Sunshine Chinchillas

Subtitle

Safety: Do's and Don'ts

I have comprised a few simple guidelines that all chinchilla owners should know. Most are obvious things in the care of your chinchilla, but a few might be new to you. Please be careful when reading chinchilla groups on social media, forums or even pet store advice.


Remember it is always better to err on the side of caution.


Food


Good:

Tradition

Mazuri

Oxbow

Blue Seal (rabbit pellet)

Pen Pals (rabbit pellet)

Manna Pro Sho (rabbit pellet)

Producers Pride (rabbit pellet)


Bad:

Kaytee

Charlie Chinchilla

Higgins

Vitakraft

Any food that has dried fruits, veggies or other treats should be avoided.


Housing


There are quite a few options out there for good quality housing for your chinchilla. If you want a store bought cage, Ferret Nation, Critter Nation, Quality Cages and Martin’s Cages make excellent homes.


Bedding


Good:

Pine

Aspen

Fleece is the only accepted fabric to use with chinchillas. Cotton (such as towels or blankets) have small fibers that when ingested can cause an impaction. Fleece should only be used if un-chewed. Please remove any fabric if any signs of chewing occur, as this also can cause gastro intestinal issues.


Stay away from:

Carefresh

Corn cob

Cedar

Towels

Blankets


Also avoid:

-Plastic: again, chinchillas can chew on the plastic and it will cause intestinal issues or possible impaction.

-Wire shelving; Chinchillas need solid shelving to rest on.

-Wire hay balls and racks; Chinchillas, especially young chinchillas can become caught and entangled among the wire.

-Plastic “running” balls; these will quickly lead to overheating and death.

-Plastic wheels; Most are very cheaply made and won’t support the weight of full grown chin. Also plastic in a cage should be avoided at all costs.

-Fresh fruits and vegetables; Chinchillas do not eat fresh produce, they consume dried grasses (Timothy , Oat, Alfalfa Hay). Fresh produce can cause stomach upset, diarrhea and possible intestinal prolapse which can be fatal.

-Toxic wood. Check out our page about safe woods, located under the Basic Care tab.

But the Pet Store and the book I read said it was okay...

This is a common phrase that I keep hearing over and over from pet owners, "The big box pet store stocks this item, so it must be okay right?" 


I recently had this book given to me from a former chinchilla owner.  After just seeing the front cover (chinchillas should not be fed any fresh greens), I realized the amount of incorrect information there would be between the front and back covers. The fact that "Animal Planet" endorsed this book, sadly doesn't surprise me. Walk into most pet stores and the small animal section contains products marketed for chinchillas, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals that are harmful. 


Read further for just a few items that can prove dangerous even deadly if used for your pet.  

Plastic Shelves

These are sold with most pet store brand small animal cages. They market them for owners of rabbits, chinchillas, rats and even guinea pigs. 


These animals chew and gnaw and will ingest the plastic. It is not an "if" or a "maybe" they will chew. Chinchillas are not going to discriminate against the shelf if it is plastic. They are going to do what comes natural to them. Chew. 


If you noticed, the "house" has been chewed by the chinchilla who at one time lived with this in his cage. 


Plastic can cause bowel impactions, lower gastrointestinal issues and death. If you purchase a cage containing plastic shelving, it is easy enough to remove and replace. Many chin-safe Etsy stores sell wood shelves, or if you are handy you can DIY some for yourself. 

Super-Pet Mega Run Around Ball

Please.. if you own one of these. Stop. Immediately. This is one of the most unsafe items that pet stores sell.  


While a novel idea when it comes to gerbils, taking that to the next level and having a chinchilla run in one is not a good idea. 


Let's start with the most obvious. The balls are unsanitary. Your animal is running around smashing it's feet and fur into any poop that happens to be rolling around with them. On top of that, if the animal urinates while inside the ball they can become saturated in urine. 


For the next big reason, this is why it is deadly. Due to its poor ventilation and enclosed space, chinchillas can quickly overheat in these. Trapping an animal that requires cool temperatures in a small plastic container is harmful and dangerous. These are commonly referred to as "the balls of death." Many times there have been owners that have lost a pet from simply allowing them to sit in one of these. 

Carefresh Bedding

Wood pulp. This bedding is one of the worst kind you can place in your chinchillas cage. Most chinchillas will chew the shavings at the bottom of their cage.  Flip the bag around and see the warning that Carefresh states:


"As with any substrate, there is a potential risk of impaction if your pet ingests a sufficient amount of bedding. Observe your pet and seek veterinary care if you suspect impaction of the GI tract."


Chinchillas that need vet attention for GI issues most of the time do not make it. This product while sold in most pet stores in the small animal section, is not safe. Alternatives include pine shavings and fleece. We here at Sunshine Chinchillas are able to make fleece liners for Ferret Nation and Critter Nation. If you need a custom liner please contact us.

Treat Filled Pellets

Chinchillas, as with any pet, need proper nutrition. These foods such as Charlie Chinchilla are filled with unnecessary ingredients. Foods like this encourage the animal to pick out the treats while avoiding the pellets that they need for nutrition. 


We feed Oxbow Chinchilla food and recommended it to anyone who purchases or adopts a chinchilla from us. Oxbow is just pellets, no treats or extras. Oxbow can be purchased at most big box pet stores. 


For a list of other brands of food you can use, click here.


It belongs in the trash

Or as pictured here, we recycled the plastic items. Please remember that if you see something in the pet store that doesn't mesh with what you have read or researched, go with your gut.  Pet stores are there to make a profit.  Most of the employees I have ever run across have no idea how to care for chinchillas properly.  


As an alternative, you can choose to shop online. There are plenty of chin and small animal friendly web stores out there. It may be a bit of a hassle to pay for shipping or have to wait for your items, but your chinchilla will appreciate you for it.