Where affection and bonding are concerned, chinchillas aren't quite on the same level as cats and dogs. However, they live up to 20 years, so there's plenty of time to foster a strong relationship. With consistent efforts to maintain proper care, interacting physically on a daily basis, keeping your chinchillas stimulated and otherwise encouraging a friendly and trusting relationship, your chinchillas can certainly develop a heavy bond with you over time.
Give It Time
Chinchillas need time to develop trust for you to begin the bonding process. They aren't programmed to allow themselves to be approached and handled by a large, unfamiliar creature with a strange scent and unknown motives -- and that's exactly what you are at first. To foster affection and trust in your chinchillas, first allow them time to adjust to their new surroundings, then gradually begin the processes of familiarization and hand-taming. Other than quickly and quietly providing food and water and performing basic cleaning tasks, leave your new pets alone for the first two or three days. Then move on to familiarization.
After your chinchillas settle into their new home, make initial introductions. Talk to them quietly from outside their cage for a little while each day. Calmly open their cage door once every day and slowly move one hand to the center of the cage. Hold still and offer small treats in your open palm. Your chinchillas probably won't approach the first time or two, but if you remain motionless and repeat this daily, they'll soon come to your hand, sniff around and eventually take the food. Continue doing so until your new pets eagerly take treats from you. During this familiarization stage, don't make sudden movements or loud noises or attempt to pet or pick up your chinchillas.
Once your chinchillas trust your hands, begin handling them, which is essential to bonding. Pick up your chinchillas one at a time each day. Hold them gently but securely, supporting their bodies in full; they don't like their limbs hanging or feeling like they're on uncertain ground. Use one hand to support your chinchilla's backside and the other to cup around his chest and belly. Don't grab or pick up a chinchilla by the tail. As a built-in defense mechanism, their tails detach easily, but they don't grow back. Start with short-lived handling sessions of half a minute or so, and increase the duration slightly every day. Hold, pet and play with your chinchillas one-on-one daily, for life.
Healthy, Well-Adjusted Chinchillas
Only healthy, happy, well-adjusted chinchillas bond. Ensure adequate living space with the largest cage you can accommodate; it should have wire bars for ventilation, a solid bottom to prevent foot pain and injuries and no plastic parts. Supply fresh chinchilla food every day, along with unrestricted access to clean, dry timothy hay and fresh water. Offer fresh fruit or vegetable bits every few days. Keep the habitat clean by removing leftovers, feces and soiled bedding daily. Bedding should be made of paper or aspen shavings, and should be completely changed out once per week when you clean the cage. Chinchillas require an exercise wheel, chew toys for tooth maintenance, other toys for stimulation, small enclosures to sleep in and time out of their cage every day. Rotate toys to prevent boredom, and keep in mind that chinchillas do much better socially when they have company of their own kind.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.