June 19, 2018

Chinchilla 101: What to know if you're planning on getting one + my experience

Fluffy, small and energetic. Those are some words that come to mind when I think about Fifi: my three year old chinchilla.

We got him from a breeder near by. I remember not really knowing what we were even getting when we went with my mom and sister to pick him up (and saw him for the first time). A chinchilla? Like a squirrel but bigger and fluffier?

We had never seen one in person, and were gonna originally get a female chinchilla but the breeder convinced us into getting a male saying they were much calmer and better behaved.

He had them in a big climated room with aisles of cages, and the first one we saw was a mother chinchilla with her two little babies. So adorable.

The breeder opened another cage behind him and grabbed a small chinchilla, about the size of his palm and holding him by his tail he showed him to us to see if we liked him. I always laugh whenever I remember that first time seeing him being shown off like that, poor thing.

We didn't contemplate any other little fur ball, and got him right away. He was given to us in a medium sized box, with little holes on the top so he could breathe. Luckily we lived about 15 minutes away, yet the poor thing still cried the whole ride home.

We had gotten him already his three story wooden house, made by a family friend who was a carpenter. As you can see in the photo below he had his little hiding spot, or room, with the door facing towards the sideway so he could have a bit more privacy.

He stayed in there for the majority of the following week, only coming out to eat or go to the bathroom when no one was around. He cried a bit when he heard we where close by.

Now this wasn't much of a surprise since the breeder had told us it takes them a while to get used to there new home and surroundings as well as people.

The foundation of their diet consists of pellets, specifically made for chinchillas, and some alfalfa. You can get them from almost any pet store or from the breeder where you got the chin. 

Additionally you can give them a wide variety of treats especially made for chinchillas, most are made for them as well as for other rodents: like rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs.

Fifi's top fave treats include: Papaya flavored type of gummies, Berry Yogurt cereal like treats and raisins.

You shouldn't give your chinchilla more than 1-2 treats a day, since it can give them stomach problems. Either way you should be aware of the consistency of their poop, since if they do develop any stomach issue you can treat as soon as possible.

They need to be in a quiet space with no air stream, as direct air (from the AC or a window/door) can really harm them. The breeder where we got him from later on told us about another one of his clients had her chinchilla pass away because of this. So since then we've been extra cautious, and have his assigned spaces: in the living room and in my sister's room, where he won't be exposed to this danger.

Chinchillas are very clean animals that do 90% of their grooming themselves. They don't bathe with water, instead they keep their fur clean with a dust bath about three times a week.

You can get the dust from your local pet store, some grocery stores that sell pet supplies may also have this (depending the country). Two-three times a week is the ideal frequency for their bathes. You place the dust in a especial chinchilla bath bowl or you can use a plastic bowl-container that´s deep and big enough for him to fit and roll around in it. You can change the dust once a week, or sooner if you notice too much poop in there.

Chinchillas will immediately rush to get inside and roll around.

Also be ready for some fur balls to appear every now and then, they do shed their old hair constantly (kind of like a cat I would say).

It´s also recommended that you brush your chinchilla´s fur every once in a while so he won´t get fur balls, cause once they get them they start to grow pretty quick and they can stay on them for a long time, so when it actually falls off it can leave them with a huge bare spot on them.

The ideal is to let them out every night 1-2 hours to run around in a chinchilla secured closed space.

Which means: no cables, energy outlet covered if possible (you can get those baby safe covers), no papers/books or any small item that he can chew on or swollen.

If you have smaller wooden items, other than big furniture pieces, like a wooden chair feel free to take it out of the room if you don't want your chin to personalize it for you.

As for the furniture you can't move, like a bed, closet, desk, you´ll have to risk getting some bitmarks here and there....or you can try covering the more reachable parts with a sheet or fabric cover.

We let Fifi out in my sister's room, which from 8-10ish pm becomes his room. We take out all the stuff that he can bite (that can be taken out of the room), like what's on her desk: notebooks, computer, papers; we unplug the tv and any other cables and leave them out of reach.

Out of reach: chinchilla´s may sometime if they´re left unsupervised or feeling a bit more adventurous go out of their regular exploring space and may jump a bit higher or try reaching new places that seemed to be out of reach for them, so it´s important to leave things where you consider they haven´t been able to reach before but also keep an eye on them as most as possible.

In our case, since it´s my sister´s room she´s in there 90% of the time, and if she has to go to the bathroom or goes somewhere else in the house, I take her spot or go check on him every 10-15 minutes.

But the ideal is for them to be supervised the whole time: they only get to come out for a very short amount of time in comparison to the amount they stay in their cage so it´s best to take that time off to go on your laptop, phone (without cables of course) or read a book, draw or write, you can make sure he doesn't take a bit of it being there.

Another great way for them to use up their energy is to get them a running wheel and install it in their cage, that way during the rest of the night while they´re up inside their cage they can keep a bit more active.

The wheel should be specifically for chinchillas since they need a bigger one than other rodents.

Chinchillas make a few different type of sounds from now and then that can indicate different things: fear, anger, arousal.
Chinchillas cry from now and then, mostly when in their hiding spot.

Here are a few samples of the sounds chinchillas make and their meanings:

  • Warning call: typically called "barking". Normal when they first come home and are adapting to new surroundings and strange new noises. As your chinchilla gets used to his new home, it will be a less frequent sound. Often they will "bark" while sleeping, surely from having bad dreams (there's no reason to believe that chinchilla's don't dream like humans and most animals do). 🔊 warning call - listen
  • Short alarm call: when scared from a sudden noise, it's common that they run away quickly to find a safe place, all while letting out this short shriek like noise. 
  • Fear and pain: common in shy and irritable chinchillas, or when they get hurt they will cry in pain.
  • Rage and anger: sounds like an angry grumble, common when a female chinchilla has a lot a babies and they fight with each other for getting fed. 
  • Marriage dispute: an angry grumple in situations where a male and a female chinchilla are confronting one another. 🔊 marriage dispute - listen
  • Baby contact sound: a baby chinchilla will come in contact with his mother nose to nose, and in the process squeak in a loud and high pitch form. It's a way of trying to get it's mother's attention to be fed or taken care of. 🔊baby contact - listen
  • Contact sound: a form of communicating with one another through a soft content grunt, often made when they are calm. Also may be heard in a situation where a lonely chinchilla longs for a play mate. 🔊 contact sound - listen
  • Decoy sound: made when a chinchilla wants something or is looking for something: beg for a snack, ask to be let out of his cage. 🔊 decoy - listen
  • Don't hurt me: when annoyed or cramped by another chinchilla, it indicates it's harmless and defenseless. 🔊 don't hurt me - listen
  • Protest: a grumpy noise made when annoyed or feeling pressed by another. 🔊 protest - listen
  • Defence: a short and powerful call like "kack-kack" meaning "Ouch" or "scram". Common in chinchilla mothers who are dealing with too demanding babies. Or when they don't want to be touch or bothered 🔊 defence- listen

Below I'm leaving you a list of basic and complimentary items you should get before getting bringing your chinchilla home.

  • Cage
  • Hideout
  • Dust Bath Bowl
  • Dust Bath
  • Alfalfa
  • Pellets
  • Treats
  • Brush
  • Aserrin
  • Chew Toy


  • Running Wheel

I hope sharing my experience and the basics I have learned about taking care of a chinchilla are helpful to you in some way. If you have any other particular questions that wasn't contemplated in this post, please feel free to leave it down below in the comments or DM at @lufrommars and I'll try to help you out with any additional information I may have about the issue.

If you already have a chinchilla or have gone and gotten one after reading this post, I'd love to know how it turned out and the little's one name, so don't hesitate to share your experience down below as well!

Thanks for stopping by and I will write to you in my next post.

Source of info. and sound files: https://infolific.com/pets/chinchillas/chinchilla-sounds/
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