How to make your chinchillas feel at home

Although chinchillas are small creatures, they can be very active and need plenty of space to run around. Providing your chinchillas with suitable spacious housing – with chinchilla-friendly toys and activities – will help keep them active, happy and healthy.

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Creating the right environment for your chinchillas

Chinchillas can be very sensitive to the wrong environment, so choose their location carefully. Ideally, the room temperature should be around 10-15°C. They are used to colder, and will not tolerate high temperatures – leading to large amounts of moulting, lack of interest in food and lethargy.

Consider the room they are in. Chinchillas are active at dawn and dusk, and will benefit from a room with low traffic noise levels. Don’t place the cage next to a window or a radiator.

The ideal cage design for a pair of chinchillas

Choose a cage with a solid metal base - plastic or mesh can cause injury and discomfort. Minimum sizes:

  • Bar spacing: 12-14mm
  • Depth: 63cm
  • Width: 93cm
  • Height: 159cm

Keep your chinchilla happy and occupied

Chinchillas are very active and enjoy items in their cage that they can chew and jump on. It is very important to furnish the cage with safe items that your chinchillas can’t injure themselves on.

Your chinchillas will enjoy:

  • Twigs and stumps or apple, pear or willow tree branches for them to chew and jump on
  • Wooden or card boxes for them to sleep in
  • Wooden platforms. Chinchillas love to jump from level to level – these are great for breaking up the space and preventing falls from a height. They also enjoy having a snooze on these!
  • Paper bags, toilet or kitchen rolls stuffed with hay
  • Card or hard plastic tunnels – make sure these are not broken or have sharp edges to avoid injuries
  • Dust bath in a metal tray. Ideally, allow your chinchillas access to a dust bath using chinchilla sand several times a week to keep their fur and skin healthy. Place the tray in their cage for 24 hours at a time – avoid leaving it in all the time as they may start using it as a toilet.

Avoid these chinchilla toys:

  • Ladders are not safe for chinchillas as they can cause leg injuries
  • Hanging toys such as parrot or rodent ropes and swings. As chinchillas are very fast and reactive, they can damage their legs or become caught on hanging items
  • Soft plastic toys will be destroyed very quickly and may become dangerous
  • Any toys that the chinchillas may trap their legs in while jumping about

Choosing the right chinchilla bedding

Make sure your chinchillas have a nice, soft bedding base for their cage, rather then using a mesh floor. This will avoid injury and help meet their natural behavioural and environmental needs.

Cross-cut short shredded paper is the most cost-effective and easy-to-locate chinchilla bedding. You can also use normal shredded paper created at home or in an office. It’s absorbent and creates a nice, soft, bouncy floor for your chinchillas. Another option is soft, short meadow hay. This is not only soft but also allows them to naturally forage for food as chinchillas can eat hay.

Never use wood shavings or sawdust for your chinchillas. These can be very dusty and are a common cause of skin related illnesses.

Your chinchillas will often choose to sleep either on a platform or inside a box. To make it comfortable for them, line these with soft, good quality hay.

How to clean out your chinchillas

Clean your chinchillas’ cage out weekly to help keep them in good health. Each day, use a small dustpan and brush to sweep the platforms and any areas with a build-up of poo to prevent illness.

When doing a full clean, always use a pet-safe disinfectant to clean the cage. Take the opportunity to add a few new toys in the cage for interest, like a new apple branch or box for your chinchilla to explore.