To thrive, chinchillas need interaction with their own species. Acquiring in pairs provides natural socialization that sets the foundation for friendly domestication. You'll have to establish trust and ease your chinchillas into human contact, which goes against their natural instincts. Given some time, your big-eared rodents will bond with you, become friendly towards you and even desire your attention.
Basic Care Guidelines
Friendly chinchillas turn out that way if they start as healthy, stimulated, well-adjusted, trusting, properly treated pets. Provide a spacious, well-ventilated, nonplastic home free of wire flooring and ladders. The cage should be at least 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Cover the bottom with paper or aspen bedding only, removing dirty sections daily and changing it all out weekly during a complete cage-cleaning. Give each chinchilla a small house to sleep in. Allow unrestricted access to fresh water in an inverted bottle with a ball-bearing sipper tube and unrestricted access to Timothy hay. Use a pellets-only food labeled for chinchillas, occasionally supplementing with confirmed-safe bits of fresh fruit or vegetable every other day or so. Give your chinchillas tunnels, toys, a solid exercise wheel, and blocks of untreated wood for chewing. Let your chinchillas out of their cage in a secure play area for as long as possible daily. Seek prompt veterinary attention if you notice possible signs or symptoms of illness.
Chinchillas instinctively avoid being grabbed, so you have to gradually acclimate them to you, first by scent and then by your hands. This is most effectively done early in life -- preferably, your chinchillas know you by 10 weeks of age. If you acquire chinchillas older than this, it may take longer to develop trust and friendliness. Also, if chinchillas don't socialize with other chinchillas from very early on, they may develop skittish, antisocial or aggressive personalities. Acquire your new pets from a reputable breeder to ensure you get healthy, well-adjusted chinchillas.
Making chinchillas friendly requires hand-taming. Begin by placing small treats in your palm and holding them still in the middle of the cage. Even if they don't approach the first few times, your chinchillas will ultimately move in to take what's offered. Do this daily, speaking quietly to your pets as you do it, until they take food directly from your fingers. Then start gently petting their backs. Once they don't flee, scoop them up individually, supporting their rear and legs, holding them against your chest. Talk reassuringly and offer a treat. After a few times, your chinchillas should cooperate. He'll enjoy being petted and may even perch on your shoulder.
After hand-taming, you can continue bonding with your friendly chinchillas indefinitely with consistent effort and attention. With neglect, your chinchillas may regress and become less friendly. Chat with them daily. Pick them up and pet them every day, too. Interact with your chinchillas during out-of-cage time. Never let your chinchillas become mentally or physically under-stimulated, as this causes behavioral problems. Cycle through different toys and make sure your chinchilla always has an appropriately sized exercise wheel. Don't forget out-of-cage time; chinchillas are active and need a change of scene and an opportunity to move around daily for as long as possible.
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.