exercise is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for maintaining the health and happiness
of your pet chinchilla, please see Chuffy's
story. Under normal circumstances a healthy chinchilla can have
unlimited exercise, it is NOT dangerous or harmful as long as some
basic, common sense precautions
Chins should ALWAYS be kept in a climate-controlled
environment, with both temperature (60-70°F) and humidity (40-60%)
kept low. This will allow them to get the exercise they NEED all year
It's adviseable to begin by bonding with your new chin first, as described
in the First
Contact Procedure, so that he is used to being picked up and handled
by you before giving him out-of-cage exercise
time. Otherwise, it may be difficult to get him to behave when it's
time to return to his cage. An exception to this would be if the chin
was neglected by his previous owner by being denied exercise. This
can make some chins hostile to people and being handled
by them until they are first shown that they will ALSO be allowed
exercise) on THEIR terms.
Exercise time is THE time for interacting
with chinchillas, if you don't have time for it, please consider rehoming,
because constant confinement without relief for such intelligent,
naturally active creatures is simply cruel.
EXERCISE AND ENVIRONMENTAL STIMULI
for breeding chinchillas)
Unfortunately, in recent years, a few prominent pet breeders have
begun carelessly criticizing exercise and suggesting that chinchillas
should have their exercise limited "for their own good."
The people who advise this are apparently naively unaware that most
pet chins already ARE under-exercised. It's a serious problem that
can attest to as a result of seeing scores of maladjusted, poorly
chins that have suffered
from being allowed little to no out-of
cage exercise for sometimes years before being discarded at rescue.
"No time for my chin" is one of the top three reasons that
chins are surrendered to rescue.
Sometimes the advice to "limit exercise" is a lie of convenience,
because exercising a large herd of breeding chins can be very demanding
and time-consuming, so it's easier to justify negligence by pretending
the chins don't need exercise than it is to try to give them the exercise
they fundamentally need and deserve. Other
times exercise is ignorantly blamed for problems that occur during
playtime, such as seizures
Conditions) and accidents associated with not chin-proofing,
or acknowledging territorialism.
Such problems are NOT THE FAULT OF EXERCISE
itself and no chin should be punished by having their exercise limited
to compensate for their owner's lack of diligence in observing basic,
often common sense precautions.
Pet chinchillas are PETS, not livestock and as such they're entitled
to better treatment than they got on fur farms, or "ranches."
Even though ranches neglect exercise because they prioritize business
interests over the chins' need for exercise, they too know that exercise
is fundamental to chinchilla health and well-being. Chinchillas.com,
associated with the Ritterspach ranch that's been in business for
over thirty years, makes this selling point about the benefits of
exercise, "Wheels can be used to minimize or eliminate obesity
in non-producing and slow producing breeding females." And at
one point in time ranches had more spacious cages with exercise wheels
built right in (ref-
.doc, "Chinchilla Care," 1962, Houston and Prestwich, p.203, figure
Chinchillas are not "display" pets, like fish. They are
far too intelligent to cope with unrelenting confinement and it DOES
adversely affect both their health and behavior, any qualified professional
will confirm that. Demonstrable proof of the
fact that chinchillas view confinement, especially in a small space,
as "punishing" is evident in the psychology behind
using the small cage to curb misbehavior during the "Large Cage,
Small Cage" introduction
method. If chins had a favorable or even neutral reaction to being
put into the small cage, then this widely used method of introduction
simply wouldn't work. And chins who are neglected, not allowed to
exercise (once they've had a taste of freedom), are more likely
to develop anti-social
behavior as a way or expressing their anger and frustration at the
injustice of being kept locked up, deprived of their freedom. The
smarter the chin, the more likely he is to feel unfairly punished
and to rebel against his jailor.
The appearance of a quiet chin who is constantly caged, especially
in small quarters, is NOT a "happy look." It's the look
of a broken spirit when the light within has been snuffed out: dejected,
sad, without hope. We
have done rescue work since 2000 and have conducted Pet Homes For
since 2004. We know from the hundreds
of chins we've worked with that those who have been deprived of exercise
are among the worst off, and it's not until you take them out of their
cage and begin to try to socialize (sociaizing is for chins that
lack experience with people) or behaviorally rehabiliate them
(for chins that have had negative experiences with people)
that you realize just how unhealthy and disturbed they really are
as a result of what has been, for them, nothing short of punishing
The damage done is evident in both their state of health (lack
of muscle tone, strength and motility) and their attitude and
behavior. The manifestation of their despair ranges from being frightened
(sometimes mortally terrified), apathetic, depressed and withdrawn
to extreme anxiety and
anti-social behavior (biting, urine-spraying), to being
stressed to the point of practicing neurotic habits such as fur
biting, pacing in circles or somersaulting. And chinchillas from
a rescue situation have usually spent their imprisonment in something
larger than the battery cages that ranchies
reside in. The tiny area that ranchies are restricted to results in
their not even knowing how to jump or run; their lack of spatial awareness
means they can't judge height or depth in order to use shelves, perches
and multiple levels. When ranchies are first given the freedom to
explore a playroom, they hop or creep along at a slow, tentative pace
that is pitiful to behold. Thankfully, with time they work up to leaping,
racing and enjoying playtime with the best of them.
Chinchillas need exercise at all stages of life and they can have
supervised out-of-cage exercise as soon as they're big enough to be
away from their mother for extended periods of time (precautions
must always be observed!). Chins cannot
get "too much" exercise, they will not "run themselves
to death," they're very intelligent
animals with the sense to stop and rest when they need to. It's absurd
to suggest otherwise, this is why there are no records of fur trappers
strolling across the Andes mountains, gathering up the carcasses of
foolhardy exercise casualties. Logic dictates that chinchillas would
have become extinct long ago if exercise were indeed lethal, because
animals of prey do a LOT of running.
In the many years that we've
done rescue and given exercise to rescues from serious neglect cases
who've never known out-of-cage exercise before, we've never had any
reason to impose limits on exercise. We allow ranchies (photos
from PHFR 2007: playtime
4) to run for sometimes
hours at a time, even on their first run, and we (and other pet
breeders and rescuers we network with) have never had a problem
by exercise itself.
Any professional expert, any exotics specialist vet,
will verify as ours did, that regular exercise is absolutely VITAL
to maintaining a socialized, healthy, happy chinchilla that is capable
of at least average longevity (10-15 yrs in captivity) without frequent
(and potentially expensive) health concerns.
Exercise increases mental
alertness, physical motility and overall muscle tone and strength,
it keeps stress
levels low which in turn greatly benefits the immune system. But perhaps
most importantly, FREEDOM
IS *LOVE* TO A CHINCHILLA! Even if they aren't on the move
every minute of their out-of-cage
playtime, they're still getting the freedom to choose, the freedom
to have some control over their life, to go where they want to go
and do what they want to do. EVERY animal, including man, loves and
values their FREEDOM and chinchillas are no different!
You WILL see for yourself the positive difference that it makes in
your chin's attitude and ability to trust and relate
to you when he is given out-of-cage exercise, the effect is
immediate and wonderful. Chinchillas were meant to have the run of
the Andes mountain range and nature provided them with strong hind
legs in preparation for a LIFETIME of exercise: springing, jumping,
hopping (chinchillas are rock hoppers in the wild!), ricocheting,
running carefree without any imposed limits. Domestic chinchillas,
by necessity kept in an artificial cage
environment, should have all the out-of-cage exercise that their chinparent
is able to
following story underscores the importance of exercise, and
those of us
who do rescue know all to well that this is, unfortunately,
not a rare and isolated case. Out-of-cage exercise is both vital
to your chinchilla's well being and THE best time for bonding
with you! Here's to Chuffy's memory and may her sad, tortured
life and premature death serve to expose the truth, that denying
exercise= malicious neglect!
Chinchilla Chat Line's Memorial to Chuffy
"You may remember this little lady who was advertised
on our re homing page a while back. Chuffy had lived
with her owner for six years, this owner admitted that Chuffy
had rarely left her cage in all this time and then she decided
she no longer wanted her. Mandy from Plymouth was the kind lady
who re homed Chuffy and they lived together for almost a year.
Poor Chuffy always suffered from various health problems though
and despite Mandy's best efforts, Chuffy was put to sleep on
the vet's advice a few days ago. Mandy is very upset but she
did all she could and certainly gave Chuffy a happy final year.
Roger looked after Chuffy for a little while before Mandy
came along and he had never come across a chinchilla quite like
her, she was extremely tame and would sit in his lap for hours.
Here is Mandy's tribute to a brave little chinchilla."
~ Introduction to Mandy's poem by Chinchilla Chat Line
|My little Chuffy - in the corner
on her own. She must have ached to be allowed to roam.
For six long years in prison, Chuffy stayed. Slowly her life
was ebbing away. She lived in an empty cage with a rusty base,
no shelf in sight, no morsel of delight - on her own from morning
until night. Little Chuffy had no pleasure at all. Her owner
was worried that if let out, she would chew everything in sight.
No mortal sin, we would say, just put things away so that she
can run and jump and play!
But no-one wanted to put things away so in her cage Chuffy stayed
whilst the days slowly passed away, nothing to do, nowhere to
play inside her cage.
The damage was already done when I came along to give her a
good home. Chuffy couldn't run, she couldn't jump, she even
had problems judging heights. She was very stiff and wobbly
too, exercise made her blue. Soon the illnesses started pouring
in, her life was looking very grim. All those years she spent
inside haunted her and made her cry. She would nestle snugly
in my arms for one or two hours at a time. I'd kiss her nose
and she would nibble mine. Lots and lots of cuddles we shared.
She was far too poorly for exercise, I'd sit with her and cry
and cry thinking about all she had been through so Chuffy I
am writing this poem for you.
Never ever have a chinchilla and force him/her to be a prisoner.
Play outside the cage is a must for the chinchilla to thrive
and become robust. It's not too hard to hide chewable things
away and let them have an hour's play. Playtime was too much
for Chuff, her little body had had enough. All those years of
being caged has now taken her life away.
In loving memory of my Little Chuffy.
~ Mandy Elliott ..
Chinchillas are prey animals in the wild and it is true that they
do appreciate some routine and tranquility in their domestic lifestyle,
however, monotony, a lack of activity, and an environment
without interest or enrichment are definitely not in their best interests.
Environmental stimulation is important in moderate
amounts, it keeps the bright, inquisitive chinchilla mind occupied
when they're not actively engaged in out-of-cage exercise or interaction
with their chinparent.
Chinchillas truly enjoy both music and TV, see The
TV Attraction, TV during waking hours goes a long way in helping
chins cope when they're stuck in their cage as opposed to being allowed
out to play.
Mild music styles, such as bossa nova, jazz, blues, soft rock, classical,
celtic, folk and reggae are good anytime, and especially soothing
when played softly in the background during sleeping
hours. A LARGE
cage to accomodate running and playing, a variety of chew
toys, at least one hideaway
per chin and a cage wheel
will help decrease tension and boredom inside the cage, preventing
stress-related health and behavioral problems
as well as cagemate conflicts.
Chinchillas are treasured as pets for their affectionate, sociable
personalities, their keen intelligence and abundant playfulness, all
of which comes to life when they receive regular exercise, interaction,
and an environment that stimulates their senses and engages their
Exercise For Breeding
Whether using a polygamous or a paired breeding system, regular exercise
is essential to both the breeding male and female's health and well-being,
see previous article
for details. Females in breeding should have out-of-cage exercise
without their breeding collar. Pregnant or nursing females that get
(always observe precautions!)
some out-of cage exercise with human bonding
time will be less stressed and will model a positive, receptive
attitude toward people that in turn will affect their kit's ability
to bond with people. Overly-stressed chinchilla mothers have been
known to snap at their kits, sometimes causing injury, and being forced
to remain in the confines of their breeding cage without any relief
from the constant demands of their young can push some mothers over
Obviously, there are times when a breeding female needs to be near
her young and shouldn't be separated from them, a responsible breeder
will know when it's appropriate to let the mother have some relief
and when not to interrupt the mother and kit's bonding and nursing
times. When a breeding
program is focused on having and producing healthy, well-socialized
chinchillas, then EVERYONE benefits: the chins who have their health
and appreciate the company of the people who care for them, the adoptive
chinparents whose pet is a source of joy rather than being difficult
and sickly, and the pet breeder whose healthy, well-socialized chinchillas
are a credit to their breeding program.
CHINCHILLA CHAT LINE'S ADVICE
(ref- scroll to
view advice about exercise
"I and John Bower (Veterinary Hospital
Group) concur in this: whatever pet, from a stick insect to a
horse, must have a lifestyle to mimic what they would have in a wild
state. Essential to this is what I term 'external exercise'. All should
have this experience on a day to day basis. Even a fly or spider may
travel miles during one day, so captive animals (pets) must
have the chance of exercise, not only to improve fitness but also
"Pregnant animals having exercise will improve their terms and
produce healthier offspring which, after birth, delight in exercising
outside the restricted accommodation and site of their play environment.
Opportunities given to offspring for external exercising (from
practically the minute they are born) makes for a better pet in
later life. Fur biting and spinning around in a comer, huddling up
in a crouched position, shaking of the head from side to side, lots
of sleeping (unless ill or in advanced pregnancy) or general
lethargy, are all indications of a bored creature which needs the
stimulation of exercise and adventure, so plenty of things to do should
be offered within the exercise areas. For a happier, healthier pet,
I cannot over-recommend external exercise."
and other precautions, eyesight
and agility, escape
a chin is stepped on)
Also see: Playtime
and Handling Your Chinchilla, and chinchillaworld's
and Other Precautions
Under normal circumstances,
healthy chinchillas of any age (kits should be big enough to be
away from their mother for extended periods of time) should be
able to enjoy as much out-of-cage exercise as they're allowed. Chinchillas
need DAILY attention and interaction,
and if a chin's only opportunity for exercise is out-of-cage playtime
(if he has no exercise
wheel), then he will need AT LEAST a full hour of that every
day. Even with an exercise wheel, he will still need out-of-cage exercise
AT LEAST every other day for an hour (or more!) each time.
The more exercise and interaction a chin gets, the more healthy and
socialized he is and the more loved he feels.
Some people have mistakenly blamed exercise for playtime seizures
as well as accidents associated with not chin-proofing,
or acknowledging territorialism.
However, when bad things happen during exercise (see Pre-Existing
Conditions), exercise itself is NOT to blame! It is the chinparent's
duty to assume responsibility and observe basic precautions so that
their chinchilla can enjoy the exercise and freedom he deserves.
As long as the following precautions are observed,
out-of-cage exercise time can be safe, beneficial
to your chinchilla and... THE BEST TIME FOR BONDING
TERRITORIALISM: CHINCHILLAS ARE TERRITORIAL!
and the sexes, out-of-cage
playtime and cage
Territorialism: Basic Points
chins before cohabitation to prevent potentially deadly fighting,
and never use an introduction method that will threaten their sense
of territorialism or put their safety in jeopardy. Some chins are
much more territorial than others, it varies by the attitude and behavior
e.g., whether a chin is easy-going or high-strung, whether or not
he is accustomed to having chins outside of his group near his territorial
range, or whether he was attacked in the past by another chin. Sometimes
when chins are relocated, to either a new cage or a new home, one
may barricade, staking territory, and that can instigate conflict.
It is not safe to assume that your chin/s aren't territorial, if you
have more than one bonded group it is your responsibility to
take precautions that will accomodate and respect their territorialistic
instincts in order to prevent things like: territorial
anxiety (and excessively marking territory with urine), persistent
or aggressive dominance mounting
that can lead to cagemate conflicts,
(biting, urine-spraying) behavior that some chins may direct
at their chinparent to convey their extreme stress and agitation.
Territorialism: Scent and the Sexes
Contrary to myth,
male groups and female groups can coexist in the same household, provided
that they don't come into direct contact with each other or with each
other's physical excretions (urine/ urine marks, fecal droppings,
estrus or mating plug,
etc.), and that they are prevented from seeing each other per
explanation in the other four points. Behavior can be an indicator
of gender, like urine-spraying
being a mostly female behavior and reproductive mounting
being a male behavior, but gender
is confirmed by scent and this is only discernable by direct
olfactory contact (and possibly
by tasting another chin's fecal droppings) with the other sexes'
physical excretions or from putting their nose to another chin's bottom
for a sniff.
Adequate ventilation and air circulation, which are basic to chinchilla
in general, will prevent the possible accumulation of urine scent
(which is not normally pungent unless cleaning
is inadequate) to the point where it is detectable and potentially
While awareness of the presence of the opposite sex doesn't seem to
have an affect on the social order of all-female groups, it does affect
males, especially unneutered Alpha
males with their strong dominance and mating drive. Once the presence
of the opposite sex is realized by an all-male group, it can lead
to their competing for the right to mate by subjugating their cagemate/s,
and this is done by dominance mounting.
If the dominance mounting gets persistent or aggressive, it can result
in retaliation (fighting,
sometimes to the death) by the antagonized cagemate/s. In the
case of an M/F group, the male will be inclined (less so if neutered,
more so if not neutered)
to mount his female/s in order to reassert his authority and
control in the group.
Direct contact with scent is necessary for it to be potentially problematic,
and scent is not detected when cages are covered, or between rooms
or at the other end of the house. Most online advice
derives from pet breeders who don't cover their cages, but we have
cages since 1997 and even though the sheet around the cage catches
that group's urine (scent) between changings, we've never had
a problem housing unneutered male groups (we've worked with hundreds
of chins) right next door to females provided that these four
points regarding territorialism were observed.
Territorialism: Out-Of-Cage Playtime
Only let bonded cagemates out together for out-of-cage exercise
time, DON'T MIX GROUPS. Chinchillas do have a social order and mixing
groups (especially opposite sex groups) will cause confusion
and instigate conflict. If different groups use the same playroom,
sprinkle Baby Cornstarch
Powder or Arm &
Hammer Baking Soda (not talc,
it's carcinogenic) on carpet urine stains and then vacuum the
room well between uses, this will also remove fecal droppings. Clean
the carpet periodically.
Chinchillas do have a territorial range or "comfort zone"
that extends a few feet out from their cage
in the directions they can see, and by instinct they want to guard
and defend that immediate territory. For this reason, DO NOT USE THE
CAGE ROOM AS A PLAYROOM! An outsider (intruder) wandering near
other cages is in danger of getting bitten on the nose or toes, sometimes
as a result of being encouraged to come closer (with ostensibly
friendly baiting) by the irate caged chins, and the intruder's
presence can instigate persistent dominance mounting
(and fights) as the lead chin in the caged groups attempts
to reestablish social rank and control in response to the territorial
Territorialism: Cage Environment
We recommend covering cages, as described on Routines,
also see that section for more on preventing
problems related to territorialism: "A barrier between cages
prevents knowledge of (and contact
with) the opposite
sex or other chinchillas right next door. This is a PROXIMITY
and SIGHT issue, it's not about scent unless the chins are in direct
olfactory contact with each other's
physical excretions (urine/ urine marks, fecal droppings, estrus
or mating plug,
etc.), or are able to put their nose to another chin's bottom
for a sniff.
"Seeing other chins across the room or more than a few feet away
is normally not a problem, but seeing them camped right next door
often is. Calm,
easy-going, and not very territorialistic chins that are accustomed
to this may not care, but even they may have a problem if they get
different neighbors. Chins that are more territorial, high-strung,
or not accustomed to having other chins right next door and who are
suddenly confronted with this territorial violation
may get very nervous and upset, exhibiting territorial anxiety (and
excessively marking territory with urine), persistent or aggressive
that can lead to cagemate conflicts,
(biting, urine-spraying) behavior that some chins may direct
at their chinparent to convey their extreme stress and agitation."
Azure Chinchillas, Chinchillarama's
cached page (.doc), Dunja's
House of Chinchillas, eRodent
Chin-proofing is for preventing foreseeable accidents, playtime supervision
is required for preventing the unforseeable.
The chin-proofed playroom needs to be large, about 12'x12' or more,
to accomodate running, jumping and ricocheting off the walls. If
there is nothing to interact with in the chin's play area then he
will quickly become bored and begin gnawing the walls or looking for
mischief. Chins need playthings (cat towers, wooden boxes,
tubes, etc., see supplier
sites, avoid chewing hazards)
for exploring, perching, hiding under and so forth to prevent
boredom. Be creative and expect to change playthings periodically
to maintain interest.
Tile, wood, linoleum or other smooth floor surfaces are not suitable
for a playroom because they don't provide traction for running and
this can lead to accidents and injuries; they may also be easily stained
by urine. Carpet is soft, provides traction and urine stains are easily
removed with regular soap and water. You can
put out a pan or tray in a corner of the playroom that contains some
of the chin's used litter, this may "litter train"
him so that he urinates there during playtime, but not all chins will
take the hint. Chinchillas continually leave fecal droppings
that are small, hard, odorless and easy to vacuum up; we have never
heard of chins being trained to control that function.
Bathrooms sometimes appeal to people as an easy place to chin-proof
for playtime, but they are not a good place to exercise chins for
several key reasons: firstly, the typical bathroom is far too
small for any real exercise to take place. Even when the toilet lid
is put down and sharp (razor) or heavy objects (shampoo
bottle) are removed, bathroom floors and fixtures, like the tub
ledge, are too slick and slippery for chinchilla feet to get a grip
on and avoid serious injury. Bathrooms are frequently damp and humid
from shower use, creating prime conditions for mold and fungus
growth which may go undetected by a human but will be readily discovered
by a curious chin. The chin pictured here
escaped from the playroom and went into the bathroom, where she found
a crevice under the sink and hid until she decided to come out on
The chin's playroom should have no electrical cords or other chewing
hazards, but in the event that that's unavoidable, wrap those
things (furniture, cords, plastic, etc.) in towels or sheets
(no strings, fringe or loose weave) in a secure manner (safety
pins or duct tape can help, also see cord
protectors) so that the chin can't move it aside, otherwise
he WILL eventually get around or behind it. Furniture only needs to
be covered around the base and legs, not the entire unit. It's a good
idea to get on the floor and look around the room from what will be
the chin's point of view, it can lead you to secure things you wouldn't
have noticed otherwise.
You can try spraying pet "training aids" such as Fooey
or Bitter Apple along baseboards
(skirtboards) or window sills to help prevent gnawing there,
people have had varying degrees of success with these and they have
to be reapplied between playroom uses.
The door must be kept shut and a notice (see Cheeky Chinchilla's
it prevents accidents!) should be posted on the other side alerting
those who would open the door to proceed cautiously, there is a chin
Don't assume because your chin doesn't immediately start gnawing,
that he's "not a chewer" and won't ever do so during
are PHASES of exploration:
1) Scouting can take anywhere from just the first time in new
territory to several sessions, depending on the chin and how many
items there are to explore in the room. The chin will thoroughly explore
everything, making note of the position of objects therein (chins
out" their terrain and store that in memory rather than depending
solely on sight, later this map enables them to maneuver effortlessly
at top speed) and their attributes, how they can be used for fun.
A chin may tend to stay under furniture and keep a low profile at
first, until he gains knowledge of the room and confidence in his
ability to master it. Eventually, he'll prefer high places that give
him greater leverage from which to anticipate and react in his surroundings,
and he'll make note of tight places that will allow him to hide out
of sight when he wants to.
occurs when the chin becomes better acquainted with the objects in
his playroom and is ready to test their chewing potential. Chinchillas
and they gnaw to keep their continuously growing teeth filed down,
they also may gnaw recreationally as a way of exploring their environment
or to satisfy their curiosity. Whether a chin gnaws seldom or voraciously
depends on the individual, but because gnawing is a basic instinct
chinchillas cannot be reliably trained to refrain from gnawing at
certain times or places (they'll just gnaw softly or when you're
not paying attention). They assume, and
rightfully so, that their chinparent has secured
whatever should not be gnawed on and therefore anything they see or
can get into has been presented for their gnawing pleasure.
Place a small food dish and water dish (chins should normally use
bottle but during playtime they can adapt) in the playroom
to help lessen the instinct to test everything for potential edibility.
occurs after the room has been scouted and tasted. Then
it's time for an in-depth analysis, to see if there's anything left
to explore like hiding spots or something that wasn't properly chin-proofed.
THIS is the phase when the chinparent is most likely to be caught
off-guard, this phase is the true test of chin-proofing. Just when
you've assumed that the chin "can't reach" certain exposed
electrical cords or "isn't interested in" something he shouldn't
gnaw on or "won't fit" behind or under something in the
room, suddenly, there he is... If your chin is getting into something
that he shouldn't, snap your fingers
or clap your hands once or twice and say "no" in a firm,
not loud or frightening, manner. Use this tactic sparingly or its
effect will diminish.
UNlike with such pets as dogs or cats, a chinchilla's out-of-cage
activity MUST be supervised at ALL times to prevent UNforseeable accidents.
Inside the playroom, move slowly and shuffle your feet to prevent
on your chin. This is extremely important because some chins are
especially fond of chasing feet, racing between and around them. Also
pay constant attention to where the chin is at any given moment because
a chin who's really enjoying his playtime can jump or make a sudden
mad dash without perceiving the danger of being underfoot. It is generally
inadviseable to allow other
pets to have access to your chinchilla during his out-of-cage
exercise time. A larger pet may get overly excited from watching the
chin race about and rough play and accidents could ensue.
We have discussed this with our exotics
who agrees, out-of-cage exercise is undeniably necessary and beneficial
but problematic pre-existing conditions can manifest themselves during
exercise. For instance, a playroom that's too hot/
humid can cause heatstroke, and a bloodsugar imbalance from the
consumption of sugary treats
served around playtime, an hour before or after, can cause seizures.
Just as a person who has underlying health problems- say, a weak heart
or diabetes- may collapse while exercising in
their condition (or as a result of imposed conditions, like
a hot playroom), the same can happen to chins, but once the pre-existing
condition has been successfully addressed, exercise is once again
safe and purely beneficial. Note that when chins stretch out on their
side after a good run, this is not a sign of "overexertion,"
it's as natural as a person who stretches out on a beach or lawn after
they've had a long jog; it's just relaxing.
If your chinchilla has a seizure during playtime, wrap him snuggly
in a lightweight towel or blanket (no
strings, fringe or loose weave) and take him to your exotics specialist
immediate examination. While there, troubleshoot with your vet
to determine and treat the REAL problem, the underlying cause of your
the seizure itself is only symptomatic. If
seizures during out-of-cage exercise (or any other time) happen
frequently with the chinchillas in your care, then something in their
husbandry or environment is seriously wrong and needs immediate attention.
We have been chinparents
since 1997 and have worked with hundreds
of chinchillas from all backgrounds,
including rescues that came from serious neglect and ranchies
who had no experience with out-of-cage exercise prior to coming to
us. We often exercise our chins for hours at a time, and we have never
had a single playtime seizure in all these years. Seizures aren't
that common, but awareness is key to preventing them, and there are
many potential causes.
Pointers for avoiding problems caused by pre-existing
A chinchilla should always have an initial
vet exam to determine his state of health. Sick, injured, or post-operative
chins should not be given out-of-cage exercise time without the express
permission of your exotics specialist vet.
Pregnant or nursing females should be watched over very protectively
and especially in the case of a nursing mother, should be given shorter
periods of out-of-cage exercise so as not to interfere with their
maternal role, see Exercise
for Breeding Chinchillas.
control in the playroom is imperative, high heat and/ or humidity
can easily lead to heatstroke or seizures because a chinchilla's body
temperature increases somewhat during exercise, making them more susceptible.
(see hyperlinked article for details) can cause seizures.
Chinchillas should not be given sugary
treats (raisins, etc.) too much or too often, ESPECIALLY
around playtime (an hour before or after), as this can lead
to a bloodsugar-related seizure.
If "rewarding" your chinchilla is your way of getting his
cooperation to come and go from his cage, try a healthier
treat that is not high in sugar.
Chinchilla Eyesight and Agility
Also see: Senior
Health and Cataracts
Sometimes a chin can
be just plain clumsy, but if he frequently runs head-first into objects
in a setting that's familiar and basically unchanged, and if he often
follows the outline (furniture or baseboards) of the room when
running about, then there is an eyesight deficiency at hand, perhaps
may or may not be present, they're most often found in seniors and
appear like a cloudy film over the dark part of the eye, reducing
visibility and potentially causing blindness.
A chinchilla's eyes aren't used
as much in navigation as a day dwelling animal's would be. Chins rely
strongly on their long, sensitive whiskers and their ability to mentally
map out their environment so that they can practically cruise with
their eyes closed by night. When chins are unfamiliar with their surroundings,
if they have changed or are new, they will normally take time to mentally
map out the area. If they just start racing about first off, then
expect some collisions. Our first chin, Ryo-Ohki, would go slowly
around a new room, checking out every nook and cranny before doing
laps at rocket speed, her grace and agility were flawless.
If your chin escapes (see stories
on Chinchillas2Home) from you during out-of-cage exercise time
and you do know where he is hiding at, try to block-off or isolate
the area and ensure that it is chin-proofed, for when the chin does
come out of his hiding spot.
Say he's in the bathroom, for certain, maybe under the sink cabinet
(photo of Marlene's
Adventure). Close the door, put the toilet seat down and unplug
and remove (from the room) everything that has an electrical
cord or is sharp, such as a razor or nail clippers. Also remove anything
that is heavy (shampoo bottle, bubblebath, etc) that sits around
the tub periphery- because if the chin gets out, he'll explore and
you don't want him jumping around the tub and knocking into something
that could land on his head. The ChinCare webmasters can speak from
chins ALWAYS head for the bathtub!
If the floor is not carpeted you can place a blanket on the floor
so that if he does leap about, he'll have a soft place to land. Eventually
he'll come out of his hiding place and you'll either hear or see him-
just remember that if you must open a door, do so VERY cautiously
and block the entrance to his hiding place with your hand before he
can run back in.
If a Chin Is Stepped
If your chinchilla is accidentally stepped on during out-of-cage exercise
time, DO NOT feel him over to detect injury, that can cause further
damage. Also don't waste time on forums soliciting advice from non-professionals
or prodding the chin to see if he'll be responsive to treats or stimuli.
DO immediately wrap him gently in a blanket (not a heavy
one if it is warm outside) to restrict movement until he can be
examined by your exotics specialist vet,
the blanket will also keep him warm if he's in shock.
Try to get someone to drive you to your exotics specialist vet or
to an emergency vet clinic so that you can hold the chin securely
to keep him from being jostled on the drive there. If that's not an
option, put him in a carrier,
blanket and all to help immobilize him, and drive carefully but quickly.
The chin must be x-rayed. As prey animals, they naturally try to mask
pain or injury and may not show the extent of the damage done by responding
with sounds or reflex when professionally checked over, an x-ray is
absolutely necessary for a thorough examination.
Once the vet has determined a course of action for recovery and the
chin is back home, he will need a single level cage for the recovery
process if he has any broken bones, see the recovery setup instructions
noted in the Neutering section.
ALLOW HIM TO REST undisturbed, don't expect him to act lively or eat
much, that is normal, let him recuperate in peace. Contact the vet
immediately if he stops eating, drinking, urinating or pooping for
more than twelve hours.
The recovery setup should be located where it is relatively quiet
and peaceful, away from prying pets, excessive traffic, etc. Cover
his cage with a sheet (as described on Routines)
for privacy and security. Some soft music, hearing your voice
in gentle and soothing tones, and having you spend time near his cage
to give him moral support will keep stress levels low and expedite
is a MUST during his waking hours, this will help him endure the otherwise
tortorous boredom of the recovery process.
has created a door hanger to help prevent playtime accidents from
happening, it warns others that a chin is at play. For more safety
items, see Safety
& Supplier Resources.