General Chinchilla Care: Tips for Keeping Your Furry Friend Happy
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To care for a chinchilla is actually a lot of things. Chinchillas need correct feeding, fur caring and cleaning of the cage. But it also needs your care and that you'll devote some of your time to be with it.
Like all living creatures chinchillas needs attention and love. You must take your chinchilla out of the cage every day to check that it doesn't have starting health problems. This is easy when you know what to look for.
The chinchilla also has a lot of energy, that needs to be used, and even in a huge cage it is difficult to have a real run. So you should allow your chinchilla to run outside the cage for at least half an hour every day.
And of course you should give lots of love and attention every single day.
Cleaning the Cage
Before the chinchilla gets its daily ration of food and hay you must remove all uneaten food from the cage. Hay that has fallen to the bottom of the cage should also be removed. The sucking material at the bottom of the cage should be renewed once a week.
The chinchilla must have special chinchilla pellets. Food for rabbits or guinea pigs can not be used for chinchillas since the content of e.g. fat and hormones is adjusted for another animal. If you must change from one type of food to another it is important to do it slowly. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food into the old. Increase the amount of the new food and reduce the amount of the old during at least a couple of weeks. Make sure that you get enough food from the former owner to allow you do the change of food slowly.
The chinchilla must have clean water every day. You can buy a bottle at the pet store that can hang on the side of the cage. It is important to clean the bottle thoroughly since bacteria can easily develop in the still water.
The chinchilla should have access to hay which is dry and clean. Make sure to keep the hay in a dry place or fungus may develop in the hay, resulting in a intense diarrhea for the chinchilla. This also means that you should always remove hay from the bottom of the cage where it can have been soiled by urine.
Treats / Supplementary Food
If you are using high quality chinchilla pellets your chinchilla doesn't need supplementary food or treats. However most chinchilla owners gives their chinchillas treats simply because they LOVE them. An important rule is however never to give too many treats. The chinchilla should live on its food and hay - not on treats and supplements. The danger from exaggerated use of supplements/treats is digestion problems (diarrhea or constipation).
If you want to give your chinchilla a supplementary food you should use a separate bowl - never use the same bowl as used for the normal food or the chinchilla may start to throw its food out of the bowl searching for something more interesting.
As treats you can use a piece of carob kernel, raisins, small pieces of apple or dry bread without poppy seeds.
By the way treats are a good way to make your chinchilla become interested in you, but always remember only to use treats in very small amounts.
If your chinchilla becomes sick and looses appetite you can add a small amount of apple vinegar to the drinking water. You should add ½ tablespoon into 250 ml of water per animal per day. This can also be used at other types of weight loss, e.g. females who are weak after giving birth. It is important that you keep an eye on the chinchilla and makes sure that it continues drinking. There is the risk that the chinchilla refuses to drink the water because it tastes funny. In that case you must immediately stop using the apple vinegar. The apple vinegar gives the chinchilla appetite - something that a healthy chinchilla is never missing - so don't give apple vinegar to healthy animals.
Chinchillas bathes in dust. The dust bath removes excess oil and dirt from the fur, so the fur looks healthy. For the dust bath you must use a special type of sand which is extremely fine. It can be bought at the pet store. Never use normal sand since it has sharper edges and will bother the chinchillas skin. The sand should be sieved every day to remove dirt (hay, droppings, urine, etc) and it must be completely exchanged if it start looking dirty/greasy.
If you have more than one chinchilla they should have separate dust bathes to reduce the risk of spreading diseases.
You can buy a dust bathtub at the pet store but you can also use e.g. a small cat tray, a cage tin or a glass bowl as a tub for your chinchilla.
The tubs that Potzen (my chinchilla) has had (for example an ovenproof dish of ceramics and a square glass tub) was actually all too small - he didn't like to roll around in them. But underneath the Christmas tree was a nice, large, thick glass bowl from the Christmas chinchilla to Potzen. It has brought a lot of joy - he simply loves it. In the pictures below you can see it begin used.
Other Fur Caring
If your chinchilla is allowed to take dust baths every or every other day, it can perfectly well keep its fur in perfect order without the use of other fur caring. But if you like to you can groom your chinchilla. It is a nice form of contact - that is if your chinchilla enjoys it too. Always groom your chinchilla before the dust bath - never immediately after.
Source: Bettina Hansen