cage to accomodate running and playing, a variety of chew
toys, a cage wheel
during waking hours are all strongly recommended to keep your chin's
stress levels low and his intelligent mind occupied when he's not
actively engaged in out-of-cage exercise and interaction.
Exercise balls are inadvisable for several reasons: their plastic
construction, the largest size is still too small for most chinchillas,
there is a strong possibility for overheating and if the chin pees,
he'll be rolling in his own urine.
Some chins, when nervous, stressed or just not interested in being
picked up, may run on the wheel as if they're trying to "run
away." This is not cause for alarm, chins
will NOT "run themselves to death" on an exercise wheel
any more than during out-of-cage playtime, that is a care
myth. If an extremely stressed chin uses a wheel and dies
shock (not a common problem, but it can happen) sometime
later, it was not the wheel that caused his demise but the major,
event or change that he was unable to cope with. A pregnant chinchilla
should have her exercise wheel removed about a week before littering,
it can be returned after the kits are weaned or physically mature
enough to use it safely. The pre-existing
condition warning also applies to the use of exercise wheels.
It is very important to measure your chin's cage
door (unless the top can be opened) to ensure that the wheel
can be put into the cage! An exercise wheel for the cage is definitely
recommended, however, your chin will still require out-of-cage
exercise time at least every other day for an hour each time. Playtime
Be aware that wheels with a pronounced edge or "lip" around
them (Leo Braun, Silver Surfer, etc.) may entice some chins
to gnaw it, eventually wearing holes in the metal. To date, we haven't
heard of this causing any problem for the chin, but it does put some
serious wear on the wheel, see this article with photos by Fuzzy
If your chin doesn't take to a wheel immediately,
don't assume that he just "doesn't like" wheels and that
the wheel is unnecessary. Be patient and give your chin a chance
to adjust, because a chin who's never had a wheel or a certain type
of wheel can take a matter of weeks, maybe months, to try it and like
it. It is very typical for chins to be reluctant or suspicious of
change or of something that's new or unfamiliar, whether it's a change
a new cage
accessory, a bonding
approach, etc. This means that a chin's initial reaction, whether
for positive or negative, should not be assumed to be his final opinion.
The chinparent needs to allow their chin time to become familiar with
something, to give it a fair chance, to adjust, to decide. It's generally
acknowledged that some chins, especially seniors, take longer to adapt
to the Saucer Wheel, but we have found that once chins get the hang
of it, they really take to the Saucer enthusiastically and often.
Wheel Safety Criteria
Also see Chinformation
Organization's thread on wheel safety
RUNNING SURFACE: A running surface that is solid (NO rungs!)
or made of wire mesh
that is ½" X ½" or smaller, to prevent foot, leg and toe injuries.
NO PLASTIC: Plastic, either
hard or soft, not only presents a serious choking hazard but is indigestible
(e.g., the chin GI system can break down some woody
plants, but not things like plastic) and can easily cause
a FATAL intestinal blockage if accidentally swallowed.
WHEEL SIZE: There is some debate as to whether a 12" wheel
could cause distress or injury to a chin's back. When we
asked our exotics specialist vet,
she said no, that it wouldn't cause any problems. And in this
photo of one of our smaller chins on the 12" Leo Braun wheel,
she is able to stretch out completely because the wheel is a full
12" with the side open. HOWEVER, the small standing wheels with
spokes that pet stores commonly sell are DEFINITELY NOT safe for a
chin to run on, if not for the unnaturally cramped position that a
chin must get in to use them, for the side spokes and runged running
SPOKES ARE LETHAL! Spokes act like whirling blades when in
motion on either side of the wheel, a chin that attempts to jump on
or off a moving "suicide wheel" faces serious injury
(snapped arms or legs), even death
(broken neck). We know of people who've always used suicide
wheels with their chins but that still doesn't make these wheels "ok,"
it only serves to show how smart chins are- that the chin carefully
examined the wheel and how it works right from the start, perceived
the risks inherent in using it, and proceeded with caution. Nevertheless,
this is truly just an accident waiting to happen and it does indeed
happen even with chins that have always used them, in our
rescue work we've seen the amputees that result.
With a safe wheel, a chin will routinely jump on and off while the
wheel is in motion, in fact, that's sometimes part of the fun. Our
boy Bear gets his wheel going until the screws at the inside center
of his Leo Braun form a circle from the speed of the spinning wheel,
then he jumps off and watches until the circle "disappears"
and becomes just four screws again, which is his cue to jump back
on. Chins that have previously enjoyed a safe
wheel are particularly prone to suffer an accident when they try a
suicide wheel because they're not accustomed to the inherent dangers.
From a fellow rescue worker: "The lady who gave him to
me [tripod] had him for 18 months and he went to her with all 4 legs...
she said he had a rat wheel (the one that they go in and run with
the bars), I said it would be best to remove it as chins have
been known to slip and break a leg. She said he's been ok in it for
2 days so she was leaving it there. Five days later she called saying
he was at the vet getting his leg removed as he slipped!"
wheel style, flying
Also see eRodent
for extensive, detailed coverage of chinchilla wheel options, suppliers
TRADITIONAL WHEEL STYLE
14" ChinWorld Exercise Wheell
Chins Chinchilla Rescue, ships worldwide
John Hopewell Marketing,
12" and 16" Steel Rodent Exercise Wheels with 5" Running Track
Cage Company, ships worldwide
15" Chin Spin
14" Quiet Heavy Duty Safety Wheels
FLYING SAUCER WHEEL
The three sizes of Flying Saucer Wheel are explained on Meadowbrook
scroll to view. Standard size will accomodate a chin of any size,
but the small size is ONLY for very small chins.
Flower Town Chinchillas, ships
Small, Standard and Large/ Wheel care information, ball bearing life
Quality Cage Company, ships
Wheel Reviews & Demonstrations
of the Flying Saucer wheel Meadowbrook Chinchillas
report on Chinchilla Go Round, Flying Saucer, Leo Braun wheels
Darren's Chinchilla Haven
of Leo Braun wheel Rat & Mouse Club
Photos, reviews of Leo
Braun and Flying Saucer e-Rodent
data, 2 wheel types compared Chris and Sue's Home Page
Wheel data, measuring
running frequency over one week Lisa's Chinchillas
Movies of Chins on Wheels!
Chinchillas- Flying Saucer Wheel
Snoopy running on the Saucer wheel at the same time! (6meg) Using
Media Player, this shows Michelle A's boys
at night with a flashlight trained on them so as not to disturb their
show, but it's still amazing to watch how they've coordinated their
efforts, what smart boys!
USING A HARNESS
Ash Chinchillas/ Debbie's
The best harness type that I've found for chins has straps that go
around the belly and neck and then connect along the back. Because
of the belly strap, this is definitely not adviseable for breeding
females. You should practice often inside the house before taking
them out for the first time, and not all chins will eventually adapt
to a harness.
You can't walk them as you would a dog, instead, follow them as they
scout around. I've found that it's a great way to have them along
when I go for my walk- they love to look out, get fussed over by other
walkers, and I don't have to worry if they make a sudden jump, since
they do get startled by strange noises.
Harnesses that may be suitable for chins: USA- Doctors
Foster and Smith/ UK- Pet