Commonly Asked Questions FAQ
What is your Sales Policy?
Before adopting, we ask that you review our Sales Policy regarding purchasing or adopting an animal from Sunshine Chinchillas. You can find our Sales Policy by clicking here.
Why don't you guarantee friendly chinchillas?
Although we try our best to place each chinchilla in the proper home based on their personality and needs, there can still be exceptions. As with any animal, there is never a guarantee that they will maintain a certain disposition. Chinchillas are living creatures with varying moods and temperaments, regardless of selective breeding practices. Just like any animal, despite whether they are tame or not, there is always the risk of biting or standoff-ish behavior. Any pet has the capacity to be over-stimulated to the point of reacting, whether that be in a calm or aggressive manner. The key to avoiding these instances is to give your pet space, allow them some down-time and observe their behavior. Does your chin stand on their back feet and chatter their teeth? Do they bark at you or try to spray? Watching for warning signs can help to ensure you give your pet the alone time they need and to allow them to seek out your attention on their terms
Why don't you have a health guarantee?
Here at Sunshine Chinchillas, we do our best to selectively breed the healthiest of animals. Any animals that shows indications of malocclusion, genetic disorders, deformities, or health problems are never bred. There is never a guarantee of health as outside factors can affect any animal. Plastic, cloth, unsafe bedding, unhealthy food, unsafe treats, over exhaustion due to excessive playtime, stress from over handling, or overheating can quickly turn a healthy animal into one that needs medical attention. Chinchillas are not like dogs or cats and do not require vaccinations, supplements, or the filing of healthy teeth. With the ever changing climate of Florida, it can also be possible for anyone's animal to develop fungus if the conditions are right. This is not fatal and is easy to remedy; if you believe your pet has fungus, send us a message and we can give you the steps needed to treat it.
Do you "make your chinchillas into coats"?
No, we are not a fur farm nor do we use any of the fur from our animals for anything. Our goals for breeding are to produce high quality chinchillas that will live healthy lives. We do not produce animals in bulk, nor do we breed for profit. We love chinchillas, this is our hobby and passion. The time, dedication, hard work, and expense it requires to maintain our program is purely fueled by our love of chinchillas.
Will a chinchilla be a good pet for my young child?
We do not encourage chinchillas for kids under 13 years old, reason being is they are not typically a cuddly, easy going pet. Some chinchillas can be more calm than others, but since they are a prey animal this results in chins not enjoying being held or picked up. There is never a guarantee that an animal will be friendly or good with kids, there is always the chance for them to react to over-stimulation, fingers being stuck in their cage, loud voices, and rough handling. Chins can bite to draw blood, spray urine, bark and lunge if they feel threatened or are territorial of their cage. Chinchillas should also never be hugged, squeezed, or cuddled as their skeletons are very flexible and can squish their internal organs; not to mention, they can easily overheat from overexertion via handling. For the most part, rodents do not make good first pets for children as they are more fragile and flighty than a cat or dog. Therefore, we can opt to not adopt out to homes who are looking for a chinchilla as a first pet for children under 13.
How will I know what chin is the right fit for me?
More often than not, I find that almost any chinchilla can be the right fit for someone. The key is to work at creating trust with your chinchilla; let them have their space, speak softly to them, give them the occasional plain cheerio, let them come to you, make them comfortable and don't chase them around the cage. Once they begin to get used to you and their new environment, they will start to trust you. This will usually lead to them coming out of their shell and showing their true colors. Chinchillas all have very similar personalities, most are either calm or hyper active. Both of these common temperaments can easily be adapted to by the pet owner. Just like any animal, each chinchilla has the capacity to bond with you if you put in the work with them. Keep in mind, every animal has their ups and downs, sometimes they may not want to interact while other times they may want to.
Should I get a male or female chinchilla?
One of the most common questions we get asked is if males are easier to care for than females. The answer is, no, they are the same amount of work. The only real difference between males and females is that sometimes females can spray urine if they feel threatened. Although this may seem unsanitary, gross, or intimidating to deal with, more often than not you will rarely, if ever, get sprayed by your female chinchilla. Therefore, owning a male chinchilla is not vastly different from owning a female. Their care is exactly the same and neither gender is typically more friendly than the other. All chinchillas can be sweet or aggressive, regardless of what is between their legs. To avoid aggressive behaviors, it is best to give your chinchilla their space and let them come to you. Don't force them into doing anything they do not want to do. Recognize their defensive behaviors and let them be alone if they feel threatened.
Can I let my chin meet the new chin before adopting?
Some breeders and rescues offer to do this, but here at Sunshine Chinchillas we currently do not. This is to prevent the spread of illness from chinchilla to chinchilla if the chin in question is not adopted after interacting with an unknown animal, as well as keeping them from overexerting or overheating since we are in a very warm climate. Please note, chinchillas should only be bonded through proper techniques, having two animals briefly meet prior to adoption is not a reliable way of getting an idea of their interaction with each other in a home environment without proper bonding attempts.
Will my chinchilla get lonely if they don't have a friend?
Chins are very independent; they can easily live by themselves or with another chinchilla. They are not like dogs where they are pack animals; they can be content with being solitary or alone if you are away. Some chinchillas can even become more friendly as a result of living solo; this is due to them socializing and becoming familiar with their owner rather than another chinchilla.
How long do chinchillas live?
Most chinchillas live 10-15 years, but can make it up to 20+. Chinchillas that live up into their late teens are the equivalent to a human in their nineties. They are a long-term commitment and can be with you for up to two decades. If you are looking for a short-term pet, a chinchilla might not be for you.
Are Chinchillas Nocturnal?
Commonly, chinchillas are associated with being nocturnal; this is not entirely accurate. Chinchillas are actually crepuscular, this means that they are most active during the twilight hours (before sunrise or after sunset). Take this in mind when adopting, they can and will make noises late at night and/or very early in the morning.
Will my chinchilla's tail break or pop-off if I grab it?
The base of the chinchilla's tail is actually the strongest bone in their bodies and is the safest way to securely handle them. Grabbing a chinchilla around the rib-cage or head can cause their flexible bones to bend, damaging internal organs and structures. This method also greatly stresses them out as they are a prey animal and their instincts to run from predators kicks in. Using the base of the tail to grab them is actually the best way to catch them; their tails will not break or fall off and it is not cruel to hold them this way. The base of the tail is strong enough to hold the entire weight of the chinchilla, some breeders will even hold them this way to groom. Although it looks scary to us, it is much less stressful for them to be grabbed by the base of the tail rather than around the ribs.
What should I feed my chinchilla?
Some food brands we recommend are Blue Seal rabbit pellets, Pen Pals rabbit pellets, Manna Pro Sho rabbit pellets, Mazuri, and Oxbow (red bag only). Chinchillas and rabbits can usually eat the same alfalfa based pellet food. Most of these foods can be purchased in bulk from feed stores such as Tractor Supply Co. The easiest brand of food to find is Oxbow, this is sold at most pet stores as well as the Oxbow brand of hay. Avoid foods with treats or unnecessary ingredients, such as Kaytee or Charlie Chinchilla.
What hay should I give my chinchilla?
We use mainly Stan Lee timothy hay, which can be bought in bulk at Tractor Supply Co. Another great brand to use which is available at most pet stores is Oxbow timothy hay. You can also feed other hays such as orchard grass, oat, alfalfa, or a combination of these.
What treats should I give my chinchilla?
We usually recommend avoiding treats for the most part as they are just unnecessary. Chinchillas should never have fruits/vegetables and most nuts/seeds due to the sugar/fat/water content. For treats, we recommend rose hips, apple wood sticks, and hay cubes. These are fun options for them to shred, chew, and consume. Please never give your chinchilla human food like meat, candy, chocolate, potato chips, etc.
Is my chinchilla overweight?
Chinchillas rarely ever become overweight or overeat. As long as a healthy pellet, such as Oxbow Chinchilla (red bag), is given along with fresh water and hay, there is an extremely low risk of obesity. Many show quality chinchillas are 1000-1500 grams, while non-show quality pet chinchillas can be in the 450-700 grams range. This is very normal and does not indicate obesity or diabetes. If your chinchilla is showing signs of being underweight, there may be an underlying issue such as malocclusion. Always pay attention if you notice your chinchilla has stopped eating, drinking, or pooping.
Why does my chinchilla poop so much?
A chinchilla's bowel habitats can be a great way to determine their health. Most can defecate up to 250 times a day, this is very normal and indicates good digestive health. Normal chinchilla feces will be firm dark, pellet shapes. If your chinchilla is having soft/mushy poop, diarrhea, air pockets in the poop, or not pooping at all, this can be an indication of an underlying health condition that may warrant a vet visit.
Is my chinchilla eating it's poop?
Chinchillas produce both fecal pellets that are dark/firm and cecotropes. Also called caecel pellets, or night feces, these are light brown/green in color and are a product of the digestive system called the cecum. Caecel pellets are a way for chinchillas to re-ingest nutrients their body did not use and expelled. They are not eating their poop, but actually consuming the materials their body didn't digest the first time. The practice of consuming cecotropes is called coprophagia, this is common in many mammals and a natural process for chinchillas.
How and when do they bathe?
Chinchillas take a dust bath, not a water bath. Chinchilla fur can get a "greasy" look if not given a dust bath on a regular basis; this is not healthy for them, we offer dust bath at least once a week or as needed. Most dusts available at pets stores will suffice; we use Chill Dust and Blue Sparkle that we purchase in bulk.
Are chinchillas clean?
Just like any animal, chinchillas defecate and urinate which will soil their bedding and create a smell. We recommend cleaning their habitat a minimum of once a week, or twice if using fleece. Chinchilla feces do not typically smell, but can get wet from urine or their water bottle leading to a smell. Chinchillas can also produce hundreds of small pellet sized feces a day, they are masters at flinging these out of their cages. Unfortunately, there is no 100% efficient way to prevent this, we recommend having a broom/vacuum on hand to reduce any mess. There will also be smells associated with having rodents as pets; hay, pellets, dust, pine shavings, urine, etc. This is a normal part of having any pet.
What do chinchillas chew?
Since they are rodents, chinchilla teeth never stop growing. They need toys and shelves made from chin safe wood, alfalfa or timothy hay, and pumice stones to help wear the teeth down. Check out our safe woods page here, for a list of woods chinchillas can have.
Can chinchillas have plastic?
Chinchillas will ingest what they chew, therefore they should not have anything unsafe in their cage. Plastic, fabric, paper, CareFresh bedding, carpet, and laminate tiles are common items mistakenly given to chins. These can cause blockages in the digestive system if ingested leading to bloat, internal punctures, emergency surgery, and/or death. Thus, it is so important to avoid these items. Anti-pill fleece, pine/aspen shavings, pine/apple wood toys, pumice stone, and hay/pellets are fine to use.
The only exception to the "no plastic" rule is PVC; this is because when chewed, the pieces ingested are extremely small and have a low chance of causing a blockage. Some breeders/rescues still do not recommend it since it is plastic, this is really up to the discretion of the pet owner. Chinchillas do not possess the proper gut protists to digest wood; this means that ingested pine/aspen shavings will all pass through the gut/digestive tract. This has about the same risk as consuming fleece/PVC particulates.
What temperatures can they live in?
Chinchillas cannot get hot, they need to be kept indoors with the thermostat set no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit as the temperature in a room can be higher even if the A/C is set to 70. The ideal temperature range is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for most climates. Here in Florida, it is almost impossible to keep a room below 68 degrees. Our ideal temperature range is 68-72 during Florida's hot summers and hurricanes. For chinchillas that are used to a cooler climate, it is imperative that they be kept in temperatures no higher that 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Please remember that a fan/frozen water bottles/granite slabs do not substitute for an air conditioning unit.
My chinchilla has mushy poop, what do I do?
If your chinchilla starts to have soft or mushy poop that gets squashed when they step on it, it may be time to limit their pellet intake for a few days. This often affects young kits and animals that have recently went to a new home. Upon the onset of soft poop, pellets should be limited for a few days. During this time, alfalfa and timothy hay can be given in excess to combat the soft stools. Since food pellets mainly consist of hays, your chinchilla will be fine living on loose hay for a few days. This helps to regulate their digestive system with plenty of fiber and harden up their stools. If at any time your chinchilla begins to have diarrhea, a visit to the vet may be necessary.
Can I take my chinchilla for a walk?
Not only is this stressful for your chinchilla, it is also highly unsafe. High temperatures, stress, predators, and harnesses/leashes can be deadly. Never take a chinchilla out for a walk or place them on a leash or harness. The chinchilla rib cage is very flexible and can easily be squished to the point of damaging internal organs.
Is my pet a short-tailed or long-tailed chinchilla?
All chinchillas currently in breeding in domestic populations are long-tailed chinchillas, including our own herd. Originally, there were two species of chinchillas. One was the Chinchilla brevicaudata and the other was Chinchilla chinchilla/Chinchilla lanigera. Short-tailed chinchillas typically refer to the Chinchilla brevicaudata as there were less caudal bones than Chinchilla lanigera, leading to a shorter tail. Currently, there are no Chinchilla brevicaudata animals in our domestic chinchilla populations. Several years ago, studies were conducted to determine what species our domestic populations originate from. It was found that in the wild, these two species still exist. However, it was confirmed that our domestic population is a subspecies from only one of these species, Chinchilla chinchilla/Chinchilla lanigera. Therefore, there are no short-tailed chinchillas in breeding. Attempts to breed this species were unsuccessful, the same being true for wild populations. Long-tailed chinchillas have increased in numbers in the wild, while short-tailed chinchilla populations have decreased. This has caused it to be much more difficult to find short-tailed chinchillas in the wild, causing several false deductions that the species was completely extinct.
Are cages you sell new or used?
Please note that any cage setups we sell are almost always re-purposed used cages. Any cage setup sold is typically priced based on the supplies it comes with rather than the cage itself. Supplies included can be a mixture of new or used and will be priced accordingly. If you are looking for a brand new cage, we can recommend some brands upon request.
What can I use for bedding?
We use pine shavings; we get ours in bulk from Ace Hardware or Tractor Supply Co. An alternative to pine shavings at the bottom of their cage is aspen or fleece. Many people use fleece and love it. Easier to clean, just shake outside, wash and replace. Many Etsy stores sell great fleece options. Never use cedar, paper, carefresh, newspaper, cardboard, towels, carpet, blankets, grass, dirt, or anything other than pine/aspen bedding or anti-pill fleece.
Can I litter train my chinchilla?
Some chins do choose one area of the cage to use the bathroom. If you are able to find their favorite spot, you can place a litter pan in that area and see if they utilize it. One metal, glass, or ceramic pans should be used; never use plastic, aluminum, or cardboard.
Are they cuddly?
Chinchillas for the most part do not enjoy handling. They are a prey animal and can be scared easily by incorrect handling or sudden movements. Cuddling is not recommended as well due to the issue of overheating or internal organ damage.
Why did they bite me?
If they bite hard, this means they do not want to be touched. If your chin bites often, they may prefer to be left in their cage with minimum interaction.
Why are they nibbling me?
If your chinchilla nibbles your finger, they may be tasting/testing to see if you are or have food. If they begin to nibble hard or draw blood, this may be a sign that they do not want to be touched.
Why does my chinchilla seem depressed?
Chinchillas are also nocturnal for the most part. Therefore, if you are trying to interact with them during the day and they seem quiet or sleepy you may have interrupted their sleep schedule. If your chinchillas behavior suddenly changes and they seem "down" or lethargic, a more serious medical issue could be going on. If you suspect your pet is ill, it is always best to get the opinion of an experienced veterinarian.
Does my chinchilla have bumblefoot?
Bumblefoot is caused by excessive pressure on only one part of the foot. Chinchilla feet are designed to bounce and walk along rocks and rough surfaces in the wild. They will not get bumblefoot from being on a wire bottom cage; it is more commonly seen as a result of them sitting for long periods on a flat surface where they rest on only one part of the foot. To prevent this, its always best to provide multiple surfaces to walk on such as fleece, bedding, shelves, apple wood branches, granite slabs, and hidey houses. If you see your chinchilla has a wound, ulcer, or an infection on the foot, it is best to get the opinion of an experienced veterinarian.
Does my chinchillas have ringworm/fungus?
Ringworm/fungus commonly pops up during the summer months due to humidity and heat allowing for the fungus to grow more efficiently. Ringworm and fungus are not deadly nor do they cause suffering. If your chinchilla suddenly has bald patches with scaly areas, you can add common athletes foot powder to their dust bath. This helps to clear up the infection and prevent further breakouts. The brands we commonly use are Desenex and Lotrimine; only a teaspoon mixed in with each dust bath is required. It may take a few months, but eventually your chinchilla will grow back their fur and look as good as new.
Is my cage too small?
Contrary to popular belief, chinchillas do not need huge cages. In the wild, they burrow and spend 80-90% of their lives in dens only large enough to turn around in. This is because they are prey animals and feel safer in small enclosed spaces, to hide from predators. The cages we recommend to pet owners are the perfect size for pet chinchillas. Larger cages do not always mean better. Chinchillas can jump very high, but this also means that they can fall from very high as well if they miss a shelf. Cages bigger than what we recommend may not be a good option. A good size we recommend for up to three chinchillas is a cage like this single level Critter Nation or this Chinchilla Cage.
Can my chinchilla have a wheel?
Chinchillas do not require wheels. If you feel you would like to provide one, the size is very important; the diameter should be no less than 14" - 16" minimum to be safe. Chinchillas under 7 months should not have a wheel as they are more prone to hypoglycemia/hyperglycemia. RDZC Ranch has a great page regarding chinchillas and wheels: http://rdzcchinchillas.weebly.com/wheels-good-or-bad.html
Can I let my chinchilla free-roam?
Chinchillas come from the Chilean Mountains of South America. In this environment, they are a burrowing animal that spends 80-90% of their lives in dens only large enough to turn around in. This protects them from the hot temperatures during the day and predators that may attack them. They only come out to eat, drink, and mate during the twilight hours (after sunset/before sunrise).
Chinchillas do not naturally run and jump to "play", this activity causes the fight or flight reaction that releases stress hormones. Chinchillas need a cage for security, it provides a place of familiarity and safety for them. Free-roaming also presents the issue of your chinchilla chewing or consuming something they shouldn't, overheating from overexertion, or being hurt by objects in the room.
Chinchillas under 7 months should not be given playtime. Young chinchillas are prone to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia if subjected to high levels of activity. Thus, it is very important to not let them out for playtime or over-handle them.
Chinchillas WILL chew electrical cords, plugged in or not, walls, paint, glue, carpet, wood floors, doors, plastic, anything they can get their paws on. Thus, allowing free-roam presents many more opportunities for them to hurt themselves. We DO NOT recommend free-roaming under any circumstance.
How long should I let my chinchilla out for playtime?
Continuing from the previous free-roaming question, chinchillas do not NEED playtime. Playtime is more for the owner than the chinchilla. Chinchillas do not naturally run and jump to "play", this causes their fight or flight hormones to activate and will release stress hormones similar to running from predators. Naturally, they are a burrowing animal that spends 80-90% of their lives in dens only large enough to turn around in. This protects them from the hot temperatures during the day and predators that may attack them. They only come out to eat, drink, and mate during the twilight hours (after sunset/before sunrise). Therefore, "playtime" is not something chinchillas would require in the wild and goes against their natural behavior and biology.
If you feel you want to do playtime with your chinchilla, we recommend you limit it to small increments once every few days for only about 10-15 minutes. We also encourage doing playtime in a small area and always supervise, such as a bathroom or closet. Make sure that there is nothing dangerous for them to get into, and keep an eye on them at all times. This can be a fun activity for owners to bond with their chinchillas, we just suggest taking precautions for the well-being of the chinnie(s).
Chinchillas under 7 months should not be given playtime. Young chinchillas are prone to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia if subjected to high levels of activity. Thus, it is very important to not let them out for playtime or over-handle them.
How do I introduce my chinchilla to another chinchilla?
We personally use the side-by-side cage method, or cage within a cage method. Feel free to check out this link to our article about chin bonding: Chinchilla Introductions
Can I let my male chinchilla play with my female chinchilla?
Chinchillas can become pregnant within seconds. Playtime or housing two chins of the opposite sex will result in babies. We do not condone this unless you are purposefully breeding show quality, pedigreed chins, attend chinchilla shows regularly, and have a reputable breeder as a mentor. We do not condone irresponsible breeding, these are living creatures not toys.
Help! My chinchilla is pregnant what do I do?
If you suspect your chinchilla is pregnant, the first step will be to remove the male if he is still paired with her. Chinchillas can become pregnant again up to seven days before birth and immediately after birthing occurs. If your chinchillas are not shown, pedigreed or breeding quality, they should not be in breeding. We do not condone backyard breeding in anyway. The next step you will need to take is to ensure she is in a baby safe cage; this means that the bar spacing should be only 1/2 inch wide to keep kits from escaping. You will also want to ensure your female has fresh food, hay and water at all times. After these steps are taken, the next action is crucial: leave your female alone. Do not pick her up, do not let her have playtime, do not inspect her nipples or belly, and do not stress her out. Pregnant moms need their space to have a healthy pregnancy. Once she has her kits, they will need to stay with her for at least 8 weeks before weaning. Once weaned, you will want to sex the kits and separate the males from the females so that breeding does not occur again.
If you have anymore questions, feel free to contact us!