CagesLocationRoom temperature
Feeding equipmentWood in the cageCardboard chewing


Cages

Cage size is important. Chins have a lot of energy and need to be able to climb, run around, and play or "exercise."  If the chin is housed in a cage which is too small to play in and the chin is not allowed to run outside the cage, your pet will end up frustrated and unhappy.

House your chinchilla in a wire cage or it will eat its way out and escape. When picking out a cage, find one that gives your pet a comfortable amount of space. Make sure  the wire is not painted or plastic-coated (your chin will chew it off). If it is necessary for your chin to stay in a pet carrier for an extended period of time, you should line the interior of the carrier with wire mesh to avoid the chin chewing its way out.

Make sure that there are no electrical wires near the cage. Your pet will chew through them.

When buying a drop-tray style cage, try to buy one with openings no larger than 1" x 2" (inches) to prevent the chin from squeezing through. If you plan to breed them, wire openings no larger than 1/2" x 1" will be needed.

Cages with pull out trays are another option. Although these cages are more difficult to clean than the drop-tray models, they are recommended by many breeders for their safety features. Fewer leg injuries occur when using these types of cages and baby chins remain warmer due to the lack of drafts.  If you have a shelf in it, make sure the grating is 1/2" x 1/2" or smaller. Larger shelves can cause leg injuries.

For one chinchilla, the droppings tray may only be changed once a week (depending on the size of the cage). A cage without a droppings tray may need to be cleaned more often to prevent illnesses and bacterial infections. Newspapers work fine as a litter absorbent. Chinchilla cages that are kept clean have very little odor.  As a deodorizer, baking soda can be sprinkled in the drop tray as a deodorizer. Once the chin's favorite "pee" corner is established, that area may be lined more heavily and sprinkled with baking soda.

For cages that do not have a wire bottom (drop tray), pine shavings make a good litter absorber.

Every 2-3 months, the cage should be disinfected (remove the chin first).  Be sure to disinfect the cage of a sick chin.)
 

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Location of Cage
Once a cage is chosen, find a location in the house where your pet will be comfortable. Keep chins out of drafty areas during colder months and place them in a well vented area during warmer months. Keep chins out of direct sunlight. Heat prostration is a common problem in chins. (see the room temperature section.)

 

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Room temperature

Take precautions to protect your pet.  Keep the room temperature where your chin is housed at no more than 77 degrees fahrenheit.

If the room temperature is more than 86 degrees, the chin will suffer.  Turn up the air conditioner if you have one.  Once you get the temperature down to 77 degrees fahrenheit, your chins will be fine.  There is no need to lower the temperature more.

For those without air conditioning, move the chin cage to a cooler room in the house. Since moving the chin will probably cause him to become more active, be sure to make the move during the coolest time of the day to avoid the chin becoming over-heated from his activity.

Alternatively, you can also provide the chin with a large pan filled with ice cubes.  The chin will snuggle up to it to cool down. Make sure the chin cannot fall into the melting ice.

If attempts have been made to cool your chin, but you notice it is still not behaving normally, do not awaken it. If the chin is awake and active, it may run the risk of having a heat stroke which could be fatal.

Since a chin does not sweat, fans set up to blow air on it does not benefit the chin.  Fans feel cooler to humans because cooling is an evaporative process for us. Perspiration evaporates, and we cool off.  Chins cool off by a radiant proccess, causing the ears to turn pink when they get overheated. Many animals that have large ears in relation to their body size, (elephants, for example) cool off this way.

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Feeding equipment

Your pet needs some basic feeding equipment. Use a feeder that can be attached to the side of the cage. This avoids spillage and stops the chins from urinating in it. If you use a dish, make sure it is heavy enough that it won't be tipped over. If they urinate in it, clean the dish immediately.

The water bottle should be the kind with a metal drinking spout. Your pet will chew a hole through a plastic bottle, so protect it if you hang it inside the cage. The local pet stores should have total metal encasings for water bottles.  If you attach the bottle on the outside of the cage, placing some wire mesh between it and the bottle will also help stop them from chewing through it. Glass bottles are also fine.  The water bottle should be washed with soap and water every time you refill it to avoid bacteria problems. Be sure to rinse out all the soap.

Chin blocks (or pumice blocks), as well as different types of wood, will help keep their teeth short and straight. They love mulberry tree branches, but other fruit trees should be avoided.

Also, if you have room in the cage, chinchillas will enjoy an exercise wheel. The wheels should have a solid running surface, thus eliminating the risk of foot damage. However, precautions should be taken with babies in the cage.  The wheel should be removed so the babies will not become caught or trampled.

There is a list of chinchilla supply mail order companies on the WWW. Most of them will happily ship chinchilla wheels to you.

Another item that many pet stores carry is 'hiding places'. These are basically just half of a hollowed out log. They will chew these, sit on them, and hide under them. These are made of cedar however, so they may not be good for them.  An alternative is to take a large coffee can, remove the end, and use a hammer to pound out sharp edges.  Flatten the can a bit to stop it from rolling.

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Wood used in cages

Not all wood can be used safely to decorate a chinchilla cage or used as bedding for the cage. A debate in the alt.chinchilla newsgroup ended in this list :
Good, safe to use
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Hazelnut
  • Manzanita
  • Pine (if clean of phenol oils)
  • Willow
OK, or not completely sure
  • Birch
  • Limetree
  • Ash-tree
  • Aspen
  • Oak
  • Juniper
Bad, do not use
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Cherry - wild Cherry
  • Plum
  • Walnut
  • Cedar
  • any citrus wood
  • Fresh pine branches (too full of pitch to be good for chins' digestions)
Wood is also an important part of the chin's diet.  More information is available in the Diet section.

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Cardboard as a chew toy
Chinchillas are rodents, which means they are related to rats, mice, guinea pigs, squirrels, beavers, and even porcupines. Because they are rodents, they love to gnaw at things to keep their ever-growing teeth trimmed.

 

Cardboard is safe as a chew toy as long as you follow these simple guidelines:
  • The cardboard should be relatively new. Don't use cardboard that has been sitting around and may have had a chance to get wet as this may have been infected with a bacteria or mold. This could make your chinchilla very sick or even kill it.
  • The cardboard should have VERY little or no ink.
  • The cardboard should be clean.

Some other things to think about:

  • Cardboard is NOT a substitute for wood or pumice stone. Unfortunately, when chins chew on the cardboard it does not wear down their teeth enough. The only reason to provide it to them is that chins love to destroy something and cardboard seems to be as good as any. Also, alot of chins are locked up in there cages for at least 22 hours a day and so it gives the chinchillas something to do. One of the ways to keep a chinchilla happy (and therefore healthy) is to give it fun things to do in its cage.
  • Many people have suggested toilet role centers as a suitable cardboard chew toy.
  • Keep in mind that cardboard should not become part of the diet. Any cardboard which gets eaten is some nutritious food that isn't eaten. It has been noticed that pets who get lots of cardboard for extended periods may lose tooth color, indicating inadequate nutrition. This means you should take precautions to prevent them from eating too much.

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