How to Care for Your Chinchilla

Written by Oxbow

April 12, 2022🞄

Your chinchilla is the center of your world, and we know you want to provide your chin (or chins) with everything they need to be happy and healthy every day.  That’s why we’ve put together this collection of essential chinchilla care tips to help you along your journey together.

In this article, we’ll cover the following important topics:

  • Feeding your chinchilla
  • Chinchilla behaviors
  • Dust baths for chinchillas
  • Enriching your chinchilla’s world
  • Housing your chinchilla
  • Essential chinchilla supplies
  • Your chinchilla’s health

Feeding Your Chinchilla

  • As a herbivore, your chinchilla’s diet should center around unlimited amounts of grass hay.  The high amounts of beneficial fiber in hay help meet the important digestive and dental health needs of chinchillas and other small herbivores.
  • daily recommended amount of uniform, fortified food provides your chinchilla essential nutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals) not found in hay.
  • Fresh, chin-friendly greens and veggies are great for enrichment, but it’s important to note that chinchillas are generally more sensitive to sugar than other small mammals.  This makes moderation essential.  When it comes to types and amounts of greens and veggies, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian to determine what’s best for your specific animals.
  • Healthy treats, while not nutritionally essential, can help make your relationship with your chinchilla more fun and meaningful.  Again, moderation is key!

Hay For Your Chinchilla

It’s important for your chinchilla to have unlimited access to a variety of quality grass hays. Among many benefits, hay helps prevent obesityboredom, and dental and gastrointestinal disease in chinchillas. Replacing the hay in your chinchilla’s habitat can encourage picky eating, so you should only change it only when soiled.  Offer a variety of types of grass hay to further discourage unhealthy picky eating habits.

Young (less than 1 year old), pregnant, nursing or ill animals can benefit from eating alfalfa hay in addition to grass hay because of the higher nutritional content (including higher levels of protein and calcium). Otherwise, alfalfa should only be given to your chinchilla occasionally as a treat.

Hay Selection

Grass hay should make up the majority of your chinchilla’s daily diet. Offer a variety of grass hays to your chinchilla to promote optimum health. Use the Taste & Texture Guide located on every Oxbow hay package to determine your pet’s taste and texture preferences.

We have many all-natural, farm-fresh hays to choose from including Western TimothyOrchard GrassOat HayBotanical HayOrganic Meadow Hay, and Hay Blends – Western Timothy & Orchard. Also, check out our Harvest Stacks line of compressed hays for extra enrichment.

Your Chinchilla’s Food

Providing a daily recommended amount of high-fiber, age-appropriate fortified food will help ensure that your chinchilla receives vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients not found in hay.

How to Select the Right Food for your Chinchilla

It’s important to choose a uniform food formulated specifically for chinchillas.  Oxbow offers multiple quality options to meet the unique preferences of all chinchillas.  Not sure which to choose?  Don’t worry!  We’ve outlined the unique characteristics of each of our food lines to make the decision easier!

Greens For Your Chinchilla

Fresh greens are an important part of your chinchilla’s daily diet.  Greens help keep your pet hydrated and offer important vitamins and minerals, as well as enrichment.  Romaine, bib, and red leaf lettuce are good greens to offer, but avoid foods in the onion family such as leeks, chives, and onions.

Treats For Chinchillas

Treats (including fruits and veggies) are great for encouraging interaction between you and your pet, but they should never take the place of essential daily foods.  Eating too many treats can lead your chinchilla to refuse his healthy, essential foods.  It’s also important to remember that not all treats are created equal, either!  All Oxbow Simple Rewards treat varieties are designed to be as wholesome as they are delicious.

Chinchilla Behaviors

Chinchillas are active, playful animals that bond quickly with their owners.  As highly social animals, chinchillas require meaningful companionship to be at their happiest and healthiest.  Even with a commitment to spend as much time as possible with our furry friends, there’s no substitute for the companionship provided by a same-species friend.  For this reason, it’s always recommended to share your home with a bonded pair of chinchillas.  This will ensure your chinchillas experience companionship at all times, increasing their feelings of security and lowering stress.

Chinchillas are highly active and athletic, able to jump great heights.  For this reason, it’s essential to provide a spacious, multi-level habitat that provides ample space for their natural acrobatic exploration.

Some chinchilla behaviors can seem strange at first.  For example, you may see your chinchilla eat its own poop.  This is a normal, healthy behavior that provides essential vitamins and nutrients.  Also, chinchillas can release tufts of hair as a defense mechanism.  This can be very alarming (especially for a new chinchilla pet parent), but try not to panic if this happens.  Rest assured that your chinchilla’s fur will grow back over time following a “slip.”

Chinchilla Dust Baths

Your chinchilla’s method of keeping himself clean is unique from many other small animals.  Because of the density of chinchilla fur and their naturally oily skin, chinchillas will instinctively “bathe” themselves in dust to maintain a lush, healthy coat of fur.  Oxbow’s Poof! Chinchilla Dust Bath is the ideal material for keeping your chinchilla’s fur healthy and soft.

Learn more about how to support your chinchilla’s need for dust baths.

Enriching Your Chinchilla’s World

Every chinchilla is wired to engage in a set of healthy instinctual behaviors each day.  These behaviors include chewingplayinghiding, and exploring.  Intentionally encouraging these behaviors in healthy ways is called enrichment.  Support all four behaviors in a variety of ways each day to support your chinchilla’s mental and physical health.

Looking for some chin-spiration?  Check out our top 10 toys and accessories for chinchillas!

Housing Your Chinchilla

It’s easy to make chinchillas feel at home inside your house.  As prey animals by nature, all chins need a safe home environment free of environmental stressors.  Choose a spacious, multi-level habitat with a solid floor and set it up near household activities, but away from drafts.

Chinchillas are especially sensitive to temperature and require a constant temp between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid overheating.  With this in mind, be sure your chinchilla’s habitat is set up in a temperature-controlled area of the house with low humidity and no direct sunlight.

Your chinchilla’s habitat should be outfitted with environmental essentials such as a hay habitat and/or woven hideout, a litter box lined with litter and bedding, multiple chews, grass hay, a food bowl, a dust bath, and two sources of fresh, clean water.

Essential Supplies for Your Chinchilla

Every chinchilla should have daily access to some basic supplies for health and happiness.  Make sure you’re stocked up on the following:

  • Age-specific fortified food
  • Two or more varieties of Oxbow’s farm-fresh hay
  • A variety of natural chews and miscellaneous enrichment items to support your chinchilla’s chewing, exploring, and playing instincts
  • Oxbow treats for healthy bonding and enrichment
  • Two sources of water (both a bottle and dish)
  • Heavy food bowl
  • Spacious multi-level habitat with solid, non-slip flooring
  • Large play yard for safe exercise outside the habitat
  • Multiple hiding spaces for rest and relaxation
  • Litter and bedding material
    • A layered combination of Eco-Straw litter (bottom) and Pure Comfort bedding (top) makes an ideal substrate
  • Natural Science supplements, as needed
  • Dust bath house and Poof! Chinchilla Dust Bath

Your Chinchilla’s Health

You should visit a qualified exotics veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups on your chinchilla’s diet, behavior, and health.

Be prepared for your chinchilla’s visits by making a list of any questions or concerns you may have ahead of time.  Ask your veterinarian about the potential of spaying or neutering your chinchilla.  Many chinchilla health problems are preventable with proper diet and care.  To locate a qualified exotics veterinarian near you, visit aemv.org.

Reasons to Contact Your Vet Right Away Regarding Your Chinchilla’s Health:

  • Loose, soft, or lack of stool
  • Small, dry, or infrequent stools
  • Blood in the urine
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Hunching in a corner or lethargic behavior
  • Sneezing or trouble breathing
  • Observed difficulty chewing
  • Bald patches in the fur
  • Sores on the feet
  • Abnormal eating or drinking

Learn more about common chinchilla health issues.

Still have questions about how to provide the best care for your chinchilla? Our experts are here for you!