Sunshine Chinchillas

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Bringing Your New Chinchilla Home

*Remember* chins under six months of age are still considered babies. 


When bringing a new chinchilla home, you will want to make sure you have the basics in mind:

  • Oxbow Chinchilla Pellets, Hay, and Bottled Water: This is your chinchilla’s current diet and is the only pet store brand that we recommend, anything with treats is not recommended. Please keep fresh food, hay and water in the cage at all times.
  • Water Consumption: Please keep an eye on your chinchilla’s water consumption. They are used to glass stems but have been introduced to “pet store” water bottle metal ball and stem. You may need to go in for a few days and manually move the ball on your water bottle to keep it wet. This will encourage them to drink.
  • Treats: Raisins and goji berries are not recommended. Shredded wheat cereal and plain cheerios are the only treats your chin is used to. NO treats should be given to chins under six months of age.
  • Absolutely No Fresh Fruit, Veggies, Seeds, or Nuts: Chinchillas come from a desert climate and are not used to foods with a high water content. These foods can cause runny poop, high blood sugar, and/or death.
  • Limit handling: Excessive handling can be overwhelming for a new chin; it is best to let them settle down for a few weeks. It is imperative that they have a quiet and calm area to acclimate to their new surroundings. 
  • No playtime before six months of age: Playtime can be dangerous for young chinchillas, it can cause overheating or hypoglycemia. This can lead to seizures, lethargy, injury, prolapse, or death. Once your chinchilla is over six months, short playtime sessions (15-20 minutes) can be conducted a few times a week. 
  • Tall Cages: All large cages should have all upper shelves removed for young chins. Anything higher than 12” can result in serious falls leading to injury or death. NO extra tall cages at any time, these can create a hazard leading to falls and injuries for adults or young chins alike. 
  • 67 to 75 Degrees Fahrenheit: This is the temperatures your chinchilla is used to. Anything higher than 77 degrees could cause overheating and death.
  • No wheels: Our chinchillas are not used to wheels, therefore we do not recommend adding them to the cage. Absolutely NO wheels for chins under six months old and NO wire wheels.  
  • No wire shelves, no ramps: Both wire shelves/ramps can result in injury and death as chinchillas can get teeth and/or limbs caught in these. 
  • Chinchillas Are Nocturnal: Chinchillas are normally active at dusk and dawn. Your chinchilla is going to want to sleep during the day. This is essential for kits under six months as they are still growing and need rest. Keep all interactions limited to early morning or in the evening.

Starter Supplies

Chinchilla Cage Setup

**Please note, just because something is sold at a pet store does not mean it is chinchilla safe**


Here are the supplies you'll want to get before bringing your chinchilla home:

  • Cage: Ferret Nation, Critter Nation, Feisty Ferret, Martin’s cages, and KW cages are some great brands to check out.
  • Pine, aspen or fleece bedding ONLY: No cedar, Carefresh, corn cob, newspaper, carpet, towels, blankets, magazines, cat litter, grass clippings, dirt/soil, or straw. Use of any of the above mentioned can result in death.
  • Glass only water bottle: Plastic can result in your chinchilla chewing on it and getting an impaction of the gut.
  • Ceramic, glass or metal food dish: No plastic food dishes at all.
  • Food, Water and Dust: No foods with unnecessary treats and no tap water. We recommend feeding Oxbow and giving bottled, filtered or boiled water. Pet store chinchilla dust it fine to use.
  • Pine wood or solid metal shelves: Under no circumstances use wire shelving or ramps. This can cause injury or death.
  • Safe wood toys: Please refer to the safe woods list on our website. No toys made with rope, plastic, unsafe wood, or fabric.
  • Only fleece hammocks. Entire hammock must be made of fleece. Even with fleece, keep an eye on chewing and remove if item shows any chewing.
  • Flying saucer or chin spin wheel. We do not recommend wheels as our chins are not used to them, but if you do purchase one absolutely no plastic wheels.
  • Chin chiller granite: If you would like to give them a cool place to lay, granite slabs can be an option. Please remember this does not replace keeping your chinchilla in a cool temperature. 

Chinchilla Behavior

Normal

  • Refusing to be handled: Chinchillas are a prey animal and being caught and handled goes against that instinct. Time and patience is what is going to help your new chinchilla to accept you.
  • Not being able to figure out the dust house: Our chins are used to dusting in metal pans (think of a loaf baking pan shape). It may take them a few tries before they get the hang of using a dust house that they have to hop in and out of.
  • Help! They are not drinking from my water bottle! Our kits are used to a glass “stem” which does not have a ball at the end. By taking your finger and running it across the end of the new bottle you create a drip of water. This will encourage them to learn how to use it.
  • Squishy poop: Switching to a new environment, water and cage can cause them to have softer bowel movements. This is no cause for alarm unless it continues for more than six weeks.Its best to give an excess of hay to ensure they keep they have plenty of fiber.
  • Why won’t they use the hammock? We do not use hammocks in our cages and your chin(s) have not been exposed to one. With a little time and patience, they will figure it out.
  • Barking, chirping or kakking: These are just some of the noises that chinchillas make. Most are related to not wanting to be disturbed or handled. If your chinchilla “barks” at you, it may be best to give them alone time.
  • My chinchilla’s pee is red! Is that blood? No, it is not blood. Chinchillas can have a very high concentrate of urine and it at times can vary from light yellow, orange to dark coppery red.
  • My chin is so hyper at night. Why won’t they calm down? Chins are normally active at dusk to dawn and tend to sleep during the day. If you have your chinchilla’s cage in the bedroom you may notice them bouncing around at night.
  • My chin prefers sitting at the bottom of the cage: This is completely normal, chins just like us use all parts of their cage. Them spending more time in one spot is nothing to worry about.
  • I see spots on my chin’s ears! As chins with pink ears age, they can get “freckles” on their ears. This is not a health condition and some pet owners feel it makes their chin more unique.

Abnormal

  • Overly pink or red ears: This can suggest that your chin is overheating, it is important to make sure the room they are in is cool enough and they are not be over-handled or overexerted. 
  • Extremely loose or runny poop: This can be a sign of an intestinal issue. Tap water can contain Giardia which can cause severe dehydration and even death. Filtered, boiled, or bottled water should only be used. 
  • Any bleeding: Any bleeding from nose, ears, eyes or genitals is not normal. This will require a vet visit immediately.
  • Heavy breathing or panting: This can be a sign of overheating or overexertion. You will need to allow them to settle down in a cool, calm environment.
  • Bald patches or chewed fur: This is called “fur chewing” and can be a sign of stress. Try to see what may be causing the animal to express stress by chewing on its fur. Limit playtime and interactions to a minim to see if it improves. If it does not improve, it may just be your chins personality. 
  • Drooling or wet fur under the chin: This can be a sign of teeth problems. Chinchilla’s teeth grow continually throughout their lifetime. If the teeth are not worn down properly overgrowth can develop (called malocclusion). Left unchecked the chin will be unable to feed itself and death will result as the tooth grows into the skull. Make sure you have plenty of hay, pellets, and toys for your chinchilla to wear their teeth down.
  • Seizures: Often caused by excessive playtime which leads to overheating. Any out of cage time over 20 minutes is not recommended as it can cause overheating. Once a chin has become too hot, irreversible nerve damage can occur.
  • Missing toe: Chins are very resilient animals and do sometimes get injuries to their toes/fingers. Most injuries will end up healing fine. If you see any swelling or they are unable to use their hand, then it is time to see the vet.

Playtime

Chinchilla Hammock

We do not give playtime to our chins often as it can be dangerous. We strongly urge all pet owners to take extreme caution when engaging in this activity. We absolutely DO NOT recommend playtime for chins under six months of age. Excessive playtime or playtime for kits can lead to:

  • Overheating
  • Overexertion
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Rectal Prolapse
  • Injury
  • Death


Once your chinchilla reaches six months of age you can start letting him/her out of the cage. I strongly recommend playtime ONLY in the bathroom. Keep cabinet doors shut, toilet lid down and make sure your chinchilla is supervised at all times. Limit playtime to no longer than 15-20 minutes a few days a week. Chinchillas do not need playtime, this is something that most pet owners enjoy doing with their animal. If you feel that you want to pursue playtime out of the cage, limit it to only three to four times a week.

Interacting With Your New Chinchilla

Rescue Chinchilla

This is a basic guide to keeping things safe while you and your new pet get to know each other. Remember your new pet can live up to 20 years with the proper care.


The most common question I get asked from new owners is, “how long before I can play with my chinchilla?” Right now, your chinchilla is still adjusting. For young kits, just like most babies, erring on the side of caution is better.


Don’t try to grab or “chase” your chinchilla around the cage: Chinchillas are prey animals, and the general rule is they don’t enjoy being picked up. Quietly sit in front of your chinchilla’s cage, talk softly to them, let them come explore who you are. Having your chinchilla be the one who sets the pace helps keeps the stress levels down.


If you would like to interact with your chinchilla outside of their cage, place the duster inside. Make sure to add a small amount of dust (general rule is a tablespoon) and once they hop in, gently place your hand over the duster. With them sitting inside your duster (or dust house) they can feel secure while you remove them from their cage. Please remember, no playtime outside of the cage until they are over six months of age. Any playtime before that can cause health issues or possible death.


Cage Cleaning:

Your new chinchilla is used to having his or her cage cleaned once a week. We here at Sunshine Chinchillas use pine shavings for our young chinchillas and fleece for our older chinchillas in larger pet cages.

Pine Shavings: 

If you are going to use pine shavings these can be purchased at your local pet store. Chinchillas on pine shavings need their pan completely cleaned once a week. Remove the pan, shake it into a trash can, and wipe the pan down with paper towels and vinegar. If your pan is extremely soiled, taking the pan outside (or in a laundry sink) and washing with dish soap is fine. We rotate all of our pans once a week, with each pan being washed with soap and water weekly. Once advantage to living in the hot sunny state of Florida is that you can let your pan bake dry in the sun.

Fleece:

If you choose to use fleece liners for the bottom of your cage, a two day cleaning is ideal. For a single chinchilla fleece can be an excellent option. Most owners like to keep extra fleece liners on hand to swap out on cleaning day. Your chin will usually jump up onto a shelf to watch you pull out their fleece. Remove the fleece, shake into a garbage can and set aside to wash. With the fleece removed, either remove the pan to shake into garbage can, or with a small broom sweep out the pan. If needed you can wipe out the bottom of the pan with paper towels and vinegar. Please note, never put anything other than fleece (or pine shavings) into your chinchilla’s cage. Towels, puppy pads, blankets, clothes, carpet, dirt, grass, etc can cause harm and or death.

Dust Bath

Your chinchilla takes a dust bath to keep clean. Place about a tablespoon into the metal duster or plastic dust house. No need to use more as it will just go to waste. Chinchillas should not ever get wet as they have very dense fur. You can over dust your chinchilla, once every two to three days is more than enough. Over dusting can result in dry scaling patches on the face, hands, feet, tail and ears. Most chins will soil their dust, it is best to dispose of it after use.

Feeding:

Your chinchilla should be given a fresh amount of pellets daily. Establish a routine, early mornings or later evenings work well. With a single chinchilla, about two table spoons of food is enough. Make sure to put fresh timothy hay into the cage as well. When choosing a pellet, always remember, less is more. Nothing should be in the bag aside from the pellet. We use Oxbow here and have sent home a starter sample for you. If you are unable to purchase Oxbow from your local pet store, please feel free to contact us as we do sell it. Please note, never feed your chinchilla fresh fruits or vegetables. This will cause gastric upset, soft poop and possibly diarrhea. I have run across some pet stores, veterinarians, Facebook groups and websites saying this diet is okay. IT IS NOT. Your chinchilla purchased from Sunshine Chinchillas has been fed a dry diet of only Oxbow pellets and timothy hay. Any other diet fed to one of our chinchillas could cause gastric upset and possible death.

Water: Boiled or filtered water only

Tap water contains microorganisms which can cause giardia. Giardia causes diarrhea and death in chinchillas. Once a chinchilla has contracted giardia, they can pass it to another chin through their stool. We use bottled water for all our chins. Once a week remove the water bottle and rinse with hot tap water and let dry. If your water bottle has the appearance of looking dirty, it is time to clean it. Glass water bottles are the best as you can run these in the dishwasher for the best possible clean. Don’t worry, while you clean their water bottle, your chin will be fine for an hour or two without water.

Fungus is Not Such a Fun Guy

Sometimes... especially in the summer, chins can get what is called "fungus" or "ring worm." Florida can be extremely hot and humid; the perfect climate for fungus to grow. While most chin owners realize that their chinchillas need to stay cool, what about the humidity?


Keeping your chin room cool and low in humidity is vital to your animal’s health. Chinchillas have very dense thick fur. With our humid weather this can cause developed a fungal rash. 


Yikes! Fungus?!? That sounds really gross and nasty! I don’t want that on my cute cuddly fur buddy!


Well, unfortunately it is more common here in the south than up north. All chinchillas regardless of where they come from have the potential to display fungus. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you are a bad housekeeper, it just means that the room you are keeping your chin in might be too warm. Warm, wet air is the perfect combination that creates this issue.


Well, how do I get rid of it? What does it look like? Fungus looks like small patches of fur gone with rough scratchy skin underneath. It isn’t fatal and you don’t need to take your chin to the vet. A simple fix is to add antifungal powder to your chinchilla’s dust. Tinactin, Lotramine or your local store brand will work. Gently squeeze about two good puffs into the dust each time you dust your chinchilla. This will act as a preventive and help clear up any fungus that may have started. It can take about six weeks for a spot of fungus to clear up and fur to start to grow back. Again, fungus can be a huge pain, making your chin look like they received a bad haircut, but it isn’t fatal.


Chances are you won’t ever have to deal with this pesky issue, but it is better to be prepared. We here at Sunshine Chinchillas dust our animals regularly with Lotramine as a preventive.


Please also remember to always wash your hands after handling a chin with fungus. I also recommend on cleaning day that you wash, with soap and water, anything that may come in contact with your chinchilla. 

Bringing Home a Rescue Chinchilla

Owning A Pair of Chinchillas

Rescuing a chinchilla can be a little different than bringing home one bred by Sunshine Chinchillas. 


Keep in Mind:

Your chinchilla right now has been moved from a few different environments. Please remember this when interacting with them. 


A few things to remember while you get to know your new pet:

  • Your chinchilla is currently being fed a diet of Oxbow chinchilla pellets and timothy hay. These can be found at most pet stores and online.
  • Fresh pellets and hay at all times so they can eat when comfortable.
  • Keep a calm quiet environment for the first few weeks. They are getting to know different sounds, smells and routines. Let them settle in slowly.
  • Don’t over handle, they have been through a stressful environment and routine change, slow is best. Get to know them on their terms.
  • If the goal is to eventually introduce them to anther chinchilla, again, take things slowly and supervise them at all times until they’re bonded.

Please take into consideration that the information on your new pet is limited.

  • Most likely a birthdate and age will be unknown.
  • Temperament can also change with an environment change. We strive to keep a calm, quiet routine to limit stress.
  • Nipping, biting, or in the case of females, spraying (urine) can happen. Sunshine Chinchillas offers no guarantee of temperament, these are living creatures and can react in a negative way for any reason.
  • Our information is limited to what was given when the animal was surrendered. In some cases, this can be an owner surrender, in others it is a shelter situation and no prior history on the animal is known.

**Please Note** there is no health history available on this animal. Upon placement animal was healthy enough for adoption.

Sunshine Chinchillas does not buy back or offer refunds on rescue animals. These are animals that were not bred by us, and we have no prior knowledge of their health or temperament history, other than what we have seen in our care.

Sunshine Chinchillas strives to help rescue and place chinchillas who need homes. Your adoption fee makes this possible for us. ~Thank You!

We here at Sunshine Chinchillas hope that you can enjoy your new pet for many years to come. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.