NOLA Chinchilla Rescue

Basic Care

1. Chins can overheat and die at temperatures as low as 80F (27C), so temperature must be controlled. 75F (24C) is towards the top end of safety and it should be <70F (21C) for playtime. High humidity can also be dangerous.

2. Chinchillas need large (approximately 2'x2'x4') (.7m x .7m x 1.4m) plastic free cages with a 14"-16" (.4m) exercise wheel (we only use the Quality Cages 15" Chinspin) as well as wooden shelves, ledges and hidey house. Wire ramps and hay bins can be dangerous and should be removed. While there are cages designed for chinchillas, many pet store cages can be converted into safe homes.

3. Chinchillas should always have fresh western timothy hay. It is the most important part of their diet. In addition, orchard grass and other grass hays can be fed in limited amounts for variety. Chinchillas less than a year old should also be fed alfalfa hay. Oxbow (available at Petsmart and many other stores), Small Pet Select, Sierra Valley and KMS Hayloft are recommended.

4. For adult chinchillas, feed about 2 tablespoons (30g) of treat-free, alfalfa based pellets per day, changed daily. Oxbow Essentials Chinchilla Deluxe is recommended. Chinchillas less than a year old should have unlimited pellets. Diet changes must occur slowly. We do not recommend any fresh or dried fruit or vegetables. We specifically recommend against feeding nuts, seeds or raisins to a chinchilla.

5. To prevent giardia and other parasites, provide pure water: R/O (purified by reverse osmosis), or from a Pur 3 or Brita faucet (only) filter, in an 8 oz (250ml) glass bottle. The bottle should be cleaned regularly in the dishwasher or by hand and rinsed thoroughly. A brush may be necessary to clean the spout. Most bottled waters and most filters do not remove parasites to a level that will not potentially harm a chinchilla.

6. Give your chinchilla a dust bath every other day or so outside of the cage for a few minutes each time. Do not leave the dust bath in the cage. Fecal pellets can be sifted from the dust and the dust reused until it no longer dusts up. If the chinchilla urinates in the dust, dump the bath out and clean the container before refilling. Scented dust may be harmful. Kay Tee, while safe, does a poor job. Blue Cloud, Blue Sparkle and LM Farms dusts are recommended.

7. Treats should be limited to 1 a day. Chins do not need sugar treats (raisins), fruits or vegetables and some of these can be very harmful. Based on evidence that milled grains can inhibit the adsorption of calcium we now recommend only safe wood chew sticks (apple, willow, pecan, etc.), an occasional whole oat (race horse feed) and baked treats using timothy hay instead of flour (homemade or Oxbows Simple Rewards timothy treats).

8. The only recommended supplement, unless ordered by a veterinarian, is organic rosehips, either whole or C/S (cut and sifted).

9. Safe wooden chew toys, pumice stones, and the like should always be available.

10. There should be no cross species contact, especially with hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and horses.

11. Handle with care. Their bones are easily broken. Make sure the back feet are supported. Some chins are not fond of being held and, if grabbed improperly, their fur can come out in clumps (fur slip). It will grow back.

12. Chinchillas are nocturnal and prefer to sleep undisturbed during the day.

13. Chins should see a veterinarian with chinchilla experience yearly. 

14. Male chins need a monthly hair ring check. The male can get a ring of hair around the base of their penis. Much of the time they can clean these off themselves but sometimes they can't. If left, the ring can cause a prolapse so we recommend that a check be done at least monthly. The penis needs to be extended completely from its sheath and any hair wrapped around it, removed. Females should be checked for vaginal secretions.