Posted: July 18, 2014, 10:15 p.m. EDT
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
If two chinchillas ever get into a fight, it's best to house them separately thereafter.
Q: I have previously had two bonded female chinchillas and a pair that included one male and female. I have rescued two males from a pet shop. Their previous owner put the boys all together and left them to fight. When I rescued them, the homozygous beige chinchilla was a lot bigger and the dominant one, whereas the standard grey male was petite and very nervous. I got them both castrated to lower the chance of them fighting and hoped that they would get along. They live in a four-level cage and are allowed out two to three hours a night. Their playtime area is spacious with toys and branches, so they don't get bored. The problem is that they started fighting, even pulling out fur. Now the little standard grey has scratches and holes in his ears. I don't want them to get injured further, so I separated them by blocking off half the cage. Is it better to keep them separated? Would they be OK alone? I'm worried about them getting lonely, but their cages don't have room for them to be paired with others, and I would rather not risk it either. What is your input on this?
A: On rare occasions, a pair of male chinchillas may successfully live together for years, but in most cases males eventually end up fighting. Fighting is more likely if there is a female chinchilla in the same room or if one male is oppressive and the other male is maturing and starts pushing for the dominant position.
A pairing may last a long time or may last only a few seconds. Chinchillas have very long, sharp front teeth and strong jaws. Fights generally only last a second or two, so it is unwise to "wait and see” how they will do if they have already fought.
Biting is the primary form of attack. Chinchillas also may bite defensively if cornered and there is no escape route. A superficial bite may pluck out some fur. A deep bite can penetrate the rib cage and puncture a lung or can even pierce the scull or spinal area. Deep bites often result in death.
If your two male chinchillas have engaged in aggressive fighting, then definitely they should not be housed together. It is not worth taking the risk. In your case, chances are the more dominant homozygous beige chin will be fine by himself and the standard grey will be relieved to no longer be at risk.
It works well to set up two cages, side by side, so the chins can communicate with each other. It is important to leave enough room between the cages, usually about 2 to 3 inches, so no paws or noses will be bitten. If the cages are too close, one of the chins could lose some toes.
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