Bonding Chinchillas: Two cages are needed to start and a second cage should be kept in case they fight later. Start with the cages positioned so they can see each other and gradually move them closer together. Timing is a judgment call but several days or longer is normal. Do not rush the process. When the cages are inches apart, look to see if they spend time close to each other. At this point, try a common play time but hold one of them and then the other. Switch them into the other's cage. Repeat. It can be helpful if they can visit each other's cage at will during playtime. When they are comfortable with each other move them into one cage. Sometimes a neutral third cage is necessary. This is a generic one size fits all process and adjustments may be needed. I have seen bonding take from a few minutes up to 18 months (or never) with a few weeks being the norm. Fighting is a setback that may not be able to be overcome so take your time.
Chin-proofing a room can be divided into 2 major considerations.First, the safety of the chin. There may be many things potentially harmful to a chinchilla. Probably the most serious are power cords. Chins can bite into the wire almost effortlessly. This can result in severe burns and/or death. Other potential dangers are fasteners sticking down from furniture, spaces under beds where chins can be trapped or squished, paint or varnish, plastic, etc. Chinchillas will chew most anything, which brings up the second major consideration - the safety of the room and it's furnishings. Chins will chew furniture legs, wall paint, dry wall, doors and door trim. To summarize, chins will chew everything available.
If you have problems handling your chin, here are a couple pointers. Chins need to be tamed to the hand. Let your chin get used to your hand outside the cage and then inside. The goal is to get it to climb onto your hands to be carried. The first step is to get it to let you give ‘scritches’- scratching the chin chest or head. If you need a treat to start the process, use a whole oat (horse feed). Note: many chins are ‘overs’ or else ‘unders’ – they only want to be scratched on top of or below their head. In the beginning, don’t try touching their back. You may need to start the scritching through the bars, but once they accept your attentions, the chance of success is quite high, although it may take time. Another trick is to try this at different times of day. In the morning when they are sleepy is often a good time- they tend to forget to be defensive.
Don’t ever chase a chin around it’s cage. Either move the cage to the play area and let your chin come out on its own or else use the dust house, a catch tube and anything else that will allow the chin to be carried to the play area. Once there, sit quietly and soon the chin’s natural curiosity will have it playing around you. If possible, catch and release your chin a few times. Catching can be a game, but make sure you talk reassuringly and remain positive. Yelling and frustrations can ruin what has been accomplished. There should never be more discipline than the word ‘NO’ spoken calmly. Watch for patterns that you can use to reinforce positive traits. Most of our chins have a preferred spot to be picked up from when leaving their cage- generally they climb on top of a tunnel or sleep tube.
If the A/C goes out in your house/apt during the day, will you know? How hot will it get before you return? Does yopur cage have chill pads? Can a neighbor let you know if this happens when you are at work? Do you haver an alternative source of A/C for your chin (your auto's, a friend or relative's house)? Heat casn and does kill, especially when combined with 65%+ humidity. Our southern chins may be able to handle 75+ degrees better than their northern counterparts, but they can still die in the temperatures we have been experiencing.
Chins can get fleas, and not just on the tail and ears. Recently a chin was treated for flea bites between the shoulder blades. Chins can also get a variety of skin parasites.
Here is a technique preferred by our vet to deal with an overheated chin: take it to an air conditioned room, turn a fan on the chin and swab the ears with alcohol. Normally a fan does little to cool a chin. In this case it is used to speed the evaporation of the alcohol. Thick marble slabs for them to lie on can help, too.
It is getting cooler and drier outside and it is time to consider taking your cage outside for a good cleaning, bleaching and sun drying. Removing shelves and cleaning the wire under the fender washers can add years of life to the cage. Remember when using bleach to use warm, not hot, water. While on the topic, don't forget to regularly clean the running surface on exercise wheels. Even a small piece of a fecal pellet can stick and harden enough to injure a foot if stepped on while running.
It is also time to consider getting a dehumidifier. As the weather gets cooler and it rains, the central sir isn't used as much and there is nothing to dry out the house. High humidity is a danger to chinchillas. Buying a used unit listed on Craig's list is cheaper than treating an upper respiratory infection.
A note on fleece. Fleece is still cloth. It is probably the safest cloth but it is not a safe material if your chin starts chewing it. Make sure you are using a high quality, anti piling fleece that doesn't shrink. We have found Green and Fireside fleece on sale at Hancock's and at Jo-Ann's at half off the regular price. We use white for liners so we can tell the color of urine and can spot any blood, discharges, etc.
WARNING: There have been 2 chin deaths locally in which the cause may be the Riddex plug-in pest control device. The manufacturer has posted a notice that these are not safe if you have chins (or other rodents) in the house. There is a lot of confusion as to whether the Riddex really works or not, but here's the link: https://www.riddexplus.com/flare/next?tag=os|af
Hurricane season is almost upon us and now is the time to get ready. Make sure you have enough hay, pellets, and bottled water to last for at least 2 months or more. It is also time to make sure your carriers are ready. Evacuations can be a long and tedious time for your chin. If they start chewing your plastic cat carrier, there will be little that can be done about it. We just purchased another 2 hole carrier from Quality Cage. We will be using fleece in the bottoms this year, although we do have drop-in grids for one of the carriers. It's a good idea to have some timothy hay cubes on hand, too.
Does it really matter if you give your chins sugar treats like raisins, or fruits and vegetables? Well, yes, it does. While giving just a few (ya, sure, you betcha) might not do any noticeable harm, it does absolutely no good. A chin will enjoy a healthy treat every bit as much as one that does no good. Hind-gut fermenters do not need sugar from treats. You are only pleasing yourself and are doing no good at all for your chin. The proof is in the fecal pellets. Cut out the sugar treats or the treat filled pellet food and the chin's fecal pellets will show a noticeable improvement in both size and number.
If you have more than 1 chin in a cage, it will be difficult to determine their health by examining their food and water consumption, fecal pellets or the color of their urine. One tool available is a good scale. We use a Salter. Weigh your chins regularly – once a week – and more often if you suspect a problem. Weight can vary by more than 20 grams in a day so it is best to look for tendencies. Do they tend to hold the same weight over several checks? Multiples may need to be separated temporarily to ascertain one's health status.
Hay is this issue's rant. It has been assumed that chins need 2 different 'types' of hay - first and second cut - the reason being that each type is chewed differently and therefore each wears down teeth differently. Sounds
good, right? It is certainly parroted all over chindom. Hay does nothing really to wear down the front incisors, so we are talking about the molars. Molars are used to grind the hay so there must be real substantial differences between 1st and 2nd cuts. The problem is that there isn't that much of a difference. Even the categories are subject to many different interpretations. Oxbow says that their hay is "early cut". It is not a mixture of the two. What is cut is bagged in order. There is no storing and mixing. It - and most other hays - is a mixture of leaf and stem and while there are detectable differences between the two cuts, both are adequate. There is no real need to worry about different cuts in regard to your chins' dental health.
One big problem with hay is the amount of wastage. I have always figured that half a bag is wasted: ¼ in the cage and ¼ left in the bottom of the bag that is too small to feed. Not much can be done about what is wasted in the bag. Hay comes with a maximum of 15-16% moisture and if stored properly in it's original packaging will get even drier. Some of the hay breaks down to small bits and dust. So let's look at what is wasted in the cage. While there will always be discarded hay because it did not meet the chin's criteria (why do they discard one piece and eat an identical one?), I have noticed that a lot gets pulled out of the hay pot when a particular stem is
pursued. To cut down on this type of wastage, I evenly cut one end of the handful to be fed. This end is put into the hay pot. This helps the individual hay pieces to come out separately. Others have had luck cutting the hay into small pieces.
PetsMart is carrying the 2-in-1 bottle brushes, one each for the bottle and the spout.
Some ideas on setting up FN 182's: http://www.chins-n-hedgies.com/forums/showthread.php?t=134
Lot's of pictures and good ideas on the most popular cage.
A contributing factor to many health and behavioral problems is stress. Stress can come from a change in environment, new owner, cage, noises, different food, etc. It is often hard to tell what is causing it. Its symptoms may include fur chewing, loss of appetite, hiding, panic running around the cage. If you notice a change in behavior, try to find the cause and mitigate it. Our chins are used to quite a bit of outside stimulation such as dogs barking, cars passing, lawn mowers and the daily vacuuming. Sometimes moving a cage will help, or blocking the sides with a sheet of cardboard. Often, what they can't see does not bother them as much as what they can.
A good way to treat stress is with acidophilus. One school of thought is to use tablets with the highest 'count' of bacteria culture possible- in the billions. The reason for this is that as food reaches the stomach, it's PH is changed to about 1 or 2. This is a bit like sterilizing it. However, for the bacteria in the acidophilus to be effective, it must live through this process and travel farther to where it can be effective. The problem with many tablets is that they are hard to add to the pellets or they are only palatable because of added sugar. They can also be expensive. While we agree with the reasoning, we have found that bene-bac works very good. It is widely used by vets on a range of hind-gut fermenters (chins, rabbits, etc.). It is available in very small tubes from pet stores or it can be ordered in 15cc (needle-less) syringes. The plungers are graduated and it dispenses a gel that all our chins readily eat. Why cause more stress when trying to treat it? We give 1cc every other day. This dosage can be increased for specific needs. When ordering 6-12 syringes, the price is about $5 each, including shipping for a months supply for a single chin. And in my opinion it is very adequate. We order from Revival, item # 622-231. http://www.revivalanimal.com/store/p/1401-BeneBac-Pet-Gel-Powder.aspx
NEW: Probiotics made for humans are not readily adsorbed by small mammals.
Our 'Gathering Supplies' page has been updated with more information and pictures. It is now a step by step guide to getting the equipment one needs to provide a quality home. Just add knowledge and love. If you are looking for consumables, see the links there for wood, pumice and rosehips at the best quality, price and service we have been able to find.
What would happen if you had a fire and you were not home? The first step is to make sure you have a sticker on your door letting firemen know you have pets inside. These are available from Petsmarts and the Humane Society. Leave an 'In Case Of Emergency' message attached to the cage noting the necessity for a cool dry place, your cell numbers and ours. OK, now they are rescued, are they safe? Do they need oxygen? It could save their lives, however few rescue units are equipped to deal with pets. We found an animal rescue that, with the help of a generous corporation, will subsidize the greater part of the cost of a set of oxygen masks that will be sent directly to your firehouse. You need to provide $62 plus shipping and the contact information and they will do the rest. This link will walk you through the process: http://www.helpanimalsinc.org/howweoperate.php Please consider helping improving the safety of your and your neighbors' pets. We have equipped our local station. Pre plan with your fire department- You can contact your local fire station and arrange for a fireman to come to your home to make a pre-plan. This plan notes the locations of your pets in the house. The plan will be available to responding units if an emergency call is made about your address.
Hay, stored in it's original packing, will not go bad and doesn't really lose much in the way of nutritional value once it is older than 30-60 days. Grass is uncut hay and a chin could conceivably live on it. But because fresh grass is not always available, it is stored as hay. When cut, grass (now hay) rapidly loses a significant amount of nutritional value. This is a reason why a pelleted food needs to be added to the chins' diet. It does not matter, as far as nutrition is concerned, if the hay is in a loose form or a compressed block. Timothy hay blocks are perfectly fine to use. There is a difference in palatability but cubes are still suitable for use. They are especially useful when traveling with your chin. What is nutritionally important is the long strand fiber that hay provides. Long strand fiber occurs on a molecular level and has nothing to do with the length of the hay. Critical Care provides long stand fiber and it is a fine powder. References for the above information: Dawn, the education director and Ashley, the nutritionist at Oxbow, the leading pet hay supplier in
Oxbow has a series of “Small Paw Prints” covering various topics. The one on hay is at:
Don't be afraid to give your chins a variety of grass hays. This will help prevent them from becoming too fussy. Orchard grass, Bermuda grass and other types of grass hays can be given along with western timothy. Other brands of timmy grass can be fed, too, for variety.
As always, if you want to get a chin or want to make sure yours is being cared for in the best possible way, see www.Chincare.com and www.petchinchillas.info. The care of exotic animals does not come naturally and to care for them well you must be willing to learn. You do not need to know everything that can go wrong but you do need to know what normal should be. Then, if something abnormal happens, you can call your vet or call us, but you do need to do something and to do it quickly.
Normally, a chin will eat hay in good amounts; eat 1 to 2+ tbsp. of pellets a day; drink 20-60 ml pure water per day; A chin tends to keep the same weight; has well formed, firm dark fecal pellets (poos) that are bigger in the evening and smaller in the morning; A chin eats what appears to be their own poos throughout the day - these may be cecal pellets and are necessary for nutrition; A chin will excrete rusty red urine, sometimes yellow or even occasionally clear; A chin's paws and the area around the mouth and chest should be dry- if either of those are wet you need to get to your vet for a head x-ray; Chins have a taut but not tight stomach- if they get a rounded shape and/or are strangely stretching, it could be bloat: ACT IMMEDIATELY, bloat can kill - and often does. No one will know your pet like you do. If you think something is wrong, act on it.
Vet update: Dr. Rich told me new research has shown that simethicone is not indicated for the type of bloat that can affect chins because it is an anti-foaming agent. I have found few cases of it being effective and then only in doses far exceeding what most vets have been prescribing, although even high doses are unlikely to be harmful. Our current thinking is to react quickly to the first signs of bloat with every weapon we have, especially feeding, hydration and motility drugs before stasis can start- at which point we can only play catch up with a poor prognosis. Please make sure you know the symptoms of bloat.
Oxbow has a monthly newsletter with some very good information. Sign up at: https://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/community/join_oxbow_form
I finally saw the much touted JP chin carrier. It had rows of rivets sticking up about ¾ of an inch inside the compartments. The maker says no one has ever complained. Maybe so, but the carriers do not meet our standards for safety. Remember to transport your chin in the backseat and secure the carrier with a seatbelt.
If you have a male chin, please do not forget the monthly hair ring check. It is not difficult to do and it is necessary for proper care: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BafuUFuO-oA&feature=related.
This time of year can be hard on chins due to a lack of natural light. Consider purchasing a full spectrum light and shining it on your cages for at least a couple hours in the morning. This may help in calcium absorption among other things.
I was recently asked about spraying for bugs in a house with a chin. After talking to Dr Rich's staff, I feel the following policy is correct: There is no safe insecticide. Powders, like boric acid, are safer than sprays but a chin cannot come into contact with either. Spray inside drawers and cabinets only, well above ground level, and keep the chin out of the room.
Sue has been making chin cookies with variations on a widely used recipe:
Sues Cookies (Chinokies)
1 cup ground hay
¼ cup ground oatmeal
1 Tablespoon ground rose hips
Grind the above separately in blender or food processor leaving small bits. Mix together with 5-6 Tablespoons of water until sticky. Mold into cookies about the size of a quarter or onto apple twigs. Bake in low oven (250) until dry, about one hour depending on the size of your cookie. Yields 20-25 cookies.