Posts tagged hay
Happy December!

Happy December everyone!

For the month of November, one  (1) chinchilla was surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. We had one person bring in a chinchilla for pairbonding and never returned to claim them. The legal requirements for going through abandonment procedure is both time consuming and frustrating. In this case, the false hope of an adoption with pairbonding was simply deceitful. I laugh when people tell me they wish they could do what I do. Rescue work is not all about taking in cute, sad animals. More often than not we receive elderly, ill-tempered or sickly chins with grossly unclean, completely inadequate cages. We are met with a variety of illnesses and medical issues that have given us hands-on experience.


Animal rescue nearly killed me…literally. I almost died this year from zoonosis when a certain bacteria from a pair of rescue chins made its way into my lungs. As an asthmatic, pasteurellosis of the lungs is particularly life threatening. Today I would like to talk about cross-species disease transmission.


Pathogens can and do cross between species. A chinchilla can catch a cold from their people, contract fungus from someone who has athlete’s foot, acquire Pasteurella from the house rabbit and more. On the flip side, humans can contract certain diseases from their pets. These can translate as eye infections, skin infections, parasitic infestations, respiratory issues of a bacterial nature, etc.


Handwashing before and after handling your pet seems like a common sense procedure, no? But seriously, how many people really do that? How easy is it to walk by a cage, give a quick scritch or treat and move on to other tasks or pets? At home we generally have a good feel for the health of our pets and environment. In a shelter or rescue situation, there is more opportunity for disease transmission. One time we had a wildlife rehabber come visit who had ringworm patches exposed on her arms. Yup. For the next few months we struggled to contain and eradicate ringworm from the herd.

At home, letting your interspecies pets “play” together can be a deadly combination. Many rabbits carry the Pasteurella bacteria and show no signs or symptoms. In chinchillas that same bacteria is deadly. Unvaccinated horses can pass on strangles, which is also deadly to chins. Rodents can leave behind droppings full of listeria which can be found in hay and hay based products. It is this very reason why we advise against purchasing hay from your local farmer as most are stored where wild rodents can freely roam. So even the cleanest of homes with the most reliable quality supplies is still subject to contamination.

With this in mind, one of the ways you can keep your pet healthy is to watch for signs and symptoms of anything that may be “off”. As pet guardians, we generally have a good idea what normal behavior is for our individual animals. Pet forums are a great place to compare notes and learn from those who have experienced and treated specific issues. Armed with information we can be better advocates when it comes to partnering with our veterinarians. The hard part is being bold enough to resist deferring to someone based on education rather than experience.

It is our sincerest wish that yours and our chinchillas remain healthy and happy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all.

...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.