Posts tagged bonding
Happy May!


Happy May everyone!

For the month of April, eight (8) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. Nothing more to say about the month's events other than please spread the word about our adoptables. We have some difficult little personalities here who desperately need a permanent home. Some chins just do better when they have a person of their own. Which reminds me...

We've gotten inquiries int he past regarding how to best bond with a new chin. So we have some really neat handy ideas for how to get to know your new BFF.

Spending time with your new fur buddy is pretty obvious, but how do you hang with someone who is constantly on the go? Chins are prey animals and as such are not generally "snuggly". In an open area a chinchilla is more likely to show their affection for you by using a jungle gym. We always tell our prospective adopters that if a chin likes you, they'll touch you. If a chin is really comfortable with someone, they'll hop into their lap, up on the shoulders or even perch on a head! Being in an open area is stressful for chins. Again, as prey animals, they constantly watch for anything that has the potential to harm them. Knowing their need for security, you can offer them refuge and become their safe place too.

Grasping hands are constricting, which is why so many chins struggle when held. But the soft, yielding security of an oversized pocket, hoodie or baby carrier works very well. One of our local chinnie friends discovered the joys of slinging their chins. Baby sling, that is. Don't panic.

A sling is actually a fantastic tool. It offers a large space for the chin to move around relatively freely, but still within close contact with their human. It's cute to see them poke their little whiskery face out to survey their surrounds, then dart back in to the safety of their sling. A sling is also much cooler in temperature then just holding and petting the little cloud bunnies with hot, sweaty hands.

A chin who becomes acclimated to handling makes for a much better pet! Someone who spends time with and enjoys their pet is less likely to give them up. So if you're at a place where the newness and excitement of your chinnie has worn off, here is a fantastic way to rekindle your lost interest. Give your chinnie a scritch for me and tell them "you're welcome", from Whimsy. 

Happy February!

For the month of January, eleven (11) chinchillas were surrendered and seven (7) chinchillas were adopted. As usual, we had bunches and bunches of chins visiting for the holidays while their two-footed pets went on vacation. During this time we actually received multiple requests for matchmaking to enlarge the already happy families. New chin owners quickly discover whether or not a chinchilla is the right pet for them. Some people end up expanding their herd, while others decide to bow out and re-surrender their new pets. It’s sad, but a true fact of rescue work.

We all carry preconceived ideas about how life will be with a pet chinchilla. Someone who has owned one before assumes all chins act like their first pet. Someone who has never owned a chin may mistakenly think they are all cuddly, warm balls of delight. Chins each come with their own, individual personality and temperament, but chinchillas all share some very basic qualities. They are prey animals, so are prone to a flight (run away) response. Sensitive individuals may take this behavior personally.  Please know that a chin who runs away from you is not rejecting you. They’re just doing what is natural. Some chinchillas are born with a more inquisitive nature. Those make the best pets. A chinnie who eagerly comes forward for a treat, scratch on the head, or out for playtime is a joy to have. 

Another part of the joy of owning a new pet is in personalizing your relationship. Adoptive chinchilla owners often ask, “Is it ok if I change my chinchilla’s name?” For the most part, chinchillas do not respond to the sound of their name. (We have a couple of chinchillas here who would beg to differ.) In general though, your pet chinchilla is most likely to respond to certain tone of voice or to the sound of the treat bag opening!

Some chinchillas seem to absolutely bloom in the care of one person as compared to another and it doesn’t always have to do with quality of care. Remember your grade school experiments where you were instructed to provide the exact same water levels, light, food, etc. for a plant, but were instructed to sing to, love on and think happy thoughts towards one plant, and ignore the other? The atmosphere in which a pet chinchilla lives can also affect their temperament and health.

When you adopt a chinchilla, it’s the beginning of a whole new relationship. If changing the chinnie’s name helps to solidify that relationship, then we give it a thumbs up. And if your chinnie comes when called, you know you have a winner.

Stress Induced Fur Chewing

Yup, we see a lot of cases that involve this and we love to see the transformation from a ragged, sad little animal to a full, fluffy, thriving one.

Chinchillas will chew their own fur and the fur and whiskers of a cagemate when confronted by a stressful living environment. Some of the factors being; a cage that is too small or otherwise overcrowded, the wrong "kind" of cage, inadequate chew toys, no place to hide or an exposed cage (insecurity), lack of exercise, and general boredom. 

One of the responsibilities of a good owner is to see to the needs of their pet. Providing environmental enrichment is an often overlooked need. It is for this reason that our adoption contact specifies the provision of a "Whimsy approved" cage. We have seen, and continue to see situations where well-meaning owners simply do not know what a chinchilla truly needs. We have seen chins housed in hamster cages, glass aquariums, dog kennels, guinea pig cages with no ledges, small cages with only one or two ledges, free-ranged (!) and even chins housed in solid wood boxes and rabbit hutches.

Pet stores offer chinchilla "starter cages." A starter cage is NOT supposed to be permanent housing. Starter cages are intended to hold a single, baby chinchilla. They are too constricting for a full grown adult yet we have seen as many as 5 chinchillas in a tiny cage such as that.

With chinchillas, the bigger the cage, the better. The more interesting the cage, the better. The more stimulating the cage, the better. A chinchilla housed in a wonderland will rarely, if ever, chew their fur. If your chinnie has plenty of toys and ledges, they are less likely to take out their frustration on themselves or a cagemate.

Some of our chinnie friends take cage decorating seriously! We love to see the creative designs folks come up with regarding their accessorizing (especially if those accessories come from our store ;) ). We do our best to offer safe, fun and completely thought out ledges, bridges and hiding places. Just remember, wooden accessories are safe for chewing and will eventually need replacing.

You can limit the ledge chewing and fur chewing by providing copious amounts of chew toys. A good rule of thumb for chews is to offer at least three toys at any given time: one hard (such as pumice based toys), one soft (shreddable type toys), and one mixed. Expect to rotate or replace chew toys or some of the components weekly. If your pet chinchilla isn't actively engaged in working their teeth, they can and do take it out on themselves or even the bars of their cage! Fur chewers tend to be nervous pickers. They thrive on the soft, shreddy-type toys. Even so, chinchillas' teeth grow in spurts. A chin who shuns pumice one week might destroy it in a heartbeat the next. (And yes, destroying their toys is a GOOD thing!)

A secure chinchilla is a happy chinchilla. A place to hide such as a hanging tube, hidey house or even a plain cardboard box helps. The cage placement in a room will also contribute to a feeling of security. Chins do best in a living room corner away from a doorway where they can survey the comings and goings of their human friends. This type of daily inclusion helps ease boredom and contributes to a well-socialized pet. Some chins actually enjoy watching TV! They are social creatures. Please remember to let them be a part of the family. Your life and theirs will be enriched by daily contact.

Here are Amanda and Thunder watching Animal Planet together.

We understand that no good pet owner intends to do harm to their pet. But often bad situations arise from owners who simply do not have good, solid advice to make informed decisions. We hope that we can offer that advice without demeaning or berating those who honestly don't know any better. If you know of a chin owner who can benefit from our webpage, please share. For the sake and benefit of the chinchillas first; we faithfully serve.

Happy August!

This summer is just flying by! Already it's more than half past the beginning of the month and my update is very, very late. :s

Anywho....for the month of July, nine (9) chinchillas were surrendered and eight (8) chinchillas were adopted.

We had one situation where the surrendering family was obviously distraught about the decision to give up their chinchillas. After a heart to heart chat, we discovered the root cause was one more of guilt than anything else. Guilt over not spending the "time and attention they deserve". The raw truth of the matter is, if a chinchilla has a cage buddy with whom to snuggle, plenty of food, water, appropriate shelter and a clean cage then spending one on one time with them is icing on the cake. Yes, interacting with your pet will serve to enrich theirs and your life, but life is not always absolutely stable.

Even our human friendships suffer when going through a major (or minor) life change. Just because we have little time for our human friends does not mean we ditch them altogether. A good friendship will resume where left off. This is very similar with our relationships with our pets. Unless yours is a situation where there is abuse or damaging neglect, please do not fall victim to the mentality that you are somehow not a good chinchilla owner if you can't play with them every day.

This guilt inflicting mindset has been circulating around the forums for years now and has caused more damage than good. The results are people who come to resent their pets rather than cherish them. While I do agree that having a pet means having a relationship, the guilt involved in spending time with them is counterproductive. Chinchillas do not absolutely positively have to have a specified amount of out of cage time each day. It is ideal, but not a diehard rule. Unless your chin is caged in a shoe box, they should have enough space and environmental stimulation provided in their habitat (cage) to keep them secure and content.

We received a promising email from the people with the change of heart. The following message sent me sailing happily through this post:

Hello again! :)

First, I want to thank you again for changing my mind about surrendering my little ones: now that we are settled into the new house, my schedule really has allowed more time to spend with them and they seem much, much happier. They transitioned very well through the move, and even seem much more relaxed than before. The new cage setup has been fabulous, and I'm looking forward to being able to open the two levels now that I work with an exotics vet who is willing to neuter Cashew. They have LOVED the new diet and all of the different treats they've gotten to play with, but now I am almost out! That must mean it's time for an order! ;)

So it looks like a happy ending, or a new beginning for all.

Happy July!

For the month of June, seven (7) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. *sigh* Surrenders are high again with people on a surrender waiting list.

Whimsy strongly believes that a major part of surrendering excuses revolve around simply not understanding chinchilla behavior and body language. Rarely do we meet a person who is horribly heartbroken over the decision to surrender. Most often we see relief or guilt.When a person has a less than ideal relationship with their pet, it's that much easier to give them up. Training your pet chinchilla is a mutually beneficial way to bond with your furry friend. Pet chinchillas can learn certain tricks and other trained behaviors.

The majority of trained animal actions are based on the natural tendencies of the critter involved. For example, cats naturally gravitate to defecate and urinate in a sandy spot where they can easily cover the evidence. A chinchilla that habitually urinates in one corner of their cage can be “trained” to use a litter box (assuming you put it in the same corner).

Some people don’t realize that they are training their chinchilla without even knowing it! A chinchilla who bites when he no longer wants to be held has learned this very, very bad behavior. If your chinnie struggles or nips while holding them, do NOT give in to the animal by releasing them. This causes a vicious cycle of behavior where the chinchilla learns that with some struggle or teeth, they can be released to play, or put back into the peace and security of their cage. (More on the proper way to catch and hold a chinchilla later).

Another common badly learned behavior are those well-intentioned chinchilla owners who throw open the chin’s cage door to allow them out to play. I can’t stress this enough: never allow your chin free roam out their cage doors. This teaches your chinnie to bolt, which makes cage cleaning, feeding and other simple tasks very difficult. It is frustrating when you have to fight to keep your chin in their cage when you want them there, especially if you have to leave your chin in the care of someone who may not be able to handle them safely. With a training technique referred to successive approximation, you can teach your chinnie to step politely onto your hands when it’s time to come out and play. This trained behavior works especially well if you have a chinchilla that is already friendly and inquisitive.

Chinchillas are very smart. They learn to recognize tone of voice and some can even recognize their names! Yes, we know of chinchillas that will actually come when called. There are even chinchillas who can perform simple tricks like jumping through a hoop on command, standing pretty for a treat, giving a high five, hopping onto a shoulder and other seemingly dog-like tricks. Youtube is full of videos with trained chinchilla clips. Interestingly enough, some of those video makers claim their chinchillas are not trained. In actuality, if a chinchilla performs a certain behavior as expected and on command, you can be sure it’s “trained” or learned behavior. Some people are just talented enough to not realize that is what they have inadvertently done. ;)

Training your chinchilla does take a lot of time and patience. The process, however, can be a rewarding and enriching experience for the owner and the chin as they learn to fine-tune their interactions. Chinchilla training is another creative way to enjoy your pet. And just think; if more people spent that much more time with their chinchillas, how many fewer surrenders we’d have due to loss of interest!

This is Whimsy, wishful dreaming, and I approve this message.