Chinchillas are rodents you can hold in your hands, but you can't keep them in cages that are suitable for guinea pigs or hamsters. Keep your chinchillas in the largest cage your quarters can accommodate. Living in small cages makes chinchillas depressed and neurotic. Placed it in the right environment to keep your pet healthy.
Minimum Cage Size
The Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics says the minimum cage size for an adult chinchilla should be at least 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet. If you keep more than one chinchilla in a cage -- which chins prefer, as they as social creatures -- make sure it has a minimum of 2 square feet of floor space per pet. If it's a wire-bottomed cage, place plywood or another flat, solid material in places on the cage floor so your chinchillas aren't always standing on wire, even if it's well-bedded. Too much time spent on wire can create pressure sores on their feet.
The cage should contain multiple levels within it so your chinchilla can climb and jump. Since they can jump as high as 6 feet, install a cage that large if you have the room. However, length is better than height if you don't have room for both long and tall. Since rodents are prey animals, you'll want to keep the cage off the floor, as this makes them anxious. Put it on a table or stand. If you plan to breed chinchillas, you'll need a separate, single-level cage for the mother when she's due to give birth. Babies can climb as soon as they're born, so they shouldn't live in a high cage. They could fall and injure themselves.
Keep the cage out of drafts and away from direct sunlight. Don't place it in a damp or humid area or right next to a heat source. Chinchillas are sensitive to heat. Never allow the habitat temperature to rise above 80 degrees, or you could come home to dead chinchillas. The temperature should never fall below 50 degrees. Keep the cage scrupulously clean for your pet's health.
In addition to a constant supply of fresh water and appropriate food bowls, your chins need a few furnishing in their cage to keep them content. Because of their extremely dense fur, chinchillas require regular dust baths to keep themselves clean. Place a large bowl of special chinchilla dust, available in pet stores, in the cage a few times a week for your chins to bathe in. Leave it in the cage for an hour or so at a time. Longer than that, it could become contaminated with feces or you'll have more dust to clean up. The Chinchilla Chronicles recommends, if you're keeping chins in pairs, providing hiding places for distraction and sleeping. These can be small boxes nestled inside the cage. You can also install platforms and ramps for your pet to climb and jump off.
While a very large, high cage makes the best sort of housing for your chinchilla, that doesn't mean he stays in it 24/7. It's important for your pet to get out of his cage on a daily basis for exercise. Chinchilla-proof an area that he can run around and play in, but don't leave your pet unsupervised. They love to chew, so you must be vigilant and make sure the chewing doesn't include electric wires or other hazards. If you have cats or dogs, take care to keep them out of the room if your chinchilla is loose.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.