Choosing the right enclosure
When it comes to housing your chinchilla, the bigger the enclosure, the better! Chinchillas love having plenty of space to move and jump around, so having a cage that is tall and wide with a few different levels for your chinchilla to rest on would be perfect.
They are a prey species and will need some hiding spaces to escape to if they feel threatened. Allowing your chinchilla time out of his cage is also advised, although you will need to make sure the room is safe for them. Don't let them out if they can reach any electrical wires or other household items that you don't want to be chewed or cause harm to them.
Whatever type of cage you choose, you must make sure your chinchilla has solid floored areas to stand on rather than mesh, as this will damage his feet and he could get stuck. If he has a mesh base in his cage, there should be a solid base just below this that you can cover with bedding to catch his droppings. Always check that any metal caging is free from any toxic coatings, as your chinchilla will definitely try to chew it and you wouldn't want him chewing something that could cause him harm.
Plastic coated wire cages are not advised because again, your chinchilla will chew this. All gaps in the wire mesh should not be bigger than 15mm x 15mm to prevent your chinchilla's legs and feet from getting injured. The cage should be secure so that your chinchilla cannot escape.
Where should I put my chinchillas cage?
The cage needs to be located in an area indoors that is out of direct sunlight, free from cold draughts and away from noise — chinchillas like their peace and quiet and can be frightened easily. This should also keep them separate from any other household pets such as cats and dogs, who may try to attack your chinchilla if they have access to him.
The room your chinchilla is kept in should also be kept at a temperature of between 18-25°C so that they can live comfortably and not overheat. Any temperatures above this can harm a chinchilla because they cannot sweat. Keep your chinchilla away from radiators and heaters.
Nesting boxes and toys
Make sure you provide a nest box for each of your chinchillas, with one that is big enough to fit them all in if they wish to nest together. Fill these with plenty of hay or straw to keep them warm and feed on. Soft paper such as kitchen role can be used, but avoid newspapers to avoid poisoning from the ink. They will need toys and chews to keep them occupied, such as running wheels (with a solid surface), cardboard rolls and boxes that they can chew on and hide in — wooden ramps, ladders, rocks, and branches are also good for your chinchilla to move about and sit on.
Anything wooden will also need to be free from toxins. Good woods are mulberry, apple, hazelnut, willow, and pear. Woods you should avoid are citrus, cherry, plum, walnut, cedar and pine. Anything that is wooden or cardboard will also need replacing after some time, as they will be chewed. You will notice that your chinchilla will try to chew just about anything! Wash any branches before you put them in the chinchilla's cage.
Your chinchilla will want to keep himself clean by having a dust bath! So make sure you give him access to one on a regular basis — this will need to be a deep bowl/container with a layer of dust at the bottom. He will climb into it and roll around, flip and play in the dust until he feels clean! Remove the dust bath once he has finished.
Cleaning your chinchilla's cage
You will need to do a basic clean up of your chinchilla's cage each day, as there will be droppings and uneaten food that will need to be removed and fresh supplies replaced. Give the bottom of the cage a clean, replace any dirty bedding, clean out the food containers and sterilise the water bottle to prevent build up of algae.
Once a week you will need to do a thorough clean, using pet-friendly cleaning agents to disinfect. Wipe over all surfaces, toys, boxes, food and water containers and replace all bedding with fresh clean materials. Allow the cage to dry out before you put your chinchilla back in.