Posts tagged cleanliness
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.

...and now, a word about allergies.

Owning chinchillas can be a challenge to those who suffer from allergies and/or asthma.  It is not unusual for a person to develop allergies after having been exposed to a trigger. But just because a person is exhibiting an allergic reaction to their chin, does not necessarily mean the beloved pet has to go. With chinchillas, the majority of allergy triggers stem from the bathing dust, hay or cage bedding. Rarely is it a result of being allergic to the animal itself. 

Whimsy is allergic to all animals, dust, pollen, molds AND has asthma. Therefore, when people contact us to surrender a chin because of allergies we are able to offer firsthand knowledge and options to those who are seeking a solution, rather than an excuse.

Normal chinchilla dust bath is highly irritating, especially for those with respiratory problems.  Our allergy and asthma friendly dust is a lifesaver (literally!) Instead of the microscopically sharp, angular volcanic dust, our bathing dust is made with a mixture of microscopically flat hypoallergenic cosmetic clays and minerals. It’s soft and gentle, and much easier on the lungs.  But please keep in mind, switching dust takes at least 30 days to work its way out of your home and mixing our allergy friendly dust with regular dust is totally worthless.

Timothy hay is a dietary staple for chinchillas, but the heavily pollinated seed heads are also highly irritating. There are easy options to give instead of loose timothy. Orchard grass and other quality, weed-and-seed-free hays are much less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in pet owners. In a pinch, you can provide hay cubes instead of loose hays. 

Sometimes the cage bedding is the culprit. Dusty or dirty bedding is a breeding ground for bacteria, molds and spores. The cage should be cleaned at least once per week. This should include not only emptying the bedding, but wiping down all surfaces with a chin safe cleaner. A water and vinegar solution works well. Some people choose to use a fleece liner instead of dusty loose bedding. Those should be washed at least every 3 days.

There is a workable solution to owning chinchillas and having allergies and/or asthma.  It all depends on how much one is willing to commit to make it happen.


Bumblefoot, medically known as ulcerative pododermatitis, is an inflammation of the foot pads. It is most commonly found in captive birds and rodents. Chinchillas are most susceptible to Bumblefoot when exposed to housing conditions that are less than optimal.

Wire floored cages, or cages with wire shelves and ramps are hard on sensitive little feet and are often the culprits of this disease.  A chronically dirty cage is also one of the primary contributors of Bumblefoot. Where a chin is exposed to damp, dirty floors or where he/she is inclined to urinate in favorite spots and rest in the aftermath, these conditions are breeding grounds for bacteria that causes ulcers to form. Even a simple case of dry feet from unlimited access to dust baths can crack the foot pads and offer a doorway to this malady. 

Treatment for Bumblefoot is a long, laborious process and it is verypainful for the chin. The feet must be soaked several times each day to keep the area clean and supple. Epsom salts soaks, vinegar and water, colloidal silver, orprescription Chlorhexidine wash are the usual courses of treatment. Oral antibiotics and pain meds are normally prescribed in conjunction. Additional topicals like Blu-Kote, Silver Sulfadiazine, Bag Balm with or withoutfoot wraps are often applied after each soak. 

We had a chinnie surrendered this week with a very bad case of Bumblefoot on all four feet. The hind feet were especially ulcerated with a raging infection. The poor baby also had an infected eye and what originally looked like an ulcer on the base of her tail turned out to be a half healed bone break! The ownerstried to do their best, but treating a squirmy chin isn't easy.

Foot soaks can be simple and hands-free with this method: Fill a clean kitchen sink with a few inches of water and additives of choice. A weighted cooling rack or cage panel placed across the top of the sink will ensure the chinchilla receives all the healing benefits without the seemingly endless time it would take to hold the little bugger still. You can simply set a timer for 5-10 minutes and allow the chin to safely debride. This is one of the few instances where it is necessary to get your chinchilla wet.

A modified burrito wrap allows for easy access to the feet without fear of a toothy retaliation. In this manner, you can apply additional ointments or creams, or get a better look at the healing process. This little chinnie seems to enjoy being bundled up. After each treatment we snuggle her like a baby to give her a few minutes off her painful feet.

Bumblefoot is a serious disease with painful and lengthy treatment. The absolute best course of action is preventative. Be sure your cage is properly set up for chinchillas, practice excellent husbandry management, and be alert to any changes in behavior or condition.

Chinchilla with Dreadlocks

When surrender chins come to Whimsy's, they (and their cages) arrive in various states of condition.

This special case came in with chinchilla-size dreadlocks hanging from his back and sides. These knots can develop on chins with especially dense coats when new fur grows and tangles in the old fur during a priming (shedding) cycle. Rolling in clean dust serves the purpose of removing old, loose fur as well as oils and foreign particles in the new fur.

Without regular bathing, the knots can grow so large that they require a special grooming comb (typically used when preparing a chin for shows) to remove them. This is not a store-bought flea comb. It is specially made for thick chinchilla fur, with teeth needle-sharp to separate the super fine hairs. One such chinchilla stars in our latest video... it's a chinchilla makeover! Watch the transformation.

It'll take another couple of months for the resulting patches to grow back in completely. Check back later for before/after pictures.

New Arrivals!

We have new arrivals!

Let's see...our last girl chin from the Northern Virginia mass surrender in January proved to be pregnant. She had a single male kit earlier this week. It is unfortunate that the little mommy didn't have a girl to stay with her. While she was suspected pregnant, our efforts to bond her with another female rescue went unsuccessful. We're hoping the increase in hormones is to blame as we carefully consider who might get along with this black velvet girl when she weans her little boy. 

The little guy will have plenty of playmates to choose from, though!  The chins that came in from the Saluda mass surrender of 17 had a group of 5 adult females with 2 kits sharing a cage with a single adult male (a chin we lovingly named Don Juan).  Another one of the females of that bunch gave birth to a little boy, too.

And here is where the "rescue" part of our rescue work comes in...

...We also received a pair of adult males who were surrendered after their owner became overwhelmed by their medical issues. The owners did their best to treat the little guys. But after a week and a half of hand feeding, and the loss of one already, they sought our help. We discovered a pretty serious hair ring on the penis of one chin who had started chewing the tip off in his effort to release the band. His fur was encrusted with mucus and old food and he has some nasal and eye discharge. No wonder his owner was overwhelmed!

Hand feeding can be a very messy task and the little guy had the remains of those efforts stuck in his fur. We really had no choice but to water bathe him. NOT RECOMMENDED EXCEPT UNDER EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES.

Please send healing wishes their way and for their surrendering owners as these boys continue on their road to recovery. We'll have more updates after our veterinarian has a chance to look into their more serious nasal and eye discharge issues.