Posted: March 26, 2014, 7:40 p.m. EDT
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Introducing a new chinchilla to an established one must be done with great care.
Q: I have a 2.5-year-old, female chinchilla. I got her another female chinchilla mate last year, around the same age, but Spinoza, my current and first chinchilla, did not like Hegel, the new chinchilla. They fought, so I couldn't keep them together. Hegel soon after died. I want to get Spinoza a friend, but I am nervous that she will be territorial and aggressive again. I was thinking about getting a baby chinchilla. Perhaps that would bring out her motherly instincts? I just want her to have a friend to snuggle and keep company when I am not home.
A: Attempting to pair chinchillas involves some risk, requires very careful monitoring and a considerable time commitment. Some chinchillas (male and female) prefer to live alone. Other chinchillas love the companionship. If the pairing is successful, the pair often bonds for life.
Aggressive chinchillas (and ones who do not enjoy cagemates) do just fine having another chinchilla in a neighboring cage. The cages can be close enough so the chinchillas can interact, but should have enough distance between them so toes are not bitten off if there is a disagreement. In separate cages, the chinchillas can interact as frequently as they wish without risk.
When attempting to pair chinchillas, a first step is to place them in neighboring cages as is described above. Leave them in this arrangement for a couple of weeks. If they seem to get along well, then take one cage and put it in a small room like a bathroom. Be sure to put the toilet seat and lid down. Chinchillas are good jumpers! Then bring the second chinchilla in and let him or her run around in the room. Supervise these interactions for 20 minutes or longer, depending on your time constraints. Then return the chinchillas to their respective cages.
Chinchillas are naturally curious. During the time in the small room, they most likely will touch noses, will smell each other and may groom each other. Grooming is a very positive sign. If behavior is good for a couple days, then open the cage door so both chinchillas can roam in the bathroom. You should do this several times over the course of a week.
If all is still fine, then try allowing them in the same cage. It is important to use a "neutral” cage that neither chinchilla has lived in. This helps avoid assertion of dominance and/or territoriality. Carefully monitor them for the next 24 to 48 hours and be watchful for the next couple weeks.
If there is any sign of significant aggression, separate them immediately and permanently leave them in separate cages. Fights can erupt very suddenly and often last only a couple of seconds. Fights may involve some fur plucks or may involve deep bites. A deep bite from a chinchilla’s long, slender, sharp front teeth can cause severe injury or death, which is the reason careful monitoring is so important.
There is no guarantee your female will accept a weanling, but the chance of successful pairing with a weanling is higher than with another adult. You should also consider that the weanling may become terrified and traumatized. If the pairing fails but the chinchillas are uninjured, it may take some time for both to calm down and return to normal.
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