Are Chinchillas Smart? [13 Examples Proving Chinchillas Intelligence]


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Some individuals on the verge of adopting a new pet are very particular about what they are looking for. Perhaps you already adopted a chinchilla, and now you have some questions that are keeping you up at night.

I was the same way when I first adopted my chinchilla. I had questions and a lot of them.

One of my questions was extremely simple. Are chinchillas smart? After interacting with my chinchilla and doing some additional research, here is what I can tell you on this topic.

So, are chinchillas smart? Yes, chinchillas are extremely smart. Chinchillas can learn to recognize their names, their owners and can also learn basic commands. Chinchillas also are responsive to desired items such as treats. Chinchillas can also be potty trained to urinate in a litter box. Chinchillas are very intelligent rodents and are capable of loving and social interaction.

For this post, I wanted to take some time to deliver you some examples of how smart chinchillas really are.

My chinchilla has a few unique traits about her that show off her intelligence.

Additionally, the way my chinchilla behaves can prove that chinchillas may be extremely underrated when it comes to their intelligence.

Additionally, this post should give you an inside look at how chinchillas behave and a chinchilla’s common temperament.

Let’s see if this post can deliver the answer you are looking for.

I want to also make my case and point that chinchillas are in fact, extremely smart and fantastic pets to own (link to my post discussing what makes chinchillas great pets)

Chinchillas Are Smart. Some Examples of My Chinchillas Intelligence

Instead of citing sources or trying to find a baseline for a chinchilla’s intelligence online, I figured there was a better way to do this.

I decided the better approach was to discuss what my 1-year old chinchilla does that proves my case that chinchillas are much smarter than people believe.

I know you may still be wondering, how smart are chinchillas? How smart can chinchillas possibly be?

Well, hang around for a moment and I will use this post to prove my chinchilla’s intelligence to you and let you be the judge and jury on this topic.

Some of you may think these tricks or traits are nothing too spectacular but any other chinchilla owners reading, I assure you, that you will respect these or find some humor in these examples.

I know I do so want to share them all with you guys. Let’s dive into the examples.

13 Examples of My Chinchillas Intelligence

#1- Dust Bath Tapping= Come or Come Here

Chinchillas do possess a trait that can be incredibly frustrating.

You must keep them in a safe room, and ideally, the doors need to be closed. Chinchillas like to hide and run away and find a way to get in trouble.

This post I have will detail how to avoid your chinchilla running away from you.

What I did to counter this behavior was immediately started training my female chinchilla that her dust bath (a breakdown of why chinchillas take dust baths) is something to enjoy and represents something that she wants.

My chinchilla loves her dust baths.

She gets excited and comes to the front of her cage for a time out to roll around in the dust bath.

I began tapping on the top of the dust bath before the actual bath would begin I would begin offering her a treat when she would come to me and the dust bath container.

I did this for a few months.

Now at the point where I can use the same tapping noise on the plastic dust bath to get her to come out of her hiding box or to come basically anywhere, I need her too.

I get it.

This isn’t the same thing as teaching a dog to come, but it’s darn close.

Chinchillas can learn this command if you have some patience and begin teaching them these traits and commands at a very young age.

I will make a YouTube video of this soon demonstrating to give you guys an idea and place it back into this post. It’s fun to watch or interact with a chinchilla in this manner.

#2-2 Day Old Timothy Hay = Hay Discarded onto the Floor

This can also be slightly annoying, but it’s also humorous to me.

Inside of her 2-level cage, she has her hiding box on the first level. Directly above her box is her hay-feeder.

Even if she has plenty of hay remaining, she only enjoys it for the first 36-48 hours.

After this, she removes all the hay from the hay-feeder and neatly shoves it all behind her hiding box where I can’t see it or where she thinks I can’t see it.

The annoying part, of course, is that plenty of the hay falls onto the floor around the cage, so I must vacuum it up every other day or so.

However, the fact that she knows that this forces me to place fresh hay in her feeder is a sign that she’s much smarter than I believe, and she will do what it takes to get her way.

Another fun way that chinchillas can show their intelligence.

#3-My Chinchilla Urinates in The Same Spot and Corner of the Cage, Every time.

I’m sure many chinchillas exhibit this behavior, but I think it goes to show her intelligence.

Chinchillas like to be clean.

They don’t want to pee near their food bowls. I feel like if chinchillas were not intelligent animals, this wouldn’t be a trait that she would show.

She pees in the exact same spot every time in her cage. I’m currently even working on potty-training my chinchilla (see how I’m going about the potty training process) in a small litter box to see if I can replace this behavior.

This isn’t fully developed yet, but I will be sure to keep all of you posted with the progress.

I feel as if this works, it’s just one more point to add to the tally proving that chinchillas are brilliant animals.

It’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

#4-My Chinchilla Runs Towards Her Cage Door Before Playtime and After Playtime

My chinchilla currently knows when her playtime is.

I know other animals such as dogs also have an internal clock for eating or even going outside, but I find this extremely impressive.

Each time 8 pm rolls around she’s got her front feet up high staring at me like she’s trying to say, let’s go and let’s move it along.

It’s time to play dad. She does the same exact same thing when she’s over playtime.

When she no longer wants to interact, after about an hour or so or after her dust bath, she moves back towards her cage, raises her front legs showing a sign that it’s time for me to go to sleep (a breakdown of chinchilla’s sleeping behaviors) and for you to leave me alone.

I think it’s not only hilarious but goes to show that chinchillas are surely is smarter than most people give them credit for.

#5-My Chinchilla Checks My Pockets Every Day for Treats

I keep a bag of raisins that my chinchilla absolutely loves in my pocket.

The bag is sealed and shouldn’t be emitting any odor.

However, she knows it’s in my pockets, and when she’s done climbing (quick breakdown I made explaining chinchilla’s climbing abilities), jumping or being crazy, she immediately runs towards my pocket and tries to climb all the way in.

This goes to show that chinchillas don’t have a short memory, surely recognize you (I explain in this post that chinchilla’s 100% recognize their owners) and understand patterns.

This never fails, and she does it each day.

She knows what she wants, and she’s going to let me know that it’s time to give her a raisin.

In my opinion, this goes to show that chinchillas are extremely smart, but maybe that’s me.

#6-My Chinchilla Inspects the Zip up Doors on Her Playpen During Playtime

I have covered this in another blog post before.

Keeping a safe area for your chinchilla in addition to the correct temperatures (must read to understand the ideal temperatures to keep your chinchilla safe) is critical.

With that in mind, I had to use a playpen for a while because our basement was not chinchilla proofed and it contained plenty of exposed cords and wires at one point in time.

The link a few words back will break down best practices to implement to ensure your chinchilla never has access to any wires or potentially dangerous cords that he or she may chew.

Well, she learned that playpen very well.

It has two zip-up areas for entry where you can enter and exit.

Hearing the zipper makes her run towards that door and just sit and wait as if her play area is about to expand.

Luckily, I have moved into our new home and now have a large play area where she can play freely.

However, if you are ever in a bind and don’t have a great chinchilla proofed area to allow your chinchilla time out of their cage, I highly recommend one of these playpens.

They make life easy, have plenty of space and give your chinchilla a safe spot to play.

I was honestly fairly pleased with the price I found for something that worked so efficiently.

Of course, Amazon saves the day as usual.

I used this Zip-Up-Pet Playpen (Link to Amazon).

It worked perfect and still does when I’m in a bind and need a safe spot for my chinchilla to come out of her cage and interact with me.

It confused me a bit because I have it created the ultimate play area with all her favorite toys and favorite items to play with (link to my post about what to give your chinchilla to play with).

Nonetheless, she acts as an inspector making sure it’s zipped tight, and when playtime is over, she’s ready and waiting and watching the zipper so she can enter easily back into her cage.

A smart trait she has if you ask me.

#7-My Chinchilla Responds to Her Name During Playtime or In Her Cage

My chinchilla has also begun responding to her name well.

Much like a dog does.

If she is playing with a toy or rolling in her dust bath and I say her name and tap on the floor, she responds and comes and jumps on my lap. Not all animals possess this ability.

For being in the rodent family, I think this remarkable that they have this level of intelligence.

#8- My Chinchilla Checks the Same Spot on Her Cage Shelves for Treats

My chinchilla’s cage is set up strategically to keep her active and jumping around.

It has several wooden shelves. She even has certain spots where she tends to poop (my summary of how often chinchilla’s poop) more often than others.

I know, I shouldn’t know this if I was being more diligent with cage cleanings (this is how often you need to be cleaning your chinchilla’s cage), but unfortunately, it’s easy to spot the large piles or dense areas of chinchilla poop.

What I do with hay cubes or other treats is place 1 on a few different shelves to keep her on her toes and active.

Well, when that treat has been exhausted, or she’s tired of a particular play toy (brief post on the absolute must-haves in your chinchilla’s cage), she runs to those spots to check what goodies I have placed in those locations.

In case you are newer to owning a chinchilla, cage accessories and the size of the cage are very important.

I place items on different levels to encourage movement and get her active and climbing around.

If you have too small of a cage, your chinchilla won’t thrive nearly as quickly in her new environment. I highly recommend using a cage such as the Critter Nation 2 (dual level).

It has multiple levels, can eventually house a second chinchilla if need be and encourages the best natural behaviors from your chinchilla.

It’s the cage I currently use and love it.

Remember as well, you could opt to use the single level Critter, Nation Cage, as well but I can nearly guarantee you will decide to upgrade soon if you go this path.

I was happy with the price Amazon offered this cage for and with Amazon Prime, the shipping delay clearly was no issue at all. Again, I recommend the Critter Nation 2 Cage (Link to Amazon).

Trust me, Your Chinchilla Will Thank You For This!

#9-My Chinchilla Recognizes Me, My Son and My Wife

My chinchilla currently understands who I am and is also a big fan of my wife.

She jumps all over us and remains active and social with us.

However, you can easily tell when my two-year-old son is around because she limits her playtime to about 30 minutes and is much more hesitant to come out and play.

Some would argue that this because of fear, but I strongly disagree.

I think she just knows that my son can be a pain and annoying towards her.

This makes her never reach the same level of excitement when he’s around.

The good news is that she does still come out and you never have to worry about her biting or anything like that.

I think she just knows what she wants and when she’s not looking for loud screams or rough handling, she is much slower to come out and start showing some love and cuddles.

Plain and simple.

#10-My Chinchilla Recognizes and Hides from My Shop Vacuum

I use a shop vacuum when I clean my chinchilla cage.

The rescue and breeder I adopted my chinchilla from recommended this when I first purchased her.

I appreciated the advice after spending a fair amount of money on my chinchilla in the first few days.

Now, she has got used to the sound of the shop vacuum, but she has a spot in her hiding box and pops her head out to watch.

It looks like a game of whack-a-mole. She does the exact same thing every single time.

This may not necessarily be the trait on this list that shows off intelligence the most but the fact that she knows what’s coming before the vacuum is even turned on goes to show me that she even knows what certain objects are and what to expect in the immediate future.

#11-My Chinchilla Nibbles Me Softly as well As My 2-Year-Old Son

This also may not be a huge trait to chalk up into the chinchillas being the smart category.

I do, however,  think it goes to show that chinchillas love you and are smart enough to be gentle with their owners and even my 2-year-old son.

My chinchilla has never once bitten me or my son. She will nibble but incredibly soft.

Compared to the rapid bite she will have with her wooden stick toys or even a treat bag during playtime goes to show that she is smart enough to distinguish what to bite hard and what not to bite hard.

I get that a lot of animals are capable of this trait, but I think it’s impressive and makes me that much more comfortable allowing friends and family to interact with her.

Trust me, my kid is wild with her, and she is still calm and collected.

I think it would be tough to startle her and have only witnessed her slip her fur once since owning her.

Again, this was my two-year-old sons’ fault, and the hair grew back very quickly.

Yes, people. Chinchillas do also shed so if you thought you were in the clear you’re not. They shed, but it’s incredibly light and not a big deal at all.

#12- My Chinchilla Has a Favorite Water Bottle. It’s the More Expensive Water Bottle Too

I’m not saying that my chinchilla thinks she’s a desperate housewife, but well, she’s particular about several things.

If I ever must leave for more than 24 hours, I put a backup chinchilla babysitter on standby and attach a second water bottle just in case.

Well, I’ve begun washing both water bottles at every cage cleaning and keeping them attached.

The cheap back up water bottle, she won’t touch. No matter what. It’s in a spot she doesn’t like or just isn’t feeling it from this water bottle.

Nonetheless, I find this humorous and chinchillas have a unique personality and will let it shine if you give them the opportunity to do so.

#13- My Chinchilla Searches for Privacy to Pee When Out for Playtime

I also find it funny to watch. If we are out for playtime and she does decide that it’s time to urinate, she doesn’t want to be watched and almost acts as if she is locating her own private bathroom.

She hates doing it in front of me, will avoid the pee spot until it’s cleaned up and always acts like she has the best bathroom manners on the planet.

Perhaps this is another trait many animals possess, but I think it’s clever and funny that she wants to do so in private.

What a well-mannered young lady.

A Final Recap, Are Chinchilla’s Smart? Yes! Don’t Underestimate Your Chinchillas Intelligence. They Are Smarter Than You Think

Listen. I get it. Perhaps chinchilla’s can’t do every trick a dog or different pet can do.

However, for being a small rodent, they are surely capable of doing way more than people give them credit for.

So let’s recap briefly, are chinchilla’s smart?

Absolutely!

I’m a firm believer that chinchillas are extremely intelligent and one of the most intelligent animals in the rodent family.

If you are on the fence about adopting a chinchilla, I highly recommend it.

They are pure joy, and I have no regrets since adopting my chinchilla.

Some basic skills and learning from blogs like this or chinchilla communities and you can be well on your way towards forming a bond with your chinchilla that’s unbreakable.

What’re your thoughts on how smart chinchillas are?

Do you believe chinchillas are smart?

Do you have any cool, intelligent behaviors that your chinchillas display that you would like to share with all the readers?

Be sure to drop a comment below. Thanks for reading, I appreciate you and see you next time.

Josh Martin

My Name is Josh and this is my 1 year old female chinchilla "Chili". We created Planet Chinchilla to share all the stories about owning a chinchilla that you need to know.

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