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Chinchilla Housing :: Chinchillas

A look at the features and characteristics of a good chinchilla cage.

Chinchilla HousingChinchillas are a small rodent native to South America, found in rocky, arid areas in the mountains. They are perhaps best known for their incredibly soft, thick, luxurious fur. In the wild this fur protects them from the elements, but in captivity it makes them somewhat susceptible to overheating. This must be considered when deciding where to place your chinchilla in the house. A cooler, quiet (but not drafty area) is preferred.

The Cage
The larger the cage, the better. The minimum floor space is about 24 by 24 inches, and a tall cage is best; if possible get a tall cage with shelves and ladders that allow the chinchilla to climb. Wire is the best cage material, and avoid plastic cages or accessories and chinchillas chew and destroy plastic readily.

For ease of cleaning, a pull out tray is a nice feature. The tray can be lined with wood shavings (avoid cedar shavings, and hardwood shavings such as aspen are preferred over pine), or newspapers. Many chinchilla cages have a wire floor, which is nice for keeping them out of dirty cage bottoms but can be hard on chinchilla feet. If you use a wire floor or have all wire shelves, provide at least one wooden platform (or cover part of the wire with a piece of wood) to give the chinchilla's feet a break. A nest box, made of wood, should also be provided.

Where to Put the Cage
The cage should be placed in a quiet area of the home where human activities won't disturb (and stress) them during the day. As mentioned previously, the area should also be cool, but not drafty, and not exposed to direct sunlight which could cause overheating. Summertime temperatures must be monitored to make sure the ambient temperature is not much over 77 F (25 C). If you do not have air conditioning, placing a shallow pan of ice cubes in the cage may help. Place the cage on a table or stand as this will help make the chinchilla feel secure (chinchillas can be intimidated if you must lean over the cage to interact with them).

Water Bottles
Glass water bottles are ideal because the chinchilla can't chew through them. If you use plastic, encasing it or creating a barrier to it with wire mesh should reduce the risk of damage (you can also get commercial chew guards). For feeders, hopper style feeders that attach to the outside of the cage are nice because they can't be tipped and the chinchilla won't be able to urinate in their food. If a food bowl is used it should be a heavy ceramic bowl to reduce tipping, and it must be cleaned daily.

Toys can be provided too - blocks of wood and tree branches (free of pesticides) are good chew toys. Some of the wooden parrot toys make good toys as well, as do the willow balls and rings that you can find for rabbits. It is important to provide toys that do not have small or plastic parts that could be ingested. In addition, a "chinchilla block" or pumice block can be provided for chewing and this will aid in keeping the teeth trim.

Wheels can provide excellent exercise, although you may find that unless the chinchilla is introduced to the idea at a fairly young age it may not take to running on a wheel. A 12-15 inch wheel is preferable, ideally a solid surface metal wheel with an open side (wire wheels are dangerous to feet and tails). It is also possible to get translucent plastic balls in which the chinchilla can "roll" around the house by running - keeping the chinchilla and the furnishings safe. Again, getting a chinchilla used to this at an early age will make them most comfortable with this.

Playtime Outside the Cage
Many people also have their chinchillas out of the cage for a play and exercise time each day. This requires close supervision and a little chinchilla-proofing due their chewing tendencies. Electrical cords pose a grave danger and should be shielded or kept out of reach. Once the chinchilla is tame it should be relatively easy to tempt the chinchilla onto your hand with a favorite treat (e.g. a raisin) and carry it back to the cage. However, most will return to their cages after period of time as they look on it as their home. Chasing and catching the chinchilla should be a last resort, as it is very stressful on the chinchilla (and owner). For more information on advice on toys and safe playtime for chinchillas, see Chinchilla Playtime.

Lianne McLeod

Related Articles:
Caring for Orphaned Chinchillas
Chinchilla Care

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