Posts tagged fur chew
Happy March!

For the month of February, five (5) chinchillas were adopted and four (4) chinchillas were surrendered. 

Fairly often we get in cases of chinchillas who chew their own fur. Barbering, as it's called, is a stress reaction. RARELY is it actually a genetic cause although chins who are genetically inclined to chew their fur are more likely to do so when under stress than those who come from genetic lines that don't show this behavior. Let me clarify, the genetic component is a trigger, not a cause. Anyway, I want to share with you the causes and cures for fur chewing as we have come to understand it.

We actually love getting in fur chewed chins. They put the "rescue" in Chinchilla Rescue and make fantastic cover stories. ;) Here is one of our more notable before and after situations. 

This trio of girls came to us in this condition:

They were overcrowded in a cage too small for even a single chin, with all metal ledges, ramps and a wire cage bottom. They had no place to hide and the height of the cage was too low to allow them to survey their area. We upgraded their cage, gave them one more than twice the size (especially in height) included wooden ledges, lots of places to hide, and unlimited access to a wide variety of chew toys.

Fur chewing chins tend to be nervous pickers, so the best chew toys for them are the soft, shreddy type. Giving them all hard chew toys "that will last longer" actually makes the problem worse. Fur chewers are showing their need when they pluck and shred their fur and that of their cagemates. If you only listen, they will tell you what they desire!

With this particular group, we learned that they loved vine products and fibrous hays. Our Edible Cage Garlands, Hugs & Kisses Garlands, Herbal Bunnies, Spiders(!) Chinchworms and Pinata chew toys were very popular with them.

We also learned that they viewed their food bowl as half empty, not half full. A half empty bowl caused them to become nervous and start chewing again. Since their former home was inconsistent in their care, they never knew when their food supply would run out. Within a few weeks of steady, regular care, their fur began coming back in again. When chinchilla fur grows back, it comes in patchy and uneven, like this:

Some people advocate that daily, out of cage playtime as mandatory for chinchilla well being. I'd like to debunk that. Interaction with our pet chinchillas should be a pleasant one, not a daily chore! In actuality, chinchillas view their home as their safe haven. (Assuming their cage is large enough and properly equipped). Obviously a small cage does not afford them the necessary exercise or stimulation. OVERSTIMULATION can contribute to stress that leads to fur chewing. Some chinchillas thrive on out of cage playtime, others become nervous wrecks. Once again it's very important to know your pet and their individual preferences. In the case of the three girls, they had zero out of cage playtime while at our rescue. They did, however, have basic care with particular attention to their particular needs. After a few months, the girls fur was completely grown in and they were ready for adoption. How's this for a happy ending?

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!

For the month of July, six (6) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. After June's huge home-finding success, we actually welcomed the adoption lull here. Once again we have been able to open the triple stack cages and let our own small herd spread out. 

People often ask us about our show chinchillas and are sometimes confused by the difference between a "pet quality" chinchilla and a "show quality" chinchilla. The differences are based on; size of the animal, fur quality (color, clarity, density, strength) and overall condition.  A show chinchilla is large and blocky, with blue-toned, thick, straight fur. Even white and beige chinchillas should have a blue hue to their fur rather than a yellow cast. Usually it's easier to show people the difference between a pet chinchilla and a show chinchilla.

Sometimes folks ask if we show the rescue chins. Short answer: No. It would be pointless to show a chinchilla with an unknown pedigree. The main purpose of showing a chinchilla is to get a professional opinion regarding pair breeding for improved genetics. A responsible breeder will only allow chins to breed that have the potential for more robust health and vigor.

Backyard breeders, people who breed their pet store chins, and "oops" litters generally cater to popular colors or the general cuteness that all babies offer. This indiscriminate breeding leads to weaker bodies with chins prone to malocclusion, heart murmurs, genetically predisposed behavior problems, fur chewing and overall questionable health. However, even these animals need good, loving homes. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Save lives: Leave the breeding to the professionals.

Is Your Chinchilla Lonely?

Can you imagine living out your life on your very own island? Imagine living on a beautiful tropical paradise, with plenty of food, shelter, water, the perfect temperature. All your needs are met, but you are completely alone (except for the native wildlife).

Many pet situations are just like this. In a home where all their basic needs are met, but the owners simply want "one" of whatever. We have heard the excuses; "I can only afford one," "I want to bond and spoil just one," "I didn't think they could get along with the same gender and didn't want to chance having babies," etc.

What these reasons don't take into account is the fact that chinchillas, and many other species, live their lives in groups. Much like horses, chinchillas are herd animals. In fact, chinchillas snuggle and pile together for comfort and safety. They groom one another and generally keep each other content.

We have seen and heard innumerable cases of chinchillas raised in isolation who have simply turned neurotic; they start to chew their fur, bark or call a lot, are much more hyper than usual, and can even expire prematurely. Do you blame them? Not to say that all chins stress out by being an only pet, but a truly concerned pet owner will consider the pet's needs before theirpersonal preferences.

Don't believe the myth that having two or more will cause them to bond more strongly to one another than to you. While that is true of birds, it simply is not the case with chinchillas. Actually, we have found that paired chins are more friendly and interactive since their basic comfort needs are met. 

At our rescue, we work very diligently to spread the word about chinchillas' needs, and do our best to ensure that each single chin has a snuggle buddy before they are adopted to a new home.

But it's not as easy as it sounds. Chinchillas like to choose their own friends and sometimes it's quite apparent that certain chins simply HATE each other. Group dynamics can be tricky, which is why we do all the hard work first.  ;)

Happy October!

For the month of September, 5 chinchillas were surrendered and 11 were adopted. I'm also happy to announce that the single boy who came in was successfully paired with another single. Ricochet and Walter were lonely boys and Ricochet had actually taken to chewing his own fur. The introduction of the two was amazingly heartfelt. Walter was sooo excited to have a friend. He immediately started grooming Ricochet who at first was taken aback by the ministrations, but quickly relaxed.  Now the two are deeply bonded and Ricochet's fur is starting to grow back. :)

And speaking of growing...our homegrown loofah looks amazing! The vines have spread across the dividing fence between ours and our neighbor's yard, but is quickly trying to overtake both homes. Harvest time is starting and we're learning how to time it just right.

And also speaking of growing....our generator challenge has been a remarkable success! In only one month's time we have almost met our goal.  As of today we have just over $2500 towards our $3000 end. We did not expect to meet this endeavor so quickly, but this is all thanks to our returning and new friends. Thank you everyone for the encouraging outpouring of support!