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Care and Husbandry

Environment and Temperatures

Chinchillas need cool temperatures. They prefer their environment to be between 50 degrees F and 68 degrees F, so if you live in a warmer climate area, an air conditioner is a must. Their cage should be away from drafts, heat sources, and out of direct sunlight. Temperatures should not be below 50, higher when having babies, and not over 80. If you do not have an air conditioner, then plastic bottles filled with water and then frozen can be a substitute, however, on hot days, these bottles will need to be changed frequently because they will melt. Chins will usually sit right up against them. Chins are very prone to heat stroke. I have seen many chins with heat stroke, bring them to the vet and put a cool wet towel around them on the way over. A lot of the times, there wont be anything you can really do. The cool towel will help. These guys also prefer low humidity (<50%) if possible. They prefer to be in a quiet place, so they can sleep without being disturbed. Too much noise can scare a chin, as well as barking dogs and any other loud noises.


The best type of cage for a chinchilla is a flat-bottom cage with 1" x 1/2" wire sides, although they are very difficult to keep clean. There are pull out pan type cages that are ok too. These are the ones I prefer as long as the wire bottom is 1/2" x 1/2". Anything larger than this and you run the risk of your chin getting his or her feet caught in the wires. You can find cages at pet stores, look for ferret cages or large chinchilla cages, or you can go on the internet, and martinscages.com is a good site for these. They will custom make any type of cage you want and they are much more reasonably priced than the local pet store. The cage should not be made of plastic and should have animal proof locks. If they can maneuver the locks, you have a real problem on your hands. Locks with a spring are a very good example of a decent cage lock. Chinchillas love to have a wooden house with multiple holes. I have litter trained my chins to use a corner litter pan that attaches directly to the cage wire (so cannot be moved by the chins). I just use the pine litter you can get at the pet store and change it frequently. Chinchillas usually like to pick a corner to urinate in and that is where I put the litter pan. This works most of the time and helps to keep the mess and smell down to a minimum. Cages should be cleaned once a week, but, if they are litter trained, you can probably stretch it out to every 2 weeks, depending on the number of chins in the cage.

Litter and Bedding

Pine, Small Pet Eco bedding are two types that I use. Pine should be Kiln dried. Aspen bedding is ok too, but it seems to be a little more costly. You want to stay away from Cedar (Red chips). When cedar is mixed with urine it puts off a toxic gas. This is why its great for storage closets because it is toxic and kills insects. Cedar has been known to cause eye irritation, hair loss and upper respiratory problems. Also stay away from Corn cob bedding. They will eat this bedding which can cause bloating, constipation and obesity possibly to the point of death. No Newspaper, the ink is so concentrated that the chin will have problems from it. Animals can have allergic reactions just like humans. If you notice itching or hair loss, try changing your bedding. If nothing changes, contact your exotic veterinarian.


A good brand Pellet such as Mazuri, is one most breeders use. Traditional, Oxbow are two others that are highly recommended. I do not recommend anything made by Kaytee, Sunseed, Charlie Chin Food or any real commercial brand food that you would find at stores like Petco.) I use Mazuri, located at any local pet store, or online. Stick to one brand all the time, if you decide to switch, do it gradually and mix in a little of the new stuff so the chinchilla is slowly weaned off the old food. A fast switch can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. One important factor in looking for chinchilla pellets is that the product should have NO corn in it. Because Corn has aflatoxins, it has a tendency to cause an over growth of yeast in the body which interferes with vitamin absorption. This can be deadly to a chinchillas intestinal flora. A chin should have fresh food daily along with fresh water. Bacteria and parasites can build up in bottles and bowls if chins soil in them and/or are left out too long. I feed mine in the evening every night, and toss out any left over food. If there is some left overs, this means you may be feeding too much, cut back a little and see how if it helps. But make sure your chin IS eating, or it can lead to a glucose and vitamin deficiency which can in turn lead to seizures.


Raisins, apple slices in moderation, too many fruits can be hard on the pancreas. A spoonful of shredded wheat squares (plain without any sugar) is also a good treat. Keep the treats down to a minimum, again as they have a very sensitive digestive system. Main diet is fiber because it is easy for them to digest. They have trouble digesting large amounts of sweets. Sunflower seeds are ok, but also in moderation. I give my chins about 2 raisins a week. And mix other treats here and there are well to give them variety.


Alfalfa is more beneficial to the chin because it contains higher amounts of protein, potassium and calcium. But they should have it in moderation because since it is High in calcium, potassium and protein, it can cause GI upset if they eat too much of it. An alfalfa cube every once in a while can be used as a treat as long as the feces (stool) is remaining normal. Beware of pressed cubes that aren't rich green, that may contain glues and pesticides. Read the labels to make sure they are free from any glue or pesticide. This is true with the loose hay as well. Timothy hay is good and safe for chinchillas too but you still should check the labels to make sure this doesn't contain the same items mentioned above. I personally use Timothy Hay, but will also feed Alfalfa. I also get the Timothy pressed cubes, it is good for the chins and also promote healthy trimmed down teeth.

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamin supplements are also available, many in the form of drops which can be added to the water. Many good breeders use a grain supplement fortified with vitamins instead of or with the drops. I personally use the supplements in pellet form, Animax being one, and Total Enhancer Supplement is the other. I do have the drops but only add it to the water when the females are pregnant or nursing. I also keep a tube of Nutri-Cal on hand. Nutri-Cal is sometimes recommended if you need to put weight on a chin, injured kits, or any chin who is not eating and is losing weight.


Chins should always have fresh water daily. I recommend only using water bottles as opposed to bowls. Chins don't normally know what to do with a bowl and you really don't want to risk them aspirating any water into their lungs while learning how to drink from a bowl. I once had a hamster drown in a bowl, so you really don't want that either (if they are a smaller chinchilla of course).

Dust Baths

Blue Cloud, Blue Sparkle dust. I personally like the Blue Cloud dust, but have never tried Blue Sparkle, though have heard good things about it. The dust cleans the chin in a way by removing any oils that build up in their fur. Oils can build up from our hands when handling them, and just in between baths. A chin should never get a real bath with water. It will ruin their fur. Some have been known to do this and blow dry the chin but the direct air on the chin can be harmful to their health and you can overheat the chin if using a blow dryer. Which is not good seeing as chinchillas are prone to heat strokes if too warm.

Training Your Chin

Chinchillas can be trained to use a litter box (many of mine already are) and can be trained to go back in their cage upon demand. When you get your new chinchilla spend a lot of time carrying him/her around with you. Don't let them jump out of your hand, babies still don't have a grasp on heights and will jump not realizing how high up they are. Don't let him/her run free until your sure your pet trusts you (about a week if its previously been handled by the breeder). During this time when you put your chin back in its cage after the door is closed, shake the can that you carry your treats or raisins in and give your chin half a raisin. They will associate the being back in the cage as a good thing because you are rewarding them, and they will also associate the noise from the can, to "Yea Raisins!" When you are ready to let your chin out for free play be sure to give it enough time to really play (at least an hour). Make sure there are not electrical wires out, chewing on these can electrocute a chin and cause seizures, even death. Never trick or tease your chin they are smart and have a long term memory and will not be able to trust you. Never chase your pet to put it in the cage. Slowly approach your pet then luring it into a corner, casually talk to it, wave your left hand around slowly to get its attention and gently with your other hand scoop up your pet. If you fail try again but don't get upset with your pet and frighten it. But always remember to be gentle and go slow.

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