Like other domesticated rodents, your chinchilla needs something to burrow down into for comfort, stress relief, warmth and even play. The best bedding materials soak up urine and absorb odors, helping maintain a relatively dry and fresh-smelling pet enclosure. They pose no dangers to your pet and are comfortable for her. As far as wood shavings go, aspen bedding meets these qualifications better than other options for chinchillas.
Aspen Wood Shavings
Aspen is the best wood shaving material for chinchillas -- and any other rodent, for that matter -- as the Televets website explains. It absorbs odors and liquids well, helping keep your furry little friend's environment dry and free of an overpowering, unpleasant musk. Even more important, Aspen is a hardwood that doesn't contain significant quantities of toxic phenols or cause other health problems like softwood-based beddings do. It's not dusty and therefore is better for your chinchilla's respiratory health.
While aspen wood shavings are the healthiest and most effective choice for rodent bedding, your individual chinchilla may not like it. Some animals find it uncomfortable. If your chinchilla is digging down to the bottom of her cage to avoid sitting on the aspen shavings, you can assume she doesn't like it. Switch to pelleted paper, another suitable alternative. If your chin likes the Aspen, be prepared to sweep up aspen shavings when they get tossed out of the cage. Vacuums don't tend to get them up well.
If your chinchilla doesn't take to aspen wood shavings, or if you choose not to use them for another reason, a few suitable alternatives exist. Pelleted paper bedding products are the most commonly used and recommended material besides aspen. They too absorb fluids and odors well, they're easy to clean up and they are dust-free and entirely safe for your pet. They are also soft, so rodents usually really like them. Finely shredded cardboard can work, too. Spruce is an another acceptable wood shaving if you want to stick with wood but aren't using aspen for some reason, such as an allergic response to it in your chinchilla.
Pine and cedar were for a long time the most common types of wood shavings used for chinchilla and other rodent bedding; they're still abundant on the market. However, they pose a variety of health risks to all sorts of animals, your chinchilla included. You should never use them. They contain significant levels of phenols and resins that are toxic to your chinchilla, possibly causing liver and kidney damage. Chemicals in pine and cedar can also do serious damage to your pet's respiratory tract. Also, avoid clay litters and other substrate or bedding products that are dusty, as these irritate and sometimes damage a rodent's respiratory tract. Corn cob bedding is another poor choice for your chinchilla. When it gets wet, it quickly begins to rot; mold and bacteria quickly colonize the material, causing foul odors and potential health risks.
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.