Chinchillas – being able to behave normally
Chinchillas are very active and need lots of exercise, including opportunities to jump and climb. They can do this if they have an indoor enclosure or large cage (please visit our section on “How big should a cage for chinchillas be?” for more information). As well as lots of space, chinchillas also need things to do, so they don’t get bored. Suitable toys include cardboard rolls and boxes to chew on and hide in, as well as other toys made specifically for small pets. Wooden seesaws, shelters and ramps are all available to buy from pet shops, together with hammocks which some chinchillas like. Provide branches made from softwoods such as untreated apple or pear because these can be safely chewed.
A gnawing block should be provided, as this will help your chinchillas wear their teeth down.
Scatter some of the food for your chinchillas around the cage and hide some in tubes, to encourage interest and activity.
It’s best not to provide plastic items as toys, because when chinchillas chew plastic it can splinter and be accidentally eaten.
It’s better to rotate some of their toys, by offering different toys in different weeks. This way, you can make sure your chinchillas stay stimulated. When a particular toy isn’t being used, this also gives you a good opportunity to clean it.
Chinchillas should be provided with a daily dust bath. Chinchilla sand (available from pet shops) is appropriate. Chinchillas need to dust bath to keep their coat in good condition. Without dust bathing, their fur becomes matted because of oily secretions from the skin.
The dust bath should be large enough for the chinchillas to roll in (suitable baths are available from pet shops) and should contain chinchilla sand to a depth of at least 4-6cm.
Don’t leave the dust bath in with the chinchillas all the time. Instead, give it to them several times a week for ten minutes at a time. Otherwise they may start using it as a toilet and excessive dust bathing can cause eye disease (the dust irritates the eyes).
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