Unlike many household pets, chinchillas are pretty much odor-free. If your chinchilla does leave a smell, either he's sick or you're not cleaning his cage as often as you should. If your pet's body develops an odor, take him to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
Because a chinchilla's teeth grow continuously, dental problems are quite common if the teeth don't wear down correctly. If your chinchilla's mouth smells bad, that's a sign that something is wrong with his teeth. You might also notice matted fur down his chest, and drool or "slobbers" from the mouth. The smell could result from mouth abscesses and ulcers if overgrown, sharp teeth have pierced his tongue or cheeks.
Take your pet to the vet at once if his mouth smells or he's having any problem eating.
You can train your chinchilla to urinate in a litter box, using litter made from shredded newspaper. If you don't want to provide a litter box, that's fine -- your pet will choose one corner of his cage to pee in. Keeping the litter box clean reduces any urine odors.
Chins don't usually defecate in a litter box, partially because they poop so much. Their little pellets should be hard and not very smelly. If their droppings are loose or stinky, take your chinchilla to the vet for an examination.
Chinchillas were valued for their beautiful pelts long before they became pets. Water doesn't really penetrate the extremely dense coat, so getting a chinchilla wet to clean him is a bad idea.
These naturally clean animals require dust baths to keep their fur in good condition and prevent any matting or odor. Use only dust marketed specifically for chinchillas, available at pet stores. Put a couple of inches of the dust in a large pan, then let your chinchilla go to work. Let your pet use his dust bath about three times a week for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Too much dust bathing can irritate his eyes and dry out his fur. Plus, you'd have even more dust in your house. There's no getting around the dust if you keep chinchillas.
Chinchillas need a very tall, large cage to climb and jump, two of their favorite activities. You need to clean out the cage daily for two reasons. The first is to provide your pet with a clean, healthy environment, which cuts down on potential odors.
The second is to keep track of your chinchilla's poop output. If there's a production slowdown, that indicates something is wrong with his gastrointestinal system, and a vet visit is in order.
For best results, use aspen shavings as bedding. These shavings absorb well and smell good. You can also use recycled newspaper. Cedar shavings contain natural chemicals toxic to chinchillas.
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.