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.

It's our anniversary!

Happy November everyone!

For the month of October, two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. We’ve had quite a number of folks contact us regarding pairbonding but fewer individuals looking to adopt for the  first time. Even still, it amazes me that people can be obtuse enough to try contacting a shelter looking for chins to breed. It...just…never…ends. I can say this with the backing of experience as we are…


…now in our 10th year! November 1st 2008 was our official start date of Whimsy’s Menagerie. It’s been quite a ride! In that time we’ve stretched and grown, tried and failed, kicked and screamed and laughed a whole lot. What started as a homeschool project has become a lifestyle. We’ve settled in to a beautiful routine. Over the past decade we’ve managed to fine tune our operation. We have an easily recognizable signature for our cage accessories and chew toys and are always so thrilled when people tell us how well made everything is. We and our special needs student helpers thank you. Here is the original video of our early years.


We’re to the point now where some of our supplies and raw materials come by the pallet load. For the past two years we’ve been looking to move to a place that would allow for this expansion. We may have finally found that future home, but have been working out the details for the better part of this year. This is the cryptic news Whimsy has mentioned in past posts. Fact is, it’s been a very slow, laborious process with many, MANY closed doors, road blocks and issues. BUT, we seem to be on the fast track now. Time will tell. And speaking of time, during the nearly 10 years of operation, half of Whimsy’s children have graduated from college and moved on to pursue their life paths.


One funny story goes that when our webmistress (sassy looking first born on the right) graduated this past spring with her graphic arts degree, during one job interview the person nearly jumped out of her chair at the mention of Whimsy’s Menagerie. Apparently she’s a follower of ours. (If you’re reading this, thank you for the fun reaction.) Another time our hardware supplier had to actually contact Whimsy by phone (a highly restricted task!), he gushed that he felt like he was talking to a celebrity. How curious. In all honesty folks, I have no idea what I’m doing, but am sure getting good at it!

Being a single mom who works with power tools is somewhat of  an oddity. Our home is on a corner lot with full view of Whimsy’s shop area. On more than one occasion we’ve actually had men approach Whimsy to say that she should let her husband do the tool work. Uh….


But we do like to have fun in that regard. Once, we picked up an especially large load from the lumber yard. Standing in line to check out a couple of men walked  by with quizzical expressions on their faces. I jumped at the chance to have some fun and asked my daughter if she thought the lumber would fit in her hatchback. Another time the cashier made a comment about the big, beautiful stack of well grained lumber and our plans for it. I innocently said, "it’s for the firepit. We’re just going to burn it." He nearly cried. We had to console him. Another time at a woodwork shop our friend (who works there) commented to his co-worker about my woodworking skill. At which point I whipped out a raw apple wood wedge that just happened to be in my pocket and proudly displayed my “craftsmanship”. *cough* The confused look on the guy’s face was priceless.

And then there are the chinchillas. We’ve met all shapes, sizes, temperaments, conditions and colors. We’ve been peed on, bitten, groomed and snuggled. We’ve helped chins through medical conditions and eased some over the rainbow bridge. We’ve tamed some. We’ve found homes for lots and lots, and sadly, received some back. Some we’ve taken back by legal means when an adoption contract was broken. We’ve boarded chins, bonded chins and even bought chins. Whimsy started as a pet owner, dabbled a bit with the show circuit, and finally settled into hard core rescue work. Fact is, the chinchillas deserve it. Not to be treated as objects. Not to be used to fulfill some misplaced maternal desire for a baby, and certainly not as machines to pump out living creatures for financial gain. These adorable, sentient creatures are worthy. Just ask them. They’ll tell you if you listen.

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: http://www.dog-training-excellence.com/operant-conditioning.html

Traveling with your chinchilla

Happy September everyone!

For the month of August, three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and one (1) chinchilla was adopted.

At this time we don’t have a whole lot to report. Actually, there is a whole lot going on, but it’s a secret for a little while longer. *Shhhhh* And to help distract you, we’re going to talk about traveling with your chinchilla.

Not to make light of the historically high numbers of catastrophic national events lately, but we often hear from folks regarding how best to travel with their chin. We have a few tips to share that will help make transport a smoother ride.


First if your chin can travel in their regular cage, that would be ideal. If not, how about a section of their cage? If you have a Ferret/Critter Nation brand cage, this should be easy. If even that is not possible, you’ll need a sturdy hard plastic or wire carrier. A hard plastic cat carrier works well in pinch, but for longer trips (days) a chin can chew through the plastic.


Do not, I repeat, do NOT use fabric carriers,  screen mesh material, cardboard boxes or cutesyKardashian type carriers. These may be fine for micro pooches and cats, but not for house beavers. Once you have an appropriate carrier, line it with your bedding of choice: fleece, shavings, hay, or shredded ink free, unbleached paper. Fabrics  and recycled paper fibers are not appropriate bedding. Each pose a risk for impactions if your chin ingests the strings and strands.  It helps to place used bedding from your chin’s cage in the carrier so that it smells familiar. If there is room, place a favorite hidey house in there too.


Do not cover your carrier! Good air circulation is extremely important. If the cage is open wire, you “can” partially cover the cage to provide a sort of hiding place. But that would be better served by including a hidey house, tube or even a small cardboard box.

Bonded chins should always travel together. Even if the space is cramped, they will take comfort from each other. Traveling in separate carriers gives them compounded stress if they do not have their cage buddy with them and could result in a broken bond.

The emotional well-being of your chinchilla depends on their inborn temperament. Traveling is stressful, but not necessarily bad. Some chins handle a traveling adventure better than others. Actually, the majority of chinchillas simply fall asleep once the road vibrations lull them.


And speaking of road vibrations, do not attach a water bottle to your carrier. Those same vibrations shake out water droplets all over the cage floor which makes a miserable mess for your furry traveling companion. Chinchillas do not drink while traveling. More likely they will do so at a stopping point when no one is looking. So save the water bottle for rest stops and don’t fret if the chinnie shuns it. Chinchillas will drink when they are good and ready.

If you are traveling in the summer, remember that car temperatures rise rapidly if the air conditioning is off. If you need to stop for gas, have someone bring the carrier inside during the time it takes to fill the tank. Same goes for pit stops, food breaks, etc. Travel by air is not recommended unless you are able to personally transport the chin, with you, on board, inside the cabin.

And finally, to keep your pet distracted, make sure the carrier is full of fresh, dried hay and clean, new chew toys.

I hope this information is helpful. And I hope if you have to travel with your chinchilla that it is not because of an emergency situation.

Blessings and safe travels  to you all!

Compassion Fatigue

Happy August everyone!

For the month of July two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. For some strange reason we are getting a massive influx of senior chinchillas that everyone keeps passing over for the younger ones. These old guys need a soft place to land and a short(er) term commitment. If you have it in your heart and home to offer some seniors a final resting place, please contact Whimsy after looking over the adoptions information.

But today I want to share with you something very personal: Compassion fatigue. It’s a thing.

Up until recently, I thought I had become a middle aged, forever single, slightly overweight, bunny hugging curmudgeon. Get off my lawn!

It wasn’t until I learned that my ever-increasing grumpiness is a direct correlation to the repeat issues I encounter with my job. Compassion fatigue (AKA Secondary Trauma) is a type of numb bitterness that comes with chronic stress. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I just sometimes don’t love the things I have to confront. For example, we operate as a rescue. Rescues do not condone breeding, particularly by those who just want to make cute babies using their family pets. Yet…we still get folks who unashamedly contact us looking for cheap breeding stock. SMH.

Compassion fatigue runs rampant in the helping professions, including the animal care community. This is the reason why many rescues fizzle out so quickly. We are the last resort. The dumping ground. The place to deposit all the unwanted/child outgrown/oops litters/moving and didn’t consider pet rules/don’t have time and feel guilty/or owner deceased pets. On rare occasion, we meet with owners who have made every possible effort to keep their beloved pet, but circumstances beyond their control simply become real. I can feel the depression washing over again. Can you?

It’s not uncommon to feel like we rescue workers are fighting a losing battle. Sometimes I feel alone in this mission. It’s like having PTSD when I hear from owners who tell me that their new chinchilla is suddenly not eating their vegetables. Or when a person's chin is lethargic after "playing in their plastic run-a-round ball". Or when someone emails asking for instructions on how to pairbond their m/f chinchillas. Or hearing from paniced owners who discover kits in the cage. Or when we see Facebook posts from those who think it’s funny to troll. Even still, the thing that keeps us going is you...well, most of you.

What is like an emotional high are the words of support and hearing from repeat (and new) customers.  When I see familiar names come across my inbox, it’s like a virtual hug. Work helps keep my hands busy, which helps keep my emotions in check and my mind from wandering. And I love seeing those who adore their pets spoil them in the way they deserve. Filling your orders gives me a sense of satisfaction that there are good hearted owners who want nothing but the best for their chinchilla. And it’s my pleasure to offer my best. So, thank you all for your support. Thank you for the beautifully written emails and encouragement for our rescue efforts. Thank you for loving our Whimsy original products. And thank you for spreading the word about our store and the chinnies who need permanent homes. Our fellow chinnie friends help ease the effects of compassion fatigue and make this mission totally worth the effort.