What Do They Need?

As pets, chinchillas are relatively easy to care for.  They eat and drink in small amounts, they don’t make much noise, and they’re easy to clean up after.

Koan and Gus 2

 

Basic Chinchilla Supplies

  • A large cage, with at least one shelf.  (Koan & Gus have the Midwest CritterNation one-level unit.  It’s also available as a two-level unit.)
  • A glass water bottle.  It’s chew-proof, easy to clean, and prevents the water from getting contaminated with food or other debris.
  • A small ceramic food bowl.  Ceramic is chew-proof and easy to clean.
  • Safe chew toys, such as pumice stone, wooden toys, willow sticks, apple sticks, etc.
  • Special chinchilla dust for dust baths.
  • Small animal bedding.  This can cover the floor of the cage, or can be confined to a litter pan if you litter train your chin. Ideal bedding is recycled paper, or “Carefresh” type bedding. Do NOT use pine or cedar wood shavings, as these are known to be poisonous to chinchillas.
  • Air conditioning!  Chinchillas overheat easily and need the temperature to be less than 75°F at all times.

Food & Water

  • Water should always be available for your chinchilla.
  • Chinchillas are not prone to over-eating, so food should be available to them at all times.  They will eat when they are hungry.
  • Feed your chin a plain, pellet-only chinchilla food. Chinchillas are picky eaters, and if you buy a mixed chinchilla food (pellets/seeds/treats mixed together), they will pick out the treats and leave the rest.  This can lead to an unhealthy or overweight chinchilla.
  • Chinchillas, like many other small pets, need Timothy hay available on a daily basis.  The high fiber content is good for their digestive tracts, and chewing on it helps wear down their molars.
  • Other types of hay, such as alfalfa hay and orchard hay, can also be given to your chin.  Alfalfa hay should only be given in small amounts, as it is very rich and can lead to health problems if fed too much.

Grooming

  • Chinchillas should have a dust bath about twice a week.  The dust soaks up oils in your chinny’s fur and then falls out, leaving it soft and smooth.
  • Baths can be given more frequently if needed, but should not be available constantly.  Too much bathing can dry out your chinny’s skin and leave him itchy and unhappy!
  • Make sure that you are buying chinchilla dust and NOT chinchilla sand!  Sand can damage your chinny’s fur and will not clean it properly.  Also avoid scented dust, scented chemicals may not be good for your chin.
  • Commercial dust bath houses are available for chinchillas, but any safe box/container will work.
  • Like most rodents, chinchillas’ teeth continue to grow throughout their life.  This means that they need to chew on things all the time in order to wear down their teeth.  Safe chewing materials should always be available to your chin.  Lack of chew toys can cause your chinny’s teeth to become overgrown, which is very painful and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Exercise

  • Chinchillas require large cages with at least one shelf to jump on.
  • A large exercise wheel with a solid floor is a good toy to have in your chinny’s cage.  Keep in mind that these can be loud at night if you are keeping your chinny in your bedroom.
  • Chinchillas should have playtime outside the cage on a regular basis.  Block off a hallway or chinchilla-proof a room (remove any wires that could be chewed, block off any hiding spaces, etc.) and let your chinny run around freely.  This can also be a great bonding time, so have a seat in the play area and let your chinny climb and jump on you!
  • A large run-about ball may be used as an exercise toy, but only with human supervision for short periods of time. It is very easy for chinchillas to overheat inside a run-about ball, so be sure to watch them closely and set a timer for no more than 15 min.
Chinchillas love jumping, so keep that in mind when creating a play area for them!  Chinchillas can jump up to five feet above their head, so make sure that they won’t be able to jump over your barrier and into the next room!