How Do I Pick Up and Hold My Chinchilla?

One of the more common questions we get has to do with handling chinchillas. Their jumpy nature can make it quite a challenge to pick them up and this can frustrate new pet owners.

Trina wrote to us with this:

I was just wondering if you can actually hold a chinchilla like you would with a hamster or kitten. Also, can you pet it from its neck to tail like you do with a dog?

Our suggestions consisted of:


We have two chinchillas. One can be picked up, carried around the house, and petted. The other chinchilla is not nearly as cooperative. Picking her up is tricky as she'll try to run away. And once we do have her, we have to be very gentle or she'll jump out of our hands. Both chinchillas will only tolerate a short period of being held before getting antsy and wanting to be let go.

The more a chinchilla was handled when young, the more likely the chinchilla will tolerate being handled as an adult.

Like Trina, Jessica too was looking for some advice on handling her chinchilla:

I just got a chinchilla and he is friendly but doesn't like to be held. How can I get him used to us without getting him stressed?

Our answer to Jessica was:


The first thing to accept is that it will take time. What we did was start off by sitting quietly in the same room as our chinchillas as they ran around. After a while they would come over and “investigate” us. When they did we would slowly reach out and pet them.

We also would hand feed them a treat. First they would grab the food and run away, but eventually they would be fine eating while we held on to the treat. And eventually, they would come running when they heard us opening the bag.

Eventually, we were able to pick up one of our two chinchillas whenever we wanted to. The second remains uncooperative most of the time.

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  1. I just go my chinchilla, and she is very friendly and loves being pet. But when I try to pick her up she runs around her cage and makes little noises and bites. We have been sitting next to her cage and pet her and let crawl out and sniff us.does anyone else have strategies on gaining their trust?

    • I have found some success in picking up my new little guys while he is in his hide house. His hide house is like a whicker basket and I remove it from his cage and sit it on my chest with him in it. He seems at ease because he has the ability to feel safer when he is not directly in my hands but rather in a basket he associates as safe. We are able to look at each other and i will talk softly and kindly to him. I will tell him what a good boy he is and slowly and gently caress his head as it sticks out his hide away. I notice that it causes him stress when i try and hold him normally,.. it began to feel as if I was trying to chase him around with my hand. It was as if I was doing more harm than good. I hate the idea of them viewing my hand as a negative. So now, I have been trying to lure him into his hide away house when I wish to try and bond. He seems to appreciate these efforts and I notice him being less skittish around my hands now.

  2. i have a chinchilla that is usually quite friendly and bubbly and doesn't mind being held all that much, and when its time for a walk i hold my hand out to her and she jumps on it nearly instantly and comes out,but when it's time to go back she never EVER wants to. my brother handles her better somehow,she seems calmer when he tries to pick her up and get her back home but even though i act the same, when i try to pick her up from her feet (they're so poofy and cute aw) she bites me, runs away and hides. i try to wait until she's comfortable, i try to give her treats, i try to trick her into getting on my shoulder and then going home but all i can do is pick her up by her tail and she doesn't like that and i don't want to do it but she doesn't come home any other way please help i don't want to hurt her

    • And try holding the open end of the basket facing your stomach. This way she cant see you trying to head for the cage. And also, it will give her less of an escape route.

  3. Hi I got two male chinchillas from a pet shop a few days ago, and they're already one year old. They've been in the pet store for around 3/4 months (according to the staff) so haven't really been handled, and are pretty frightened since they've probably been poked and prodded. When I put my hand in the cage with some oats, they perch on my arm and hands to eat the treats, but retreat when I pet them. I know that rushing things will take them longer to tame, when would be the right time to pick them up and let them run in a closed room?

  4. My chinchillas are friendly but handling is just not easy, they are too fast! lol. When I do pick one up I tend to use my t-shirt as a sack and stroke their head as they look out..... Seems less stressful to my two fluffballs :-D . I do find I avoid the tail, because no-one can advise me of correct method and obviously I don't want to cause harm by doing it wrong. My two are still not good at going back in to the cage at night, and they've discovered how to outsmart me lol. One jumps in cage, as I coach other into cage, the one inside jumps out!! They repeat this constantly, thus why I feel handling should be improved on my part... Clever things that they are :-)

  5. I recently got a chinchilla and she is extremely nice, she allows me to pet her as much as I want and she comes to me at the door of her cage as soon as I walk in the room. The problem I have is she hates having her tail touched and I dtont want to pick her up any other way to avoid hurting her but if I am not holding on to her she amediately jumps off of me onto the floor. How can I get her to stay on my shoulder or arm without her jumping off and potentially getting hurt?

    • You are not supposed to pick a chinchilla up by the tail. Ever. It is extremely painful. If you must, gently scoop them up under their legs and butt to make sure you have a good hold, but not too right. They don't generally like being held though.

      • Your advice is wrong. Holding the chinchilla by the base of its tail is he safest way to hold a Chinchilla. They hold them like this during shows and etc. Please stop giving people inaccurate advice... it doesn’t hurt them at all

    • Dont give up on holding the tail. Be persistent. But for now try transporting her in her hide hut. I
      have found some success in picking up my new little guys while he is in his hide house. His hide house is like a whicker basket and I remove it from his cage and sit it on my chest with him in it. He seems at ease because he has the ability to feel safer when he is not directly in my hands but rather in a basket he associates as safe. We are able to look at each other and i will talk softly and kindly to him. I will tell him what a good boy he is and slowly and gently caress his head as it sticks out his hide away. I notice that it causes him stress when i try and hold him normally,.. it began to feel as if I was trying to chase him around with my hand. It was as if I was doing more harm than good. I hate the idea of them viewing my hand as a negative. So now, I have been trying to lure him into his hide away house when I wish to try and bond. He seems to appreciate these efforts and I notice him being less skittish around my hands now.

  6. My chinchilla keeps biting me and almost drawing blood what can I do? He makes me feel like I'm a bad pet owner and has me in tears all the time I don't want to get rid of him because I'm attached but u also don't want to keep him locked up all the time because I'm scared he's going to bite my little sister.

    • Hello,
      I'm sorry to hear your chinchilla acts that way. Just try to take your time. Sit near the cage and talk to it, read it a book, etc. always wash your hands before you hold your chinchilla, as it may smell any food,etc. also, get it used to you, and your voice before introducing your sister. I know she may want to hole it and all, but it will happen eventually. Just try to make your chinchilla as relaxed and at home as possible. I hope this helped. Best luck!

  7. I recently recieved a little chinchilla from a woman whocould no longer care for him, and was wondering when i could try and pick him up.

  8. Picking them up by the tail is the safest way for them... If you pick them up in the middle and squeeze too hard while trying to grasp them, you will damage them internally. Holding by the tail gives you control over them, and it doesnt hurt them...

  9. STOP trying to pick your chinchilla up by the tail. would you want to be picked up by your tail if you were them?. just keep your chinchilla in its cage. offer treats at the door. once they accept treats, start trying to pet its back. not its head. if it seems scared and runs to hide, wait a little longer, offer some more treats. you can allow the chinchilla to craw on your hand and arm but do not let it run around. instead get your chinchilla a wheel for its cage. only after your chinchilla stops flinching at your touch and hands and starts approaching you, then you can allow it to come out and run around your room. if you like your chinchilla to come out before then, get a round pen, sit in the center. and just wait. be still. offer treats. when its time to put it back, offer a dust bath, which is a naturally calming thing for them, and lift the dust bath to the cage. the more you chance, the more you ruin your chance of ever taming your chin. my chinchilla came from a single mom and her son who handled them often when they were really little. i got my chinchilla when he was 8 weeks, he still needed me to go through this process to gain his trust. a family breeder is best, pets store chinchillas hardly, if ever, get handled and will take much longer to tame.

    • Chin Owner:

      I USED TO RAISE CHINCHILLAS. And I always used to hold them by the tail. Your advice to stop trying to pick them up by the tail is way off base. It does not hurt them at all. I learned about Chinchillas from the old professional breeders in the early 60's. That was how they did it back than. And the smart ones still do. It protects them from jumping out of your hands, and getting hurt in other ways. No tail has ever broken off that I'm aware of. If you pick them up like a rabbit or some other animal, they do get jumpy and if you don't have a firm grip they can get hurt. Not only that, but they can get frightened and lose big patches of fur. It is one of their natural predator safety features. Most people who own chinchillas don't have a clue about the proper way to care for them. Bring back the professionals to teach them the old school rules. I think you need to find an old time Chinchilla professional and get their advice. I do not agree with yours. I'm sorry. When my children were teenagers, my husband and I got two male chinchillas. I would pick them up by the tail and firmly hold and support them so they felt comfortable. I petted them a lot with my other hand while supporting them sitting on my arm. Within just a few days they learned to feel safe and secure and knew I would not hurt them. We became the best of friends.

      • I'm sorry. I don't mean to come accross as mean or harsh. I'm just concerned because so much wrong advice has been given out or worse not given at all. It really bothers me when I see them being sold without any education or proper training. Very few pet stores give proper advice if at all. Chinchillas are a very very expensive unique fur bearing animal that used to be very very expensive. I never did like that part. I'm glad they're pets now. When I was younger we used to go to visit breeders and their meetings. Was always interesting. That was back in the very early 60's. We were just a small outfit, and I could tell you lots of stories from back than.

      • Interesting, I will take this to mind. Thank you for your post, I am sure this is going to help me a lot

  10. I have had my chinchilla since May 10th 2010. I want to be able to pick her up but every time i try to pick her up she goes crazy. I do what the breeder tells me but i just cant hold her. She is so nice and loves to be petted but every time i hold the base of her tail and try to pick her up she just well freaks out. what should i do?

  11. When i try to hold my chinchilla by the tail it just starts going crazy. Are you sure it doesn't hurt them?

    • No it does not hurt them if you are doing it right. You hold them at the base of the tail close to the body firmly with your fingers. Be sure to support them on your arm at the same time.

  12. I find that it is best to have them come to you, leave the door open to their cage and sit on the floor next to the door. They are very curious animals and will try to climb out and also sniff you. I always let them climb onto my hands. They also have a playpen for their dust baths so when I go to get them, they get excited because generally they are getting a dust bath which they love!! I also let them run around their room which is Chinchilla proofed. They like to explore and will end up by you. Mine usually climb into my lap for a few minutes and then they are off again!!

  13. for my chinchilla the most effective way of holding her for me is to hold onto the base of her tale with one hand and with the other hand gently hold her front legs. but it depends on the pet it will also take a bit of time for your chinchilla to get used to being held so be patient and dont get frustrated.

    • You do not have to hold them with the front legs , just support them on your arm while keeping a firm support on the base of the tail. You are one smart cookie to learn the tail holding ! You're doing that right.

  14. You should pick up your chinchilla by the tail. It doesn't hurt them and you will not be able to rip it off. If you try to pick them up around the middle you will most likely break their ribs. They have very brittle, thin bones and it is very easy to break a rib. Make sure when you do pick them up you don't grab at the end of the tail, grab at the base, closest to it's butt.

    • You are 100 % right ! Smart cookie you are! They are very very fragile indeed. If they get frightened they will lose big patches of fur because it is a natural predator safety feature.

      You are doing the right thing! Wish more people understood that! I used to raise them, thats how I know, and I learned that from the old pros back in the early 60's when pets were a big NO - NO! LOL! Never mind, I made two of them pets, and made a lot of people mad back than. I was a rebellious teenager....LOL!

  15. Some Chinchillas will allow you to hold them, but they do not like to be held or cuddled. To hold a chinchilla use two hands, supporting their back legs in one hand, and their front feet slightly higher than the back with the other hand. Hold them up against your body to give them a more secure feeling. Be careful not to squeeze them to tightly. It is ok to hold a chinchilla by the base of the tail for very short periods of time.

  16. Chinchillas like to have their feet stable. Therefore it is best to support them by their feet. However, they do not have claws so cannot grip very well. Sooo... just be careful!

  17. scoop 'em up :P

  18. I would say picking them up by scooping them is the best way. Cup your hand around them and then lift...that is a comfortable position for them.

    Chinchilla Lover <33

  19. O.K.... Your chinchilla needs time , it needs to bond before you can cooperate with it.

  20. their tails will not fall off. You can pick them up by their tails it doesnt hurt them but i wouldnt recommend picking them up this way....

    • Yes you CAN pick them up that way and hold them that way. It does not hurt them. and is much safer for them to keep them from jumping and hurting themselves in other ways.

  21. dont pick them up by the tail you will rip it off.

    • Their tails will not rip off. I have never seen or heard of one that has. I've been around lots of them. I learned from the early pros.

  22. Octavia,

    It'll take time for your chinchilla to become used to you even if he was friendly with his previous owner. Picking up your chinchilla by the tail is not recommended. And chasing your chinchilla will only scare your chinchilla more so try to avoid it as much as possible.

  23. We just got our chinchilla a day ago.. and we were told that he was freindly and from conversations with the previous owner know that this one was held and handled.. But he doesn't like for us to hold him and he runs. He wants to be let out but we are afraid we won't be able to catch him to put him back into his cage. Also the previous owner told me to hold him by the tail, but when I did he kept trying to get away. When I put him back into his cage I noticed a patch of hair was missing at the base of his tail where I was holding him at. Is this normal?

    • No! There shouldn't be any hair missing from your chinchilla!

      • Its OK to hold them by the base of the tail. If you do it right there should be no hair missing. But they will release their fur if they are frightened. That is why you do not hold them by the middle of the body. NEVER EVER pick them up by the end of the tail if possible.

  24. Hi my name is Emily I just got a Chinchilla (He's 3).How do I pick him up from inside his cage without him biting me?He likes to go on my shoulder a lot but I need help picking him up..

  25. i had my chinchilla for about a year now and when ever i try to pick him up he always forces to get away I don't know if im picking him up wrong or what but if you could help my that would be great. My friend has a chinchilla and when he picks her up he puts tube socks on his hands up his arm. should i do that i meen does that make the chinchilla more comftorable with the sock?
    through out the time ive had my chinchilla i would give him a treat when he would climb up my book shelf and hop into his cage and ive let him run around every day for a few hours. I also have a running wheel and some mineral blocks and wood for him to chew on. But all that i do i just think im doing somthing wrong. I bought him from a friend and im guessing he didn't pick him up when he was younger becuase he wont let me pick him up. thank you for letting me share my story and if you could share with me what im doing wrong and so on that would be great.

    P.S. if you could tell me how you pick him up that would be awsome becuase i think im doing it wrong.

    • hey Alex, yes i've been having the same thing, and we guessed he hadn't been picked up when he was younger either. so what we're doing is putting his dried apple treat on my shoulder so when he's there he's usually distracted. so you can hold him against you and he doesnt mind you stroking him if it's not too vigorous. he's gotten a bit used to it now. Also, i was thinking that when it's time for him to run around, he just wants to run around. definately scoop from under him to pick him up and if it comes to chasing you'll never catch him and he gets very scared. i just wait till he's a bit calmer. hope that helped?it's a tricky one. oh, and when you're actually holding him, put one hand supporting his back feet and another hand supporting the front ones a bit higher.

      • Please read my other comments on picking up and holding chinchillas by the base of the tail. That is the only correct way..... and not by the middle of their body.

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    We don't have much experience with biting chinchillas so we're not sure exactly how to deal with it. However, many behaviors can be taught with the right reward/punishment. Maybe if you're bitten you immediately tap your chinchilla on the nose. Not enough to cause injury, but enough to cause discomfort so they associate the tapping with the bitting and eventually stop.

  27. My chinchilla keeps on biting me. Do you know how to stop him from biting me? Is there any training for this without being bitten? My finger was bitten twice and was bleeding.

    • maybe your chinchilla isn't having enough to chew on.

  28. Avatar photo


    If the chinchillas have been weaned which it sounds like they have been, we recommend you handle them as much as you can. Handling chinchillas at a young age improves the chances that they will like to be held when they are older.

  29. My name is Tara. I just adopted 4 Chinchilla's, all siblings and all 4 months. Is this a good age to start them on being handled? I am a Chinchilla Finatic, I have dreamed of the day that I could own 1 let alone 4. I know it will be alot of work, but it will also be very much worth every second. I read everything on this site and it helped alot, so I now know what to expect. Just woundering if 4 months is a good age to start handling them? Thanks for your time.

  30. Avatar photo


    There are no guaranteed techniques, but it sounds like you've been really patient and have made great progress. Using the treat is often effective so try different things with it. For example, hold the treat in one hand such that your chinchilla is forced to climb on to your other hand to get at it.

    Unfortunately it's possible that your chinchilla will never like to be held for long periods of time. We have one that can't take being held for more than a minute or two while another one remains pretty calm for a good amount of time.

  31. Hi, I have had a chinchilla for almost 4 months now. He has come along way. it took him awhile to even come out of his cage and run around. now he comes out for a good hour to two hours a night and jumps on our laps for treats and follows us around as long as we are moving slow or in one spot. However he HATES being touched or pet or being held. once in a great while i can pet him when he is on my lap if he is preoccupied by a really good treat. any suggestions to getting him used to being handled or just touched?

  32. Avatar photo


    Your chinchilla will give you signs if you are stressing him out e.g. squirming, barking, jumping out of your hands. Normally, bringing your hand from above will scare a chinchilla since that is how predators would approach.

  33. The only way we can can pick our chinchilla up is by grabbing him from the top. Will this get him stressed out?

    • Yes it will indeed and could cause him to release his fur. Always pick up by the tail and hold him firm at the base. Support his body with your arm for security.

  34. I got my chinchilla around last December. He's really friendly and luvs going in my shirt and up and down my back. He doesn't bite anyone at all, but whenever I open his cage and try to pick him up, he junps away. And the only way to catch him is by showing him my dog. ( he likes my dog and comes out everytime he sees him) How come my chinchilla seems so scared sometimes, but so friendly others?

  35. What I do when I pick up my chinchilla is I like scoop him up with my hands it seems to work with him

  36. Avatar photo


    It does sound like you had some luck with your first chinchilla. If the breeder handles the chinchillas when they are young they are more likely to be friendly when they're older. Might be something worth asking a breeder before you buy.

  37. My chinchilla loves to be held and played with he also loves to go on my shoulder and down my back. I got lucky because my chinchilla has always been like that since I got him. But we got another one and it was not friendly at all it would bark at you if you where three feet within his cage. But he loved Megan so we gave him to her and now he is getting a little better all the time.

  38. Avatar photo


    Unfortunately we've yet to put the time together to post an article on determining the gender of a chinchilla. A few searches on Google should lead you to an article though. Welcome to the world of chinchilla ownership!

  39. How do I tell if my chinchilla is a male or female. I just got mine and its still too frightened to let me pick it up.

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