Chinchillas - Housing
What type of cage does my pet chinchilla require?
The cage should allow the chinchilla to move around a lot, as they are very active, agile, and acrobatic animals. Multilevel cages, similar to those designed for ferrets, work well, as long as there are no areas where a chinchilla could get its limbs or feet caught. The enclosure should be a minimum of 4' x 4' x 3' for a single chinchilla. Like other rodents, chinchillas love to chew, and therefore wire-mesh cages are preferred to wooden cages. DO NOT use galvanized wire, as it contains zinc, which can be toxic if ingested. To decrease the likelihood of foot trauma (which can cause a condition called pododermatitis or "sore hocks"), many veterinarians recommend covering at least a part of a wire cage floor with Plexiglas, to take some of the pressure (from the wire cage bottom) off of the chinchilla’s feet. Try to let your pet out of the cage with supervision as often as possible. Keep the cage in a quiet area to minimize exposure to sudden movements and noise.
Chinchillas are very susceptible to heat stroke; optimal environmental temperature is 55º - 68ºF (10º - 20ºC) and definitely below 80ºF (27ºC). High humidity should also be avoided.
My pet seems lonely. Can I house more than one chinchilla in each cage?
Most owners house one or two pets in a cage; often the two pets are mates. While chinchillas are social pets that rarely fight, injury and death can occur from fighting, so be sure to monitor any chinchillas exposed to each other for the first time, and consider a gradual introduction at first, perhaps in adjacent cages to start.
"If you plan to house chinchillas together, it is generally best to obtain them together as youngsters."
Care should be taken when introducing a new pet into your resident chinchilla's cage. Supervise all new introductions. If you plan to house chinchillas together, it is generally best to obtain them together as youngsters, when they are more trainable and adaptable.
What can I place in my chinchilla's cage?
Pet-safe wood blocks or non-toxic commercially available branches that are pet safe can be placed in the cage to allow the chinchilla to chew and to help keep its continuously growing teeth worn down. A wooden or cardboard box can be offered for the pet to sleep in, hide in, and play on.
What is dust bathing?
Chinchillas have a unique grooming habit. They require a dust bath for normal grooming. Dust baths help keep down the oil in their coats and help keep them clean. A dust box for bathing should be at least 6" x 6" x 9" and have 2" - 3" of dust in the bottom.
"They require a dust bath for normal grooming."
Dust baths should be provided for 10 - 15 minutes daily and removed after use. The "dust" can be purchased commercially at local pet stores and consists of one part of Fuller's earth and nine parts of silver sand. Since the dust can become soiled with urine and feces, you should change the dust every two to three weeks for hygienic reasons.
What about toys?
You can provide your chinchilla with pet-safe wooden chew toys. The smallest piece of the toy should be too big to be swallowed by the chinchilla. Chinchillas are shy and love to hide. Providing them with 4" - 5" diameter PVC tubing or similar sized cardboard tubing will give your pet hours of entertaining exploration.
Does my pet chinchilla need bedding material in his cage?
Soft, commercially available paper-based bedding is best for chinchillas, as it is gentle on the soles of their feet and absorbs moisture from droppings. This bedding should be spot-cleaned daily and completely replaced weekly. Cage lining material can be placed beneath the wire-mesh bottom of the cage. Newspaper is inexpensive and works well as a cage lining material. Wood shavings that are sold for other animals should not be used, as they are dusty and can irritate the respiratory tract. Wood can also obstruct the chinchilla’s gastrointestinal tract if they ingest it.
Is there anything else I need to know?
Cages should be emptied and cleaned at least weekly with soap and water (rinse well to ensure no soap residue is left). Food bowls and toys also should be cleaned regularly to ensure that they are free of food debris and droppings.
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