Welcome home little guy! Here's your room ... and here's your ... ah ... we'll get you a cage tomorrow ... and here's some. Hey, did anyone get Chilli here any food yet?
Oops. Not exactly the ideal welcome home party, now is it? Poor Chilli's nerves are going to be tested to begin with. After all, you're taking him from the only home he's probably has ever known.
You can at least have his home set up for him when he gets there ... just to help in smoothing the transition.
It's best -- as you can see - to have as much as you can possibly think of set up ahead of his arrival. Of course of all the major issues you'll deal with none beats the housing issue.
And while this little guy may resemble his guinea pig cousin, his housing needs -- thanks to his exotic South American background -- is quite elaborate
Think condo! Thing big! (At least in chinchilla terms!) I'm going to tell you right now that you won't have a happy chinchilla if you scrimp on housing. Sorry! But that's exactly what it comes down to.
You r new friend needs some spacious living. This is especially true If you're adopting two chinchillas. But really it's not because they're spoiled creatures and need to be unduly pampered.
There are two legitimate reasons for this need. First, they are not a small rodent. Sure, they may appear small to you. But as a member of the rodent family, they are among the largest. So the small hamster cage you had for Rex the Hamster just won't work!
But add to that the fact that chinchillas are absolutely, positively active and lively. They're going to need room to roam and to play as well.
You should be thinking ahead to where would be a good place to establish home sweet home for your new friend. You know what they say in real estate: location. Location. Location.
So as the new Chinchilla Realtor on your block, you need to select an area where you can easily see him. In this way, you'll be able to enjoy his antics. The location you choose should also give you ample opportunity to interact with him as well.
One of the first things you need to understand is that chinchillas, by their very nature, are nervous animals. You can explain it biologically by saying that they have a high metabolism rate. And that's very true. They do.
But let's face it, if you were at the bottom of the food chain you'd be a little nervous all the time, too! I bet all the non-nervous ones, got well ...you know! Invited over for lunch -- as the entrée!
And it really doesn't matter that they've been bred for many years in captivity -- without the logical worry of predators -- they nevertheless still carry that innate fear.
Here's is just Chinchilla Interior Decorating Hint Number One. If they are exposed to the center of a room -- yes, even in their cage -- a chinchilla may naturally become stressed. This includes the one you have just brought home with you.
Why? Because their housing can be approached by any predator from all sides at any time. How in the world do you expect them to relax when they're exposed like that?
The perfect location for your young little friend's cage is up against a wall. Preferably shoved up against a corner. That's right! In this way Chilli has a wall on two sides of his house tht block out the possibility of a predator attack.
When choosing his quarters, keep in mind this four letter word: tall. He may be one of the largest in the rodent family, so you'll need to keep his house tall to allow him jumping room to clamor about and to do all those wonderful chinchilla activities these guys do so well and spontaneously if they were in the field.
And, yes, one more thing. Don't place the cage on the floor. You're already large enough already to him. You'd seem like a giant of a predator if you were to come at him with that height difference.
Place his home someplace where you two are on a little more even footing. Find a study table or something along those lines.
But there are still other very good reasons why the floor is not a desirable location for Chilli's cage. Raising the cage off the floor provides him with additional protection against drafts. He is immensely susceptible to getting sick if he is in a draft.
But more than that, by not placing his house on the floor, you won't be tempting any, other, larger pets you may have -- you know like that cat over there licking its chops or the dog behind her trying to get a friendly look at Chilli.
By placing his cage on a sturdy, secure table gives Chilli better odds against coming nose to nose, eye to eye with either of them. This is especially true if you have a cat. Yes, everything you've ever seen in the cartoons about the tenuous relationship between cats and rodents is true.
You may additionally want to consider placing his cage in a location where his roof is near the ceiling of your home. Imagine his reaction should he wake up from a nap and find a cat sitting on his ceiling. It would give the little guy quite a fright.
If you think I'm done with the dos and don'ts of Chinchilla Cage Feng Shui 101, you're absolutely wrong. I still have a few more up my sleeves. Before you moan at the seemingly endless rules and regulations I have, you need to look at your little guy's eyes again. Isn't he just precious. And now wouldn't you agree he's worth the effort? I thought so.
Remember, the general rule of thumb: Chinchillas don't tolerate heat well. So, please don’t place your friend's new home in front of a window. The glass only magnifies the heat of the sun. Before you truly understand what is going, he may be showing signs of heatstroke.
This also means that you really don't want to place his home up against a heat register either. You may believe you're doing little Chilli a favor, but you're really not.
The summer months present a potentially hazardous period for this cute little rodent. Temperatures rise to about 75 degrees and more. Choose his "summer home" carefully. Even if you do have an air conditioner - and many do -- be sure the setting doesn't drop below 75 degrees.
Many new chin owners ask me if they can keep the new guy's house in the kitchen. This, unfortunately, isn't a great idea. First, the natural fluctuating temperature created by cooking and baking (Yes! There are still homes that actually use the stove and oven!) would not bode well for his health.
But more than that, the toxic fumes from the heating of the metals and the Teflon-coated pots and pans as well as the toxins emitted by the variety of cleaners used in this room pose a real danger to his health.
And many other new chin owners then want to know about keeping Chilli in Junior's bedroom. Their son thinks it would be cool to share a room with a chinchilla. This may sound "cool" but he would discover the meaning of "nocturnal" real fast. I'm going to tell you right now, this is a bad - with a capital "B" -- idea to keep a chinchilla in anyone's bedroom. This is especially true with that of a child.
Chinchillas are by nature nocturnal animals. They wait until night falls to have the most fun. That's when they get dressed in their little tuxedos, bring out the walking canes and the top hats and have a great time. They go in search of the finest female chinchilla they can find dressed in a gorgeous silver cocktail gown and they dance the night away.
In other words, Junior would be hard pressed to get any sleep himself. Beyond that, Chilli's at a disadvantage because he's not getting the attention he deserves -- and craves -- from the entire family. Believe this or not, the more interaction he has with family members, the happier the furry guy will be. And this is especially true if you've only adopted one of the furry guys.
Now that you're gaining a better idea of where to place Chilli's house, it would be a great idea to talk about the structure itself.
If you've gone chinchilla house hunting at all, then you know that variety is the name of the game. And money -- apparently -- is no object for many new owners.
You may see the houses sold in what are called "flat packs." These are units that require some assembly. Before you go on to looking at your local pet store, give these structures a good look. These houses actually clasp together with relative ease. A floor tray is typically part of the house as well.
When deciding on the size of the house for your guy, err on the side of "big." Always, always choose the largest layout size you can possibly afford. Chilli will love you for it. This gives him the maximum floor space possible for play and all his other routines.
Another aspect of his housing you'll want to consider is height. He loves to climb (remember, he's a native of the Andes mountains!) Climbing, in fact, is second nature to him. Chilli's new home should be a minimum of 2 feet by 2 feet.
Personally, I prefer the flat pack housing over an indoor aviary type, which is the other popular choice. It tends to be sturdier and stands up the ... well ... abuse that your little friend may inflict on it.
If you recall, one of the aspects you wanted to look for when choosing a healthy chinchilla was his teeth -- particularly his incisors. It's these teeth that allow him to chew right through plastic. And that includes the plastic protective covering of cage bars.
It's bad enough that he's destroyed the very thing that is meant to protect him. But the chinchilla usually has the bad habit of ingesting these plastic remnants as well (Talk about a case of indigestion!)
The poor little guy is already a prime candidate for several digestive problems. But this habit of his may potentially cost him his life. Just keep that in mind when choosing housing.
Before you decide on an aviary, take a close look at the size of its door. The door itself needs to be large enough for you to get your hand through it and lift Chilli out of it. Not every aviary comes equipped with a door like that.
Now take a good look at the floor of this structure as well. Is it plastic? If it is, how is it attached? Will it be out of the reach of your little guy's teeth?
Ideally, you'll want the new housing conditions to include solid flooring. Yes, I do realize that a mesh floor allows dirt, clutter and other debris to drop through so it's out of the reach of the little guy. But even with this, it can place him at risk of injury.
The spacing of the mesh strands themselves should really be of concern to you as well. Young chinchillas, particularly can find the mesh a hazard, no matter how close the mesh is. Their little claws could get injured if the tiny paws slip through the mesh.
But more than this, just sitting on a mesh floor can cause the chinchilla to experience hair loss as well as sores on his feet. Your friend won't experience this normally if his house were equipped with solid flooring.
The trade off, though, (and you knew there'd be one!) is that it will take you longer to clean the solid flooring.
Chinchilla retreats? How refreshing: "spiritual" chinchillas. Close, but not quite. Actually it's hard to tell just how spiritual a chinchilla is. Despite this, a chinchilla retreat is still a very special section of his housing. And I'm guessing that if you're not a chinchilla (or played one on TV) you may not feel the grateful appreciation for it that your chinchilla does.
But, for his sake, try to work up some type of enthusiasm for it, as I explain just how important it is to him. Thanks!
Retreats are easy accessing nesting boxes that a chin can slip in and out of when he feels threatened by a predator. You'll want to provide your little guy with plenty of these as he be-bops along his tunnels.
These retreats don't need to be luxurious getaways with hot spas. No, your little friend will be quite grateful for some type of shelf that allows him to rest and nest off the ground.
This retreat is needed in addition to his primary nest box. The size is pretty critical here, too. And as a matter of fact, so is the whole tunnel system. Let's take a step back for a moment and we'll review why.
This is one of those habits that make no sense to us upon a quick glance. But once we review the chinchilla's lifestyle for the last several hundred years upon the Andes mountains, it makes perfect sense.
If you recall, chinchillas in the wild burrow along the mountain passes in tunnels. They don't stray far from the group and they have plenty of options in this maze. These options include small retreats, just like we've been describing. In the wild, it provided the chinchilla with the perfect exit strategy should a predator surprise him.
Old habits, as you're learning, die hard! Chinchillas still worry about those predators, even though there is not need to. Retreats, nest boxes, tunnels. It's all part of an elaborate labyrinth devised by these reclusive animals to keep the bad guys away.
Your chin will be so happy (and feel much safer) if you include all of these in his new home system.
Let's start by examining the nest box. Just how big should it be? Typically, your chinchilla will feel safe ... secure ... and snuggly when you provide him a nest box about 20 inches long, 10 inches wide and another 10 inches in height. Yes, this box really does have roof on it, so you'll need to create a hole as a quick entrance. It needs to be big enough that he can duck in with ease (and have peace of mind that he's safe from predators).
But it needs also be small enough so that it limits the amount of light getting in his "chinchilla cave." This, after all, is where he is going to nap. If you make the entrance hole about six inches in diameter, that should do it.
You also want to make sure that this retreat should be heavy. Oh, you may be tempted to go a lighter route like one person I know. (All right! It was I! I confess as I raise my hand sheepishly.)
I thought it would be a lot cheaper just to substitute a lightweight plastic piece of drain pipe. What could it hurt? I asked myself. Well, Chilli showed me -- vividly. He started chewing on it and evidently couldn't stop himself. Oh, yeah, it eventually became a clay pipe, like everyone had told me to get!
Who doesn't like choosing floor coverings? I always get excited when I can buy new carpeting or new linoleum for the kitchen. Alas, I was a tad disappointed to discover that this isn't what was meant in the chinchilla world when they talked about floor coverings.
No, it's really not like visiting the local home improvement store and choosing ceramic tile for the bathroom. Darn.
When a chinchilla parent talks of floor coverings, you can bet he's talking about the shavings the little guys use a bedding material. (Go figure!) And here, you'll discover the most commonly used are coarse wood shavings.
It's important when you go to purchase these that you get only those sold specifically with pet bedding in mind. You can be fairly confident that these aren't made with any toxic wood preservatives, like some shavings are. Many people mistakenly consider cedar wood for this purpose sleeping on his bedding. But cedar shavings contain potentially dangerous toxins. You can cross those off your shopping list.
I'm sure your first thought about toxins and bedding involve the possibility that Chilli may chew on his bedding. But this doesn't necessarily need to be the case. He doesn't need to chew and ingest this material for it to bother him. Simply sleeping on his bedding (depending on the kind), he may develop either dermatitis or respiratory problems -- or both.
Be sure you provide the little guy with a relatively thick layer of shavings -- and inch really isn't too much. In this way, he can maintain a good grip. When you go to clean this flooring, you may want to use a tool that is similar to a kitty litter scooper to make it easier to clean the base of Chilli's house.
If you're able to remove the droppings and uneaten food on a daily basis, you reduce need to clean the entire floor with a great frequency.
Ah! Look at this chinchilla couch ... and this cute rocking chair for him ...
Wrong! A chinchilla's wants are really quite simple. Supplying your chinchilla with what he needs to make his house his home is actually pretty easy.
How easy? You ask. Let's start with the basics. Climbing branches. It really doesn't get much more fundamental than this. Branches help little Chin to get full use of the height of his cage. He'll use these to climb on to get to and from to his resting shelf with ease.
There is one catch here, though. The choice of branches is fairly important. These branches should be taken from trees that are not poisonous. Additionally, these branches should never have been treated with any type of chemical sprays. Because you know by now that the branches will be more than just a vehicle for climbing. They'll also be used to gnaw on as well. After all we are talking about chinchillas.
You can choose some branches, especially those of the apple and sycamore trees with a fair amount of confidence that they aren't poisonous. But you certainly want to stay clear of cherry and yew trees. These are toxic to the chinchilla for the most part.
Choose thick branches when you're outside looking for this climbing equipment. Remember they have to support Chilli's weight. And you'll want then to be relatively straight. This latter recommendation is as much for your ease as it is for his.
The straighter the branch, the easier it'll be for you to arrange it in its proper place. Just make sure you have it placed well enough that it doesn't get dislodged.
Having said this, though, I'd advise you not to wire them in place. Little Chilli may get his foot trapped. A better method would be to attach them with a clamp or even some kind of screw-type fixture.
Once you have them in place, occasionally examine them. What you're looking for basically for the extent of chewing or gnawing on them. You need to be prepared to replace them before they collapse. After all of these branches fall with little Chilli on them, he could be seriously injured.
Furnishings, to your typical chinchilla also means the necessities of life -- like containers for food and water. One of the first things you'll learn in Feng Shui for Chinchillas is that you should always keep Chilli's dry food separate from his fresh foods. Both types should be kept in a heavy earthen ware bowl, similar to what pet owners buy for dogs and cats.
Don't even think about placing plastic containers in the condo. Well, maybe you should think about the potential consequences of this. Your chin will have them chewed before you can say "Tupperware."
The heavy bowls are a great choice because first and foremost they are extremely difficult for Chilli to chew. Another great aspect of these bowls is that they are also far less likely to get tipped over. Spilled water and food are not just a nuisance. When the bowl gets tipped he is then out of a potential food source. And this is never good.
Another option you may want to explore for Chilli is a stainless steel container hooked on the side of his condo. These make a good choice because they can't get topped and Chilli won't be able to gnaw it down to bowl dust. You don't really want to try to the free-standing stainless steel bowls. These are far too easy for a chin to tip over.
Another method of Chilli obtaining water is a bottle with a stainless steel spout. The spout, additionally, has a ball in the tip that attaches to the outside of the cage.
Your chinchilla, then, can still drink without difficulty as long as you're positioned the pout roughly at the same height -- or a little above -- his mouth. Whatever you do, don't place the spout near the floor of the chinchilla condo.
I'm betting your own home isn't outfitted with a "hay rack." So I can see just how easy it is to overlook this for Chilli.
But a chinchilla condo without a hay rack would be pretty empty. Indeed.
And as you can probably tell just by its utilitarian name, it really does hold his hay. And the rack is probably the best option for Chilli's house. Some owners prefer to us a wire hay rack. I tend to stay away from these. They can be dangerous due to their open weave design.
It's not a good idea, either, like some chinchilla owners do, to scatter the hay across the floor of the condo. It can easily get combined with his bedding. Still other owners prefer to use a heavy weight bowl for hay. If you do this, you may also want to cut the hay into smaller pieces so Chilli doesn't dray it out of the bowl and around the entire cage. This last option, by the way, also allows you to separate any unwanted plants from the hay, like thistles.
Pretty quiet for one thing. Don't overlook furnishing your friend's house with one of these. It really is true that an exercise wheel provides chin with an excellent mode of transportation.
It allows him to cover long distances (from a chinchilla perspective at least!) by merely paddling around in it. The added bonus is that this simulates the activity that his ancestor in the wild did.
When you buy Chilli's exercise wheel, it must be totally enclosed. There should be no gaps between the rungs that may allow Chilli's foot to slip through.
You'll also want to make sure that the wheel fits snugly on the one side of the cage. Again, this helps to avoid the risk of any injury. The most vulnerable body part in this situation is his tail. It might because trapped. If this should occur, it may not only get injured, but it may even get broken.
Remember those sharp incisor teeth of Chilli's we've discussed. Yep, those are the ones. The teethe uses to gnaw branches, bowls and anything else he can. If you've been bitten by them, how could you possibly forget them (Silly me!).
These four front teeth, unlike yours or mine, continue to grow throughout the lifetime of your chinchilla (Now, you know where the saying "long in the tooth" originated!). These may not sound pleasant to use; it is actually quite beneficial to your chinchilla. If these incisors didn't continue to grow, Chilli would not be able to eat as he does. (And look at him eating right now. Isn't he the cutest thing?)
When a chinchilla, like Chilli, is confined to a cage though, he may not have the opportunities to utilize his teeth the fullest extent as he would in the wild. The incisors then may become overgrown. If this were so, then it may hinder his eating habits.
To help insure this doesn't occur, have several gnawing blocks available for Chilli. Don't worry about teaching him what they're for; he'll instinctively know. Just about every pet store has them. And most pet stores, in fact, have a fairly good assortment of them as well.
Choose though only those made of wood. This may seem like it too is a no brainer, but there are plenty of choices. And far too many of them are non-wood. Some of the gnawing blocks are actually made with some types of nutrients.
Be sure, above all, not to purchase these. These nutrient-packed varieties are really created for canines. The nutrients in them may cause your chinchilla severe digestive problems.
Whew! I think we've covered every essential item your chinchilla needs in his new condo to live the good life! I can see him now, kicked back ... his feet up on his little gnawing block ... a miniature remote control in hand ... enjoying a program on The Animal Planet Network.
Of course, you know there are still some serious issues to cover before you can count yourself a responsible chinchilla parent. And one of these is the diet your new little friend needs to ensure good health!
And that just happens to be the topic of the next chapter. Come on. Let's learn about this before you actually adopt the little guy. This way you'll be able to have all his favorite foods on hand for his "welcome to the family" party.