Posts tagged interspecies
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.

Chinchillas & Dogs

Happy October everyone!

For the month of September two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. Our super secret news is stagnant. Sorry I don’t have more to share just yet. But we do have a new addition! We’ve brought in a livestock guardian puppy to the menagerie. Until we can have her guard the horses, Nova is perfectly content to guard the chinchillas. Which leads me to the following post all about how to introduce (or keep) chinchillas and dogs.


People regularly excuse themselves from adopting chinchillas based on the fact that they have dogs, or cats, a mean parrot, etc. We have those as well, but manage to manage the zoo effectively enough. We can share some of our no-nonsense tips with you. First, be aware that there are certain breeds or species (hunting dogs, ferrets, cats)  who are predators of chinchillas. Let’s talk specifically about dogs though, shall we?

Dog that were bred as ratters (terriers, dachshunds, pinschers) are typically not chinchilla-friendly dogs. Now, everyone must graduate bottom of the class so there are some varmint killing dogs that don’t do that job well. Those are the oddities you see on YouTube that show predator and prey sharing a food bowl or snuggling together or some other such weirdness. So to be clear, I do NOT advocate intermixing species to let them “play.” But you can train your dog to respect the other furry house pets and not simply consider them house pests.


A proper introduction is crucial. Allow the dog and chin to interact on their own terms behind the safety of cage bars or playpen. Do NOT hold a chinchilla up to a dog or other animal to sniff noses. Holding a chinchilla literally traps them in your hands and does not allow them stress relief to turn or run away. Do NOT hold a dog back from a chin. Be sure there is a safe (non-human) barrier between the two while they are learning about each other. Now here’s the training part. Praise the dog like crazy if he or she is behaving well. If the dog is calmly sniffing, that’s perfect! If the dog becomes overeager, lunges at, pokes a nose, swats or barks use your super-special tone of voice to let it know that the behavior is unacceptable. Match your tone to the level of misbehavior.

If you limit addressing a dog only when it misbehaves, then the dog may learn to seek interaction with you by “being bad.” One human/dog couple we know lives on the route we regularly ride our horses. When the owner is absent, the dog is a perfectly well behaved individual. She stays in her yard, doesn’t bark and just watches as we ride by. When the owner is present, the dog goes bat$hit crazy. The owner freaks out to the verge of an aneurism and there is a lot of noise an chaos all around. The dog has learned to behave a certain way which elicits a certain response from its owner. But back to dogs and chins.

You can use an arm extender (rolled up newspaper, flyswatter, etc.) to swat the GROUND next to the dog if it becomes too excited. Remember to praise calm behavior. Relax. Your dog knows when you’re stressed out.

If you leave the chins completely off limits then the dog will obsess over getting to the object of their desire. The key is consistency in showing the dog what is acceptable. Here’s another little side story. In a vet’s office another patron’s dog jumped up on me as I was sitting with a carrier of chins. I firmly put the dog off of my lap and proceeded to pet her as long as she had her feet on the ground. The owner apologized for the dog jumping up on me and stated that she hadn’t learned not to jump up on people yet. The very next thing this woman did was pat her lap to encourage her dog to jump up on her! I then pointed out that she just effectively taught the dog that it is, in fact, ok to jump up on people. Mystery solved.


To date we have trained up 6 successive Menagerie dogs of various breeds to respect the chins. This makes it so that if there is ever a cage escape, we don’t fear finding a massacre. If you are lucky (or if you’re not doing your job to protect), you may have a chinchilla who helps in the training department who will defend their personal space with a nip, spray, bark or rush.

This very brief post about dog training touches on rewarding positive behavior and setting up animal/animal interactions to succeed. For a more detailed explanation of using positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, please see this link: