MISINFORMATION AND CARE MYTHS INDEX
Also see: Judging
the Quality of Internet Care Information
Care myths are something like urban legends
in the way they work, especially in their evolution and widespread
impact. Usually the intent is good, people passing along advice because
they want to help others, but when the information itself is flawed
(completely false, partly true or true but intended for a different
species) or when the person relaying it misinterprets or misapplies
it (either through arrogance or accident), then the results
can be disasterous for the lives at stake unless the chinparent stops
first to think critically and ask
questions of the source. ANY source.
For instance, there has not been a lot of scientific research done
on chinchillas for the benefit of understanding them as pets. If
anyone makes scientific claims or calculations and presents them as
if they are established "chinchilla fact," then they need
to be held accountable for disclosing the orgin of their information.
It doesn't matter how many "years of experience"
they may have with chins, if they're quoting some other species' research
information in the context of a chinchilla-related discussion, or
on a chinchilla-related site without crediting sources or explaining
that an extrapolation
(speculative projection of information from one species onto another)
has been made, that is FRAUDULENT.
The myth of Hepatic
Lipidosis is one example of faulty extrapolation, another is assuming
that chinchillas have an atypical calcium metabolism like rabbits
and guinea pigs which predisposes those two species (but not chins)
stones. Chinparents NEED to know the whole truth about the information
they get, its origin, how any calculations or conclusions being asserted
were arrived at and whether they have been proven or are only speculative,
Care myths and misinformation can be found everywhere, from online
pet sites to pet chinchilla care books, but it seems that some forums
are especially rife with unsubstantiated information, opinionated
assumptions, misleading oversimplifications, etc. Many of the myths
we encountered (and
naively believed) as far back as 1997 are still in circulation.
It's taken years of gathering knowledge and practical experience for
us to get a real understanding and perspective on things, which underscores
just how important it is for every chinparent to stop, think critically
and ask questions FIRST before proceeding to act in their chin's best
hay, not bad for chins, when served 2-3 times a week its
high calcium content can help prevent malocclusion
"no dander" does not mean "hypoallergenic"
not a "death sentence"
and "fattening" small chins, read first about the two
different body types (scroll to view)
powder, not necessary as fungus prevention
stones, unlike rabbits and guinea pigs, chinchillas are not prone
to bladder stones from "excess calcium"
being "hands-off" with a new chin can backfire and make
for one fearful, anxious or anti-social chin
mating myths, some revelations
ferret and rabbit housing often unsuitable
cheap and convenient but not good for gnawing
as prey animals chins typically avoid "capture," but this
doesn't mean they shouldn't be caught and handled
chins require time to adjust to major change and first reactions are
not always indicative of likes/ dislikes
Chinta, no such thing as Chinta indians, this mistake is probably
due to "ch" sometimes sounding like "t"
no need to withhold
chins do not need to eat continuously to avoid GI stasis or Hepatic
under normal precautionary circumstances is absolutely not "dangerous"
and doesn't need to be limited
wet eyes do not always indicate malocclusion
male groups and female groups can coexist in the same household, with
unlike with rabbits, hairballs are extremely rare in chins, preventative
treatment is unnecessary
not a condition in itself, this is a sign of significant weight loss
that can be caused by various conditions
chinchillas are not wool-bearing animals, they do secrete oil from
their skin, but it's not lanolin
not always a "death sentence," is sometimes treatable and
it might look that way, but actually he's only cleaning himself or
trying to remove a hair ring
Chapman, read about the hoax
not "certain death"
should not be rationed and can be refridgerated without worry, cold
food does not cause seizures
it says it's "for" chinchillas, but it may still be harmful
not a perfect guarantee of good health
why it's often better not to "let the chin come to you"
pairs, both M/M and F/F can cohabitate, it is not true that males
can never cohabitate as adults
not all chins are of the calm, easy-going and well-adjusted type,
chins in general are sensitive to stress
in itself is actually good for chinchillas, but the heat generated
from direct sunlight can kill them
water, does not contain "nutrients" but may contain
contaminants and parasites
don't help weight gain but can seriously injure health
or "Greens", unlike rabbits and guinea pigs, chins don't
need fresh greens, it puts them at risk for bloat
baths, not "certain death," sometimes necessary
chinchillas will not "run themselves to death"
chinchillas, not the same animal as a Viscacha
ESSENTIALS, OR BASICS, OF CHINCHILLA CARE
about safe housing and homemade cage designs)
version of this section and our Disaster Response sheet (.doc)
is available for use per our Copyright
It is absolutely necessary that a chinparent researches in
advance and keeps on hand the information (name, location, office
hours, after-hours emergency facility, etc.) for a nearby exotics
Chinchillas don't require check-ups (or vaccinations) after
vet examination (when they're brought home for the first time),
but we strongly advise getting a yearly head x-ray because that is
the only way to confirm and address malocclusion
at the earliest stage.
In the event that there are adverse changes in the chinchilla's health
maintenance indicators, the expert care of an exotics specialist
vet is required; this underscores the importance of keeping an emergency
fund in preparation for such a situation.
The following must be available at all times, do not ration,
these will not be over-consumed:
Fresh pellets made specifically for chins, see specifications
and pellet brand analysis on Nutrition.
Distilled or filtered water, see article
for details about parasites and other water contamination.
A variety of fresh hays
to encourage consumption and to keep continuously growing molars ground
A variety of safe,
effective chew toys of varying hardness, to encourage gnawing
interest and to keep continuously growing incisors trimmed.
An indoors, temperature-controlled environment that does not
exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit!
The temperature in a chin's environment should never exceed 70°F,
at 80°F they're facing brain damage, heatstroke and death. We concur
with New Hope Animal Hospital: "Ideal conditions are 60°F to
70°F with a humidity level of 40% to 60%." (ref-
New Hope Animal Hospital) See Heat
and Humidity Can Be Life-Threatening for details about preventative
measures, keeping cool and emergency procedures.
An environment that is safe, moderately active and allows for
sufficient daytime rest.
Many items marketed "for" chinchillas are in fact harmful,
even lethal: wheels with spokes, plastic cage parts or accessories
and cedar bedding to name a few, see Safety
Index. Chinchillas need a moderately
active environment, one that provides enough exercise,
activity and interaction
to prevent boredom (a variety of chew
toys, a cage wheel
during waking hours provides environmental stimulation) but not
so much as to overwhelm them with environmental stress factors.
Chinchillas are chiefly nocturnal but can be crepuscular, i.e., active
at twilight in morning and evening. Sufficient daytime rest
includes having a hideaway
plastic- and one hideaway for each cohabitating chin can help
prevent cagemate conflicts)
in their cage as well as a cage
location that is relatively quiet and secure (away from prying
pets, excessive household traffic) so as to be conducive to daytime
Regular out-of-cage exercise and bonding time, an exercise wheel
for inside the cage is also strongly recommended. See Exercise
for details about out-of-cage
exercise, how to prevent accidents and chin-proofing, and which wheels
are safe to use. Read Chuffy's
story, exercise directly impacts chinchilla health and longevity,
it's also the best time to bond
with your chinchilla.
Fresh chinchilla dustbath offered in an appropriate container.
for details about types of dust, appropriate containers, combs and
frequency of bathing.
Cage Accessories should never be made of plastic
or other hazardous
material. Chins need at least these two accessories for their cage:
1) A hideaway to relax and sleep in such as:
for example: Chin Hut, XL Woodland Get-A-Ways, Link N Lodge, Large
Tropical Hide Outs
Ceramic container or metal tube (pointy edges sanded down)
Cloth hideaway, for example: The
Day Bed, hammock,
with strap removed, Comf-E-Cube. Chins do appreciate the
soothing comfort of cloth (photo),
but it should have no
strings, fringe or loose weave to avoid problems associated with accidental
2) Something to relieve the constant pressure of standing
on wire mesh,
such as a mat
made of natural material like seagrass or maize (mats are great
in hideaways that have no floor), a large wooden shelf or perches,
or a pillowcase folded in half and placed under their hut.
See international supplier's search
for more purchasing options. There should be a hideaway for each cohabitating
chin because sometimes even bonded pairs need their own space. Read
about the importance of cage accessories in Preventing
Housing big enough to accomodate running and playing, the larger
the cage, the better, in height as well as width!
Does a cage HAVE to be large? YES!!
You can tell the difference between a prison cell and a home, and
so can your chin! Failure to provide a large cage can result
in health and behavioral problems,
the small battery cages used on fur farms are no measure of what a
pet chinchilla cage should be.
Highrise at 30"x 18"x 48", THAT is a cage large enough to suit
one, at most two chinchillas. Quality
Cage Company's Chinchilla Mansion at 30"x 24"x 48" will comfortably
accomodate two chins and Martin's
Townhouse at 36"x 30"x 60" can house up to four. Never overcrowd
a cage, that can cause fighting
as well as serious health and behavioral problems.
It is generally inadviseable to keep more than four chinchillas in
CAGE EXAMPLES: Homemade
Cage Designs, a
fantastic setup, good
cage/ bad cage, photos-
Unlike some other caged pets, chinchillas use their cage walls for
jumping on, springing off of and running against as they play. Most
pet store cages do not feature safe mesh width, that is, a mesh size
small enough to prevent foot and leg breaks. Cages with safe
mesh width (1" x ½" -OR- ¾" x ¾" for the cage walls and
½" x ½" for floors, shelves and ramps) tend to be either homemade
or ordered online. Ferret or rabbit cages are
usually NOT suitable for chinchillas, due to overall size (too
small) or mesh width (too large).
In our opinion the two best cage suppliers, which ship worldwide
and have all-metal, galvanized
mesh width cages, are:
Martin's Cages: the
Quality Cage Company: the
sizes, just be sure to get the 1" x ½" mesh on the sides when
ordering, for safety reasons, not just for containing kits.
Cages can be tall, height isn't a problem since in the wild they traverse
the Andes mountains by jumping between rocks over rough terrain (chins
are rock hoppers in the wild!), however, it IS important to space
shelves and perches (no
plastic!) so that they can land or catch their balance before
taking off again. Females that
are near their birthing date or are nursing must be housed in a single
level cage to prevent climbing, curious kits from experiencing accidents.
Ramps may or may not be adviseable depending
on the cage size, layout, health, handicap and age/ eyesight of the
chin. In a large cage where shelves and perches are placed
in a way that facilitates navigation, then ramps would indeed just
take up space and get in the way, even more so with a smaller cage.
However, when a chin has poor health, is lame or handicapped, or is
and has diminished eyesight, then ramps provide a necessary navigational
As mentioned previously, chinchillas need an INDOORS, temperature-controlled
environment, and thus the chin's cage must be located indoors. Place
the cage in a location where the household noise and traffic is minimal
and other pets won't pry while the chin is trying to sleep during
the day. There should be plenty of ventilation
and air circulation but not drafts such as would occur near
an outside door. It should go without saying that an aquarium-type
housing arrangement is totally unacceptable, the glass dangerously
amplifies heat while denying sufficient air circulation.
Positioning the cage securely on a sturdy table, stand or something
that can raise it to the height of approximately your eye level is
a very good idea, because as small animals of prey, the advantage
of height makes chinchillas feel empowered, safe, and on a more equal
and amicable standing with their chinparent.
The cage must NOT be located where the chin
is constantly exposed to direct sunlight. From the Heat
and Humidity Can Be Life-Threatening section: "Sunlight itself
is good for chins, in fact, they're known to sun themselves on rocks
in the wild. HOWEVER, in the wild they can get up and walk away when
direct sunlight increases heat intensity beyond their ability to cope,
whereas in captivity they are not in control of where their cage or
is placed. So be advised, sunlight
is GOOD for chins just as long as it is not direct sunlight that is
ALSO capable of causing an increase in heat intensity."
Exposure to excessive household chaos, marauding pets, direct sunlight
(as described above), insufficient air circulation and overcrowding,
etc., MUST be avoided because these things can cause heatstroke,
fur biting and other stress
and disease-related problems.
to House a Chinchilla e.How
wooden and wire cages Chinmaids Chinchilla Information Page
Your chinchilla's cage must be cleaned when you first get it, before
it's put to use, see Safe
vs. Toxic Metals. After that, it should be cleaned a minimum of
once weekly. Chinchillas in good health have odorless fecal droppings
and urine, but the urine will gather odor if the cage is not cleaned
Cornstarch Powder or Arm
& Hammer Baking Soda (no Baby Powder, nothing containing
can be sprinkled in pee corners to keep things fresh provided
that the chin doesn't take an interest in eating the baking soda (tastes
of salt, try cornstarch powder instead) or sticking his face into
the pee corners continually, which could result in fungus.
Cages with solid
flooring, where the chin is in regular contact with his bedding,
will need that bedding kept fresh and the flooring kept continually
clean and disinfected.
Cages with a pull-out litter pan that keeps the chin above his litter
and mess but that necessitate a wire mesh
flooring may be objectionable to some people who prefer all solid
flooring, but in any case neither flooring has a bearing on the prevention
or Bumblefoot. Wire flooring makes it especially important that
shelves, mats, etc. are provided for relief from the pressure of standing
on wire mesh, see Cage
If cleaning the cage at home, say, in your home's bathroom shower
stall or in your backyard, be sure to disinfect it first by scrubbing
the cage vigorously with a brush soaked in a pet-safe
cleaner, then hose it off thoroughly with hot water from your
shower attachment or garden hose. We used to take our cages to the
self-serve car wash, just be sure that if you choose to lather and
scrub your cage there that it gets rinsed VERY thoroughly afterward.
A cage must be dried completely before returning the chin to it, otherwise
a damp corner can host mold, i.e., fungus.
CAGE SAFETY ISSUES
We advise covering cages with a sheet (as
described on Routines)
for the following reasons:
The sheet will help contain mess and dust, and it makes a
barrier between cages to prevent knowledge of (and contact with)
sex or other chinchillas right next door. This is a PROXIMITY
and SIGHT (not scent)
issue; 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 and this can result in territorial anxiety (and excessively
marking territory with urine), persistent or aggressive dominance
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.
Perhaps most importantly, covering the cage provides some privacy
and seclusion which reassures the chin (especially high-strung
chins) that the area within their domain is protected and secure;
this is essential for daytime sleeping. Throughout our years of rescue
work we've taken in chins that were high-strung, severely stressed
and fur bitten that made rapid improvement due in large part to simply
having their cage covered. When a small animal of prey feels trapped,
overly-exposed and vulnerable, it can be a stress
Safe mesh width is 1" x ½" -OR- ¾" x ¾"
for the cage walls and ½" x ½" for floors, shelves and ramps. Anything
smaller than that is fine, but anything exceeding that size is extremely
Chinchillas aren't like some other pets, they don't just sit
placidly in their cage, they like to run along and bounce off the
cage walls and if the mesh width is too large, it can easily snap
their thin, fragile leg or foot bones when they go right through it.
housing article for cage recommendations.
Accidents caused by unsafe mesh width are not uncommon and the consequences
are severe and costly to both chin and chinparent, typically resulting
in amputation or death from acute
shock if the problem goes undiscovered and the chin is left dangling
by the trapped limb for hours. Safe mesh width isn't just important
to those who breed and don't want babies escaping from the cage,
EVERY chin needs this specific mesh size, or smaller, FOR SAFETY REASONS!
Unsafe mesh width is the main reason that most ferret and rabbit cages
are unsuitable for chins.
We have noted that chins who have always been kept in a cage with
unsafe mesh width may be less inclined to run along or bounce off
the cage walls, perhaps because they've assessed the danger in doing
so from the outset, but this is no guarantee that they never will.
And chinchillas that are accustomed to safe mesh width (and how
it accomodates running and bouncing off the cage walls) are more
likely to experience an accident if they are moved to a cage with
UNsafe mesh width due to the likelihood that they'll resume their
former activity. In any event, UNSAFE MESH WIDTH
IS *ALWAYS* AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN!
"Tibial Fractures: Transverse or spiral traumatic fractures of
the tibia are commonly seen when chinchillas accidentally catch their
legs on wire caging." (ref-
From Chinchilla Chat
Line's article on Caging: "As founder/director of the Chinchilla
Chat Line I receive many telephone calls every year. Amongst these
calls are numerous enquiries from distressed owners who have found
their favourite pet hanging upside down by its rear leg. Caught in
a mesh wire cage and unable to dislodge its limb, in some cases the
animal has struggled furiously to no avail and resolve the situation
by biting off the trapped leg. This is rare, however, and broken legs
are treated by veterinary practitioners giving owners three possible
options of setting, amputation or euthanasia. Setting can take up
to ten weeks in treatment and costs in the region of £250. Amputation
is a cheaper treatment but impairs the animals' quality of life (a
chinchilla's 'power-house' is their rear legs and tail base, which
makes them such athletes, especially in jumping)."
HOMEMADE CAGE DESIGNS (scroll to view, remember
hazards include plastic)
Draconis Rats and Chinchillas/
Dragon Chinchillas/ Ed's
Chinnie Haven/ Em's
Chin Cage/ Goof's/
& Julie's Chinchillas/
Our Chinchillas/ Pets.com.sg/
Harris: Chin Cages/
Chinchilla Cage Page/ Spoiled
Sunrise Chinchillas/ The
HEAT AND HUMIDITY CAN
(DEFRA) factsheet for quarantine information and travelling with pets
Chinchilla Connection, Chinchilla
Chat Line, Chinchillas4Life,
Azure Chinchillas: Keeping
and Chinchillas, Heat
Ebony Dragon Chinchillas: Heat
with Summer Temperatures
Chinchillas are NOT LIKE other furry critters
that can survive periods of high heat and humidity! Whereas
other furries may find it difficult but will manage to survive, high
temperatures will outright KILL a chinchilla. This is because chinchilla
fur density differs drastically from that of other animals, they have
the highest fur density of any land animal in
the world: 80-100 hairs per follicle (more than 20,000 hairs
per square cm), while most fur-bearing animals have only 4-8
hairs per follicle. (ref-
Fur density does vary by individual, and it can vary by species
type as well. For instance, it is noted in the document "Chinchilla
have just 50-75 hairs per follicle ("from a single pore"),
but even at only 50 hairs per follicle, that's one HEAVY coat!
It is the chinchilla's extreme fur density that makes them so incredibly
sensitive to high heat and humidity. They MUST be kept inside a building
(never outside where they would be exposed to the elements, temperature
extremes, stray animals, etc.) with a temperature and humidity
controlled environment that simulates the COOL and DRY climate of
their native environment, the Andes mountains. There, the constant
temperature is actually between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, but domestic
chins have adapted to and should have it a bit warmer than that. (ref-
New Hope Animal Hospital)
Be advised that
domestic chinchillas (particularly one that is
significantly underweight or severely fur bitten)
CAN get chilled by temperatures that are too cold, especially if accompanied
by drafts, and this will lower their resistance to sickness.
We concur with New Hope Animal Hospital: "Ideal conditions
are 60°F to 70°F with a humidity level of 40% to 60%."
Hope Animal Hospital)
The temperature in a domestic chin's environment should not exceed
70°F, and by 80°F they're facing brain damage, heatstroke and death.
When humidity is low the temperature can be at 70°F but when humidity
is high, especially in summer, the temperature should be kept as close
to the lower end of the temperature range (60°F) as air conditioning
makes possible. You will need a
device for your chinchilla's room that features both temperature
and humidity displays because both heat AND humidity must be constantly
An air conditioning unit, at least for the chin's room, is an absolute
NECESSITY, not a "luxury." Be certain that the air conditioner
you buy will restart automatically (as opposed to manual restart)
if the power should fail momentarily, so that a momentary power loss
doesn't leave the chins for hours on end without air conditioning.
Ebay often has inexpensive window or
portable units available, search by "air conditioner."
Even if it only reaches 70°F once or twice a
year, for that day or two air conditioning will mean the difference
between life and death to your chinchilla!
Note that a rotating or ceiling fan (which should never blow directly
on the chinchilla) is only useful for circulating the cold air
from an air conditioner. Fans alone will NOT keep your chinchilla
cool because chinchillas do not sweat; fans also will not reduce humidity.
Places with frequent high humidity (above 60%, common to coastal,
peninsular and island locations especially) or chinchillas that
are kept in the basement will require a dehumidifier. Besides
the risk of overheating, high humidity creates conditions conducive
Chinchillas that are accustomed to cooler temperatures (say, 60-65°F)
are more immediately adversely affected by a sudden temperature
change for the warmer (say, 70°F) than chins who are allowed
time to acclimate to the warmer temperature.
Don't forget when transporting
your chinchilla that temperature and humidity must still be monitored.
If they're travelling via motor vehicle, it must be equipped with
air conditioning and the chin's carrier
not placed in direct sunlight, covering the carrier with a small opaque
fringe, strings or loose weave) during transportation will help.
Sunlight itself is good for chins, in fact, they're known to sun themselves
on rocks in the wild. HOWEVER, in the wild they can get up and walk
away when direct sunlight increases heat intensity beyond their ability
to cope, whereas in captivity they are not in control of where their
cage or carrier
is placed. So be advised, sunlight
is GOOD for chins just as long as it is not direct sunlight that is
ALSO capable of causing an increase in heat intensity.
"Some small pets are susceptible to overheating, especially guinea
pigs, chinchillas, and rabbits. Overweight animals, and those that
have heavy fur, are also more prone to heat stress. Older and sedentary
animals may also be more at risk, especially if they do not drink
normal amounts of water." (ref-
overheating (photo) include flushed (brighter
pink, reddish) ears and paws and the chin may stretch out on his
side trying to get relief, or lay on the bottom of his cage in an
attempt to find a cool spot to rest in. Chinchillas do NOT
"cool themselves" by "sending blood to their ears"
or anything else, they are entirely dependent on their chinparent
providing a climate controlled (via air conditioning, dehumidifier)
environment to prevent overheating, brain damage, heatstroke and death.
Be aware that chins sometimes naturally sleep on their sides and snuggling
chins sometimes get flushed ears; to know whether it's a possible
case of overheating just check the temperature and humidity readings
in the room.
"Pets with moderate heatstroke often recover without complicating
health problems. Severe heatstroke can cause organ damage that might
need ongoing care such as a special diet prescribed by your veterinarian.
Pets who suffer from heatstroke once increase their risk for getting
it again and steps must be taken to prevent it on hot, humid days."
If your chinchilla has succumbed to heat prostration- if he's lying
on his side, breathing laboriously and looks like he doesn't care
to go on living (this will differ from an instance of him peacefully
stretched out and resting in this position)- then pick him up
gently and keep him moving! Massage his limbs, lightly rub his head,
because a chinchilla who is overheating and decides to give up will
almost certainly die. Once he's sufficiently revived, try the following:
NOTE: Using either of these suggestions may
save your chinchilla's life for the time being, however, you MUST
take measures IMMEDIATELY to lower the temperature/ humidity in his
environment or this temporary solution will be pointless!
Also, do NOT apply rubbing alcohol to paw pads. This care myth
is dangerous- applying rubbing alcohol to chinchilla skin will actually
decrease the loss of heat from the body.
Put a piece of cloth (no
strings, fringe or loose weave) in the freezer to cover your frozen
goods and to keep tender feet off cold metal, then place your chin
in the freezer for up to five minutes at a time, leaving the freezer
door slightly ajar so that you can supervise.
Mist or immerse the chin up to his neck in cool or lukewarm, NOT COLD,
water. Cold water could cause him to go into shock. When he perks
up, dry him lightly with a towel in a cool room that has no open doors
or windows, to prevent drafts. After the chin is thoroughly dry, give
him lots of dustbath
to roll in.
Keeping Cool During Hot/ Humid Weather
NOTE: While these suggestions can provide
some extra cooling relief for your chin, they are absolutely NOT a
substitute for proper air conditioning and a dehumidifier!
Cooling is most effective when a combination of inside and outside
techniques are used simultaneously, thus cooling the chin from BOTH
within and without.
Cooling from inside:
Edy's Frozen Fruit Bars are good for nibbling (see photo
above) and ice cubes can be set in the cage in a spill-proof bowl
for licking. Be certain that your chin has a constant supply of cold
put a full spare water bottle in the fridge and switch it out with
the one on the cage a few times a day.
Cooling from outside:
your chinchilla access to at least
a measuring cup full of fresh
dustbath, placed in an appropriate container,
for about 5-10 minutes every day during the warm weather season, or
when high humidity
is a factor. This will prevent
his fur from becoming greasy, matted and heavy, which increases the
danger of overheating.
Items that bring some cooling relief after time in the freezer: dustbath
in a metal or ceramic container, terra cotta planter, Chin-Chillers,
metal tube (see photo
above). We've noticed that ceramic and metal don't retain their
coolness for nearly as long as terra cotta or the granite slab sometimes
referred to as a "Chin-Chiller."
Fill a quart or gallon size Ziploc freezer bag with ice, then put
that in a pillowcase or wrap it in another type of thin cloth (no
strings, fringe or loose weave) and place it in the cage. Wrapping
a freezer pack also works; the pillowcase or cloth will prevent the
chin chewing on the plastic
of either the Ziploc bag or freezer pack. Condensation can make the
cloth damp and subsequently the chin as well, so keep dustbath handy
so the chin can keep dry.
ESTIMATING CHINCHILLA AGE
Also see: Senior
Health and Cataracts
It is not clinically possible to tell the exact age of a chin
by an on-the-spot physical examination. In the absence of relevant
documentation the best that can be done is an estimation of age, and
that doesn't deliver exact results. Rescuers whose incoming chins
biting can use this system of estimation to give potential adopters
an idea of a chin's age range but otherwise we discourage deliberately
conducting an age estimation (by the fur regrowth indicator) unless
for some reason it becomes necessary for the chin's sake.
Healing rate and/ or fur regrowth make it possible to estimate chinchilla
age because as chins' bodies age, their healing rate and fur regrowth
slows. HOWEVER, these indicators are significantly
influenced by both past and present care (good nutrition,
bedding and chew toys, etc.) and recent stress
For example, a chin that was kept on cedar bedding
and fed potential health hazards (yellow and red arrows, see A
Guide to Dietary Extras) on a daily basis for the first years
of his life or who is currently being harassed by another household
will have inaccurate age estimation results because healing rate and/
or fur regrowth are slowed when negative care and stress factors are
When a chin is in good health, has received proper care for at least
a year and his stress levels are low, then the indicators of age are,
according to healing rate/ fur regrowth estimation:
A young (1-4 years) chin heals/ regrows in a matter of about
A middle-aged chin (5-7 years) heals/ regrows in about 4-6
A senior (8 years and up, from our research chinchilla life expectancy
in the wild is only eight years old) can take about 6 weeks to
heal/ regrow and with much older chins, those in their teens, it can
take up to a matter of several months to heal/ regrow. This
is what makes surgery so dangerous for senior chins, they may die
from complications that result from their slow healing rate. See Senior
Health for more information about the signs of advancing years.
Besides healing rate and/ or fur regrowth, middle-aged and senior
chins are more likely to have scales
on their ears from untreated dry skin and advanced callouses
(flippers) from untreated callouses. Seniors, especially those
past age eight, frequently have poor eyesight, Nuclear
Sclerosis or cataracts.
OR TRAVELLING WITH YOUR CHIN
and additional articles, checklist)
and Additional Articles
of shipping Naarah's Ark
to shipping The Chinchilla Railroad
Moving to another
home with chins Fuzzy Chins
(Southland), .pdf and UK
guidelines and restrictions for importing and keeping chinchillas
Canadian guidelines for importing rodents inspection.gc.ca
Trade Risks To Health Wildlife Trust Fact Sheet
Scroll to view general articles: ChinLand,
Dragon Chinchillas, Wellsboro
Checklist for Safe Travel
Be sensitive to the possibility, if
your chin has come from a rescue/ rehoming background,
that he will associate travel with the stress
of being unwanted, of relocation and adjustment. Other chins associate
it with vet visits and in either case the chin may be very stressed
and should receive as much comfort and reassurance as possible during
Remember that the temperature for the
ENTIRE TIME during transportation must not exceed 70°F (with humidity
at 40-60%), also keep the chin's carrier out of direct sunlight,
and Humidity Can Be Life-Threatening and Azure
carrier WILL get chewed (photo)
and a chin kept in one for very long can eventually gnaw his way out.
mesh carriers are best.
If you don't have a drop-bottom carrier,
put a cloth (no
fringe, strings or loose weave) on the bottom of the carrier so
the chin has something soft to rest on that will also prevent him
from getting soaked if he urinates.
Only give the chin distilled
or filtered water
at stops unless you have a no-leak
water bottle, to prevent him and the carrier interior from getting
Avoid cluttering carrier space with
a food dish or too many chew items that will only get spilled or soiled
beyond use. Instead, provide the chin with one hay cube so that he
has something to eat, and one small chew toy so that he has something
to do; this will help relieve the stress
Keep the carrier covered with an opaque
fringe, strings or loose weave) to help the chin feel less exposed
and vulnerable during travel.
CHINCHILLAS AND ALLERGIES: NOT "HYPOALLERGENIC"
the allergic impact of hay and dust)
Additional Articles: Chinchilla
Cymru and Pet
Company's "Secto Household Allergen Control"
Animal proteins, not found in dander alone, are now believed to be
the chief cause of allergic reactions by pet owners. Chinchillas don't
have dander, but the potential still exists for them to produce allergy-causing
proteins through other excretions, such as saliva or urine. Chinchillas
do shed (and regrow)
their fur, but very subtly, in almost unnoticeable amounts approximately
every few months. But probably the biggest problem to people with
allergies is the generous amounts of hay and dust that chinchillas
use regularly, those items being common allergy irritants.
If you are allergic to hay or dust, please don't choose a chinchilla
for a pet. "I'm allergic" is one of the top reasons that
chinchillas are surrendered to rescue,
often after having been long-deprived of hay or dustbath to
accomodate their owner's problem; this is grossly unfair to the chinchilla
who requires hay
and dust for health reasons.
To quote from one rehoming request received by us in our
rescue work, "Before getting them we were under the impression
that they were a good pet for people with allergies. This is a totally
wrong assumption. Since getting them I've gone from having regular
hay fever, to needing an emergency inhaler, to needing a steroidal
describes a case where a woman was allergic to the chinchilla itself:
"Any pet can cause a problem, and a special testing solution
may not be available. A good example is the lady who developed rhinitis
with very severe sneezing attacks. Her little boy had been given a
chinchilla for his birthday some time before she developed her problem,
and she got better on holiday. The chinchilla is a rodent from South
America which can be used to make very expensive fur coats.
"Because skin tests for dust mite and all common allergens were
negative she was asked to come back with a sample of the animal’s
hair, and also some house dust collected from the top of the wardrobe.
She brought only a few wisps of hair, but this was enough to make
an extract in a syringe which produced an immediate skin reaction,
and so did an extract of the dust from the top of the wardrobe., as
shown, but the usual dust mite test was negative. Fortunately she
was soon to move house, so it was advised that the chinchilla be kept
outside after they moved to the new house, and there was no further
trouble with allergic rhinitis." [Note by ChinCare: Chinchillas
be kept outside!! This unfortunate chinchilla should have been taken
to rescue immediately for rehoming.]
While the following resources discuss animal proteins and allergies,
they do not name chinchillas specifically and are intended as a general
"It was once thought that
these people were allergic only to dander and cat hair, however it
is now believed that these people might actually be allergic to protein
particles that are found in various body fluids such as saliva, sweat
(and yes, cats can sweat) and urine." (ref- catrescue.ca,
"All warm-blooded, furry animals,
such as the average household pet, can cause allergic reactions, usually
because of proteins in their saliva, dander, and urine. When the animal
licks itself, the saliva gets on the fur. As the saliva dries, protein
particles become airborne and work their way into fabrics in the home."
(ref- kidshealth.org, search
"Rodent Allergy: Patients
become allergic to rodents due to exposure to these animals in their
daily work. The most common people at risk are veterinarians, laboratory
technicians, and people who live in close quarters with rodents (such
as pet owners and those who live in rodent-infested homes). Some
examples of common rodents that humans come in contact with include
mice, rats, and guinea pigs. The rodent's urine has a high concentration
of protein, which is the primary allergen to humans. The urine is
often sprayed rather than deposited, thereby increasing human exposure.
After the urine dries, the urinary proteins become airborne and are
inhaled, leading to allergic symptoms." (ref- theallergyauthority.com,
"How Do Animals Cause Allergies?
When we touch or work around animals, we expose our bodies to these
allergens. The allergens, which we contact from animals, are called
antigens and are transferred to us merely by inhaling, eating, rubbing
our eyes, or touching our skin. Common animal antigens are as follows:
1. Cats-saliva, hair, skin dander, albumin (a blood protein).
2. Dogs-saliva, hair, skin dander, albumin.
3. Guinea pigs-urine, skin dander, hair, saliva.
4. Rabbits-fur protein, saliva, urine.
5. Rats-urine, saliva, bedding, albumin.
6. Mice-urine, albumin.
8. In addition, gerbils, cattle, horses, sheep, deer, birds, reptiles,
and fish can cause allergic reactions.
"Symptoms of animal allergy can occur right after exposure; or
a person can become allergic after weeks, months, or years of exposure."
Reducing the Allergic Impact of Hay and Dust
This article is intended for people who are considering a chinchilla
as a pet or who have a chinchilla as a pet and who are NOT normally
allergic to hay and dust. If you ARE normally allergic to hay and
dust, a chinchilla is not a suitable pet for you, see main
Especially if one has had chinchillas for awhile, it's not unusual
to develop a greater sensitivity to the dust and hay they continually
use, dust in particular as it seems to find its way everywhere. We
even know of rescuers and breeders who had housed large numbers of
chinchillas for years and who had to close their doors and rehome
their chinchillas due to allergy problems. While it may be possible
to reduce the impact of hay and dust on allergies, nothing can be
done if one is allergic to allergy-causing proteins in the chinchilla
himself, in that case rehoming
is the only option.
Firstly, get an air purifier and put it in your
chin's room: The
Technology of Air Purifiers, Compare
Air Purifiers, epinions.com:
Find and Compare, Air
Purifiers Information Guide, consumersearch.com:
Air Purifier Reviews
To minimize the impact of dust from a chin's regular need to bathe,
follow these suggestions to the extent your situation allows you to:
Keep your chin's cage covered with a sheet, as described on Routines.
Keep the chin's cage in a room that you can close the door to. When
administering dust, turn off any fans in the chin's room, put the
dustbath container in the chin's cage and draw the sheet around his
cage and then leave the room, closing the door behind you. Return
in about fifteen minutes when the chin's dust has mostly settled.
are several brands of dust available in the U.S. (Blue
Cloud, Blue Sparkle, Kaytee,
Sunseed, etc.) and
from what we've
been told, the dust used in the U.S. is of a much finer consistency
than that found overseas, where it is more granular and is sometimes
referred to as "sandbath." The finer the dust, the more
potentially aggravating it is to human sinuses.
If you have the opportunity to choose between Blue Cloud and Blue
Sparkle dusts, although they are both of a fine consistency, Blue
Sparkle is somewhat less fine.
Pet Chinchilla Bath Sand is available in the U.S. and this product
does greatly reduce the typical clouds of flying dust, but it has
a very gravelly consistency and because of that some chins may not
use it. Also, it's fur cleaning ability is debatable and it usually
takes more than one packet for there to be enough sand to bathe in,
making it potentially less cost-effective than other dusts.
To help reduce senstivity to hay, wash your hands after handling hay
and keep it stored
in the chin's room where the air purifier is active. Consider provlding
chiefly hay cubes as a hay source because they have less dust than
loose hay, that subject is discussed in more detail in Providing
a Variety of Hays. Resident of the UK have access to Dust