Choosing Your Chin's Habitat
Firstly, you will want to make sure you find the right type of cage for your new little buddy. Since there are so many options out there, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. However, here are some guidelines to narrow your search and give you a basis for what you'll want for your new chinnie.
Below are the most common cages we recommend that are readily available.
Ferret Nation, Critter Nation, Feisty Ferret, Prevue, KW, Metal Cages: SAFE
Cages that are made of durable metal, aren't too tall, and have no plastic are ideal:
-This ensures your chinchilla cannot chew out of their habitat or ingest harmful materials.
-These cages usually have a better quality door that is harder for a chinchilla to open and escape from.
-If the cage has metal shelves, these can offer your chin a nice and cool place to lay.
-Attaching shelves, hammocks, perches, toys, food dishes, and other items to these cages is super easy and you won't have to worry that the bars will snap.
-Ferret/Critter Nations and Feisty Ferret cages: please wait until your chinchilla is over six months old before allowing them into the entire cage. This prevents young kits from falling and injuring themselves. With these cages, you can usually block off the top half of the cage and keep them in the bottom half until they are old enough, or vice versa.
-Wire bottom cages: Cages with wire bottoms will not hurt your chinchillas feet. Chinchilla feet are designed for walking on different surfaces, such as rocks, sticks, dust, and flat areas. Having wire cage floors can actually provide relief to your chinchillas feet as they utilize other areas of the foot pads that would otherwise not be used on a flat surface.
-If your cage has wire floors, you can give your chinchilla various surfaces to walk on if you'd like. Hay grass mats, pine shelves, apple wood perches, hammocks, fleece tubes, chin chiller granite slabs, and pumice stone perches can be great surface to give your chinchilla to stand on.
-If your cage has plastic pans, there are options for metal replacement pans or fleece covers to discourage chewing. Bass Equipment makes great metal pans to swap out plastic pans: www.bassequipment.com
Recommended Cage Size
Here is a great excerpt from Tabitha at RDZC Ranch regarding what size of cage chinchillas find comfort in:
"The domesticated chinchilla is descended from the Chilean burrowing chinchilla (per the species description in the Journal of Mammology back in the 1980s) and therefore they are not a species adapted to roaming wide spaces. Burrowing animals spend 90%+ of their lives inside a burrow. The Journal of Mammology states that the burrowing chinchillas live in extensive networks, but choose to spend most of their time in their "room" or corridor that is only large enough for them to stand and turn around in. Our domestic chinchillas can live a full, happy life in a cage that is 12" tall by 22" deep and 15" wide."
Although this is true, there is nothing wrong with giving your chinchilla a nice size cage with plenty of interactive toys, enrichment, and areas to sleep. The key is to not get a cage that is too large, tall, or made of improper materials.
Any of the cages we recommend above are a perfect size for up to 2-3 adult chinchillas.
Making Your Own Cage
For those that are handy, it can be a great idea to make your own cage!
Some great materials to use are:
-Kiln dried pine boards.
-Welded wire; 1 inch by 1/2 inch, 1 inch by 1 inch, or 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch wire spacing is ideal.
-Screws or nails instead of glue; using glue can be dangerous if your chinchilla were to ingest it as some contain hazardous chemicals. Screws/nails are also much more secure.
-J clips, C rings, or hog rings; these are great for connecting wire together if you are making an all wire cage.
-Bass Equipment provides many options for metal pans that can be used for a DIY cage: www.bassequipment.com
Unsafe Materials to avoid are:
-Melamine boards; these are unsafe due to their painted coating. This paint can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and other health problems if ingested.
-Wire closet shelving; these typically have a coating on these to make them more visually appealing or smooth. Just like other paints or plastic, this coating can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and other health problems if ingested.
-Chicken wire; these spacing in this wire is very large and can cause issues with chins get limbs or teeth stuck in them. This wire is also very bendable and flimsy, so without proper support can easily bend or break.
-Laminate tiles; although these seem like they would make an easy to clean floor for your chin, they can be dangerous. The laminate and the glue it usually has on the bottom can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and other health problems if ingested.
-Plastic coated wire; just like other paints or plastic, this coating can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and other health problems if ingested.
-Particle board; the glue in these boards can be deadly, it is also hard to make sure they are made up of only kiln dried pine. If ingested, they can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and other health problems if ingested.
-Towels/Blankets/Sleeping Bags; absolutely, under no circumstances, should any type of fabric (aside from fleece) be used in your chinchillas cage. If ingested, it can cause bloat and stomach blockages resulting in death.
-Carpet; no carpet should ever be added to chinchilla cages. When ingested, these carpet fibers can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and possible death.
-Cat trees/cat toys; cat trees are typically made up of unsafe materials that chins cannot have. Chins can easily ingest unsafe woods, plastics, fabrics, carpet, and glues resulting in bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and possible death.
Below we also list cages that are typically considered unsafe by the chinchilla community:
Melamine Cages: UNSAFE
As nice as these cages look, there is an unfortunate downside to them:
-Chinchillas chew, a lot; therefore, these cages can quickly be destroyed. Holes chewed in the side of the wall, escaped chins, and tedious repairs will be required just to fix it.
-They also can be extremely hard to clean and can harbor bacteria, mold, and fungus.
-Another issue is that melamine is treated and painted wood. This can be toxic to chinchillas as every time they chew something, they are also ingesting the substance. This can cause bloat, stomach blockages, organ failure, and other health problems.
Overly Tall Cages: UNSAFE
Cages can, in fact, be too tall for a chinchilla:
-Yes, chinchillas love to jump, hop, bounce, and do little Matrix moves off the sides of walls. But, this does not mean that they need overly tall cages.
-Chinchillas are actually a den animal, this means that they choose to spend most of their time in their "room" or corridor that is only large enough for them to stand and turn around in.
-Some owners purchase overly large cages with the idea in mind that chins need a huge area to jump, this can actually be hazardous.
-These cages can be very dangerous; chinchillas have vision and hearing similar to our own. Therefore, it can be easy for them to misjudge the distance from a shelf, perch or hammock.
-This is especially important for young kits. Baby chinchillas are like toddlers, they can be clumsy. A kit falling in a tall cage can be likened to a human falling from a 3-4 story tall building! Chinchillas under 7 months are prone to hypoglycemia/hyperglycemia if they are given playtime or an overly large cage.
-This can cause falls, broken bones, blunt force trauma, limbs getting caught on something causing the animal to hang from the cage, and many other injuries.
-Less is more! It is best to not get a cage that is any higher than 3 feet tall.
Bird Cages: UNSAFE
Some bird cages may seem like a good option, but there are downsides:
-The wire used to make these cages is usually thinner and more easily bent.
-Chinchillas are a lot heavier than most birds from the pet store, so they can end up causing much more wear on these flimsy cages.
-The doors on bird cages can be hard to secure shut. Chins can be escape artists and figure out how to easily open bird cage latches. This leads to chins escaping, chewing and ingesting things they shouldn't, and just running around your home unsupervised.
Plastic Cages: UNSAFE
Bottom line, chinchillas should never can plastic in their cage:
-Plastic is one of the most common items that chinchillas can get stomach blockages from.
-Anything a chinchilla chews will also be ingested, therefore if they chew on their plastic cage they will also be swallowing those pieces.
-Chins can also chew a hole in the plastic to escape, another downside to cages with plastic bottoms.
Cages Not Intended for Chinchillas: UNSAFE
Although some of these options may seem more affordable or accessible, they can be dangerous for chins:
-Plastic pet carriers are not a good option for obvious reasons, chinchillas can quickly chew out of these and escape or ingest the plastic leading to deadly stomach impactions.
-Aquariums or fish tanks are never appropriate for chinchillas as they can quickly overheat in this environment due to its low airflow.
-Metal animal crates could be acceptable if they did not have such wide spacing. These large holes can quickly cause issues as if your chinchilla bounces off the size, they can get legs caught. Waking up to find your pet hanging from a broken limb is never fun.
-Plastic tubs, totes and containers are no good as chins can quickly chew out, ingest the plastic or overheat from lack of airflow.
-Pet fences can be used for supervised playtime only. Chins can jump over the edge to escape or get a limb caught in the large wire spaces.
-C&C cages are only acceptable for guinea pigs, not chinchillas. Chins can escape easily from these, ingest the plastic or coroplast leading to impactions, and get limbs caught in the large spaces in the wire.
**Sunshine Chinchillas does not own or claim to own any of the above photos on this page**