Basic Chinchilla Care

Basic Chinchilla Care (revised October 2012)

For more in-depth information, see:

1. Chins can overheat and die at temperatures as low as 80F, so temperature must be controlled. 75 F is towards the top end of safety and it should be <70 for playtime. High humidity can also be dangerous.

2. Chinchillas need large (approximately 2x2x4) plastic free cages with a 14"-16" exercise wheel as well as wooden shelves, ledges and hidey house. Wire ramps and hay bins can be dangerous and should be removed. While there are cages designed for chinchillas, many pet store cages can be converted into safe homes. 

3. For adult chinchillas, feed 2-3 tablespoons of treat-free, alfalfa based pellets per day changed daily. Oxbow or Mazuri pellets are recommended. Chinchillas less than a year old should have unlimited pellets. Diet changes must occur slowly.

4. Chinchillas should always have fresh western timothy hay. In addition, orchard grass and other grass hays can be fed in limited amounts for variety. Chinchillas less than a year old should also be fed alfalfa hay. Oxbow (available at Petsmart and many other stores), Small Pet Select and KMS Hayloft are recommended.

5. To prevent giardia, provide pure water: R/O, distilled, or from a Pur 3 or Brita faucet (only) filter, in an 8oz glass bottle. A brush may be necessary to clean the spout. The bottle should be cleaned regularly in the dishwasher or by hand and rinsed thoroughly.

6. Give your chinchilla a dust bath every other day or so, for a few minutes each time. Do not leave the dust bath in the cage. Fecal pellets can be sifted from the dust and the dust reused until it no longer dusts up. If the chinchilla urinates in the dust, dump the bath out and clean the container before refilling. Scented dust may be harmful. Blue Cloud dust is recommended. This be easily found in pet stores under the brand names Oxbow, Lixit and All Living Things.

7. Treats should be limited to 1 a day. Chins do not need sugar treats (raisins), fruits or vegetables and some of these can be very harmful.Based on evidence that milled grains can inhibit the adsorption of calcium we now recommend safe wood chew sticks (apple, willow, pecan, etc.), whole oats (horse feed) and baked treats using timothy hay instead of flour (homemade or Oxbows Simple Rewards timothy treats). We do not recommend any fresh or dried fruit or vegetables. While a few may be OK in small quantities, none are necessary if a quality pellet is being fed. We specifically recommend against feeding raisins to a chin. Raisins are toxic to many animals and there is no reason to believe chins are exceptions. 

8. Chinchillas under the age of 6 months should not have treats.

9. Safe wooden chew toys, pumice stones, and the like should always be available.

10. There should be no cross species contact, especially with rats and rabbits.

11. Handle with care. Their bones are easily broken. Make sure the back feet are supported. Some chins are not fond of being held and, if grabbed improperly, their fur can come out in clumps (fur slip). It will grow back.

12. Chinchillas are nocturnal and prefer to sleep undisturbed during the day.

13. Chins should see a veterinarian with chinchilla experience yearly.

14. Male chins need a monthly hair ring check. Females should be checked for vaginal secretions.