Chinchilla Basics


Ideally chinchillas should be kept in a wire mesh (which should have a mesh no larger than 15mm x 15mm) that extends across the floor wire mesh (which should have a mesh no larger than 15mm x 15mm) that extends around all 6 sides including the floor. Having mesh on the floor allows urine and faeces to pass under the cage to help keep your chinchilla clean, however, places like wooden shelves should be placed to allow access away from the mesh floor so conditions like bumble foot do not occur. 90cm x 60cm x 45cm is the minimum sized cage for a single chinchilla but remember, bigger is always better. The cage should be placed in a draft free, dry environment with access to natural light but not direct sunlight.

Chinchillas like a dark place to sleep so place a wooden box for them to sleep in, the box should be able to easily accommodate all chinchillas within the enclosure.

Chinchillas also, unlike many other small furries, like to take a bath, not in water but in sand. You should provide them with a sand bath several times a week for 10-20 minutes at a time. Chinchilla sand is available from most pet shops, never use normal sand as this can harm your chinchilla. Never leave it in as they may use it as a toilet area.


Like rabbits, chinchillas require a large amount of fibre in their diet so always provide them with a constant supply of hay. Chinchillas also require a complete food so that they have a balanced diet. A non-selective pellet is the best type of complete food to feed, as a muesli type food allows for them to pick out their favourite bits leaving the rest, this can lead to dietary deficiencies.

Chinchillas love to eat fruit and vegetables but too much or the wrong type can be harmful so limit how much they have each day.

Some GOOD fruit and vegetables are apple, blueberry, carrot, celery, grape, orange, potato, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato and raisins.

Some BAD fruit and vegetables are asparagus, peas, cabbage, corn, lettuce, broccoli, rhubarb & rhubarb leaves, and spinach.

Some common plants that are harmful to chinchillas are: foxglove, lily, rose periwinkle, all nightshades, aloe vera, boxwood, amaryllis, apple leaf, cherry laurel, gaultheria, poppy, tulip, fern, all ivy, tomato plant, hyacinth, primrose, daffodil, autumn crocus, mistletoe, all olives, delphinium, geranium, holly, chrysanthemum, clematis, forget-me-not, lavender and hydrangea macrophylla.

Fresh water should be provided at all times.


Chinchillas are largely nocturnal, but become active during the evening and throughout the night – perfect for when owners get back from work or school. Very young children and chinchillas, however, aren’t always a good partnership because the animals are very sensitive to rough handling and are not particularly good at sitting still to be petted.

Chinchillas like the company of other chinchillas so a pair or group is best.

Same and mixed sexed pair and groups can be kept together but remember if you’re getting a mixed sex group or pair to get them neutered.


When keeping an all male group or pair it may be necessary to neuter all of the individuals. Leaving one or more un-neutered can still lead to aggression problems.

When keeping an all female group or pair it is usually not necessary to neuter them.

When keeping a mixed group or pair it will be necessary to neuter the male(s) in the group or pair to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

The males are usually the ones to be neutered as the procedure is much less invasive and the anaesthetic time is much shorter, minimising the risks.

Unfortunately, just like all small animals, chinchillas are more susceptible to problems whilst under anaesthesia so strong considerations should be made before having your chinchilla neutered.


Common Diseases

Dental Problems

Chinchillas have open-rooted teeth, which means they are growing all the time which means if they are not provided with enough material to chew on their teeth become too large, making it hard to eat. Items that are good for chewing on include wooden blocks, cardboard and rope toys. Malocclusion occurs as a deformity and as a result of bar chewing. Regular clipping at the vets is required to keep the teeth short.


Chinchillas are prone to viral pneumonia. The best way to help avoid them getting Pneumonia is to ensure their cage is clean and the cage is in an appropriate place – draft free, dry place with access to natural light but not direct sunlight and that adequate ventilation is provided. Clinical signs include distressed breathing, sneezing, lack of appetite, and loss of weight.

Constipation This is usually caused by stress, pain or a lack of fibre and water, so access to plenty of fresh drinking water and lots of hay is the answer. Clinical signs include your chinchilla will look bloated and there will be fewer droppings than usual – and the ones you do find will be smaller and thinner.


This is quite a common problem with chinchillas and is usually a sign of over-eating – especially with treats or vegetables. Other causes might be stress, lack of fibre or a simple reaction to some bad food.


This condition, also called ulcerative pododermatitis, can be identified by ulcers on the feet and can be extremely painful if the ulcers get infected. Make regular checks to make sure the soles of the feet aren’t flaky or cracked – if they are, see a vet straight away.

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