Chinchillas have one of the most sensitive digestive systems among the small animals and require carefully selected foods.
First cut Timothy hay is an important part of their diet and should make up the majority of their daily dietary intake, supplemented by vet approved or vet recommended pellets.
Chinchillas, like rabbits and guinea pigs, should not be sustained on pellets alone without hay.
Timothy hay is necessary in aiding their gastrointestinal health, and first cut Timothy hay is important as it provides a higher fibre content and helps to lower the risk of malocclusion by adequately wearing the rear molars that apple sticks and other chew objects generally cannot reach.
Foods / Feeding Habits to Avoid for Chinchillas
Overfeeding of high fat content food like seeds and nuts
Large quantities of wet fruits and vegetables
Overfeeding of treats that may contain high sugar or fats content
Providing only pellets without hay
Pellets that are not specially formulated for chinchillas
Instant oats / any other types of oats that are not rolled oats (for use in controlled amounts to aid in diarrhea relief and as an occasional treat)
Overfeeding of rolled oats as this can cause flatulence, which leads to discomfort for your chinchilla
Over-reliance on only Alfalfa hay even for chinchillas under 6-months of age, due to its natural high fat content, and the difficulty in transitioning your chinchilla to daily feeding of Timothy hay after 6-months old
What To Do When Settling Your Chinchilla Into A New Home Environment
Refrain from attempting to carry your chinchilla for the first 3-5 days or they can be subject to extreme stress (if they come to you on their own, cradle them gently at a low height by their cage so they can retreat inside if they want to)
With clean hands free of chemicals from soap, during feeding in the first week, leave your hand at the entrance of the cage with your palm facing down and nails tucked in (chinchillas sometimes nibble on fingernails), to allow him to be familiarised with your scent
Do not allow over-excited guests from stressing your chinchilla out by attempting to stroke or carry him, large crowds and sudden high volumes can also startle a chinchilla
Avoid using loud equipment, e.g. vacuum cleaners, too near your chinchilla's cage for the first 3-5 days
When your chinchilla starts coming out of hiding and approaching your hand in the cage, you can continue the bonding process by gradually gently scratching your chinchilla behind his ears and slowly move to his chin - always observe for signs of stress like whimpering and running away to hide in a corner during interactions, so you can retreat your hand and allow your chinchilla to feel comfortable in approaching you
Do not over-handle your chinchilla as pets can experience stress similarly as humans, and prolonged exposure to extreme stress can be detrimental to your pet’s health
Avoid placing your chinchilla’s cage in areas with fumes and scents from e.g. cooking and smoke
Spending 30-60 minutes a day with your chinchilla as a start, can help with the bonding process.
Never attempt to strike fear in your chinchilla (or other pets) by using harsh physical contact towards them in discipline or training. Chinchillas can be astute in recognising vocal intonation and instead, using light gentle taps on surrounding surfaces can similarly help you with achieving your goal, through associative sounds. Hurting them for training and disciplinary purposes can cause unnecessary stress and build-up of emotional fear that will not benefit the relationship between owner and chinchilla in the long run.
Grooming Your Chinchilla
Avoid wet baths due to their fur density
Provide dust bath in a spacious dust bath container daily or a minimum of three times weekly (due to Singapore's weather)
Avoid placing their dust bath containers in their cage when not in use
Avoid sharing dust bath if you have multiple chinchillas and one is having fungus - instead, isolate the affected chinchilla during the treatment period and ensure the dust bath is not near the other chinchillas
Avoid clipping their nails
Perform routine eye and ear cleansing, every 1-2 months suffice
Gently brush your chinchilla with a soft brush weekly to remove excess fur (also depending on how much he is shedding)
Recommended Litter and What To Avoid
Avoid using pine or any type of wood shavings - these are not ideal for use especially when in contact with rodents’ urine
Avoid using clay-based litter or clumping cat litter
Use recycled paper litter like Green Kat instead, where the absorbency is high and does not break down into high dust content - it is normal to sometimes see your chinchilla biting on pieces of such recycled paper pellets, they are pet safe and do not harm their respiratory system compared to wood pellets and shavings, etc. (chinchillas' urine is almost odourless so there is no need for odour control) (We recommend using Green Kat recycled paper litter for high absorbency for urine.)
Clean water and unlimited first cut Timothy hay should be made available to your chinchilla daily.
Chinchillas can be susceptible to fungal infection especially in Singapore's humid weather averaging well above 80%-90%, so the cage should be kept as dry as possible with optimum ventilation. Chinchillas thrive in lower humidity levels between 40% - 60% due to their dense fur.
Chinchillas partake in a process called coprophagy, which means they sometimes eat poop that contain undigested nutrients or vitamins (cecotropes), so don't be alarmed when you see it happen.
Switching a chinchilla's pellets should be done gradually with a start of 60%-40% mix of existing and new brand.
If you're unsure after observing what appears to be soft stool for 24-hours, bring your chinchilla to a veterinarian clinic experienced in handling small and exotic animals (refer to recommended vets list) for a check-up.
This also applies to chinchillas that may be showing signs of constipation and lack of appetite for more than a day.
As we usually advise our customers, when in doubt, it's better to visit a vet and receive a clean report of health, and understand what may have been causing the underlying temporary change in appetite / bowel movement.
In Singapore's humid climate, it is important to provide the following for your chinchillas:
24/7 air-conditioning (ideal environment)
24/7 direct fan (if all day air-conditioning is unsustainable budget-wise). Avoid using small, clip-on tabletop fans or singular rotational ceiling fans as these are insufficient in providing a cool and less humid immediate cage environment for your chinchillas
Avoid using acrylic / wooden cages if your chinchilla is not placed in a 24/7 air-conditioned environment as heat and moisture can be trapped in the cage, creating a greenhouse effect - take note that wooden cages have to be carefully selected as some species of wood are unsafe for use for chinchillas. Wooden cages with mesh doors are also not suitable for use without 24/7 air-conditioning (prioritise a safe and comfortable habitat over aesthetic appearance of cages). Wooden cages are more difficult to treat and disinfect in the event of e.g. a fungal infection due to the porous nature of wood, compared to non-porous material
Place cage away from direct sunlight, place it in well ventilated areas and away from commonly noisy areas (e.g. near door facing neighbour's house with constantly barking dog, etc.)
Ceramic hideout that can reduce stress and provide a cool-to-the-touch surface
Stainless steel cooling plates for them to lie on
No aromatherapy or other strong scents (e.g. frequent cooking) near your chinchillas' cage
A chinchilla produces more than 60 fine hairs per follicle (compared to that of 3-4 hairs for humans), so dense that some skin parasites are unable to thrive and survive within their fur.
Denying your chinchillas a proper cool environment, is like wearing a fur coat and sitting in a car under the afternoon sun, without air-conditioning.
In such events, heat stroke can occur.
Carefully consider the environment you can provide for your chinchilla and check with us for planning of your chinchilla's habitat to provide a comfortable environment for your pet, also our starter kits that contain the necessary vet-recommended foods, habitat necessities and proper hygiene care to help both you and your new chinchilla settle in together with minimal stress.