A Short Guide on Keeping a Chinchilla
Chinchillas are fluffy, soft, pretty, adorable, and not that easy to keep. Here are some basics you should know before buying a little ball of fur.
These are the cages made by my husband for our two chinchillas. The pet might be small (average weight is about one pound), but it needs a lot of space. A good cage should contain everything your pet needs: a wheel, a hammock, several levels of shelves, a hayloft, a small wooden house, a feeder, a drinking bowl, chalk, salt, and toys to chew on. If you buy something for the house, avoid plastics. Opt for wood: The beast will smash it but at least it will not be poisoned by it.
The pallet should be covered with sawdust. Opt for sawdust from the broad-leave trees as conifer smells strong and your chinchilla might not like it. We clean the cages every other week but that’s just because we’re lazy assholes. It’s better to do it once a week.
You will also need a carrier to pick your pet up from the store or take it to the doctor.
Chinchillas eat special food. Our Squirrel (she) and Mouse (he) love Vitakraft, but you will have to experiment with brands to find out what fits your pet the best. In addition to main meals, your pet should always have hay in the hayloft, as it makes up half of the chinchilla's diet.
Chinchillas love to chew on things, so if you manage to find, cut, wash, and dry branches of apple, pear, hazel, or black currant for your beast, it will be grateful.
Chalk and salt are needed so that your rodent can grind its teeth.
Water is poured into a drinking bowl, which is attached outside the cage at the height of the animal, stretched out on its hind legs (it will be necessary to train the animal, where the water is, perhaps for the first few days, the water should be poured into an open bowl inside the cage). Ask the breeder or the pet store adviser if the animal is accustomed to drinking from drinking bowls. It is better to buy a glass drinking bowl as chinchillas can bite through plastic ones and the whole cunning design of the rodent drinking bowl breaks down.
When it comes to treats, once a day, we give our chinchillas a small piece of dry apple, rose hips, dried carrots, dried peppers, green tea, currant leaves, or flaxseeds. All treats are given in tiny portions and at the beginning of your acquaintance - to tame the beast, so that it associates the delicious foods with you.
Letting your pet free from the cage is essential if you want your chinchilla to become your friend and not just a pet living next to you. I would recommend limiting the pasture space to one room, which must be prepared in advance. If you think that you will save valuable things by putting them on a meter-high shelf, I have to disappoint you. Chinchillas jump high and swiftly.
The first pastures should take place under your careful supervision. This will help you understand where your beast jumps, what it gnaws, what needs to be removed, what furniture to put out if you like it too much and don’t want it to be destroyed. Chinchillas try to piss on one spot but their boluses (shit) will be everywhere. Don’t be afraid, they are solid and don’t smell. If the beast is persistent in its desire to destroy your apartment - throw dried twigs on the floor - they will distract your chinchilla for a while.
Chinchillas also love to wash in the sand. You will have to buy fine sand and a special bath. If you don't want all your room or apartment to be covered with sand, put the bath in a cage. In this case, however, you will have to change the sand quite often as your chinchilla will most likely make a toilet out of it.
Diseases and other complications
The pets are fearful and sometimes cry in their sleep. This is a heart-rending squeak, full of horror. All you can do with it is come up and scratch your chinchilla behind the ear. Both our chinchillas used to cry at night when they were small.
Chinchillas develop corns on their heels. It is almost useless to treat it (although we tried with sea buckthorn oil and ointments), however, it can be prevented. Choose a cage with wooden shelves and insert a hammock. You will need a variety of textures in the cage. In our case, the shelves in the Squirrel cage are upholstered with halves of thick hazel branches, which creates tuberosity on the surfaces.
Chinchillas’ teeth are constantly growing. This is the problem that our Squirrel has. The teeth grow inside the jaw and it hurts the pet so much that it stops eating itself. All these twigs and chalks might prevent the problem from happening. Unfortunately, they don't always help. Keep an eye on the level of water and food in the feeder to know what and how much your pet has eaten. Also, monitor the consistency of boluses. If their texture, color, or size has changed, call the doctor.
If the animal needs to be caught, the easiest way is to throw a weightless rag over it and grab the bundle. Our Squirrel was tamed as we have been feeding it with a help of a syringe for almost two years now and she firmly associates us with food. In general, chinchillas do not like hands very much. If you need to catch the beast, it is best to take it at the base of the tail (head down). YouTube immediately gives out hundreds of videos on the topic “how to tame a chinchilla.” Check them out in your spare time, maybe some methods will suit you.
Chinchillas are rodents and chew on everything. The room in which you will release your monster should be wireless. You shouldn't feed chinchillas with human food either. Furniture will be gnawed - just accept it. The same applies to baseboards, wallpaper, and linoleum if small sharp teeth and stubborn thin fingers of your chinchilla can catch on to them somewhere. Our Squirrel has once ruined my laptop by pissing on it, so take care of your gadgets.