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Everything You Need to Know About Caring for Chinchillas

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I am the proud owner of two adorable chinchillas and have only good things to say about them.

The basics of caring for a chinchilla

The basics of caring for a chinchilla

Owning a Chinchilla

Chinchillas are probably some of the cutest and most loving small mammals you can choose for a pet. Each of them has a unique personality, and most are happy to cuddle up in your pocket or perch on your shoulder.

I am the proud owner of two adorable chinchillas and have only good things to say about them. Here are some of the things you should know to keep your chinchillas happy and healthy.

Tips for Purchasing a Chinchilla

Chinchillas Are a Big Responsibility

Before buying one, you should know that they require quite a bit of work on the part of the owner. They are not the right pet for a small child or a first-time pet owner. They are very delicate and sensitive to abrupt changes.

They Are Social: You Need to Get Two

Before choosing this pet, you should also know that they are fairly expensive, generally going for about $100–$200 (US). This is even more expensive considering you must buy at least two chinchillas. This is very important.

Chinchillas are social creatures that form close bonds with their friends. If you own a single one, he will most likely suffer from severe loneliness (poor little guy). This loneliness can actually lead to lethargic behavior and even death.

I guarantee you that it is worth adopting two. I get hours of entertainment from watching my two chinchillas cuddle and talk to each other. They even use each other as pillows when they nap!

Adopting a chinchilla online is also a cheaper alternative and a good way to help a chinchilla in need of a home.

Selection Tips

  • When you're in the store, you should pay careful attention to the chinchilla's personality. Always handle them before adopting. A calm chinchilla should be content to sit in your hands. This personality type will probably be happy on your shoulder or in your pocket like I mentioned earlier.
  • If you're looking for a more energetic pet that will run around your playpen and chinchilla-proofed room, you'll want to choose the chinchilla that's hopping around the cage and squirming to get out of your hands to explore.
  • Keep in mind that chinchillas have different sleeping habits than us, so their personality might not be very apparent if you've just woken them up.
  • You should also keep in mind that chinchillas do not get the optimal amount of socialization in a pet store. If they're a little shy when you first meet them, they may very easily change. After taking them home, wait a few days to hold them. I know this is hard since they're the most adorable things ever, but this will give them time to adjust to their new surroundings and prevent stress.

After Bringing Them Home

After a few days, you can begin socializing them. With lots of care and treats, you can earn the trust of even the shyest chinchilla.


Cages/Houses and Environmental Enrichment

Chinchillas Are Active and Need a Cage With Levels

Choosing a cage is very important and can greatly affect the quality of life your chinchilla lives. They are very active and love to climb and jump. Because of this, a simple rabbit or guinea pig cage will not do. Chinchillas need multiple levels in their home to get the exercise they need.

How to Choose a Cage

When buying a cage, you need to choose one with a solid bottom and shelves. This is very important. If the shelves have slits in them or are some kind of wire grid, your chinchilla will get hurt. Their thin feet and paws can get caught easily. Please do not let your chinchillas into a cage that will damage their delicate paws.

For my chinchillas, I purchased a metal cage with plastic shelves from Petco. This is what I suggest. It has the durability of the metal outside with the warmth and safety of plastic on the inside. You should be aware, however, that chinchillas love to chew more than anything else in the world.

Other Tips

  • They will most likely chew on your shelves and ramps. Although this is annoying, it shouldn't harm them. You can try to prevent this by buying them hundreds of chew toys, but the fact is that they are rascals and will probably do it anyway. They will appreciate the toys, though.
  • As chinchillas poo a lot, you may want to look for a cage with side guards or a pull-out bottom.
  • If you live in an area that gets warm, I highly recommend putting some small slabs of granite on the bottom of their cage. When your chinchillas get too warm, they love to curl up on these slabs to cool down.

Cleaning and Potty Training

Chinchillas are cleaning-intensive pets. They poo about 200 times a day, and much of that is going to get flung out into your room when they're playing.

You'll probably have to clean their cage at least every two days.

My semi-solution to this was to get a large piece of wood to put their cage on. This allows for easy vacuuming and sweeping. Of course, if you already have a tiled or wooden floor area, this won't be as much of a problem. But beware of putting your chinchilla's cage on dark hardwood. The poos will be very difficult to spot.

Potty Training

When it comes to potty training, you're in luck. Chinchillas will automatically pee on pet bedding before peeing on your nice clean shelves. I found a nifty little potty box at Petco (I'm sure it can be found at other pet stores too) that's shaped to fit in the corner of the cage.

Basically, all you need to do is keep the box stocked with clean bedding, and your chinchillas will do the rest. Unfortunately, you cannot train them to poo only in one box, so get used to vacuuming it up everywhere.

Choosing the Right Bedding

Choice of bedding is very important. You should avoid wood shavings and other bedding like that. The best choice is a fiber pulp bedding. I believe the main supplier of this is Carefresh, which is available at most local pet stores. This brand comes in large packages that will last you quite some time.

Some people choose to cover the entire bottom of their cage with bedding, but I highly recommend buying the corner potty as it will save you a lot of time and money.

Dust Baths and Grooming

Why They Do It

Taking a dust bath is probably the cutest thing your chinchillas will do. This is partially because it is so unique and partially because they look so ridiculous.

Chinchillas take dust baths to keep down the level of oil in their fur. With healthy fur they are able to maintain the appropriate body temperature. Dust baths also keep their fur incredibly soft.

What Kind of Dust Bath Container to Get

There are all sorts of containers for dust baths. I like the one I use because it's durable, and there is just barely enough room for two chinchillas. Watching them both try to squeeze in and roll around is hilarious.

Any type of dust labeled for chinchillas is fine to buy. I haven't noticed much of a difference in brands. However, there is an interesting brand that sells scented dust. It does make them smell pretty good, but only one of my chinchillas will use it. The other guy is much too manly to bathe in cucumber melon dust.

How to Use It

  • Be sure to only leave the dust bath house in their cage for as long as it takes them to both take a good bath. If you leave it in longer than 10 or 15 minutes, they may start to use it as a pee box.
  • If, after their baths, there is still fine dust and no pee or poo you may be able to reuse it once more. I prefer to give my chinnies a fresh bath, but this may help save a little money.
  • Chinchillas should get a bath at least twice a week but would be happy to have a bath every day.

Grooming Needs

Grooming these animals is not really required unless you plan to enter them into a competition of some sort. You should note that when a chinchilla becomes scared, he will often let loose tufts of fur. If you see your chinchilla with loose tufts, don't worry. This often happens when they play fight.

Mazuri food (May come in different packaging)

Mazuri food (May come in different packaging)

How to Feed a Chinchilla Properly

Choosing the right food is very important and can be difficult. I have tried just about every type of chinchilla food and have discovered that most of them are useless.

What Kind of Food to Get: Pellets

Most of the food you find in pet stores has attractive and fun labeling with words like "food fiesta!" Don't be fooled. This food looks fun and delicious because of all the cute little shapes mixed in, but it isn't always the healthiest choice. By feeding your pets an all-pellet diet, you can also feel less guilty about giving them a bunch of treats!

In my experience, if you buy the "fun" food with all the shapes and treats mixed in with the pellets, your chinchilla's diet will be unbalanced. They will most likely pick out all the treats and leave the pellets untouched.

The easiest solution is to buy food with only pellets. I know this will sound like a product plug, but I'm going to give you my honest advice anyway. The food I've found to be the best that I use is called the Mazuri chinchilla diet. It is all pellets and provides a good healthy balance for your chinchillas. You can buy this brand online or purchase it at a pet store.

Don't Switch Food Abruptly

It's important to know that chinchillas have very sensitive digestive tracts. Because of this, you cannot switch their food abruptly. You must gradually mix the current food and the new food until their little bodies get used to the new kind.

When you first buy your chinchillas, you should ask what type of food they were being fed at the pet store. Buy a small bag of this food and slowly mix it in with the kind you will be feeding them.

In addition to slowly changing their diet, you should carefully research any other type of food or treat before you give it to them. Even a small amount of some foods can kill a chinchilla.

Finding the Right Kinds of Treats and Toys

It is fairly simple to find treats and toys for your chinchillas as there is usually a whole section in the pet store dedicated to fun things for small animals.

Each chinchilla likes different things, so I can't advise you on exactly which treats to get. Try out whatever they have in the store that catches your eye. You'll soon learn what your new friends like and dislike.

Alternatives to Store-Bought Treats

There are some other things you can buy in addition to store-bought treats. My chinchillas' absolute favorites are dried cranberries and raisins. They go crazy for them! They also love sunflower seeds and almonds.

Just make sure that these things are pure natural, unsalted and unsweetened. This is very important. Giving them the nuts with the shells on or half cracked also gives them something fun to chew and destroy.

Go to the Bird Section for the Best Chew Toys

As far as toys and chew things go I've found that the small mammal section in most pet stores is severely lacking. They usually have a few small wooden toys, maybe even some with treats hidden inside. These are great, but as I've said before, chinchillas looooove to chew.

They'll go through these wimpy little hamster and bunny toys fast. If you really want to find good toys, go to the bird section. This is the best advice anyone has ever given me for my chinchillas.

The bird section is full of perfect toys because birds like to explore and chew just as much as chinchillas. There are countless colorful-wooden-hangy toys to choose from. Just make sure to remove the bell that's on most of them because it's annoying and not great for them to be chewing on.

My chinchillas' favorite wooden chew toys are the ones with the bark still on the wood, and I highly recommend trying these with your pets.

My chinchillas also love the small twigs and pieces of wood that come with the bark still on them. They like having little chew toys that they can hold in their paws. They especially like the apple branches.

The Best Toy of All: The Chube

Every chinchilla should have the joy of playing with the simple toy that is the Chube. It is probably the simplest of all toys but it is absolutely perfect for chinchillas. A "chube" is a chewable tube.

It's basically an oversized toilet paper roll with veggie dyed paper on the outside. Chubes are fun to eat and sleep in. The only problem with the Chube is that it rolls off shelves. But because my chinchillas had so much fun with these, I found a solution.

Simply poke a hole on the very edge of the Chube and attach it to the cage with one of those metal screw-on things that almost all hanging toys have. It's the thing that's kind of like a carabiner. This should help solve the falling off problem.

Buy the biggest size for chinchillas

Buy the biggest size for chinchillas

Tips for the Right Kind of Housing

I've tried out a lot of different houses for my chinnies over the years and have found that there's not much you can do wrong.

  • Make sure the shelter has more than one exit or entrance so your chinchillas don't feel trapped, and they'll be sure to love it.
  • The funnest houses are, of course, the ones they can chew on.
  • My favorite shelter is something I like to call the "rainbow house." It consists of multiple colorful logs of wood held together with wire so you can change the shape of it.
  • There are a lot of good chinchilla houses out there. The most common house I see is the round plastic hut with the castle-like top. While this is cute, it is not the best because it only has one entrance. Before I cut a second hole in it, my chinchillas refused to sleep there.
  • If you do decide to buy one and cut a hole in it like I did, be sure to smooth the edges.

Chinchilla Abuse and Anti-Fur

I'm assuming that most people visiting this site are anti-fur, but I'd just like to remind everyone out there that wonderful, sweet, loving chinchillas are being killed every day for their fur. Please support any and all rescue programs.

I'm confident that after experiencing the joy of owning a chinchilla, you will feel as passionate about the anti-fur movement as I do.

A Dedication to Charlie

I would like to dedicate this article to Charlie the chinchilla. I adopted him not knowing that he was sick, and he passed away only a few months later. I will always love and miss him. His grave rests upon a peaceful hill overlooking a canyon, and I like to think that he's hopping around chinchilla heaven right now.

Please pay close attention to your chinchilla's health. They often show only very slight signs of being unwell. Keep your eyes out for any signs of lethargy or anti-social behavior, as this is their way of letting you know something's not right. Rest in peace, Charlie. I miss you.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Beckett on July 06, 2020:

Omg I am so sorry for you I am thinking about getting chinchillas Your advice has helped me a lot for my future best friend!Your advice has helped me so much!XOXO Beckett!

chloe on March 20, 2020:

RIP charlie . oh i feel so sorry for you i am so grateful for your help though it has really help me get prepared for looking after my maybe chinchillas i dont know if i am getting them

Denise on March 19, 2020:

Great article and soooo accurate!!

Heather Gjerseth on November 10, 2019:


Ethan on October 26, 2019:

They are cool

Rose-Marie on October 26, 2019:

This was very helpful, thank you!

Lusaka on August 15, 2019:

This was a great article

Miss lyss on December 23, 2018:

Thanks for the info. I plan on getting 2 chinchillas when schools out and my family has settled in a new house.

Eliza on September 27, 2018:

Omg that was the best article I have read yet ! 200 times a day wow! I will say as a vet tech over bathing your chin can lead to dry skin. But other than that spot on ! Lovely job :)

Helping friend on August 24, 2018:

Hi I’m 13 and I had a hamster he died from cancer and I really wanted a chinchilla and after many arguments my parents let me get to and I love them BUT all the research u look up will NOT prepare u for haveing them they r VERY VERY MESSY they throw there poop out of there cage on the floor they put there hay out of the descepenser on the ground then they won’t eat it and u have to clean a three story cage every day because they r constantly going to the bathroom they arnt as cuddly and friendly as u hope I do love them but I think Everyone should stick with a hamster so they can live in the wild and we don’t have to take major care of them

Amythyst the chinchilla on August 21, 2018:

I have a female chinchilla named Amythyst and im going to get another chinchilla soon, very soon. i just figured i would refresh my care memory completely, ya know? this is all great, thanks!! and i have to get a new chube lol. and i have birds so the toys the chichi's dont like, i give to the birds. the toys the birds dont like i just give to the chichi's, and both the chi's and birds use the same dust. it all good :D

Aaron Buckley on March 04, 2018:

Thank you for this information. It was very informative. RIP Charlie.

Tam Rose on February 24, 2018:

I am thinking of having a chinchilla but I don’t think that I will be around most of the day because of school. I am saving up for a chinchilla still and I don’t think I can have two is that ok. I am going to get a rainbow house most of my friends suggested it and I am still looking at the chinchilla’s that are in need of a home so I can take it in. My sister had one but had to give it away she was sooo fluffy so I miss her so I made thinking of getting a girl. I am starting my art YouTube channel so I can get more money for it. Wish me the best of luck.

Crystal kosloski on January 08, 2018:

Can you send me your number

Kayleeann2008 on November 27, 2017:

Thank you im an mine year old and i realy want an chinhilla and its olmost cristmas and its also november and 4 days until christ mas and i realyrealyrealyrealy want an chinchilla.

Avant chin on October 29, 2017:

I want one but I don't want it to be to exspensive

Lynn on September 04, 2017:

Literally half of this information is outdated and wrong.... chinchillas should never have access to chewing on plastic. Cover their shelves in anti-pill fleece. NEVER USE CAREFRESH!!! They'll eat it, it'll expand in their stomach, and they'll die. They can't have any fruits, veggies, nuts, or seeds. Just a good pellet and timothy hay is a sufficient diet... If you follow this guy's advice, YOU will be the reason your chinchilla dies prematurely. Beware!

Demi on August 22, 2017:

Thanks for all the advise I have learnt s lot ❤️

Aran on June 25, 2017:

I am 10 years old and i have one chin named Mochi. Chinchillas in the U.S.A at places like petco can be 100 to 200 dollars but if you get them from breeders they are only about 70 t0 90 dollars. And you do not need 2 chinchillas unless your chinchilla you picked already lives with another one, then they could suffer from depression and in severe cases death.

HADASSAH Benitez on June 14, 2017:

Love this want a chinchilla and I think you are worthy of having chinchillas and I am sorry for charlie :(♡

Hannah and Susie on June 10, 2017:

we are in the U.K. so chinchillas are way less expensive. I'ts about 50 dollars for two chinchillas!!!

Lara on March 19, 2017:

Sorry to here about Charlie but I might be getting a chinchilla their soooo cute!

Zoe on February 13, 2017:

I love chinchillas!

Mattew on January 12, 2017:

Chinchillas are cool

brittany on January 05, 2017:

can i buy one chinchilla and have it play with my rabbit?

Jasmine on January 02, 2017:

I love this advice I just got a Chinchilla for Christmas and I've been looking for another hard to find one in Canada lol

dailynn on December 30, 2016:

i have three chinchillas.

Jeremiah on November 04, 2016:

I am totally confident about having a chinchilla and I am going to buy two

JamesL21 on October 13, 2016:

I'm planning on adopting chinchillas, and by the looks of things Chinchillas would love to have a mate. Would it be too difficult adopting two Chinchillas at once and what would I need to do to make the adoption successful. I'm planning on adopting two 10 week old males. Thanks for your help

Hedgehog Luver on October 10, 2016:

Thank you for this information because I really want a chinchilla. And don't worry, I am NOT a first-time pet owner. I have an adorable hedgehog. By the way, I am very sorry for Charlie. Rest In Peace Charlie. :(

Leone on August 06, 2016:

WOW! Thanks for learning me more about those cute, fluffy AND lovely chinchillas! I am so sorry that Charlie had past away. My mom and dad are still thinking about getting me chinchillas.

charity on June 26, 2016:

nice page but chins shoud never have plastic in there cage

Chinchilla Lover on January 15, 2016:

Actually, I would like to say something. The cage you purchased: get rid of it. Chins have a very sensitive stomach, as you should know. Either have something on the plastic like fleece, or trash the cage. You should NEVER have and kind of plastic in your chins cage, as it can severely endanger their lives.

da bomb on November 15, 2015:

Chinchillas are the bomb and the cuttiest little fur balls


Oh My God. on July 15, 2015:

Some of this is so incredibly wrong that it hurt to read. Plastic can kill chinchillas. Having two chinchillas can cause fights if the chinchillas you get aren't either really young or have been together already for a long time. Ugh. And even young cage mates can start fighting when older, meaning you need to get a whole other cage WITH NO PLASTIC.

jazzy96db on April 07, 2015:

Thankyou, this was sooo helpful. I was wondering tho, I have a very large guinea pig/rabbit cage (4ft x3ft and its about 2ft tall) to try and save money I was just going to add shevles inside it. Would this be okay to do for just one chin?

Kimmy on April 05, 2014:

Awesome page. Thank you so much for the info and the starting point to make decision to adopt a chinchilla.

Chin lover 86 on February 04, 2014:

OM FRICKIN G!!!! I love chinchillas!

Thank you so much you are the best! I will always thank you forever because I got a chinchilla a week ago and this was very helpful! But I am sorry to hear about Charlie the chinchilla. I named mine after Charlie in memory of him.

;( you will always be loved and missed Charlie.

Lexie on January 01, 2014:

This article was very helpful to me. I really want to buy a chinchilla in my future!!!

Me on February 03, 2013:

I want one but idk what to buy and use!!! Help!!

Brittani on November 22, 2012:

One, plastic is very dangerous for Chins. Two, Carefresh is also very dangerous as it absorbs the fluid in their stomachs and can not be digested. Aspen bedding is best. They are fine on their own but prefer buddies. I have bought 2 from petsmart. One was fine the other was sick when I got her and died 2 weeks later. Buy build your own toys kits from breeders. I would suggest buying everything from breeders including your Chin. They can live up to 20 years.

chinchilla lover123 on July 02, 2012:

where can I buy a chinchilla? what is a place that has good and healthy chins?

yael on June 05, 2012:

That's not true chinchilla can not die if she is alone .. I'm going to buy just one chinchilla and I've read about it a lot and it's not true, they do not die of loneliness ... But otherwise well done on what you wrote I really enjoy ... :)

Angie D. on May 26, 2012:

In a few days I'm driving to St.Louis to adopt a chinchilla. Iregret saying that I am not swayed one way or another n the fur issue, but I'm almost positive I will be when i have one of these furballs for myown!:)

Morgan Miller on May 19, 2012:

I just got my Chinchilla 3 days ago as a graduation gift from my mother. I've had my eye on him for about three months now as he was on display at a local pet store in my area.

I have had just about any animal you could think of, rabbits, dogs, cats, horses, goats, turtles, hamsters, you name it, but this is my first chinchilla. I bought him a cage that has metal wiring, but I put down a lot of bedding, so will this be okay? I just don't want to seriously have him injure himself on it. Mostly everywhere I've read says not to have metal wiring, but I figured if I put down a lot of soft bedding it would be okay.

Next, he seems to be adjusting well. He's eating, and drinking, and taking nicely to his new home. I'm just worried about him warming up to me. He comes to me for the most part, but it seems it's only because he wants to be let out and then he doesn't care to see me again. I've let him out in my room, and he likes it, but it's so hard to get him to go back in his cage. I know not to chase him, but does anyone know of an easier way to get them back in their cages?

Nextly, he isn't a year old yet, but he is a boy, and seems to have a um... humping... problem... He likes to crawl up on my arm and hump it, as he does with stuffed animals... Is this something I should be worried about?

Anyways, he seems alright. He's been playing in his cage, jumping all around, and whatnot so this must be a good sign, eh?

Any comments or suggestions would be HIGHLY appreciated. You can comment here or email me at!


Lorraine on May 17, 2012:

Planning on getting my daughter a chin and this was very helpful. Thanks.

jessica on May 07, 2012:

those letters were me

jus on March 19, 2012:

-_- you still should not put plastic in the cage in case one day he/she decides to chew on it. IT'S TOXIC & they die from it. don't risk it just because your chinchilla hasn't tried chewing on it yet. think of their safety first instead of disregarding it for convenience or you just "know" they won't.

after talking to the chinchilla breeders that have over 50 years of experience of taking care of them (i bought my second chin from them).. they've seen countless chinchilla owners have their pets die maybe a few weeks after purchasing them. then they fess up to having some plastic in their cages when they promised the breeders they didn't.

also, make sure you check the type of wood that your chew toys are made from. if you're buying from petco/petsmart be careful, because some of the toys i've seen with chinchilla pictures on them are made from fir, oak, etc. those are not safe foods for chins to chew on. you would think pet stores would usually sell safe toys for chins, but they don't. they just have overpriced stuff.

jake on March 18, 2012:

I just purchased my chinny and this site helped me a lot! Thank you so much

Faith on March 11, 2012:

Hey i know that plastic is a no no for chinchillas, but mine really doesn't chew it at all i know for definate. Also my chinchilla is lossing a bit of fur i know this is due to stress but im not sure what is stressing him out, could it be the sound of the tv?

carolyn on December 16, 2011:

Thank you so very much this article was extremely helpful. I would love to know a trusted site to rescue chinnies. I will try to see what I find but any suggestions are welcome- Merry Christmas

ben on December 14, 2011:

thanks for the info i have been wanting to buy a chinchilla since i was 8

Nicole on August 24, 2011:

NO NO NO, please don't put any plastic in the chinchilla's cage. If you do happen to get a wire cage, you can put fleece on the shelves. Plastic is a NO NO!

Wooden Toys for Children on July 24, 2010:

Great article, I had not realized these little guys were so cute. I am anti fur and can't believe that anyone could be so cruel to these helpless little animals. Keep up the writing, it is vital to spread the word.

Maya Pillai 2010 from Pune, India on March 03, 2010:

Good article. The pictures speak louder than words

AARON99 on March 01, 2010:

Thank you lilnohu, for your valuable comments and being my fan. Make some hubs in future. Enjoy.

lilnohu (author) from California! on February 28, 2010:

Thanks :D

AARON99 on February 27, 2010:

A very informative hub. Welcome to the hubpages and keep writing. All the best.