What do I need to buy for my chinchilla?
It's important to make sure you have everything you need before you bring your chinchilla home. You'll need to have all the necessary supplies ready before he arrives, such as:
- A suitably-sized enclosure in a quiet location, out of direct sunlight and draughts
- A safe room for when he's out of his cage for exercise
- Water bottles
- Grass-based chinchilla pellets
- A few treats (carrots, leafy greens, dried fruits, grains)
- Chew toys
- Chinchilla gnawing blocks
- Hide box
- Rocks and branches
- Exercise wheel
- Bedding (clean, dry hay, straw or shredded paper)
- Dust bath
- Pet-friendly cleaning products.
Settling your chinchilla
When you have brought your chinchilla home, place him in his enclosure and allow him to adjust to his new surroundings for a few days before you try to handle him. He'll be very timid and will need the chance to explore and get used to his new home.
Let your chinchilla become familiar with your voice, and crouch down and quietly talk to him so he becomes comfortable with your presence. After a few days, you can start to increase your interaction with him.
Handling your chinchilla
An important thing to remember is that chinchillas are very fragile. You must be very careful when you handle them, as any rough handling or being held too tightly can cause serious damage, so they are best to be kept away from young children.
Your chinchilla will be timid to start with so let him get used to your hand, maybe offering him a treat, until eventually he'll come towards your hand happily and gets used to your smell.
When the time comes where you feel you want to pick your chinchilla up, place one hand underneath his bottom and very gently lift him, always supporting his feet, and hold him close to you. Never grab around the ribs as these are his most fragile bones, and be careful not to squeeze. If your chinchilla doesn't want to be picked up, leave him alone and don't chase him around his enclosure as this will frighten him more.
Chinchilla's aren't the cuddliest of pets and they don't require constant handling to be healthy and happy, but it's best to get them used to being held so both you and the vet can carry out regular health checks easily. Never try to grab your chinchilla by his tails as you risk damaging it or even breaking it.
Grooming your chinchilla
Chinchillas tend to groom themselves very well. All you need to do is provide them with a dust bath five to six times a week, and they will naturally roll around in it. Never give your chinchilla a water bath, as their fur is too thick and won't dry properly — which can cause a fungal infection and fur rot. Chinchillas use dust to bathe in because the dust removes any oil and dirt from their fur. You will be able to get suitable bathing dust/sand from your local pet shop.
You will need to keep an eye on your chinchilla's teeth as they will grow continuously throughout his life, but giving him plenty of chew toys and chinchilla blocks should help keep his teeth trim.
You may also want to do regular checks of your chinchilla's claws — providing he has plenty of exercise they shouldn't become overgrown and need clipping.
Children and chinchillas
Chinchillas are not suitable pets for young children because they are nocturnal and require careful handling. They are more suitable for older children, teenagers and adults, who will have a better understanding of looking after them and handling with care. When you do allow a child to hold a chinchilla, make sure they are sitting down and the chinchilla can rest on their lap — always supervise children at this time. Just remember, if you do get a chinchilla for your teenager, who will look after it when they aren't around anymore?
Do chinchillas need companions?
Yes, chinchillas are social animals and in the wild they would live in a group. They will be much happier if they have a companion, preferably of the same sex so that they don't fight or breed. You will need to make sure there is enough room for more than one chinchilla in your enclosure and provide them both with their own hide box. Both chinchillas will preferably need to be purchased when they are babies, and introduced to each other while they are still very young.
If you choose to have a chinchilla on his own, then you must give him lots of attention, play and exercise. A chinchilla that is left on his own for long periods of time without proper exercise is likely to become stressed, bored and ill.