Chinchilla behaviour

Behaviour logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010


Ensure your chinchilla can behave normally 


Chinchilla stepping off shelf ©Burgess Pet Care2010 Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Work

Chinchillas need: 

  • To reach everything they require (e.g. space to jump/run, safe hiding/resting places, dust bath, water/food).
  • To sleep undisturbed for long periods during daytime. They're more likely to be sociable, and feed, mainly at night where they need 12 hours of darkness.
  • Safe wooden toys to play with/chew and regular opportunities to interact with friendly chinchillas/people. Chinchillas are sociable; needing housing with one/more friendly chinchillas (see Company). Chinchillas can learn to enjoy being with familiar people and being petted, but tend not to enjoy being handled often struggling when picked up. They¿re curious using their mouths to explore/chew items around them.
  • Opportunities to exercise daily to stay fit and healthy. They¿re active animals needing regular exercise.
  • Constant access to hay-filled nest boxes to rest/sleep.
  • Hiding places to get away from companions/escape if they feel afraid. Chinchillas must be able to avoid things that scare them. They¿re a prey species so must be able to hide in secure places, away from sights/smells of predators (e.g. dogs/cats/ferrets).
  • Enough nest boxes/hiding places for at least one each and at least one large enough for all to rest together.
  • You to be observant. If their behaviour changes/shows regular signs of stress/fear, seek advice from a vet/clinical animal behaviourist -they could be distressed/bored/injured. Chinchilla¿s behaviour depends on age/personality/past experiences. Chinchillas that are frightened/in pain may change their behaviour/develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression/hiding. Signs chinchillas may be suffering from stress/fear can include vocalising (barking/whistling)/hiding/chewing their own or another chinchillas¿ fur/altered feeding or toileting habits/over-drinking or playing with the water bottle/reluctance to move/repetitive movements e.g. racing back and forth on the bottom of the cage.
  • Kindness! Be quiet/gentle. Never shout at/punish chinchillas, they¿re very unlikely to understand, possibly becoming more nervous/scared. If their behaviour becomes an ongoing problem, seek expert advice. Chinchillas have very sensitive hearing being easily startled by loud/sudden, unfamiliar noises.
  • Consideration. If you handle them, do so close to the ground, away from shelves/furniture they may try jumping onto, risking injury. If patches of fur come away when handling they¿re stressed.
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