Posts tagged cage
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 May!


For the month of April eight (8) chinchillas were surrendered andfive (5) chinchillas were adopted. Overall for the year we are at a plus 7 so far. Which means we have 7 more "in" than "out". We've also had a rather strong rush of potentially pregnant surrenders come in who are on maternity watch. Actually, at this time we have 9 rescue females that we're watching and waiting. Many of them will clear for adoption by the end of this month. And that's just in time for the Adoptathon!

 Every year the North Shore Animal League hosts a pet Adoptathon.

Historically, this has taken place in the month of May, which is the most horrible, absolutely lowest adoption time of the year. This year, however, the event kicks off at the end of May with the main event in the month of June. In eager anticipation we'd like to make a special adoption offer for May and June (or until supplies last).

We have an over-abundance of single chinchillas who do not play well with others. We also happen to have plenty of cages on hand that conveniently divide into sections while maintaining a small footprint. So...for anyone who is interested in adopting two (2) single chinchillas, we will offer $100 off towards the purchase of one of our pre-owned, Critter Nation divided double stack cages. Our modified set ups are valued at well over $300. All adoption requirements apply. Offer is for pairs of single chins only.

Happy February!

For the month of January, eleven (11) chinchillas were surrendered and zero (0) chinchillas were adopted. Ouch! We cannot recall ever having a month of no adoptions. It's not entirely surprising though considering Christmas just passed and everyone is financially wiped out after the post-holiday spending frenzy.

We've gone ahead and reached out to the local pet magazine with an article proposal about owning chinchillas. We hope this will spark some interest, dispel some misconceptions, and get people thinking about adopting again. Here is our first draft. 

Exotic Pets: Is a Chinchilla Right For You?

Fluffy, cute, bouncy bundles of awwwww.  Who could resist the adorableness of a pet chinchilla? There are many things to consider when deciding if a chinchilla is a good match for you and your family. Handling, feeding, and other care requirements are chinchilla-specific and not necessarily rodent-general.

Handling a chinchilla requires some finesse. In general, a chinchilla is a hyperactive pet, not prone to cuddles. Their rib structure is especially delicate, so handling a chinchilla is more like allowing them to perch safely on a forearm rather than holding them close and tight. The best way to interact with a chinchilla is to allow them to use you as a playground, not force them into submission of snuggles. 

As much as a chinchilla looks like a rabbit, the dietary requirements are radically different. A chinchilla’s natural habitat is the Andes Mountains in South America, which is a high desert biome. A desert biome is not necessarily hot, but it is dry. This strictly limited moisture means the vegetation that grows there is naturally bland, not lush. Therefore, a chinchilla’s diet should be high in fiber, low in protein with no fats and very little natural sugars. High quality pellets offer a simple, easy method of feeding, but are considered a “soft” food. Soft foods provide calories, vitamins and minerals, but do not offer proper wear for a chinchilla’s ever-growing teeth.

Offering fresh vegetables and fruits can kill a chinchilla quickly, as these high-moisture foods cause a gassy buildup known as bloat. Since chinchillas cannot pass gas, this buildup of pressure will literally cause the intestines to explode. Even offering vegetables in moderation is a very dangerous practice.

In actuality, dried hays like timothy, orchard and alfalfa are the ideal food for chinchillas. Hays and dried grasses offer these hindgut fermenters the fiber necessary for proper digestion, as well as exercise for their teeth and jaws. Because a chinchilla’s teeth keep growing, they need ultra high fiber foods and chew toys to keep them properly worn and trim. With this in mind, chew toys are necessities, not luxury items. 

When contemplating a chinchilla’s habitat (cage) it is important to consider the size, shape and accessories. A proper cage setup should be quite large. The minimum cage size required for a pet chinchilla is 2’x2’x2’ or 8 cubic feet per animal. In their native habitat, chinchillas live in herds. For the benefit of the animal, it is best to keep them in same-gender groups. Single gender groupings discourage breeding and mating fights.  Since a male chinchilla can smell a female in heat up to a mile away, it is ideal to keep just one gender of chinchilla in a home. Littermates usually make the best companions.

Chinchillas live more like mountain goats than ground animals, so a cage taller than its footprint with plenty of staggered ledges is most natural. This allows the chinchilla to choose a safe height from which to survey their environment. Cage ledges should be made of kiln-dried pine. Wooden ledges double as a platform and a safe chewing alternative. Plastic or metal ledges, shelves and ramps run the risk of an intestinal impaction or tooth break. Wire bottom cages or platforms also pose a risk of bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis) or leg fracture.

Another housing consideration; is your home equipped with air conditioning? Chinchillas cannot stand temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If they are actively playing, even 75 degrees is dangerously hot. Chinchillas overheat quickly which can cause permanent brain damage or death. Young chinchillas cannot regulate their body temperature as well as an adult and are especially sensitive to heating and over exhaustion.

Does anyone in your home have allergies to dust or pollen? Chinchillas are NOT hypoallergenic pets! One of the top five reasons why we receive chinchilla surrenders is due to allergies of their owners, or someone else living in the home. Chinchillas keep clean by rolling in special volcanic dusty sand. This material is highly irritating to those prone to respiratory and skin issues. Additionally, chinchillas require loose hays, grasses, herbs and other foods that tend to harbor a variety of pollens. Their bedding, if not cleaned at least weekly, is a breeding ground for bacteria and molds. 

The last two care requirements are perhaps the most important; can you provide the funding for emergency vet care, and is your temperament compatible with a chinchilla’s? Chinchillas are highly sensitive animals. Being an exotic pet brings with it exorbitant vet costs. The average cost of a vet visit ranges from $75 for a wellness check, up to several thousand dollars for a leg amputation or casting, tooth trim with x-rays, or other emergency such as surgery to remove an intestinal impaction, spay for a retained placenta or dead kit, or intervention for a rectal or uterine prolapse.

The personality of the potential owner is a very big indicator of whether a chinchilla is a good choice of pet. Are you responsible? Can you keep a commitment? Are your feelings easily hurt? Do you have the dexterity to catch and handle an energetic pet? Do you have the patience to work with an animal that is typically not one that enjoys handling? Have you considered that the life span of a chinchilla is up to 20 years? Can you accommodate the needs of a live animal long term?

Chinchillas can make the most amazing pets, but they are not ideal for everyone. Pet chinchillas are at the mercy of their owners to provide them with adequate handling, nutrition, housing and attention. If you feel you are a good candidate as a chin parent, we would love to help answer your questions and match you up with the perfect new pal. This is Whimsy, and I approve this message. ;)

About the author: Amie Leigh V. (AKA Whimsy) is a single mother of four children, one of whom has autism. As part of her childrens’ homeschool curriculum they began a home based shelter affiliate and website devoted strictly to chinchillas and their care. Whimsy has owned chinchillas since her teen years and, with a natural love for animals and teaching has become a worldwide resource for chinchilla owners, vet clinics, pet stores and other outreach and education opportunities. Whimsy holds several college degrees in Psychology, Speech/Language Pathology and Special Education with an emphasis in Autism Studies and Behavior Management. She and her children volunteer at Princess Anne High School with the special needs students where together they make chew toys and cage accessories to fund and support the chinchilla rescue. Visit our website at:
Happy November!

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. 

Shelf Pee-ers. You Know Who You Are.

Chinchillas are naturally very clean animals. Their feces are hard, dry, and odor free. Even their urine is mild. That is, unless you let the cage go too long between cleanings. Bacteria on wet bedding will rot and spread over a fairly short time. We’ve gotten in a number of complaints recently about foul odors and chins who have started urinating out the sides of their cage walls. If this is a problem for you, there are a few things you can do to address the issue.

First, clean the cage! A chinchilla cage should be cleaned at least once per week. This includes removing all bedding and wiping down all surfaces with a vinegar and water solution or other safe cage cleaning product. If you notice a white crust forming on the bottom cage pan, you’re not cleaning thoroughly or often enough. The crust is a protein buildup, evidence of urine left to sit too long.

The scatterguards on our cages make it so that a slide-out pan is not easily accessible. We use a shop vac to remove the old bedding. It takes less than a minute and the chins are so used to the process that they usually watch from an upper ledge.

If your chinchilla has learned the nasty habit of peeing out the sides of their cage, know that this is a learned behavior that is a result of living in a chronically dirty environment. It is their attempt to keep the immediate living space as clean and dry as possible. This is a difficult habit to break! To retrain your chinchilla, first you will have to retrain yourself to be consistent in the task of providing a clean, healthy home for your pet. Cage cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore! It is a prime opportunity to interact with your chinchilla and show your care and concern for their well-being.

Next, you’ll have to redecorate your chinchilla’s cage to make it impossible (or at least difficult) to continue the wall urinating habit. The ledges should be short and spaced so that none of the sides of the ledges come close to the side of the cage. Space the ledges so that the chinnie cannot back his or her tail up against a corner. If the ledges are so long that they can pee on an edge or corner and perch a little further down, this will only serve to reinforce the bad behavior. Our 6” Leaping ledges and 8” Lookout ledges are perfect to accomplish this task.

Some chins urinate on shelves regardless. This is another reason why wiping down the surfaces of the ledges is so important. The slight amount of moisture left on the shelves with the vinegar and water solution will not harm your chin and will air dry without any additional concern. There is a mistaken assumption that dampness in any form is a hazard to chinchillas. This is simply not true. Chinchillas are not Gremlins that will suffer irreparable harm if a single drop of water touches them. While it is true that they shouldn’t receive a water bath, a good cage cleaning is harmless to the chin, and beneficial to their environment.