What to expect from your new chinnie!
This page is intended to help people understand why their chinchillas behave the way they do and what to expect! All chinchillas are going to have different personalities, but there are a few things that are the same.
| Your New Chinchilla | Routine and Schedule | Chewing | Activity Levels | Changes in Behavior | Frightened or Angry Chins | Abnormal Behavior |
Your New Chinchilla
Sometimes a new chinchilla will fit right into his or her new surroundings, but the majority of the time chinchillas will be stressed and may feel a little threatened in their new homes. The best thing to do is to give your new chinchilla some time and space to get used to everything. Probably the worst thing you can do is put a new chin in the busiest room of your house with people and other pets running all around him. Find a quiet place that the chin can just relax in for a couple of days. Let him stay in his cage for a while so he can adjust to his new humans.
Don't have everyone sticking hands in the cage all at once. One person at a time should gently approach the chin to get to know him. This is done by placing a hand inside the cage and not moving it. The chinchilla will come to sniff the hand and slowly get used to it. After a few days the chinchilla will let you pet on him and eventually allow people to hold him. The trick is to take it slow. It may take a little planning and patience, however, getting a chinchilla to settle into his new family is not difficult to do.
Chinchilla Routine and Schedule
As the chinchilla gets more and more used to his new family, he may be introduced to a noisier part of the house. But, keep in mind that chinchillas sleep during the day and that they love having a solid routine. Our chins get their playtime early in the morning, then they get to sleep and we feed them at about 8 pm. They count on this schedule and if one event is missed or put off for more than an hour or so, they get very upset with us! You will need to set a routine with your chinchilla, and also allow him to have several hours of quiet during the day. This can work out really well if everyone is gone during the day and comes home in the evening.
Playtime (outside of the cage) is a very important thing to include in your chinchilla's schedule after he has gotten used to his new surroundings. 30 to 45 minutes a day is usually enough to wear the little fuzzies out! Your chin may want to run more or less, you and he will have to decide on that! All our chinchillas will get to run about 5 times a week, although some will require more exercise. Wherever they play needs to be chinproofed to prevent any injuries. This means that toilet lids need to be down , exposed wires hidden or protected and everyone must take care not to step on the chinchilla. Chinchillas are very active and exercise is an important part of their lives. Some chins will be affected greatly if not allowed to run, they may become neurotic and chew fur or not feel like eating. (I will not recommend any form of exercise wheel to leave in with chinchillas, out of the cage playtime seems to be best.)
Chinchillas have teeth that grow continuously, like rabbits and other rodent. So they must have a way to wear their teeth down to a manageable length. Chins will instinctively chew on everything they can, including just about everything that you don't want them to chew on! You'll need to provide things that they are allowed to chew on, like Chinchilla Chew Blox or good untreated pine chew blocks. Keeping chins away from things that you don't want destroyed is a good idea. Chins are very curious and like to "taste test" everything that they can reach. If their cages are too close to the wall, they will chew off paint and wall texture. Chewing anything and everything is normal, it is up to the humans to keep things away from chinchillas that need to be kept unchewed.
Chinchillas are very active little creatures. They love to run and jump and explore their surroundings. Some chins, especially young ones, seem to be hyperactive and never want to calm down to be petted or held. It is possible to train them to like being held, it just takes some time. Chinchillas that are bred by small hobby breeders are generally calmer and better socialized than animals from large ranches. However, when a chinchilla goes home with a new owner, it becomes that owners responsibility to socialize and train their new chinchilla.
A chinchilla should never be bought with the idea that the chinchilla will automatically accept his new owner. Having a chinchilla involves work in bonding with it! Some people get very lucky when they get a chinchilla that doesn't hiss and gets along with them right away. The only way to do this is to take it slow and to let the chinchilla learn for himself or herself that you are not a threat.
Some chinchillas will never like being held for too long. They will want to run and play all they can. This is pretty normal. Even when they are in their cages chinchillas will be very active and busy. If your chinchilla ever acts listless or is unresponsive, you must take it immediately to the vet since there is something very wrong. Healthy chinchillas are active chinchillas!
Changes in Behavior
Illness can bring about changes in chinchilla behavior, as can pregnancy and varying hormone levels. If your chinchilla is acting very strange, the best thing to do is to take it directly to the vet and have it checked out. Young males can act very strange when they reach sexual maturity at 6 to 7 months of age. These adolescent males can be very hyper, but they will start to mellow out in a few months.
Females go through their heat cycle once every 28 days or so. You may notice a change in behavior from time to time. Females can become more aggressive at this time. They can also become very aggressive if put around a chinchilla that they don't know. Males may become aggressive around new chinchillas, as well. Pregnant chinchillas have also been known to act differently around chinchillas and people they know.
If your chinchilla ever acts lethargic or doesn't move, take him to the vet immediately. He could be very sick! Chins are great at hiding illnesses even up until the point where they die sometimes. If you catch a disease early enough, chances are that you can save the chin. Always keep a careful watch on how your chinchilla behaves so you can be sure that he or she needs medical attention!
Angry or Frightened Chinchillas
Chinchillas will make a hissing or clicking sound when they are scared or very angry. Don't bother chinchillas when they are like this! You can get bitten or, even worse, completely lose the trust of the animal. Chinchillas have very good memories and it can take months to win back their trust. A scared chinchilla will defend himself and can hurt people or other pets, so when he is scared it is best to put the cage in a quiet place and leave him alone for a day or two. After a few weeks most chinchillas do not get frightened anymore if they are treated properly. If a chinchilla really doesn't like humans because he or she has been abused, it may take several months of work to get them to like people. This means very slowly getting the chinchilla to trust people.
A chinchilla that pulls out or chews off his or another chinchilla's fur is not behaving normally!! The chinchilla could have something psychologically wrong or have some sort of dietary dificiency. Most of the time the chinchilla is stressed from being in too small a cage or is just bored and needs something to do. The best thing to do is to re-evaluate what the chin is eating and make sure that it is nutritionally complete. Then you should find something for your chin to do! Add new toys or let him run a little longer during his playtime.
Fur chewing is a very hard habit to break for some chins. It can take months of trying to figure out what is wrong to solve the problem. Some chins will never stop doing it, they usually get better but never completely stop. A good place for suggestions for helping a chinchilla get over fur chewing is Chins-n-Quills online. There are a lot of experienced pet chinchilla owners on the message boards and chat that can help out a great deal with any questions you may have about chinchillas.
Another strange behavior is males "mounting" things. They may mount wrists and ankles of humans or mount other chinchillas. Young male chinchillas will do this from time to time, especially at 6 to 8 months of age. Normally they grow out of it. If a chinchilla acts much too amorous for longer than a few minutes, he could have a fur ring constricting his penis. Fur rings must be removed in a timely manner or the chinchilla runs a risk of getting an infection and could die, not to mention lose the use of his penis. You can use something like Jojoba oil or KY Jelly to remove the ring and most chinchillas will be back to normal in a few hours. Fur rings occur most frequently when the males are paired with females, but can also occur if they are alone or in the same cage with other males.
Last Update: 1-15-02
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