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Problem Chinchilla

What behaviors are normal and abnormal for chinchillas and what should you do?

Jessica Cordia

chinchilla by wood blocks
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Publishing Studio
Chinchillas are social animals that enjoy play.

Chinchillas are fun, lovable critters that enjoy playing and socializing. Give your chinchilla a comfortable, safe environment to keep it happy. Chinchillas like to have a routine, so maintaining a set schedule every day will help add normalcy to your chin’s life.

Play Behavior
Chinchillas love to play. They will run, chase and play with toys. They might stand on their hind legs or roll a ball around the cage. Chinchillas love people, and they enjoy your presence every day. Some even like to be petted, but most would rather perch on your shoulder to groom.

"Chinchillas lovingly groom each other in the facial areas, ears and [they] smell the breath of the one they are befriending,” said Pamela Oldham, chin breeder at Chin Colors Ranch in Sacramento, California. "It’s their way of getting to know the other.”

If your chinchilla acts this way toward you, it is a sign that the chinchilla trusts you and wants to befriend you.

Defensive Behavior
Chinchillas are prey animals, so they are always on the lookout for predators. Oldham said, "If they get scared from an unusual sound or movement, their first instinct is to run.” 

If you’ve bonded with your chinchilla, he will cling to you like a child as though you are protecting him, or he will run to a place in his cage where he feels safe.

If your chinchilla is scared, evaluate the situation, and figure out what stimulus is making your chinchilla scared. Once you know why your chin is scared, remove the threat, and your chinchilla will return to his normal, happy self.

Abnormal Behavior
Your chinchilla might become too aggressive and start biting or barbering (pulling out hair) on other chinchillas. Dr. Beth Brettweiser from All Wild Things Exotic Animal Hospital in Indianapolis said, "If this occurs, make a loud sound and your chinchilla will freeze. Chinchillas have sensitive hearing, so loud sounds will divert their attention toward the noise.”

Monitor your chinchilla’s stool. Look for changes in size and shape. If they are fewer in number, wet or tagged together with other stools, it could be a sign of illness. The most alarming abnormal behavior is not eating. If your chinchilla stops eating, contact your veterinarian immediately.

See other chinchilla behavior articles, click here>>
See questions and answers about chinchillas, click here>>

Posted: April 2, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT


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Problem Chinchilla

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Reader Comments
My chinchilla seems very happy and healthy, she eats her food and her hay and chews on her wood and all her toys. The problem I have with her is she chews her plastic items too such as her house and sometimes she chews the cage. She pretty much chews on everything she can! I feel it's not good for her so if anyone knows how to help this situation that would be very helpful! The other problem is that sometimes her stool is soft or watery which ever works to say and i'm not sure what to do. I got her from a friend for free when she was already two years old but she is used to me know seeing as i have had her for over a year now. If someone has any advise it would be much appreciated!
Marium, Derry, NH
Posted: 11/18/2012 3:46:53 PM
My Chinchillas are tamed but I noticed they use standing on their hind legs and trying to pee on you. I was wondering if you know anything about that?
Linda, Sitka, AK
Posted: 12/13/2011 11:25:05 AM
When I let my chinchilla out for play time, it is impossible to get her not to chew on my baseboards in my room. Is there anything I can put on them or do to show her it isn't ok to do this. She is a very stubborn little girl. Thank you!
Wendy, Kalamazoo, MI
Posted: 8/23/2011 9:05:37 PM
To Jordan.
I know how it is like to have a chinchilla be scared. It took 6 months for my chinchilla to get use to me. When your near your chinchillas, be very quiet and walk very slowly. Chi chills get scared when humans loom over them so when your close to their cage, crouch down or get on your knees so they won't feel threatened. I would start holding them until they can eat from your hands comfortably. Feed your chinchillas small treats so they know you won't hurt them and be patient.
Farrah, Louisville, KY
Posted: 9/8/2010 2:50:51 PM
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