My name is Debs and I have been blessed with two beautiful Chinchillas, and this guide is my way of being able to share some of the things we have learned along the way, that the books don't tell you!
My husband bought my first one for me, by way of a wedding present. It was a male Albino, just three months old, and being a bit of a graphics design nut, I named him GIF. He soon became such an important member of the family, that whenever my Dad came round to visit, he'd spend most of his time watching GIF bounce off the walls of his cage, or sit there chatting to him, rather than talking to us! Three months after GIF joined our family, Christmas was just around the corner, and my Dad bought my second one for me. He was a three month old Grey Chin', and I named him J-Peg (yes, another graphics extension!)
Now, all the books we read before we got our first one say "don't try and put two male Chinchillas together, as they will constantly fight, and sometimes can result in serious injuries". We had a great relationship with the breeder, and he said that he had kept males together, and as long as they are young enough, they should get on without too much trouble. He did say that if things didn't work out we could take J-Peg back to him, but we would know within a couple of weeks if this was to be the case. Within days of being together, they became almost joined at the hip! They now spend hours preening each other, and even share their dust bath, literally! So, if you are considering two male Chins, firstly get to know your breeder. He/she will know what kind of personalities they have, as they have known them since birth, and try to get them together at an early age. Chichillas are very sociable creatures (and can sometimes breed like rabbits!) and they like company. It doesn't cost any more to keep two, than one, if they are in the same cage, and some evenings they are a darn sight more entertaining than the TV!
After 8 months of keeping our two Chins, we have picked up a few helpful tips to bear in mind if you are considering a Chinchilla.
- When choosing a cage for your Chin, remember that they do like to run around like mad things sometimes, so make sure that the cage is big enough for this. Although they don't grow very big, and may look 'lost' in a larger cage, your Chin will appreciate the space at playtime.
- Also, on the subject of cages, don't get a cage that is mesh at the front and wooden at the back, as they will eat a hole through the wood in no time flat, and you could come home to an empty cage and a Chinchilla happily gnawing through your house! Their are lots of different styles of cage to choose from, so have a hunt around. Ebay is a great place to start, with some great dedicated pet suppliers, and some Chin homes are available as a 'flat pack' which you 'erect' yourself, but the style depends on the space you have available.
- Don't leave the cage too close to a wallpapered wall. If they can reached it, they will rather chew through your decor, than munch on the fancy Chin treats you spent a fortune on!
- Chinchillas love a dust bath, and this should be given about two to three times a week, for about 15 minutes at a time. If they are allowed constant access to their bath, the 'silver sand' can dry their skin out too much, and this will mean a trip to the vets for treatment.
- Only use Chinchilla dust, or Silver Sand as it is known, for their bath. At no time should you ever replace thier bathing dust for regular sand. It will make their skin and eyes sore, and as I mentioned, that will mean a vets trip!
- Do not let them get wet!
- Instead of the expense of a stainless steel bath, which can be quite expensive, you can use a loaf tin, or even a pyrex casserole dish (as long as they can't knock it over). Really, you could use anything that is big enough for your Chin to roll around in, but not something that can be eaten, i.e. plastic dishes. Believe me, if they can chew or eat into it, they will abandon their beloved bath to have a good gnaw instead!!
- Cardboard tubes from kitchen towels or loo rolls make good chewing toys, and the thick cardboard rolls from carpet suppliers are much loved for sleeping in, and they take ages to chew through! Carpet stores will gladly let you have an empty roll, and one length will last you ages.
- Don't get too involved in buying specially made Chinchilla boxes for their sleeping quarters. These are usually made of wood, which they spend more time chewing at than sleeping in! In their natural habitat, Chinchillas sleep in caves high up in the side of a mountain, so take a couple of the large carpet tubes, cut into 8 inch lengths and site them high up off of the cage floor. You can secure them to the cage with cable ties, but just make sure that they can't get their teeth to them! These tubes will provide your Chin with the next best thing to a mountain cave!
- Make sure that you do provide your Chins with enough things to chew on as it helps to stop their teeth from over growing. Things like the tubes that I have mentioned, and also Cuttle fish, Lava rock, and Apple tree logs are all great for their teeth and good for their development too!
- Do give your Chins treats every now and then. Monkey nuts (but NOT the roasted ones, they are too salty for them) Raisins, Apple slices are all great treats, but make sure it is only a treat, as they soon become almost 'addicted', and you'll end up with a Chinchilla that'll only eat his/her treats, and this isn't good for them at all! Chinchillas have quite delicate stomachs when it comes to meal times, so only ever use regular Chinchilla pellets for their daily diet.
- Don't be too tempted to buy the corn treats on sticks for your chins, as they get more benefit from being hand fed raisins, than chewing at corn hung from the side of the cage. There is a great range of treats for Chins made by 'KaBob'. They do a wide range of different tastes and shapes that can be added to a wooden holder. These are great fun and practical, and they don't cost the earth. Superpet Warehouse do a great range of Chinchilla products and treats, and try the 'Veggie Twister' they do with some 'excel' hay (available form most Pet Stores), but remember to use it as a treat, because again, they do become reliant, and you don't want a Chinhilla going 'cold turkey'!
- Use wood pellets in the bottom of the cage (good Chin cages will have a pull out tray underneath the mesh floor). Altough Chinchillas are relatively clean creatures, their urine tends to smell stronger when using Cat litter or sawdust, so give the recycled wood pellets a try. You get a long lasting 'Pine' type smell, and it's better for the planet!
- And do handle your Chinchilla. As I've said, they are sociable, and if handled frequently from a young age, they will be more inclined to jump onto your hand when it comes to getting them back into their cage after having some free time in a secure room. Chasing your Chinchilla around the lounge to get him/her back into the cage is not fun for them, and it will waste your time too!
- On the subject of letting them out; make sure the room is totally secure from people just walking in, as your Chinchilla is more than likely to run out! Do make sure that any cables are right out of the way, and any furniture that has a gap undernath it needs to be blocked off, as dispite the fact that they look rotund and chubby, most of that is just fur, and you'll be surprised at the gaps they can get into!
Most of all, remember to enjoy them. You'll be fascinated at their antics, and the noises they make, and how each Chin has their own personality. It is even possible to train them too. GIF will come to the front of the cage when he is called, has a favourite spot on the bottom of the cage that he uses for toiletting, and both GIF and J-PEG knows when its our bedtime. As soon as the telly goes off, they both hang off the side of the cage, and wait for me to give them bedtime nose tickles!!
I hope that these pointers will be useful, but make sure you get a couple of books on Chinchilas before you get them, as they do have some very useful points that you should be aware of BEFORE you decide to buy one. Chinchillas can live from anything between 10-20 years, which makes the commitment much more involved than taking on a hamster!!