The Confusion about water and getting your chinchilla wet.

Happy July everyone!

For the month of June, three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. The large group of females are now officially off of maternity watch, so they are ready to move on. This group has been a financial drain, and summers are typically slow with regards to orders, so if you have considered placing an order with our online support store, now would be greatly appreciated. A special hug to those who have sponsored a chin or who are regular or repeat customers. Please spread the word.

Today I'd like to dispel some confusion regarding getting chinchillas wet. It's an often quoted blanket statement that one should NEVER get a chinchilla wet. The rationale being that their fur is so dense that they could acquire fungus, or contract a respiratory infection. Well.....yes, but...

This generality doesn't apply to sloppy drinkers or a chin that brushes up against a leaky water bottle. It doesn't apply to moisture from a freshly wiped cage. It doesn't apply to therapeutic soaks. It doesn't apply to a urine sprayed cagemate (or behavioral interventions using a spray bottle). It doesn't apply to high humidity in the air. It doesn't apply to letting your chin play with ice cubes or snowballs. I could go on and on.

The advice against getting a chinchilla wet refers to the fact that chinchillas do not take water baths. They take dust baths. A wet, moist or even soaking wet chinchilla will not turn them into a gremlin at midnight.

There are occasions where it is necessary to water bath a chinchilla. It should, however, be a LAST RESORT. We once had a chin surrendered who was so caked in urine, feces and snot that we had no choice but to gently wash him off. Another time was when a local customer's chin jumped into a lit oil candle. And we did have a chin with a case of bumblefoot so bad that she required daily foot soaks. Chins have been known to jump into a dirty toilet. (eww!) In each situation the benefits of soaking the chin outweighed the risks. Keep in mind that fur fungus is easy to treat and a respiratory infection is more likely to spread only if drafty or infectious conditions are present.

So relax. Enjoy your pet. Clean the cage thorougly with a damp cloth and come buy some chew toys and fresh, new ledges.  ;)

Summer safety with your chin. Or, how to keep your chinnie cool when it’s hot outside.

Every summer we hear from folks who are concerned about heat with regards to their cold-loving chinCHILLas. So yesterday when the house seemed a bit stuffy, I called my favorite HVAC guy. Doing so reminded me that there are some tips that I really should share with our followers.

First, know that chinchillas have a naturally dense, warm coat. While this is ideal for the cold Andes Mountains, it’s horrible for summers in the US. And unlike dogs and birds, chins can’t pant to help keep cool. They rely completely on their caretakes for food, water, shelter and optimum temperatures. A chinchilla loves cool, dry temps. When the thermostat hits 75 degrees Fahrenheit, a chinchilla really struggles. Death can occur even at a temperature that most people would consider mild.

Running a fan will not cool off a chin. Chinchillas do not sweat, so blowing air can’t cool a dry animal. What a fan does do, however, is stir the air so that there are no hot spots in a room. Let me repeat: A fan will mix the ambient temperature. This is helpful if you have a room with an outside wall that gets full sun. A fan will “help” make the room temperature more consistent. Therefore it “may” lower the room temperature. If using a box fan in your chin space, an added bonus is that if you tape on an intake filter, it acts as a makeshift air purifier. You’re welcome.

Some people recommend using frozen water bottles to cool down a hot chin. This is only helpful if the chin actually snuggles up to this foreign object and doesn’t chew on it!

A chilling stone IS a helpful item. And a cold chilling stone fresh from the fridge or freezer may be a welcome addition when a chinchilla needs to cool down quickly. Marble is naturally cold at room temperature, so this is a fantastic cage accessory regardless. We used to make a Chillout Hangout cage accessory with a built in chilling stone. We’ve found that many chins pee on their chillers. That would soak into the ledge wood and make a horrible, stinky mess after a while. Whimsy believes that when chins pee on their chiller it’s a way to cool off even more quickly. The moisture from the urine acts as a vehicle to wick the cold from the stone. However, this can backfire and give your chin urine scald, so it’s best to simply keep the temps down and leave the chilling stone in the cage for times when the chins are active and need to cool down on their own terms.

So, what do you do when the AC goes out? Good question! I’m glad you asked.

If you are absolutely unable to move the chins to a place that does have air conditioning (friend’s house, family member’s house, motel room, running car, etc.) you can try this nifty idea to make a cheap homemade air conditioner. There are several YouTube videos that show how to make a swamp cooler, redneck air conditioner, or DIY air conditioner. But keep in mind that the cost of materials varies widely. The copper coil box fan designs cost nearly as much as a portable window unit. Why not just use a portable AC, eh? Well, if your power is out too, you can make a battery or solar powered air conditioner. So, if your summer is proving to be slow and uneventful, you may want to try your hand at creating something like this:

Check out this nifty version Whimsy made this morning while we waited for our repairman to come. It’s made of a plastic tote, box fan, filter, foam cover and multidirectional dryer vent elbows. Total cost was less than $40. We ran that today in tandem with our ridiculously expensive ($400+) portable AC unit. The portable requires an outside vent system. The redneck unit does not. Guess which one worked better. Actually, they both put out about the same “coolness” but the redneck one was far less fussy and used less energy. Of course we needed to feed it ice, but by the time the first batch melted our repairman had already come and fixed the whole house unit. Anyway, all is well here. With our back up air conditioners the temperature in the chin room stayed well below 75 degrees. The chins had no idea there was any problem. Let’s just keep that between ourselves, shall we?  

Welcome to our new website!

Happy June everyone!

Our graphic designer said it's time for our website to grow up. So we have launched a new version. This site now contains a blog format for updates which will allow you to search specific terms such as "malocclusion," "cage design ideas," "pairbonding," etc. We also have a fantastic new layout and pictures of our store items. Also, after much prodding and poking, Whimsy has finally made the hand crafted soaps available in our store.

Our old web address ( will remain live for those who just hate change. But the constant glitches with that server were causing some pretty severe issues where ordering and payments were concerned. We're hoping this new site will be glitch free, hassle free and fun! Now if only I could get the graphic designer to lighten up a bit and add some more pictures. Anyhoo....

For the month of May three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. We were especially excited to see Chi go to his forever home. Chi was our "least likely to be adopted" chin. Like a troubled teenager, Chi just needed someone with the patience of a saint who was willing to work within his boundaries. Marilyn was just that person. On rare occasions we hear from folks who like a challenge. Marilyn was literally a life saver.

Which reminds me. I need to clarify that even though we are not a no-kill shelter, we rarely ever actually put down a surrendered chin. Only the most medically terminal go over the rainbow bridge with an express ticket. The aggressive biters stay with us until a knight in shining armor comes along, or if we are called upon to take in mass numbers of adoptable chins all at once. We operate as a home-based shelter affiliate. So it's not unusual for entire herds to be sent our way.

We have become much more strict regarding our surrender policy. So we have not had to deal with chins overflowing into the living space again. We have also managed to pairbond larger groups of same-gender chins to save on space.

Another exciting bit of news is we now have contact with a local vet who is willing to spay and neuter our rescues....for a fee, of course. We feel it is well worth the cost! This will allow us more flexibility when it comes to pairbonding. The highly alpha boys typically (but not always) get along fine with a female who can put them in line with a well aimed stream of urine. That seems to settle them down fast whereas another boy would simply attack.

At any rate, we covet your continued support! With the added cost of surgery this was never designed into our budget. Fortunately we have a large following of great folks who have learned about our fabulous chew toys and cage accessories. These sales make it possible for us to continue with our mission. So, spread the word and keep coming back! *cough* And a special thank you to those who round up their order total. ;)

Happy April!

For the month of March eleven (11) chinchillas were surrendered and six (6) chinchillas were adopted.

The eleven incoming chins were, in fact, the mixed herd I spoke of in last month's post. We have 7 girls and 4 boys. The transfer party tossed all the chinchillas together into one cage for transport. Picture to the right shows the transport cage after we sexed and moved the girls. 

What were they thinking???? This decision made the history forms absolutely useless. We were then forced to start at ground zero with regards to grouping them according to compatibility. Of course we would have had to separate the sexes anyway, but still.

Six of the seven girls get along well enough to share a triple stack Critter Nation cage. The one loner was exceptionally anxious. She lashed out at every chin who came near her. She has her own penthouse next to her former housemates and seems to enjoy the special attention. She also seems to be the only one showing signs of pregnancy. *sigh*

Of the boys, two began to cause trouble and had to go into separate cages. A pair of boys was adopted later in the month.

When we take in surrenders, we require the cages come too. Most of the time unwanted chins come in typical pet store starter cages. You know the kind. The small two level cages with plastic ledges? We've even had chins surrendered housed in hamster cages! One of the chins incoming lived in a tiny carrier with barely enough room to move in a circle. This was evidenced by the amount of protein buildup in the urine spots on the cage floor. Of the various cages, we were able to salvage a two part Critter Nation cage. We cleaned that up, gave it brand new pan liners and accessories and added a third level. The other cages were just too rusted and broken or too small to use. They went for scrap metal.

The pictures below are from surrender day.  This is where the term "rescue" comes in. Several of the chins had pretty bad fur mats and grease balls despite the transfer party telling us they had a dust bath the night before. This little girl had a virtual turkey tail. Someone from our Facebook page said she looked like a peacock. The matted hair was long as dreadlocks. Surprisingly, the grooming session only took 6 minutes flat to remove. It's amazing what one can do with a proper show comb and some experience. ;) You're welcome.

Happy March!

Happy March everyone!
For the month of February, zero (0) chinchillas were surrendered and zero (0) chinchillas were adopted. We did receive an inquiry regarding a local person who needs to rehome an entire herd. This seems to happen about twice per year. It just never ends.

Anyway! We're on a roll after yesterday's educational post. I'd like to elaborate on the dangers of choices people make when feeding treats and supplements.

Over the years we've actually removed some of our store items because we've seen far too many people abuse "moderation". For example, we've had customers order supplement, and oats, and barley and admit they mixed them for a higher grain content and add it to the pellets! Without going into a lengthy post about the phosphorus/calcium ratio, suffice it to say that the supplement mixes are carefully measured and suggested serving sizes are there for a specific purpose. Adding extra grains to a supplement, mixing brands or giving multiple supplements is in actuality, very dangerous.

A chinchilla's natural diet should be very, very bland and high in fiber. Fiber is absolutely essential for proper tooth and digestive function. If a chinchilla is filling up on supplements and treats, the only thing they are getting is extra calories, but not the necessary roughage. When a chinchilla diet is high in calorie enriched foods, they are less likely to want to fill up on fiber (hay). Consuming too many nutrient dense foods can lead to fatty liver disease, malocclusion, gastric stasis, etc.

Oh! Here's another example! Someone I know used to take high doses of multivitamins. Vitamins are good, right? Not necessarily. A body can only absorb so much. With water soluble vitamins, the body simply excretes the excess through the urinary system. But fat soluble vitamins build dangerous excess in the body. In the case with this person I know, she actually developed gastric ulcers....from vitamins.

Think of it this way, when growing a garden, fertilizers are added to produce more robust greenery, more flowers, fruits, a stronger root system. If the wrong type of fertilizer is used, too much, or two little your plants will suffer. Our chinchilla friends are like plants in a garden. They are fully at our mercy to provide them with their needs. When we feed them foods high in calories, such as added grains, fruits, highly processed commercial treats, SOMETHING will overgrow. I am beginning to suspect that overgrown tooth roots (malocclusion) is due in part to domesticated chins eating foods that are not only too soft, but too rich.

The only exceptions would be chins who are actively growing, pregnant, nursing or recovering from illness. A healthy, fully grown chinchilla does not need supplements as part of their daily diet. Overfeeding your chin, even "healthy" foods can still cause damage. This is why we encourage our customers to make choices for their chinchillas that are as close to what they would find in the natural chinchilla habitat. Safe choices would be rosehips, dried flowers and herbs, seagrass, chew toys and clean, dried wood chews and pumice.

I hope today's post shed some light on the issues surrounding choices in food items for your pet.