For the month of August, one (1) chinchilla was surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. We're getting very close to reclaiming space to have a clothes washer and dryer again. Our current chin count is 74 with 21 available for adoption and 3 long term boarders. One pair of boarders are males who have been together since weaning (and may be brothers, I don't quite remember the story). Boys can be incredibly difficult to keep together in the same home where female chinchillas live. It's been a very rocky three years... There are, however, rumors going around that all of our boarders will finally go home soon.
On a similar note, we've still have quite a few inquires for our matchmaking service. We only bond same gender cage mates. It is a myth that only male/female pairs are compatible. On occasion, a chinchilla bond doesn't last. There are ways to intercept a souring relationship and potentially salvage it!
Some signs to watch for are general discontent; chasing, kacking, spitting, urine spraying (in females), and barking are subtle clues that one or the other is unhappy. These minor reactions are harmless and simply a way to establish boundaries. Watch for escalation in these behaviors. The key point being how the underdog reacts toward his or her cage mate. Little nibbles around the face are grooming behaviors. Do not mistake these for aggressive biting.
Any event that causes physical or psychological harm will affect a bond. The more alarming symptoms of a shaky bond is; rising on the hind legs showing teeth or teeth chattering, chasing with fur pulling or biting, and ambushing (sudden unprovoked attacks). At this point you can intervene. Keep reading for information about when and how to play peacemaker.
The point of no return.
Any bite that leaves a bloody mark is cause for concern. Sometimes it's difficult to see a bite on a chin unless it's severe. If you find a chinchilla acting strangely toward his or her cage mate, look carefully by blowing into the fur to check for wounds. Watch for telltale "wet marks" on the fur. Those usually signal an underlying wound.
Chinchilla bites happen in typical ways. A bite to the back of the neck or throat is a kill stroke. These chins are INCOMPATIBLE. Do NOT attempt to keep them together.
Another type of bite is "death from a thousand wounds". An aggressor will inflict multiple bites beginning with fur pulling that escalates to countless slashes along the backside. Once again, this is a completely broken bond. These chins are also INCOMPATIBLE and must remain separate from each other. Chinchillas are bipolar. You can have chins that have issues during the night and snuggle during the day. They are users. Like a codependent relationship, sometimes they will exhibit behaviors that appear completely irrational.
We have developed a method that helps chins recover from discontent before a major blowout. This method does NOT work with chins who have already drawn blood and inflicted wounds. If you catch an issue before it gets to the point of bloodshed, you can potentially salvage the relationship. Taken from parenting advice, we employ the Timeout Method.
We move the aggressor into a travel cage (with food and water). The cage must be small enough to fit inside the regular cage where the chins can remain close enough to interact, but safe behind bars. The aggressor stays in the holding cage for a minimum of 12 hours. If after 12 hours there are still signs of discontent between the cage mates, the underdog then goes into the safety of the holding cage. If after that time there are still issues between the cage mates, the aggressor returns to the holding cage. This separation allows for a cooling off period and keeps them safe, especially if no one is around to stop a fight. In general, this method helps divert an escalating fight before it becomes beyond repair.
The longest we've had to employ this method has been a three day interval. Generally a day or two is all that is necessary for the chins to calm down and forget their angst. For particularly uptight pairs, you may have to use the Timeout Method as needed. If after three consecutive days there is still significant trouble, give up. Seriously. Know that you have savedyour chins from a fight to the death.
We have shared this information with others who have needed advice. We will refer any further inquiries to this post. If you feel bad for the chin in the holding cage and decide to cut the time out period shorter, you risk exacerbating the problem. If the aggressor is uptight, biting on the bars or trying hard to get out, you can be assured he'll use that energy and focus it on his target. Until the aggressor has settled down and submitted to the confines of the holding cage, there is still too much pent up aggression.
As with human relationships, sometimes a chinchilla friendship just doesn't last. As chin owners we should always be prepared for a worst case scenario. Strongly bonded chins can lose their bond. This is sometimes due to a cage that is too small, inconsistent access to food and water, stress from moving, or the addition of new chinchillas in the home, particularly mixed gender groupings. Be ever watchful, be prepared, and trust your instincts.