Chinchilla Harness and Leash

When we first got our chinchillas, one of the things we asked ourselves was whether we could get a harness and leash that would fit them. Our goal was to be able to take our chinchillas out to the backyard or a field and give them exposure to something outside their regular environment.

But the more research we did, the more it became apparent that harnesses, leashes, and chinchillas don't mix. And while we've never tried using one ourselves, we're inclined to believe the research. Here are reasons to not use a harness with your chinchilla:

  • They are skittish to begin with and putting them in a harness will very likely cause them stress.
  • Chinchillas “release” chunks of their fur when stressed.
  • Their bodies and bones are relatively soft and the strain from a harness is likely to cause them internal injuries.
  • A sudden or surprise movement by the chinchilla could result in a “jerking” action on the leash which could easily break their backs or ribs.
  • Their soft bodies mean that they could escape from the harness unless you have it really, really tight.
  • Chinchillas hop and jump rather than walk like a cat or dog.

If you're still determined to try out a chinchilla harness, check out this information from Rick regarding a harness he's developed.

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  1. Let’s say I want to take my chin outside with me, but I don’t want them walking on the ground. Is it ok to have them on your shoulder while wearing a vest/harness?

  2. There is a lot of talk in the comments back and forth. I would like the weigh in a little. I currently own 4 chinchillas named mouse, gerbil, ferret and bunny. They all have very unique personalities. Mouse for example, likes to stay in the cage. She will come out, but doesn't seem inclined and is easy to replace into the cage. Gerbil WILL come out when the option is there, but is easily scooped up and returned. Ferret on the other hand will come out and is a giant pain in the ass to return to her cage. I want a harness for her because of this, but it would be for use in the house so that I could use an attached leash to catch her. I have a ball for her but it limits activity and if she poops then she runs in it. gross. I would get a harness that is not straps, but instead similar to a vest (as some are) with more of a panel to prevent the pressure to the ribs. However I also would advise owners of chinchillas not to take them outside, you don't know what they will eat! You don't know inside either but chinchillas WILL chew. they will chew everything, and I don't think there is any need to you to be taking it to a park. It isn't a dog, and does just fine getting exercise in even a small apartment. it. is. not. a, dog. Now don't get me wrong, I used to walk my hamster. and it loved it. But people thought it was funny to try and run it over on bikes and scare it (and me) and now that I am older I could not imagine putting the chins through that type of unnecessary risk.

    • Dear Sasha,
      I have spoken with 2 exotics vets and 2 Chin shelters, amoung others, and the opinion on the balls the Chins are placed in are the same: DON'T! Chins die in them and in fact they all refer to them as 'the ball of death'. Does that mean every Chin put in one will die first, second or third time out? Of course not, but the fact that the people who deal with them most are adamant about the danger is reason enough for me to pass along the warning I was given.

      Also, and I've said this before, I worked in a major pet products store for may years. There used to be 2 different Chinchillas, owned by people who did not know each other, come in on their human's shoulders as happy as larks and in harnesses.

      Seeing you vet if you have questions is probably your best source of information. :)

  3. Hi~! I stumbled upon this little note while looking for a better harness for my little chin ( the current one uses velcro and, well you know, so much fluff!). Amatus, that's his name, is well inclined to wearing a harness. The harness is for his safety while out and about; at home he rides on my shoulders all the time, but has never tried to jump off. The harness has never stressed him out. He's also very socialized with humans, and loves going out with me. I think that whether or not chinchillas and harnesses mix is really up to the chinchilla's personality as well as its training.

  4. I'm Audrey. I have a chin of my own who is well adjusted to his new home. But he still won't let me put the harness on him. My own opinion is that a harness is fine. But I'm a little confused at WHY my chin won't let me put the harness on him

    • Probably because your opinion clashes with his opinion. :)

      Chins and harnesses do not mix. They have very tender ribs that easily broken, one startled hard jump against the harness can break ribs.

  5. I just want a harness to keep on my chinchilla so he can be out and about with me riding on my shoulder or something. The harness would be there to make sure nothing happens. I wouldn't walk the poor thing. That seems pretty harmless to me, yeah?

    • Even with a harness on, should your chin get scared and jump off your shoulder what will happen? He probably won't hit the ground but the impact of hitting the harness as you stop him from falling will probably result in broken bones.

      Chins bones are extremely thin and fragile, even a wrong fall in a cage can break bones.

  6. I work at Petco so I picked up one of the dog metal play pens (precision 30") and set it up outside in my backyard. The wires were small enough so she couldn't get out and also high enough where she couldn't jump/climb out.

  7. My house is too small and 90% not chinchilla proof so I have to bring my chinchilla out. I was thinking about using the harness and the leash but after I saw all the comments, I didnt want to. Any other ideas?

    • Just find a room that doesnt have too many wires on the floor, like a bathroom or bedroom, and watch your chinchilla when it's running around. Then snap your fingers or tell it no loudly when it chews on stuff it's not supposed to. Works most of the time but my chinchilla has started to ignore me so I have to get up and move him or scare him to make him stop chewing sometimes.

    • It is very easy to have a collapsible pen if a true chin-proofed room is not possible. But do not take your chinchilla outside. They are easily stressed and need to be able to hide in an instant. Going outside is for the owner, not for the chin!

    • I purchased a small dog/cat front load carrier that fits like a backpack except it has a top opening pocket for carrying pets. My chinchilla loves to travel and I always keep a lightweight, mesh body harness on her to prevent a possible escape or fall should she become frightened. Thankfully, it's never happened but I like the peace of mind. The harness and pet carriers are available at Petsmart and Petco but you may find them cheaper online. I don't think the harness was more than about $25 and came with a matching elastic leash. My biggest concern in taking them outside is not fear and loss of fur but overheating. Chins maintain body temp through their ears so pay attention to the color and their behavior. If they get sluggish and their ears become bright pink or red it's a sign of heat stress. You'll need to get them out of the heat immediately as well as out of the harness so their hair will fluff and breath. It acts as insulation for hot and cold. You can pick up a piece of marble or tile at the hardware store or a remnant for free at a tile shop. The tiles stay cool and chins like to lay on them to cool off.

      Every chin has their own personality, likes and dislikes so you'll have to decide if a harness will do more harm than good. I'm grateful that my chinchilla likes attention and doesn't seem to notice the harness. However, I make sure it's not on a hot day and evenings are better as far as temperatures go. The harness is my peace of mind that I'll be able to catch or retrieve her should she ever jump from the safety of the pouch. Thankfully, she feels safe inside and has never tried to exit. If you turn them loose outside to play in an enclosure, with or without a harness, never leave them unattended. They're great jumpers and cats might think they're an easy meal. Whatever you decide to do I wish you years of fun and happiness with your little furry buddy(s). Good luck!

    • We bought (second hand, so super cheap) a lot of metal wire storage cubes with plastic connectors. We built a fort for our chinchilla, and once in a while we redesign it,so he can explore new levels, hiding places, turns...etc. effectively, it is his estate with a house, feeding level, bathroom level, running/jumping space.. It take any amount of floor space 4 square ft and up. It can be any shape you want. And if needed, you can always disassemble it in minutes to clean up underneath. I hope it helps!

  8. Does anyone know where you can get chinchilla harnesses because I would like to get one for my chinchilla chilly because I can't find one anywhere.

    • Buy one for a ferret at petco.

  9. I have a small wire cage with a plastic base and wooden shelves to transport my two as I take them into schools to educate children. Their nesting box and sand bath fit into the bottom nicely so they can hide if they want but are usually more interested in what is happening and they are both very confident and outgoing little ones.

  10. Could you use a small dog carrier to take it around?

    • Yes, that would be ok. I use it all the time or I use it whenever I take my chinchilla somewhere, but you hardly need to do that.

    • I will say yes but, chinchillas get sick and backed up if they eat plastic. You may say I am wrong but most dog carriers are plastic with metal. So yes, again if the plastic is not able to get bitten or eaten. Hope this helps you Janine!

      P.S. I am a teacher and school major at a vet school. I have studied chinchillas alone for 3 years and own 6.

      • Will chinchillas die if they eat plastic?

        • No I have 8 chinchilla and major in being a vet it never said anything about that the most important thing to do is keep them cool

        • No it's not good for a chinchilla its poisonas for a chinchilla so if you have a plastic flooring for the bottom of you cage put a blanket or something.

  11. I reallie would like to purchaase this leash asap..i want to be able to take him outside,parks.and peoples homes without him running around the place and chewing things up...if someone can create a baggy that holds his droppings would be helpfull.

  12. I was told that chinchillas are not allowed any chlorophyl. So how do you keep your chinchilla from eating grass when you take them outside.

  13. i want to walk my chinchilla but i cant find a leash

    • As I mentioned in my post on Chinchilla Planet, I believe that it all depends on the Chinchilla as to whether or not it will actually wear the harness and NOT be bothered by it. I do believe that ALL animals AT FIRST are skittish of anything around their bodies. With Chinchillas you MUST be extremely careful because of stress and soft bones. The HARNESS that I am in the process of developing will be light weight enough that over a small period of time, the Chinchilla should become accustomed to having the harness around it. But I do believe that with any harness, on any animal, you MUST be patient and caring with the animal, in order that it can be a pleasant experience for both YOU and the Chinchilla.

      With the harness that I am developing it will take two people to harness the Chinchilla at first, due to the design of the harness, until the owner and the Chinchilla get use to the harness. When harnessing the Chinchilla, one must always handle the Chinchilla with care as to not over excite and stress the Chinchilla, as we all know this is NOT good for the Chin.

      Production of the harness should be around the end of March. Please contact me regarding the harness at that time if you are still interested. Thank you again for contacting me.

      Setco Enterprises

      • hi
        can youj tell me if you have the chinchilla harness on the market yet please and if so wher can i buy one an d how much are they

        • You can most likely find one at Petco or Petsmart. I would recommend a ferret or guinea pig harness. Most are about 10 dollars

  14. I am a Chinchella owner myself and I have to save that my chinchella is one of the sweetest, calmest Chin's I've ever seen or had. She's about 1 year old and I got her at the local pet store. I will say that I am a firm believer in the fact that genes play a big role in the outcome of how a Chinchella is.... whether it be skitish, mean and wild or passive and friendly. The reason I say this is because when I first saw my Chinchella (Chloe) she was in a tank with another Chincella about the same age according to the sales person. Chloe, was friendly from the beginning letting me pick her up, hold her and even pet her. But the other Chin was aggressive, wild, barked and even snapped at you if you tried to pick her up.

    I think that leashes or harnesses depend entirely upon the Chin. Some Chin's will not be bothered by a harness. Although i would not recommend a leash (solely around the neck) due to the physical design of the chinchella's body and this could definitely cause harm to the Chin. Due to the fact that no one seems to carry a suitable and safe harness for Chinchellas, I am in the process of developing a Harness that will not only be comfortable for any Chin but will also help out the Chinchella AND the owner in many ways by acting as a multi-functional harness due to certain characteristics and habits of the Chinchella. Although there is really no way to guarantee that a Chinchella will be happy wearing a harness, the harness that I am developing WILL guarantee not only comfort for your Chin but will also have other features as well.

    If there is anyone interested in this harness please contact me via my email ( so that I can get an idea of the demand of this harness for manufacturing purposes. The cost of this harness should be aproximately $25.00-$35.00 made of high quality leather and/or canvas with fast release clips for easy attachment and release. Also, please tell anyone you know who has a chinchella about this new harness so that they can inquire as well.

  15. I have had my chinchilla for 2 years and I let him out in my room for about an hour a day, but i feel bad that he never gets to go outside so i recently bought him a harness. It is the adjustable kind for a ferrett and the harness detaches from the leash. So far i have put the harness on him twice without the leash to get him used to it first. I plan to do this whenever i let him out for the next few weeks. At first he was really mad and annoyed with the harness, he growled and tried to bite me when i was putting it on, but after it was on for a while he sortof forgot about it and went about his business begging for treats and getting into trouble as usual. I think mabye in time i will be able to walk him outside on the leash and he can meet other critters.

    I think it will be a long process though and i wouldnt want to have him on a leash right away because all that confinement would really freak him out.

  16. I would say train your chinchilla to be held first before attempting putting on a harness, if your chinchilla doesn't like being held it might not be a good idea to put a harness on it..
    My chinchilla is getting trained she is new and only about 4 months old..hasn't had much contact with people but with time and patience she is finally letting me pick her up and carry her around for 5 mins before she gets squirmy then I put her back in her cage..with every attempt she makes in becoming friendly and tame she gets a treat.. I only reward her for the good behavior and clicker training works good for this..just cut up two raisins very very small and every time your chinchilla does a good behavior click and give it a treat of the raisen.. soon he will learn to be more calm and tame..don't rush take your time and introduce things slowly..

  17. Some Chinchillas dont even like
    harnesses- But yours is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO well trained- I want to trained my lil' Chinchilla, Mickey! Can you help me? Mickey wont even let me hold him! (He's not one yet)

  18. i had heard that chinchillas have fragile bones, so i was a little wary about using a harness, but most of the petstores in my town require pets to be on a leash, or else they can't enter the store. my chinchilla loves to go into petstores and pick out treats and toys, but in order to be able to bring her in the store, i have to put a harness on her. i keep her on my shoulder and don't let her run around. she's very well-trained and stays on my shoulder all the time, but as a precaution, i bought a long leash so that if she were to jump off my shoulder she wouldnt be hurt or jerked around by the harness and leash. is it really terrible for me to harness my chinchilla under these circumstances?

  19. Shae,

    A harness and leash is generally considered to be a bad idea. Chinchillas hop/jump rather than run, are quite skittish, and have thin/frail bones. Combined, these three items are a recipe for injury.

  20. Hello,

    Im a new owner and i've been doin research and looking up facts about chichillas but the one question I havent found an answer to is this: If my home isnt COMPLETELY chinchilla proofed, can I get him a harness and leash like you would put on a ferret? I havent tried it yet and I dont want to stress him out so I would really love to know! Thank you!

  21. Avatar photo


    We've heard too many negative comments about harnesses to use them. While you might be safe 99% of the time, would you want to risk injury the other 1% of the time?

  22. I recently ordered a ferret harness from a website. It has straps that go around it's head and middle and the leash attaches in the back. I've heard about people using harnesses on chinchillas. My chinchilla is very laid back and doesn't get skittish at noises often. Do you think that if I give her enough slack on the rope and don't pull her, that it could work? Please let me know because otherwise I will not open it and return it.

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