be fooled.  Don't waste your money on the items on this list.  They are either not safe for your chin and can cause health issues or an injury!   

This is an igloo that came in with some rescues.  This is why we say NO plastic!  Chinchillas WILL chew!  While some people think that it is fine if chinchillas chew, there have been times when a chinchilla gets an impaction of plastic and needs to be rushed to the vet.  It is a costly trip that could cost a chin it's life.   Buying a wooden house is just so much safer and less expensive in the long run!

Ramps and Ladders or Bridges: are NOT safe for chinchillas.  Chinchillas can hop and jump very fast and one mistep and they can break their leg on a ramp, ladder or bridge. Remove ALL ramps, ladders or bridges from your cage.  If a chinchilla does break it's leg most vets will amputate as its easier to heal.  A very expensive surgery.  

PLASTIC RUNNING BALLS:  These balls are not safe for chins because the chinchilla can over heat in them and die.  As well a chinchilla does not run, they hop and this hinders their natural way of moving around.  Lastly, would you want to be stuck in a ball with your poop and pee falling over your?  

Plastic Igloos and Hidey Houses: Chinchillas chew, and chew a lot.  If you get a plastic item they will chew it down to nothing.  Some chinchillas will injest these pieces causing an impaction.  Why risk your chinchillas health?  Stick with houses made from safe wood!

SNAK SHAKS:These things have nothing but sugar in them and are not a safe items for chinchillas as they can make them very sick. Stick with a wood house!

Pet Store Treats:Don't be fooled by the picture of the chinchilla on them, these treats usually have lots of sugar, seeds, nuts and all sorts of BAD items for you chinchillas. Not to be dramatic but you could kill your chinchilla giving these type of treats.  GI Stasis can kill quick and after eating this your chinchilla system could go into it.  Why risk it?

Wheels from Pet stores: Even if they say it's big enough for a chinchilla or SAFE, don't be fooled.  The only wheels safe for chinchillas are found online. Plastic wheels are not only too small but chinchillas will chew them.  Wire mess wheels will make them lose a toe.  The large wheels with the cross beam can injure a chin as well.  

Wood chews from pet stores: Be careful when buying any wood chew at a pet store.  Many times I've seen wood that is on the UNSAFE list being sold.  It's so expensive to buy wood chews at a petstore so just look to online stores that sell safe chinchilla items. 

This is what typically comes into the Canadian Chinchilla Rescue when a chinchilla is surrendered.  There are many items that are from a Pet Store AND geared towards chinchilla owners and just not safe for chinchillas.  There were a few items that could be used such as the hay and the hay cubes but everything else was thrown out. 

Fast Chinchilla Facts

Chinchillas are NOT nocturnal like many think, they are actually crepuscular.  Meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. 


Chinchillas have so many hairs per follicle they cannot get fleas.


Chinchillas can live 15-20 years


Chinchillas CAN jump as high as 6 feet


There are 3 types of chinchillas in the wild: Langiera, Costina, Brevicaudata and it is thought all domestic chinchillas are a combination of the 3 types.  Some chins have more characteristics from a certain type.


Chinchillas come in a variety of mutations (colours) and there are some sell for thousands of dollars.


Wild chinchillas are endangered and are only found in Chile


Chinchillas can bark, screech, scream, chirp and do many different sounds