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.