A suitable environment for chinchillas
Make sure your chinchilla has a suitable place to live
Things you should do
- Ensure the size and temperature of any place you leave your chinchillas (including your vehicle) is appropriate. Always house your chinchillas indoors as they cannot cope if the weather is too hot, wet, humid or draughty.
- Provide your chinchillas with a secure living environment that is large enough for them to get plenty of exercise. This may be a secure room in your house or a large metal mesh cage. If the floor is mesh there should be plenty of alternative flooring such as solid wood areas provided, as chinchillas can damage their feet if they spend long periods standing on wire mesh.
- Ensure that the housing is well ventilated, dry and draught free, and is not allowed to get too hot. A room temperature of 10-18ºC is ideal, so areas of your house that have central heating may get too hot for chinchillas, especially if it is also very humid.
- Chinchillas need plenty of horizontal and vertical space to run and jump around in. Provide branches or solid platforms at different levels for your chinchillas to rest and jump about on, but avoid uninterrupted heights of more than about 60cm to avoid the risk of injuries.
- Locate your chinchillas' home in an area of the house that is quiet and calm and away from dogs, cats, ferrets and other pets that they may see as a threat.
- Provide wooden, rope, cardboard and pumice toys to chew. Avoid toys made of plastic.
- Provide a shallow tray filled with clean fine sand or 'chinchilla dust' for your chinchillas to bathe in every day. This should be removed or sieved clean after use to prevent the sand getting soiled.
- 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.
- Clean the cage regularly so urine and droppings do not build up. Many chinchilla cages have a tray underneath a mesh floor to collect waste.
- Make sure that where your chinchillas live is safe, secure and free from hazards. If you let your chinchillas out to run freely around the house make sure they are always supervised to ensure they do not harm themselves (e.g. by chewing electrical cables).
- Provide enough bedding to keep your chinchillas warm. Bedding should be safe for your chinchillas to eat, e.g. good quality, dust-free hay.
- If you are going away, try to find someone to care for, and meet all your chinchillas' welfare needs within their familiar home.
- When you transport your chinchillas make sure they are comfortable and safe at all times. Putting familiar smelling items and their chinchilla companion(s) in the carrier and the new environment can help make your chinchillas feel at ease.
- Chinchillas originally come from the high mountainous areas of South America, so they are used to a cool or cold, dry climate where their soft dense fur keeps them warm.
- Living in a draughty, damp, hot, poorly ventilated or dirty environment may cause chinchillas to suffer and become ill.
- Chinchillas are very active and agile and need lots of space to exercise to stay fit and healthy. They like to jump and climb and are more active in the evenings and at night. They sleep for long periods during the day.
- Chinchillas like to gnaw and chew. If chinchillas are bored and do not have enough to do, they may suffer.
- Chinchillas need to have access to a dust bath every day to keep their fur in good condition.
- 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).
- Chinchillas are creatures of habit and prefer a routine. Chinchillas are quite shy and are easily stressed if their home is located where there is a lot of noise or activity.
- Chinchillas are inquisitive. They use their mouths to explore their environment and if there are hazards within their environment they may easily injure themselves.