smalllogo.jpg (2201 bytes)smallAzchins.jpg (5226 bytes)AZ Chins Chinchilla Owner Resources

Cleaning
How to clean up after your chin!

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Chinchillas are actually pretty easy to keep clean if you stay on a daily/weekly cleaning regimen.  They enjoy having a clean place to live and are happier when their cages are clean and smell nice.  Here are some tips, suggestions and ideas about cleaning up after your chinchilla!!  Please remember that this is an incredibly important part of caring for a chinchilla and keeping her healthy.

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| Daily Cleaning | Weekly Cleaning | Vacuuming and Floor Cleaning | Cage Disinfecting | Special Cleaning |

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Daily Cleaning

On a daily basis the cage of your chinchilla should be inspected and kept as clean as possible.  It isn't necessary (in most cases) to change out the litter in the bottom of the cage everyday.   However, wet/old hay should be removed and thrown out as well as old food that is either wet or has droppings in it.  This is very important in keeping chinchillas healthy and not spreading infectious diseases and bacteria.  Any wet wooden toys or sleeping mats should be removed and thrown out or cleaned .  Wet surfaces are a breeding ground for bacterial growth! 

Waterbottles and food dishes should be checked daily for cleanliness.  If there is something floating in the waterbottle, take it down immediately and clean it thoroughly.  I suggest buying a waterbottle cleaning brush, those make it much easier to get down in the bottle to get it extra clean.  Soapy hot water and a good rinse are needed to clean it up well.  Some waterbottles are dishwasher safe, but I think it is best to clean them by hand to make sure that they are really clean.  I like to soak waterbottle tubes and nozzles in bleach water for several minutes before rinsing them.  Infected waterbottles can cause all sorts of problems - mostly parasitic bacterial infections and possible toxic shock conditions should the bottle have enough bacteria in it.

Food dishes that have gotten urine in them or have gotten wet in another way should be washed in hot soapy water and dried very well.  Running them through a dishwasher can help to clean them in a hurry along with people dishes.

These are the two most important things in the cage to keep clean and should definitely be checked daily, if not more often. 

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Weekly Cleaning

Once a week cages should have their litter completely changed out.  This cuts back on odor and lessens the change that your chinchilla will become ill from the bacteria growing in wet shavings.  When shavings get wet with urine, they begin to break down and decay.  This process will continue until the shavings are just about turned into soil!  Mold can also grow in the shavings if the cage isn't cleaned frequently enough, it can be very bad for a chinchilla's health!  Rotting shavings are very stinky, too.  Things can get especially bad if the chinchillas are able to sit in the shavings.  The ammonia that comes out of wet shavings can cause severe lung problems for chinchillas after a short while.

Just remove the old shavings/litter and add new.   Sometimes it may be necessary to wipe out the bottom of the cage because the shavings or shaving residue is stuck to the pan.  You can do this with a paper towel or cleaning cloth with a little disinfectant on it (Mr. Clean or Lysol or, even better, bleach).  Place the new, clean shavings in the pan and you are all done cleaning the cage for a week.   Most of the time we will wipe down other surfaces of the cage with disinfectant because they have gotten dirty.  This may or may not be necessary every week.   It depends on the chinchilla in the cage, some are dirtier than others.

Waterbottles and food dishes should be cleaned AT LEAST once a week to prevent bacterial contamination.  This seems to be especially important with waterbottles.  Both should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly before being returned to the cage.  Disinfection with bleach is a good option.  Pour a little bleach in the bottle and give it a good scrubbing.   Thoroughly rinse the waterbottle several times to be sure that all the bleach is gone.  Clean up any drinking tubes, washers and level floats just as well as the bottle.  A dirty waterbottle will make the water taste bad and chinchillas may not drink from them as they should.  At the very worst bacteria that has grown in the bottle can cause sickness and death.  It only takes a couple of minutes to clean your chinchilla's waterbottle and the benefits of doing so are a healthy chin with a longer lifespan.

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Vacuuming and Floor Cleaning

Some chinchillas enjoy throwing pellets, droppings and toys all over the floor for, sometimes, several feet around their cages.  You will probably have to vacuum up at least every couple of days just to keep the area tidied up.  I normally end up vacuuming once or twice a day depending on how rowdy my chinnies get.  A good vacuum is necessary when you have chinchillas.  It must be able to take sucking up hay and pellets and other things regularly.  We've ruined quite a few good floor vacs from vacuuming up chinchilla messes.  One vacuum I used lasted for four months before chinchilla fur had actually gotten into the motor and had clogged it up several times before that.  They are a pretty good source of dust and fur and all sorts of other messes.  Once someone has more than about five chinchillas in his or her home, it may be necessary to invest in a good quality shop vacuum for cleaning up messes.  A vacuum can also be used to remove old hay out of the inside of the cage, as well.

It is pretty much inevitable that urine stains are going to end up on floors and sometimes walls when a multilevel cage is used.  Chinchilla urine really isn't that difficult to clean up.  Most carpet shampoos will bring it right out and it rarely stains carpetting.  I suggest getting it up as soon as possible to prevent any staining!  We've used Oxiclean with pretty good success to remove urine from our white berber carpet.  However, I have been told that Oxiclean can bleach out certain colors and types of carpet, so you should be careful and use it sparingly if you think that there may be a problem with your carpets.  To prevent urine from getting on the floor, especially if your cage has a slide out pan, I suggest putting down a piece of carpet protector, towel or runner under the cage.  This will save you lots of time since you won't have to get on your hands and knees to scrub out the carpet.  Urine guards can also be used with some success to prevent chinchillas from getting urine outside of the cage and on walls or the floor, these can be purchased from most cage supply stores.

One chinchilla makes very little mess, but he will still make some mess.  If you keep on top of it by cleaning daily or even every few days, there will not be any problems with urine staining or with a big mess.   Chinchillas are easy to care for, but it is necessary to clean up after them regularly.  Messes can accumulate and look pretty bad if things aren't maintained with a chinchilla as it is with any pet.

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Cage Disinfecting

After a month or two it is usually necessary to completely scrub down a chinchilla cage and disinfect it.  This is pretty easy, but it can be time consuming depending on how large the cage may be.  If a cage isn't kept scrubbed down and clean, it can rust prematurely from urine basically eating into the metal, develop very hard to remove urine deposits all over the cage or even make your chinchillas sick.  Our cages seem to really need a good scrubbing every 6 to 10 weeks, again, depending on how dirty the chins are that live in the cages.  I've had people donate cages that were never scrubbed down that smelled extremely bad because of the urine and dust mixture that was just caked all over them.  So not keeping a cage clean can be unhealthy and very smelly!!  Bacteria growth in a cage can cause infection in paw pads and even severe respiratory infections and problems. 

For all-metal cages:  I prefer taking the cages outside and spraying them out using a garden hose.  After wetting the cages and their pans, I scrub them down with a bucket of Mr. Clean and Oxiclean in hot water or I may use bleach water.  Bleach is the best disinfectant that is easily obtainable at any grocery store (1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water) - just be careful not to get it on anything that you don't want bleached.  A good scrub brush is a must!  Even better is a Black and Decker Scum Buster with a brush attachment, it can clean a cage in no time!  Just dip the brush in the disinfectant or bleach scrub all surfaces of the cage until all urine deposits and other stains are removed.   For very dirty cage surfaces you may want to consider soaking to remove all the grime.  On cage pans I like to soak them in bleach water for 10 minutes and then scrape them with a sharp metal scraper - this makes them look like new and ensures that they are completely disinfected.   There are many types of disinfectants that can be used, read the label to see how to use them properly and the amount of time that they need to be left on surfaces to completely kill bacteria and viruses.  White vinegar will remove stubborn mineral deposits from cage pans and cages.  I use it after I am doing rinsing a cage that has been bleached and rinsed.

After all the scrubbing is done, the cage should be thoroughly rinsed and then, if at all possible, set out in the sun to dry.  The UV light in sunlight kills bacteria and sunlight (especially here in AZ) dries cages very fast.  A good scrubbing with bleach will kill most bacteria and bright sunlight will help to prevent any bacteria from spreading and propagating as the cage dries.  If the cage can't be left out in the sun to dry, dry it with a towel and use a hairdryer on the cage to dry off the corners and other places that the towel didn't dry completely.  The hairdryer will help kill bacteria if the cage is completely dried with it.  Wet surfaces are the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth.

For cages with wooden surfaces, you must be very careful that the wood isn't allowed to get wet.  If does get wet, it must be sanded down to removed rotted out or bacteria ridden wood or replaced completely with a new piece of wood.  Painted or sealed wood that can be cleaned up without water penetrating the wood is best if you have a wood cage.  All surfaces should be kept clean and as disinfected as possible just like with metal wire cages.  Some people will scrub wooden surfaces with a strong bleach solution and then let them dry very well in the sun.   It will kill bacteria on the surface of the wood, but not any that has gotten deep into the wood.  It may be possible to kill bacteria in wood by baking it in the oven for 10 minutes at around 300F.  I prefer the wire cages because they are easier to disinfect.

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Special Cleaning

Sick, new, pregnant and baby chinchillas all require special attention when it comes to cleaning.  Sick chinchillas need to be kept extra clean to keep from either reinfecting themselves with bacteria that they may be recovering from or from being sick because their immune systems are compromised.  Clorox disinfectant wipes are great to keep around with sick chinchillas to wipe off the cage surfaces and kill bacteria and germs - although you may need to leave surfaces wet for several minutes for effective killing of bacteria.  Use bleach and rinse very well to disinfect surfaces.

Chinchillas that are new to your home can be more suspectible to disease because of the stress of a new environment.  Again, just keep the surfaces clean and remove all old hay and food everyday.  Pregnant chinchillas, especially those about to deliver, need a very clean cage at all times.   Pregnant chins are a little more sensitive and should be treated very carefully throughout their pregnancies.  After the babies are born it is imperitive that the cage is very clean, the mother should be kept very clean so that she can recover from the birth and the babies need to be clean since they have very immature immune systems and can get sick easily.

If the cage, food dish or waterbottle looks dirty, give it a good cleaning or disinfecting.  Things really can't be too clean with chinchillas and it is better to be careful than to let things go too far.  Dirty cages and waterbottles can and will severely compromise the health of a chinchilla.

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I hope that this page helps in understanding how to clean up after chinchillas.  Please let me know if you think I should add more to the page or if you think something is incorrect.  Email me at resources@azchins.com if you wish to contact me about this. 

Thank you for reading through this page!!

Other Sources of Information: Please try www.cachins.org for more information about chinchillas.  It is a great website and you will definitely learn something if you go there!

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Last Update:  8-15-2008
Content Owned by:  susan_leonetti@yahoo.com