Happy December!

For the month of November, three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and ten (10) chinchillas were adopted. We're hoping that this Christmas, more chinnies will find their way to permanent homes.

Christmas is actually a very good reason to hold out to adopt. With the start-up cost of owning exotic pet being as high as it is, sometimes it just makes sense to wait until a major holiday. ;) We have had several families get a jump start on adoptions for Christmas. But remember, we do not allow chinchillas to go as surprise gifts. The new owner(s) must come in for the chinchilla education session during the adoption meet and greet.

And speaking of Christmas, the special needs students who help us make our store itemshave been working quietly on holiday themed toys for the critters. Many of our "regular" store items were originally designed as themed toys...but stuck around. Even our limited edition Spider! has become a permanent item. (Partly because the students just love making them so much). But I digress...

For the holiday season we have released our vine twist candycanes, Christmas Arbor-eatems, overstuffed snowmen, edible ornaments, mini candycanes, wreaths, and whatever else can spark our imagination. Watch our store for new releases on individual items.

"Dear Santa"

Hello friends.

I just wanted to share with you a shameless announcement about my friend Jamie Glaser and his most recent creative way to spread his love of animals through media. Jamie is a singer/songwriter/animal lover/activist/and mediator at Luckys Place (the friendliest pet forum Ive ever seen http://luckychinchilla.proboards.com/index.cgi).

Not only is Jamie just a really neat guy, but he also bends over backwards to do good things. You see, Jamie really wants to spread the word when it comes to animal rescue and adoption. This personal goal aligns so much with our own that its difficult not to feel an instant bond.
This year, Jamie has chosen to bless us by sharing a portion of his earnings from his creative works. Jamie's most recent release comes just in time for Christmas! The latest DVD, Doc and Friends is a charmingly sweet, wholesome video that is perfect for the entire family. And combined with Jamie's Christmas CD, Dear Santa, helps us to remember our less fortunate, furry friends. If you have a soft spot for the silent less fortunate or know a die hard animal lover (and who doesn't) come check out this link for a sneak preview and ordering information:

Mandi Vollmer
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. 

Nutrition = Storage

The way we store chinchilla supplies is critical for our fur babies' health. Certain items require storage in a cool, dry, dark place, while others need to “breathe.”  Some chinchilla products have a shelf life, while others last indefinitely. Feed pellets are one of the more common foods about which people tend to have a laissez faire attitude. Pellets are relatively cheap when purchased in bulk, but begin to lose nutritional value after 3 months. Products that claim to have a 1-year shelf life do not address the fact that the nutrients gradually dwindle over that period. These should be stored in an air-tight container. 

We often receive raves about the freshness of our pellets where people claim that their chins shun pet store pellets, but love ours. This is mainly because we open and use our supplies within a very short time. This results in an ultra-fresh, bright green pellet that is nutrition dense. It is wise to only purchase as much pelleted feed as your pet can use within two months or less.

Another very important food item that requires specialized handling is dried hay. This item should be stored where it is allowed full air circulation, but is out of direct sun or bright light. This allows excess moisture to escape without causing the product to mold. If hay is stored in an airtight container, the anaerobic environment allows moisture and bacteria to accumulate and begin the process of decomposition. Sunlight and direct artificial light also leaches the chlorophyll and other vitamins from hay, resulting in a product that is no more nutritious than straw. Good hay depends on the growing season, cultivation, harvesting, and storage techniques. 

Loose wood, properly prepared, is another essential food item for chinchillas. However, proper preparation is critical in knowing how to process wood safely. The most important considerations are: is the wood organic? Has it been boiled to kill off parasites and allow for excess dirt and foreign growth removal? Has it been slowly dehydrated to ensure even drying? Quick “roasting” or “baking” at high temperatures for short periods of time is not adequate for wood processing. This method cooks the outer bark while leaving the middle damp. Mold spores are deadly to your chin! These can cause loose stool and potential death.  

We slowly convection dry all our hand selected woods for a minimum of 24 hours. Thicker pieces can take up to 5 days of continuous dry time to reach perfection. You can rest assured that we take care and caution when preparing our chinnie foods, treats and chew toys. Our reputation, and our chins, depend on it! 

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.