Chinchillas are not the cheapest animals to take care of, but they sure are interesting pets to have! They have the most curious textures about them. Their fur is so soft it feels like you’re touching a cloud, but their tails feel like toilet brushes. Know why? It’s because their fur is so dense– it keeps the fleas out. But hold that thought! Before I delve into the do’s and don’ts of Chinchilla care, here are the things you will need when you first buy your little friend:
- metal, multiple story cage
- litter box
- chinchilla bedding
- food dish
- water bottle for rodents
- timothy hay holder
- chinchilla pellets and timothy hay
- marble tile
- a house
- a bath house
- dust bath
- a playpen
To house your chinchilla, you will need a multiple-tiered metal cage. No other material is acceptable, since the chinchilla will easily be able to chew through it. Be sure that the bottom floor of the cage is not solid– it needs to be grated or barred so that the chinchilla’s waste can drop into the litter box below it. Here is an example of a proper chinchilla cage. See the black box on the bottom of the cage? It slides right in underneath the barred floor– that’s the chinchilla’s litter box. It’s separate for a reason! The chinchilla should not be able to touch his or her bedding. This is to prevent any possible danger in contact with the litter: allergies, ingestion, irritation, etcetera. It’s also to prevent the chinchilla from sitting in its own waste. Remember, a chinchilla’s fur is dense, so if dirt and waste builds up inside, it can really hurt your furry friend.
That being said, chinchillas cannot have just any bedding. There is a special type; they absolutely cannot have wood-based beddings like cedar shavings, nor can they have scented beddings or cat litter. They can have aspen bedding, but I prefer to use Carefresh, a brand that uses natural, recycled papers. It’s super absorbent, and it controls odor. Whatever you do, make sure the bedding is chinchilla-safe!
Your chinchilla will also need a food dish, preferably one that attaches to the side of the cage on the inside instead of sitting on the ground. The water bottle will also attach to the side of the cage, but on the outside. You can click the link above to see how it will rest on the cage. Since chinchillas are rodents, the food they eat needs to be hard enough to file their teeth. It also cannot contain any corn product, which is detrimental to their health! Their water must be filtered– tap water carries parasites that can harm your pet!
Additionally, chinchillas will need timothy hay, which provides an important part of their daily nutrition. Hay holders are sold in different sizes and shapes– some are box-shaped attach to the sides of the cage like the food dishes, and some are spherical and hang from the top of the cage. Make sure these items are metal. Either way, timothy hay is important– it’s not just a treat. It is part of their daily diet. Finally, check out this site for more info on food, water, hay, and chinchilla treats.
A marble tile is important to keep your chinchilla cool. Since their fur is so dense, they get overheated quite easily, and they are susceptible to heat stroke. Try not to keep the heat too high, and don’t crowd or cuddle them too much! To keep your chinchilla cool in its cage, put the tile in the freezer for a while before placing it in the cage! You don’t have to cool the tile everyday; I mostly do it when it’s warmer than usual. I usually put the tile on the top floor, where my chinchilla likes to hang out. The house I keep on the ground floor, since it’s the largest space in the cage. The house should be large enough for the chinchilla to fit in, and it shouldn’t be made of material that can harm the chinchilla in any way. A standard, plastic house should work well, and you can usually purchase those at any local animal store.
Since a chinchilla’s fur is so thick, they cannot get wet– do not give them baths! Instead, you will need a bath house and dust bath, two things that are completely unique to chinchillas. The dust is used to soften their fur, and it works like shampoo does for people! If you absolutely must use water to clean your chinchilla, make sure you use a damp washcloth. If a chinchilla gets too wet, they can become ill because their fur takes a long time to dry. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic! Instead, use a towel to dry your chinchilla the best you can, and keep an eye on them for a while.
Finally, if you want to buy toys or anything extra for your chinchilla, this site gives you a pretty extensive and safe list! I also highly recommend getting your chinchilla a playpen. Chinchillas are extremely active, and they like to run around, but letting them run around your home unsupervised is a bad idea– chinchillas like to chew things they necessarily shouldn’t, and there’s no telling what trouble your chinchilla might find itself in when they aren’t being watched. They like to chew on electrical wires, furniture, and small things that may be laying on the floor by accident. The playpen is a good idea because it is a large, open space, and it keeps them safe! If you do decide to let your chinchilla roam your home, make sure to make the environment as chinchilla-proof as possible, and always watch them!