Training Chinchillas

chinchilla standing

Every owner of pet chinchillas wants them to be tame enough to pick up and hold. We're no exception. However, chinchillas in the wild are prey for many predators and are conditioned to be cautious.

But all is not lost. With a little time and patience, you can tame your chinchilla enough so that it doesn't run and hide when you approach. The trick is to reward good behavior with a treat such as a raisin. At the beginning, good behavior is something as simple as coming up to you when you sit still near them. Over time as your chinchillas become comfortable with your presence, you reward them for crawling on your hand or leg. Eventually they'll get used to this activity too.

You may wish to someday move beyond taming your chinchilla and enter the realm of actual training. Like taming them, training starts off with simple tasks each of which are rewarded. For example, we've trained our chinchillas to return to their cage at a certain time every night where they'll receive a treat. This is very helpful to us since it keeps us from having to chase them and it also means that we don't unnecessarily stress our chinchillas from such chasing.

We've read about others that have managed to train their chinchillas to jump and roll on demand, but we've yet to see proof of such successes.

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62 Comments

  1. I just got my chinchilla about a week ago and I've been letting her come out of her cage on her own everyday.. Well last night she got out of the room I usually keep her in and ventured out to the kitchen... Well underneath my kitchen sink there is a tiny place that she's crawled into and it goes so far back that I can't reach her to get her out.. She's been in there since last night but has come out into the kitchen when I was sleeping. She runs back in there everytime I come close to her.. I don't know how to get her to come out to get her back to her cage.. I've tried treats, softly calling her name, nothing.. I'm afraid she's going to stress out in there and not come to her cage for food :(

  2. I have two Chinchilla's. The first one will be 11 months old in a few days. I have had him since he was 2.5 months old. He loves to be pet held and play. I have trained him to come to his cage door whenever someone opens it. You can stick your hand in his cage and not worry about him biting you. The other day I got another chinchilla that is 5 years old. (Both are males). The 5 year old was neglected. He was only taken out of his cage and held twice. He doesn't like being touched or taken out of his cage. He bites and growls. When I do get him out and I hold him and pet him he is ok but starts getting a little cranky and wants to go back in his cage. How do I break him from this habit. I want to be able to take him out of his cage no problem and stick my hand in without getting bit. How can I help him become more comfortable and about how long will this take? Also when can I introduce the chins to each other so I can eventually put them in the same cage. Thank you!

  3. I'm thinking of getting a chinchilla, the one I have seen Is 9 months old, I was just wondering if this is still Young enough to tame it?

  4. This is Dmitri. He loves me to death (to the point he has separation issues) and yes he can roll over on command. Proof you ask? Here it is: http://youtu.be/FGYovBdV11Y

  5. My daughter purchased two female Chins a couple of months ago.One is quite 'placid' but she says the other one runs around like a lunatic..bouncing off walls and furniture...it hid behind the washing machine for four days and wouldnt come out..she had to leave food and water..which went overnight.She has now managed to coax her out but she says some of the fur is coming out..(maybe stressed?). My daughter is out at work all day..but the Chins have a large cage and a play area..they get all the recommended food etc and the house temperature is OK. My wife and I are going south to visit her soon and I will be tidying up any wiring and blocking off places to make it Chin proof...would appreciate any suggestions on fur loss....regards..George

    • George, The only time my chinchillas loose fur is if you grab them and they want to run from you, they will let the fur release as a protection against being subdued. The reason is because in the wild, chinchillas are hunted by large predators such as large birds, like eagles, and so if a large predator grabs them, they allow the fur to be released to protect themselves to be able to escape. I must say Im very lucky that none of my chinchillas have a problem fur biting and pulling out fur. Usually, if they do this, its because they feel stressed and restrained. It means that they are not happy..............Kim

  6. i bought a male and female from a woman who seemed to be tired of them both.I spoil them at Petsmart alot.They kiss me on the mouth when i say smooch ,jump on my leg,and let me rub them them while they are feeding but when they are in cage or running around they let me touch them minimum and even make noises like they dont like it. I let them run around the room hours at a time.

  7. Is it better to purchase a baby chinchilla or an adult?

    • @Kiki- you should probably get a baby-1.will give you more time to bond 2.adults might have had bad experiances in the past.

  8. I have found that you can pick up a chinny by the BASE of their tail if you can get that close when playing ring around the rosy. Trick is to sit still and let them come to you then quickly get the tail. The response is similar to that of a Mom cat picking up a kitten at the scruff of the neck. Don't make this the way you pick your chinny up all the time! Please do your research before owning a chin!

    • NEVER pick up a chinchilla by the tail. When my daughter got her chinchilla she was told to grab the chinchilla by the base of the tail but this would turn out to be very bad advise when half the chinchillas tail broke off because it tried to run away. Grabbing any animal by the tail is surely an uncomfortable feeling. P.S the chinchilla is fine, shes got half a tail but happy and healthy.

    • @Amanda I've always been afraid to pick up my chinchillas by the tail. I've heard that if you do it's possible to break off the tail and cause bleeding. I suggest that people with no chinchilla experience try to figure another way to handle their chinchilla.

  9. my chinchilla is fine, he plays in his cage no bother but he gets in hyper moods and doesnt let my cuddle hima nd whenever i let him out of his cage he sprints around the gaff like hussain bolt?? Any ideas??

    • @Cathy Chinchillas are naturally moody. Some days mine will come to me and want to play. Other days they will hide from me and not come out of hiding. Sometimes they will want you to pet them, and other times they don't. I would consider your chinchilla as beinghappy when he goes running around the room like a bat out of hell! Mine chinchillas run and bounce off the walls. This means they are happy.

  10. My chinchilla just sits in his cage and does nothing, but when i let him out he runs and then freezes then runs. BTW chinchilla love toilet paper rolls to chew on

    • @Alex When I got my first chinchilla he would just sit there and act like he was in a trance. I felt like it he was very unhappy. So I chinchilla-proofed a room and allowed him and the other chinchillas to run free. They seem very happy that they have their freedom to play and exercise any time. He is probably so excited to be out of the cage, that he will run and then freeze, then run again. Be careful how much cardboard your chinchilla chews, they need to be monitored on how much they are eating. You don't want your chinchilla to get an obstruction in his intestines.

  11. i've heard that chinchillas don't digest sugar pretty well, so my question is: are raisins a safe treat? i'v been using this rose things but i want to use more kind of treats to make my chinchilla a little bit more tame. she already climbs on to my lap or my leg when she's running free, but doesn't let me touch her then.

    • You should only treat a chinchilla to 1 raisin a week if you want it to live anywhere near its expected lifespan. Although it may seem boring that its only eating pellets its important for it to have a very stable diet.

    • @Pooka You can buy dried banana chips for them. My chinchillas love them. Just don't give them too many. They do have some sugar in them.

      • Actually, raisins and banana chips are not good for chinchillas. They can have rosehips and an occasional plain cheerio.

  12. Hey Dena, when he runs away chuck a big towel over him instead of chasing him. the dark will calm him. Hey sarah, give him a rasien every time you pick him up to say "if you come to me its a good thing and you will get a reward"

  13. I got a new baby chinchilla and I chase him to pick him up but when he's in my arms he gets calm, but when I let him go, he runs away again, so what should I do about this?

    • @Dena That is the nature of a chinchilla. They will run from you even after they get to know you. Try not to chase yours as this will scare him. Try other methods such as offering a treat to get him to come to you, or get his dust bath and put it near him. Most chinchillas love their dust baths. And if you really can't get him to come to you, try lying down on the floor. Be patient. Most chinchillas love to climb up and down on your body. This means they trust you and love you.

  14. My chinchilla is very sweet, but when I hold him he jurks away and escapes. Please let me no why he doesnt let me hold him

  15. my chinchilla will let me pick her up but she still runs away when i put my hand in her cage. and i half to let her calm down to catch her. and about the only way i can catch her is to scruff her wich i know doesent hurt her but i would rather her come in to my hands how do i get her to do this?

  16. ya know my biggest quiestion STILL hasnt been answered!!!!! It is...Do chinchillas have nails and if so what would you do with them!!!???????? Do we have to cut them or what!!??

    • they do have nails but they dont need to be trimmed, they dont grow long like guinea pigs do

    • No they don't have any nails. They're like kangaroo rats in that they have small front hands and long back feet for hopping.

    • yes in fact they do have nails and no the dont need to be trimmed or cut the take care of it

  17. ummm... hi i have a chinchilla and his name is ollie and i wanna know how to train him to tame.He's not the skiddish chinchilla ever but he gets scared and starts squeeking whenever i go to let him out of his cage. What do these squeeks mean and how do i get him tame enough to where he wants me to hold him?

    • bond with ollie. I bond with mine. I read to it, listen to music, dance, it likes to play games in his chewed up doll house, take him to the bathroom with you and let him run. Just be sure you are also strict on boudaries, such as wires and places he might go under that you can't get him out. I should tell you this one funny story that happened when I first got mine. Well my first chinchilla used to open the door to the bathroom and the second chinchilla I have now... well he jumped in the toilet. It was kinda funny, poor thing. But he learned his lesson. Anyway just bond with him and he'll warm up to you.

  18. I just got a chinchilla and I would like to let her run around the house but everytime I let her run around she's always pooping can I train her to go in her cage and poop????

    • well you could train them to poop in their cage, but it's not likely they will learn. there are certain times of the day they go to the bathroom. Usually during the time around 11am to about 4-5pm is when they don't normally poop. I know you can pee train them. That's what is more important to worry about. The poop is safe. I take my chinchilla out a lot and he does all over. I clean up after him every once in a while, but it's not that bad of a health hazard to you. Now if it were a bunny or a rat? Those are health hazards.

  19. For all of the people who ask how to get them used to you, all you have to do is set in a small enclosure with him/her and she will climb on you eventually. The first time this happens give them a raisin (only one per day as they can get sick, I suggest the chinchilla yogurt drops, they can have two a day). This will cause her to want to climb on you because chinchillas eat a lot. If she nibbles on you, dont jerk away, because you might scare her. If you scare a chinchilla they will hold a grudge as dumb as that sounds. I know for a fact that this works because I successfully made two sisters used to me as well as a seperate chinchilla that wasnt even mine. After about a week or two they will begin climbing on you more, and eventually they will sit in your hands but dont force them to. Try not to scare them because if you have one bad encounter, then all of your progress will be for nothing and chances are you will have to start over, but if they like you enough they will run to you when they are scared. Be patient.

  20. Ive had my Chinchilla for about 6 months now and he is really tame. Ive not done anything special apart from just give him plenty of attention and he gets a treat when he comes to me. When i originally bought him he was with his brother who died a couple of weeks after i bought them. This encouraged me to pay even more attention to my chinchilla (called Boris) as he was obviously looking lost without his brother. Now Boris sqeaks and beeps at me and always tries to jump on me. Just let the Chinchilla get use to YOU, not the other way round. After a few months they'll be excited to see you and probably bouce everywhere like mine does.

  21. I got Clover when I was 13, so I was old enough to take care of her and love her, but didn't quite understand why she wasn't the perfect lovable pet I expected. I used to chase her to get her back in her cage and hold her when she obviously didn't want to be held. Now I'm 20 and I wish she were happier and loved me as much as I love her. She likes her exercise time and will sometimes come over and hop on me, and she likes being scratched and pet in her cage, but I wish when I went to pet her or hold her while she's running around, she would let me. It makes me really sad. How do I get her to like me, even after all these years of not having a strong relationship?

    • I have the same problem :(

    • Hopping on you and letting you scratch/pet her in her cage means she DOES love you. Chinchillas normally don't like to be held or touched much when they have playtime and are running around. It's a normal chinchilla thing.

  22. my chinchilla lives in a cage but shes alwayz out loose runing and nappin in shoe boxes.but she never letz me touch her i alwayz try to give her treatz and she just sniffs my fingers. or nibbles them.shell come 1nce in a while when i call her name but what can i do for her to like me more????? =' (

  23. i taught my chinchilla how to stay anf another how to follow me and one other how too excape from a leash and collor. but i have a? is it ok to bring chinchillas on a walk if your holding it???

    • I take mine for walks all the time. I carry him of course but sometimes when I am wearing a pullover he will either sit in my hoodie or in my hand warmer in front like a kangaroo. its cute.

  24. a chinchilla generally does not like to be touched, but some chinchillas, after becoming attached to their owners( whitch usually only happens if it rarely sees anyone other than the owner) will allow , and in fact, enjoy, having their throats rubbed and in some cases( like my chin, an ebony called guinness) actually like to be held and petted on their back. it is possible to train your chinchilla to play simple games with you, such as "tug of war" (guinness loves doing this with the drawstrings to my windowblinds). there really is no set way to train your pet, once it(and this may never happen at all, through no fault of the owner) becomes accustemed to you. my chinchilla has no set scheduale for feeding( he always has a full bowl) and i let him out at least twice a day, sometimes as long as 6 hours. as i am always in the room when he is let out of his cage, he has become somewhat attached to me and will come when i call his name, follow me around the room, and jump all over me to get my attention so ill play with him. he will try to climb my pant legs sometimes, until i put him on my shoulder and occasionally even grooms me. im really not sure why he does this, i did nothing to train him, i just sorta treated him like you would a spoiled cat. if anyone can explain his odd( if lovable) BEHAVIOR TO ME, ID BE GRATEFUL.

  25. i taught my chinchilla to run up walls and now by himself h will do back flips every time you say m Dogs name i dont no wh or how he managed to learn this by himself, and when i had two chinchillas you clicked them twice and they would jump over eachother i no this sounds hard to belive but i do not have two chinchillas no more but when i get a new one i shall teach them to do it and i will post a video for my eevidence

  26. I got my chinchilla when she was 6 months old, now she is 15 months old. What should I reward her with for doing a good thing?

    • Give her a willow stick or an apple stick. These are healthy treats that can be given multiple times daily. Once a week, she can have a dried rosehip or a plain cheerio.

  27. I have trained 1 of my chinchillas to give me a kiss before he goes home he also gives high fives, nock on doors, and sometimes when he's in a good mood i can tell him stand and he will get up on his hind legs. But I have only been able to do that with one of my chinchilla the other two just don't know how and i can't get them to.

  28. Monica, you can't house train a chinchilla. They will only urinate on the bedding (I don't know the reason of that, but they just do that by their own, with no training), but they will always poop everywhere they go. I heard an oppinion, that maybe they don't even realize they're dropping a poop. @Adriana: our chinchillas return to their cage as soon as we tell them to do so, because they're always getting a treat after that. For that to work, you have to keep telling them to return (some short "magic" word will do), when they do reward them. If they don't listen to you then hold a treat in the cage, eventually they'll figure out what you want. Keep doing that every time you let them out, and soon they'll know the drill :)

  29. Hey I'm Adriana I've been reading your site here, and I saw that you guys have said that you trained your chinchillas to go back into their cages. I'm having this problem. Could you please give me some pointers on how to do his? Adriana

  30. My chinchilla is about 9 months old and I have had him since he was 2 months old. My question is how to house train him. I am having lots of trouble with this, the reason I want him house trained is due to he poops everywhere. He only tinkels on me or on the furniture or in his cage, and I want to let him loose I just dont want him using the bathroom everywhere he goes. Any ideas would be great.

  31. We've had our chinchilla for about 9 months now and in the last month she has started biting us when we let her out at night. It started with attacking a furry slipper I had then our feet and now as soon as we let her out all she does is try to bite feet, hands whatever. PLEASE HELP! My husband is wanting to get rid of her because of this.

  32. We have a three year old chinchilla we got at about one year old. He was terrified at first and it took quite a while to get him to trust us (much time and patience). He was well worth it however and is a great pet. He does know his name and comes when called while in his cage (even midday from a deep sleep in his little wooden "sleep house" he will run out to greet us when called.) We have one other way to call him and that is by running our nails up the bars of the cage. He instantly appears! Sometimes for a raisin and sometimes for a scratch, (he loves to have his throat scratched) or just for a kiss (yes he kisses)!!! I think the key is trust and patience and reasonable expectations. I've never heard of one doing tricks. We never "make" him do anything; only what he feels like at that time. He is also very vocal and "tells" us if he is upset by something and we listen! We are well trained!!! PS ....you can buy a "cold stone" at the pet store for your chin, keep it in the fridge and offer it on hot days (best to buy 2 to rotate out) your chinchilla will die from heat stroke or end up seriously and permanently disabled.

  33. i have "trained" my chinchilla to come to me when im shaking her treat box which was fairly easy but she still doesnt trust me - she takes the treat and runs- any ideas to help me earn her trust??

  34. Has anyone had any success in getting a chinchilla to walk on a ferret harness?

  35. Chris Celnar

    Nichole, Generally speaking chinchillas can't be trained. They will run around and chew on anything they find. We've tried a spray that supposedly tasted bad, but it did nothing to stop the chewing. The only solution we've found is to chinchilla-proof a room. To get your chinchilla to go in to its cage make the cage the safest place in the room. Do this by NEVER grabbing your chinchilla from the cage. That way when scared he will run in to the cage knowing that you won't follow. We're at the point where we can sometimes clap our hands at night and have our chinchillas run in to their cage and await their nightly treat (a raisin).

  36. Hey Chinchilla planet i have a 5 month old chinchilla and he has his own room to run but i have to run every where just to put him in his cage and he bites me all the time. i want to train him to go in his cage but i also want him to stop eating the wooden furniture and to go to the bath room in his cage to. i dont know what to do.

  37. I "trained" my chinchilla to wink at me when I wink at it. And since I give him a treat afterwards, sometimes he winks when he wants one. That's about it. He also knows the sound of the treat box/bag so that can be used as a training tool.

  38. Chris Celnar

    Myles, It's best if you assume that your chinchilla will be untrainable. I've yet to see one that can roll over on demand. If you have success with that, send me a movie as I'd love to see it. The closest you're likely to get to them standing up is holding a treat e.g. a raisin above their heads.

  39. I am getting a chinchilla and I am wondering how long will it be until you train them to do something? Like training them to do something different like standing up or rolling over.

  40. Chris Celnar

    Oliver, You're going to have to start from scratch and earn your chinchillas' trust. One way to do this is to sit still in the same room that you allow them to run around in. If they approach you, do not attempt to pet them. Let them sniff you and eventually they'll crawl on you. Only then should you attempt to touch them using very slow movements. This process can take many days or weeks so please be patient. Also, never chase your chinchillas once they are in their cage. This way they will learn that their cage is safe and will run in there on their own instead of under the bed when frightened. At first you will probably need to "encourage" them to return to their cage after play time. If you end play time at the same time every night, they will learn to go in to their cage on their own. We hope that helps.

  41. I have a 10 month old male (Fred) and a female I just bought (Kiwi). The problem is I've never picked Fred up from underneath but instead always from the top so I don't think I'll be able to pick him up. Also, when I get him out he runs straight under the bed. So what should I do with my problems? Also how did you train yours to go back in to the cage?

  42. Chris Celnar

    Simon, Most chinchillas can't be trained. They don't respond to names or "requests". Ours know when to run in to their cage at the end of their play time, but that's about it. As for holding them, they will hopefully get used to you eventually. You might want to try rewarding them with a raisin while you hold them so that they'll associate the treat with your handling of them. Don't go overboard with the raisins though. Consider breaking a single one in to small pieces so you can feed them multiple times. Aluminum foil is so thin that it'll warm up fairly quickly after being taken out of the freezer. The benefit to your chinchillas will be negligible. Check out the article on emergency cooling for some tips.

  43. Do you guys have any tips on how to train chinchillas? Mine don't bite or fight, but they don't come to you or stay still when you hold them. P.S. Also, if I freeze aluminum foil, and tape it to the side of a cage, will it help stop heat stroke?

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