Make sure your chinchilla is able to behave normally
Things you should do
- Make sure your chinchillas can access all the things that they need (plenty of exercise space to jump and run, safe hiding and resting places, a dust bath, water and food).
- Be aware that chinchillas sleep for long periods during the day and prefer not to be disturbed or handled at these times.
- Provide your chinchillas with safe wooden toys to play with and chew, and regular opportunities to interact with other friendly chinchillas that they get on with, or people.
- Make sure your chinchillas have opportunities to exercise every day to stay fit and healthy.
- Make sure your chinchillas have constant access to a nest box filled with hay bedding where they can go to rest and sleep. In addition, provide hiding places where they can go to get away from companions or escape if they feel afraid.
- If you have more than one chinchilla (see Company), ensure there are enough nest boxes and hiding places so they have at least one each, and provide at least one box that is large enough for them all to rest together if they choose.
- Be observant. If your chinchilla’s behaviour changes or he/she shows regular signs of stress or fear, seek advice from a vet or clinical animal behaviourist.
- Be quiet and gentle around your chinchillas. Never shout at or punish your chinchillas, they are very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous or scared. If your chinchilla’s behaviour becomes an ongoing problem, seek expert advice.
- If you do have to handle your chinchillas, do it close to the ground, and away from shelves or other furniture that they may try to jump onto, risking injuring themselves.
- Chinchillas are active and feed mainly at night and will spend most of the day sleeping. Chinchillas need 12 hours of darkness per night and undisturbed rest during the day.
- Chinchillas are sociable and need to be housed with one or more other friendly chinchillas (see Company).
- Chinchillas can learn to enjoy the company of people they know and being petted, but tend to not enjoy being handled and will often struggle when picked up. Chinchillas are more likely to be sociable at night.
- Chinchillas have very sensitive hearing and are easily startled by loud or sudden, unfamiliar noises.
- Chinchillas are curious and will use their mouths to explore and chew items in their environment.
- Chinchillas are active animals and need regular opportunities to exercise.
- Chinchillas must be able to avoid things that scare them. Chinchillas are a prey species and must be able to hide in a secure place, away from the sight and smell of predators (e.g. dogs, cats and ferrets).
- If a chinchilla changes his/her behaviour, he/she could be distressed, bored, ill or injured.
- The way a chinchilla behaves will depend on his/her age, personality and past experiences.
- Chinchillas that are frightened or in pain may change their behaviour or develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression or hiding.
- Signs that a chinchilla may be suffering from stress or fear can include vocalising (barking or whistling), hiding, chewing of their own or another chinchillas’ fur, altered feeding or toileting habits, over-drinking or playing with the water bottle, reluctance to move, or repetitive movements such as racing back and forth on the bottom of the cage.
- If patches of fur come away when handling a chinchilla it means he/she is stressed.