Chinchilla - Housing

Being normal inhabitants of the Andes, chinchillas can cope very well with British outdoor temperatures and can be kept in a outdoor 'aviary' with plenty of branches for climbing and chewing. They do have problems coping with the damp and rain so a warm insulated box should be provided as a shelter/sleeping quarter.

Most owners, however, elect to keep their pets indoors in a cage.

What type of cage does my pet chinchilla require?

The cage should allow a lot of movement by the chinchilla. Multilevel cages, similar to those designed by many ferret owners, work well. Like other rodents, chinchillas love to chew. Wire-mesh cages are not recommended as the flooring will cause damage to the feet and chewing on wire may damage the teeth. Modern plastic cages are appropriate but care must be taken that the chinchillas cannot escape.

The floor should be covered in a thick layer of paper, hay or straw and this should be changed frequently. Sawdust or shavings may contain chemicals that react with urine.

Chinchillas are very susceptible to heat stroke; environmental temperature should be kept below 80º F; high humidity should also be avoided.

My pet seems lonely. Can I house more than one chinchilla in each cage?

Most owners house 1 or 2 pets in a cage; often the 2 pets are mates. While chinchillas are social pets that rarely fight, injury and death can occur from fighting. Care should be taken when introducing a new pet into your resident pet's cage. If you would like several chinchillas, it would be best to purchase them as youngsters.

What can I place in my chinchilla's cage?

Wood can be placed in the cage to allow the chinchilla to chew. Chinchillas require a dust bath for normal grooming. Special chinchilla sand is available to use in these baths. This should be provided twice a week only and fresh sand should be used each time – skin and eye infections may result from contaminated dust baths.

Does my pet chinchilla need bedding material in his cage?

Hay or paper may be provided as a bedding material. Paper can be in the form of newspaper, shredded paper or commercial recycled paper pet bedding.

Anything else I need to know?

Cages should be thoroughly cleaned at least twice a week. A full spectrum ultra-violet basking light can be useful if positioned within 45 cm (18 ins) of the cage. However, the electrics must be very carefully protected from the chinchilla or they will be chewed!

Used and/or modified with permission under license. ©Lifelearn, The Penguin House, Castle Riggs, Dunfermline FY11 8SG

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