Are You an Extreme Pet Owner?

Well hello everyone!

The year is flying by and I’m totally guilty of not adding monthly blog posts. Now that we’re actually operating a “working farm” there is a lot less down time. This also means that scheduling pickup orders is very, VERY difficult. Also, after more than a decade of posts, it’s been hard to come up with anything new and exciting.

But first, just a quick recap of how things have been going with the rescue. We’ve had 28 chinchillas surrendered and 22 chinchillas adopted so far. We have at least a dozen chins available for adoption. We may have to break down and bring back the bios pages. Thoughts?


Aside from the chinnies, we’ve been working sporadically to groom the land for the orchards and trellis systems for our organically grown toy parts. The soil here is rich, but we have to actually wrestle it from the native trees. The new heat/AC system is working great. The air conditioned workshop has been absolutely wonderful. It allows us to store fresh cut limbs out of the sun and rain while we process the various batches. The office got a facelift and finally got baseboard and other trim installed. The wall in the rescue room that had ugly OSB now has some beautiful bead board overlay.

Ok, so now that we’ve got the updates out of the way, let’s move on to something more serious: Complacency vs. Neuroticism

After the honeymoon period of getting a new pet ends, we see where individuals sometimes morph into extremes. Those extremes would be complacency, where basic care or consideration for the pet’s natural inclination is ignored. On the other extreme is neuroticism where every minute detail of the pet’s behavior, food and water consumption, shed cycles, weight loss or gain, etc are strictly monitored. Neither extreme is helpful for the pet.


With complacency, it’s not uncommon for owners to run out of food or get nothing but bare basics. The focus is on what is most beneficial for the owner, not the pet. Expense and mess are their primary concerns. They allow pets to play unsupervised. Cage cleaning is ignored until it becomes stinky, filthy, or excessively chew worn. Chew toys are left until all that remains is wire, if they even have chew toys. Mats and fur knots develop, sometimes to the point of dreadnoughts. Fractures go untreated until the chinchilla chews off a limb.

Recently we got word from an individual (name withheld, but story and pictures shared with permission). The owner had a young chinchilla and kitten who were raised together. Both got along well and even “played” together. After a few years, the owner figured the natural instincts of predator and prey were nullified. Then the inevitable happened. The cat mauled the chinchilla during out of cage playtime.

On the other extreme we see overly anxious owners. They tend to worry themselves sick over their pet. This does translate to the animal since our little fur babies can pick up on our emotions. An anxious owner can make their pet anxious, lose weight, slip fur, develop behavior problems, bark excessively, have loose stool, chew their fur, etc.

Bloat (gas) in a chinchilla literally causes the intestines to burst.

Bloat (gas) in a chinchilla literally causes the intestines to burst.

The problem with being overly anxious is the tendency to second guess, doubt and commiserate with others. Internet forums seem especially attractive then. Veterinarians have a difficult job when it comes to dealing with pet owners. Many times the professionals “do something” just to appease the owner. Here is an example that we actually see quite often. Chin goes to the vet for XYZ. Vet prescribes prophylactic antibiotics. The drug then causes gastric stasis, so vet prescribes other meds to stimulate the gut, chin then bloats, more meds added to treat bloat, side effects are compounded, now the belly is full of sweetened medications, chin stops eating entirely, owner panics, vet then prescribes hand feeding, more trips to the vet. More tests. cha-ching!$$

The more anxious an owner is, the more they want to intervene. Basically, these types of owners are guilty of a form of overkill. The more they intervene, the worse the situation becomes. Folks, this is especially true if a chinchilla is ill. The body has an amazing ability to self-heal. Sometimes we need to step back and allow that to happen.

Do you find yourself in either of the two extremes? My advice to both is simple: Step up your game, or relax. The hard part is figuring out when to do either. For those who are anxious, hopefully we’ve been able to provide a bit of no-nonsense advice. For those who are complacent…well, you’re probably not reading this anyway. XD

Whimsy LeighComment
Welcome 2019!

Happy January everyone! And welcome to 2019!

For the month of December eleven (11) chinchillas were surrendered and nine (9) chinchillas were adopted. We had a few mixed gender groups come in towards the end of the year, so the females are all on maternity watch. Thank you to those who have stepped in to sponsor them.

We’re off to a great start this year. The chinchillas are all thriving at the new place. We’re seeing some good, healthy weight gain on the ones who came in underweight. Keep paws crossed that the weight gain is not due to pregnancies.


We were able to reunite or pair many of the single chins with a same gender cagemate. One fur chewed single in particular is happily bonded with another and has stopped chewing her fur. We’re glad to see that behavior was a stress reaction and not an ingrained behavior.

If you follow us on facebook you will have seen the more up to the minute posts about surrenders, adoptions, and other news. Facebook has changed their platform again, so you may or may not have seen the coloring contest we held earlier in January. It was so fun seeing the variety of creative entries! But when it came to making the final choice, Whimsy just could not. It was impossible to to pick one over the other when it came to comparing a beautifully shaded digitalized coloring and a fantastically intricate hand colored entry. So, we ended up with split winners. Our winners Kristy and Angie each won a gift box of goodies from our webstore. I hope they like the selection.


Another bit of good news for the new year is that we have a brand-new central heat and air system in the building. Last month’s post told of how the system was 18 years old and could not be patched together to work for us anymore. We got about a half dozen shockingly high estimates for a new system that we simply could not afford. Neither were we willing to finance it! Now the very best news is that we connected with an HONEST guy who agreed to install a new system for half of what the other guys quoted. The new system has been working great all month with no problems. So it looks like we found another resource for someone to do some more random repairs and improvements around here. Saving half on the new heat/air system almost makes up for the crooks to ripped us off over the drywall job. So that’s the latest news. Now, you want to hear about some of the SMH 2018 highlights?

It’s no secret that Whimsy distrusts “professionals”, particularly veterinarians. Fact is, they are human and prone to mistakes. Too many professionals, however, rely on their degree to prove their expertise rather than experience. Even worse, when a vet gives their opinion as if it were fact! Case in point, a vet told a young man who surrendered to us that his m/f chinchillas were unlikely to breed because they were bonded! Whaaaaat????? Never one to miss an opportunity to be awkward, yes I did blurt out that his vet is an idiot.

Chinchilla MALE. Picture shows space between the anus at the top and the penis below.

Chinchilla MALE. Picture shows space between the anus at the top and the penis below.

It is not unusual for a vet to miss a diagnosis. On the flip side, we have seen vets over react. For example, simple dust build-up on ears led to a test for mites during a well visit. We have also learned of instances where vets would provide false hope to a client and offer surgeries, blood tests, CPR! It is heartbreaking when a person’s despair is used against them to drain their finances. Now, no one wants to be accused of giving up without trying every possible intervention. So in a sense those medical professionals are really covering their own….well….you know.

Chinchilla FEMALE. Picture shows no space between the anus at the top and the urethral cone at the bottom. Most often mis-identified as males due to the fact that the urethral cone looks like a teeny, tiny penis.

Chinchilla FEMALE. Picture shows no space between the anus at the top and the urethral cone at the bottom. Most often mis-identified as males due to the fact that the urethral cone looks like a teeny, tiny penis.

We typically find that incoming surrenders are gender mis-isentifed. It’s especially bad when a ”vet confirmed” gender is actually wrong. This past year we had a vet tech surrender a pair of chins to us telling Whimsy that the veterinarian had to shave one of their bums looking for testicles! I don’t know if the veteranarian thought the anus was teeny tiny testicles, but “Bob” turned out to be “Babette”. Oh! and an experienced breeder surrendered a pair of chins thinking the “big muscular one” was a male. Nope. Wrong again. Both were females. But the ignorance disguised as expertise is even more broad than getting a gender wrong.

Another vet online recommends giving hard rock maple to chew (which is toxic to chinchillas). And another “exotic’s specialist” advocates feeding leafy greens to chinchillas…which causes bloat and diarrhea.

But, not all veterinarians are this way. We have had the pleasure of meeting a few who not only listen, but collaborate with us. One notable professional is Dr. David from Sherwood Pet Health. There they have a new brand of feed pellets that come in adult and baby formulas. He also offers an alternative to Critical Care brand of hand feeding recovery food. Sherwood Pet Health has a variety of supplemental wafers for urinary support, digestive support, immune support, joint support and extra vitamin C . Looks like Oxbow has a rival. You can check it out for yourself here:


But anyway, the previous rant just to say that a veterinarian’s advice/opinion/suggestion/diagnosis, etc. may or may not be correct. Being an informed owner will help when it comes to partnering with your chosen professional. Being informed will also help prevent costly (or deadly) decisions. Wherever possible we do what we can to share information with you, our readers, to help you become equipped to deal with issues as they arise. Our new website has a search feature that will take you to a topic without having to wade through the last decade’s worth of blog entries. Feel free to email Whimsy if there is missing information or if you have a question not already addressed on site. If you find any information helpful, we’d like to know. We especially love when people show their appreciation by spreading the word about us, the rescue and our webstore. Hmmm…while you’re at it, go ahead the take a look at the goodies in our store. It’s about time to restock on chew toys and freshen up the ledges, right? 😉

2018 Wrap Up

Happy December everyone!


For the month of November four (4) chinchillas were surrendered and four (4) chinchillas were adopted, including the poster boys from our Pumpkin Spice Chinchillas picture. We currently have about 16 chinchillas waiting for their furever home. We’ve practically given up on trying to keep the website current with regards to the specific chinchillas available. The numbers change so often! Plus, we really hate the thought of those who are “color shopping”. We prefer instead that the chinchilla be a good fit with the family when it comes to personality, temperament and activity level. Onwards!

The year 2018 has been a year of many changes. We moved to our new home. The chinchillas and webstore related “werk” got an upgrade with a building all its own. We’ve had a major mind shift from working out of the dining room to actually going to a separate, no kidding, office. (Even though the commute is only about 550 feet.) Keeping office hours seems to have made a big difference in productivity.

Another change we’ve seen this year has been the sad goodbyes of the two special education teachers with whom we have worked so closely. We have spent nearly a decade as Partners in Education with the local high school where the students help us craft our chew toys, cage accessories and other supplies. This year not one, but both head instructors have retired and passed their classes on to the next generation of educators. We’re still working out kinks with scheduling, but hope to be back in full swing with our student helpers soon! In the meantime Whimsy’s clan has been busy building the necessary parts and pieces to make our goodies. Ziggy, Whimsy’s son with autism, is happy to take up the slack where our student helpers would normally fill the store. He even has his very own office and assembly room!


Changes are in progress to grow and expand our orchard. We’ve been slowly claiming some of our new land to make room for our apple, pear, mulberry and pecan trees. There is a natural watershed between the house and office that slopes on three sides. The hilled terrain would be perfect for growing our delicious heirloom apples and pears. Whimsy’s oldest daughter jokingly named our proposed plot, “The Fruit Bowl.”

As we work to thin that area it is providing us with plenty of firewood with which to heat the rescue building. We’re still struggling with the HVAC system and spent nearly $1000 over the summer just to get the air conditioning working for the chinchillas. Once again the system has failed us and we’ve come to grips with the fact that we should stop paying outrageous prices for temporary patches. The system is original to the building and is 18 years old. There is a woodstove in the workshop that pumps out enough heat to keep the building a cozy 54-65 degrees. The chins are loving it! Having the woodstove will give us several months to save up for a new heat/air system before we need it again for cooling.


So as I look out my office window and admire the 12+ inches of snow, I think back over the year and consider how far we’ve come. November 1st marked the 10 year anniversary of Whimsy’s Menagerie. It’s been an unexpectedly amazing life path that no one could have possibly predicted. Operating a home based rescue has been a wild ride, not to mention an odd lifestyle. Many times it has been a rapidly shifting existence full of frustration and grief, success and joy. Even still, I have no regrets. So, many thanks to you, my chinchilla friends, for your support and good favor. My prayer is that I may be good enough to earn and keep it. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a blessed and happy New Year.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We are looooong overdue for a post!

First, the good.


We’ve finally made it into our new location and moved the chinchillas and other animals before the big Hurricane Florence scare. Even though things are not perfectly organized yet, at least we have all the animals safe and sound and in one place.

Our new property is giving us an abundance of new varieties of wood that we’ve been selectively cutting and processing for the chinchillas. On our new property we’ve found blueberry and grapevine, poplar and dogwood and much more! We’ve learned that poplar wood smells minty when it’s cut. And has a minty/lily smell as it dries. The wood is gorgeous with its zebra striped bark. Next is dogwood. As much as I hate to cut these down, some trees are just not well placed on the property. We feel the chinchillas will benefit much more from them. Funny thing, dogwood wood is ugly and smells like a new pack of disposable diapers. *shrug* Chinchillas like the weirdest things.


Our future apple, pear and mulberry orchard are growing nicely… in their pots and temporary garden spots. We are also working toward reclaiming some overgrown land to turn into usable orchard space.

Our workshop has gotten quite the work out! It is large enough to allow us to haul in small trees to work in a climate controlled environment. This is also perfect and necessary for harvesting leaves for our Confetti Cuisine. You may have noticed this year that the leaves are GORGEOUS! We have perfected our secret process for drying leaves in a way that retains color and vital nutrients.

Now the bad.

If you follow us on facebook, you may have seen pictures of the happy new families who have come to adopt. Over the summer we’ve had surrenders happen, adoptions happen, and matchmaking sessions. It’s been a whirlwind trying to operate from two locations as we’ve accommodated different individuals according to where they live. Making the two hour drive back and forth has been a daunting task. Did anyone notice the difference? I’m afraid yes. We’ve had a few glitches but our followers/customers have (mostly) been amazing. Thank you all for your encouragement as we’ve taken on this enormous task.


The ugly.

Our move from one location to another has taken far too long to complete as we’ve hit snags and roadblocks and... just plain crooked individuals. Walling in the new rescue room started so well! We had a framer who was amazing. Then things went downhill from there. The air conditioner in the office/rescue building broke down. That became an unexpected $1000 bill. Ouch! But long story short, two different companies took our money and ran, never completing the drywall job. It is really rather embarrassing to admit this. Whimsy ended up finishing it herself (it took 6 days) and volunteers helped with the paint. Just in time for the hurricane scare. *sigh*


Now that we’re mostly settled in all that remains is some minor tweaking as we sort, resort, arrange and figure out the best way to store and utilize all the space! We have extra cages set up and ready for mass surrenders that are bound to happen. Funny thing is, I typed out this post just before we got word of a mini-mass surrender of 8 and a  group of 3. It’s a good thing we put together the extra cages. Looks like we’ll need to set up some for maternity watch as well.

Busy! Busy! Busy!  The workshop has already been put to good use as we’ve been working to craft some gorgeous lumber into our signature cage accessories. Many of our cages have gotten a facelift with some long overdue swapping of tired old and chewed up ledges with some tidy new ones. Is it time to freshen your chinchillas cage? We would love to help out! We often post pictures of ideas of ways to arrange ledges to make a cage more interesting. We hope that our store offers enough variety to keep everyone entertained. At any rate, with our larger facility, we also have larger bills. While we appreciate those who have chosen to support our rescue, we really love crafting our wares to help enliven other chinchilla’s homes. So if you’re looking for ways to spoil your chinchilla (or other gnawing pet), why not come check out our webstore? And don’t forget the chew toys!

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Happy May everyone!

For the month of April we had four (4) chinchillas surrendered and two (2)  chinchillas were adopted.


Our numbers of chinchillas are much more manageable now and our upcoming move of them should be relatively easy. We had hoped to have everyone settled in before the heat of summer, but it looks like that’s just not going to happen. We assumed that by hiring pros we could get the necessary work to the new building done quickly and efficiently. That has proven to be a radically unrealistic idea as we are at the mercy of every one of those individuals' schedules. So far we’ve had the framing to the new chinchilla room done. Ed from Olde Oak Construction was especially sensitive to our timeline and worked us in to his schedule. His work was outstanding and very reasonable. AND, he cleaned up after himself! We hope to utilize Ed for many more future growth projects.


We’ve also got the electrical moved, new lines run and powered up. The extra thick insulation is in place for added sound dampening and heat barrier between the rescue room and workshop. The drywall is up. Doors are in place. Sounds good, right? Well, now comes the hard part. The air conditioning in the building completely died and it just so happened during the electrical and drywall phase. So the drywall mud couldn’t dry and the construction guys were absolutely miserable. Now we’re fighting with the home warranty company about repair to the HVAC system. Obviously we can’t move the chinchillas in until that is fixed!

In the meantime, we are slowly painting the offices as we can squeeze in time for a day trip and hauling in lots and lots of files. We still need to finish the drywall. Our wall man seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. (Karma baby, Karma) We need to finish the trim, prime and paint the rescue room. Needless to say, with all the road blocks we have no planned date for our official move. We’re still operating surrenders, adoptions and websales (mostly) as usual. We appreciate a little extra patience as we juggle the timing of everything.

Here is a panorama inside view of the rescue room. The wall isn't "really" curved, it's just the camera angle. This shows our progress as of today. Getting closer!