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Understanding chipmunks

It has been illegal since 2016 to buy or sell chipmunks as pets. If you bought or rescued a pet chipmunk prior to 2016 you can keep them for the rest of their natural life.

A chipmunk's behaviour can be hugely affected by their environment, which in turn affects their health and happiness. When planning a suitable home for your chipmunks, you'll need to ensure they're able to carry out their natural behaviours.

To do this you should give them enough space and decide where best to place food, water, toys and safe hiding places. Keep reading to find out more about how a chipmunk's home affects their well-being.

Chipmunks look for hiding spaces

As a prey species, chipmunks will always want to be able to get away from things that scare them. They'll feel most comfortable with access to a safe hiding place, away from the sight and smell of predators such as foxes, cats, dogs, ferrets and birds of prey.

Chipmunks will feel most safe when there are enough hiding places for them all to hide at the same time, so you should ideally give them one hiding place for every animal, with an extra one so they have some choice.

Chipmunks need their space

Chipmunks are very lively and need plenty of room to exercise and lots of enrichment to keep them occupied - they can get bored if they don't have enough to do.

As avid burrowers, chipmunks like plenty to dig and burrow in at all times. A deep layer of bedding material in their home to burrow and forage in will help keep your chipmunks happy and give them the chance to play and explore.

Chipmunks can 'hibernate'

Although chipmunks don't 'hibernate' in the truest sense of the word, they can enter a lethargic state during the winter. In warm houses, artificial light and temperatures usually stop this behaviour. Chipmunks will hoard food throughout the year but can be driven to hoard extra during the autumn.

Leave your chipmunks alone if they 'hibernate' during the winter, unless you believe they're unwell, of course. Remember, chipmunks can wake during 'hibernation' to feed, so be sure to care for them by always ensuring they have plenty of fresh clean water, fresh food and nesting material. Always remember to check on them regularly.

Signs that your chipmunk is stressed

Chipmunks are highly susceptible to stress - especially if they get bored or don't have enough space. Stressed chipmunks may start to show repetitive behaviours or develop other unwanted behaviours such as aggression or excessive hiding. 

A kind, quiet and gentle approach is most effective around chipmunks. They're very unlikely to understand if you shout at or punish them, and this can cause them to become more nervous and scared.

Monitoring your chipmunk's behaviour

Keep a close eye on your chipmunk's behaviour, and if it changes or they show signs of stress or fear, talk to your vet or clinical animal behaviourist, as it could be a sign that something's not right.

If you're not yet registered yet, find a vet near you today. It's a good idea to look for a vet who specialises in exotic pets and who has experience in treating chipmunks, as they'll be better able to advise on all aspects of their care.

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