For the month of October, seven (7) chinchillas were surrendered and seven (7) chinchillas were adopted. Chinchilla adoptions are sometimes coupled with sticker shock when people discover what chinchillas truly require in regards to housing. Fortunately, after the start up costs, owning chinchillas can be relatively inexpensive. A properly outfitted cage usually costs much more than the chinchilla itself!
S0 now, a word about cage requirements and design.
There are several considerations one must take when designing a cage home for chinchillas. Chinchilla starter cages in pet stores are just that: starter cages. They are intended for one baby chinchilla with the expectation that as he or she grows, they will move into a more permanent home. Do not fool yourself into thinking that if the pet fits, that it is sufficient. Chinchillas are high-energy creatures that require lots of space.
Size and cage shape are very important. In their native habitat, chinchillas live more like mountain goats than ground squirrels. This dictates a cage that is taller than it is wide. Height is more imperative than floor space since chinchillas feel most safe up high where they can survey their surroundings. A pet chinchilla should have a cage space that is a minimum of 2’x2’x2’ in volume, and bigger is definitely better with height being the most important factor.
When decorating a cage it is also essential to consider the chinchillas’ natural instinct to chew everything. A good, sturdy wire cage shouldcontain ledges that are safe to chew. Remove all wire and plastic ledges and ramps. If your cage has a wire floor, remove that as well since wire is very harsh on little chinnie paws. Wooden ledges are more flexible in design and serve as a chew toy. *double win*
Ledge placement is critical! Even though a chinchilla can jump up to 5 feet, that doesn’t necessarily mean your domesticated chin is able to. When chinchillas are confined to a small cage, they do not develop proper muscle strength or coordination. Just because a chinchilla can reach a particular ledge, doesn’t mean he or she safely can. When placing ledges in your cage, it is best practice to align them in a stair step fashion so that your pet is able to reach the highest ones safely. With safety in consideration, you should place ledges in such a way that no jump is more than 8” to the next closest perch. Some chinchillas can be particularly clumsy. For this reason, we recommend a good 4” thick mass of clean aspen pine bedding over any other kinds of cage litter or liner. This provides a soft, thick cushion just in case your chin falls.
Also, keep in mind that ledges are intended to be consumable items. Every so often, it may be necessary to replace severely chewed and worn perches. We go through our 50-something cages monthly and replace ledges as needed. A good rule of thumb is to have at least five ledges per each single chin section. So if you have a double sized cage, ten ledges would be the minimum number required. And don’t forget the other fun items such as an exercise wheel, hammocks, swings, bridges, hidey tubes and houses. :D
A good cage is necessary for the well-being of your chinchilla. A great cage goes a long way to provide environmental stimulation, safety and security. A cage doesn’t have to be a sad prison. Deck it out! Make it fun! Decorating a cage for your pet can be one of the most rewarding ways to show your love. And it’s fun to watch them explore each and every new change.