Chinchillas are rodents and rodents are not considered overly smart.
They are certainly not as intelligent as dogs, pigs, or dolphins, for example.
That should be obvious.
Their small heads can’t contain a brain nearly as large as the brains of larger animals.
But how do they compare to other rodents, or other smaller animals?
Keep reading to learn just how smart chinchillas actually are, through 13 endearing examples from my own chinchilla.
- 1 Are Chinchillas Smart?
- 2 13 Examples Of My Chinchilla’s Intelligence
- 2.1 #1: She Comes Running When I Tap Her Dust Bath
- 2.2 #2: She Won’t Eat Old Timothy Hay
- 2.3 #3: My Always Chinchilla Urinates In The Same Corner Of Her Cage
- 2.4 #4: She Runs Towards The Cage Door Before And After Playtime
- 2.5 #5: My Chinchilla Checks My Pockets Every Day For Treats
- 2.6 #6: She Inspects The Zip-Up Doors On Her Playpen During Playtime
- 2.7 #7: My Chinchilla Responds To Her Name
- 2.8 #8: She Checks The Same Spot On Her Cage Shelves For Treats
- 2.9 #9: My Chinchilla Recognizes Me, My Son And My Wife
- 2.10 #10: She Recognizes And Hides From My Shop Vacuum
- 2.11 #11: She Nibbles Me And My 4-Year-Old Son Softly
- 2.12 #12: My Chinchilla Has A Favorite Water Bottle (The More Expensive One)
- 2.13 #13: My Chinchilla Prefers To Pee In Private
- 3 Are Chinchillas Smarter Than Dogs And Other Animals?
- 4 Chinchilla Intelligence: Final Thoughts
Are Chinchillas Smart?
I have now been raising my chinchilla for the past 5 years and interacting with her on a daily basis and here is what I can tell you on this topic.
Chinchillas are extremely smart. They can learn to recognize their names, their owners, and can also learn basic commands.
Chinchillas also are responsive to desired items such as treats. They can be potty trained to urinate in a litter box. They are highly intelligent rodents and are capable of loving and social interaction.
Below, I provide some examples showing just how smart chinchillas really are.
For those of you who need a visual fix, you can check out my video on chinchillas’ intelligence directly below. 👇
Alright, now that you have that out of the way, let’s move into the meat and potatoes of this post.
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 5-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 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.
13 Examples Of My Chinchilla’s Intelligence
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.
#1: She Comes Running When I Tap Her Dust Bath
Chinchillas do possess a trait that can be incredibly frustrating. You must keep them in a safe room that is fully chinchilla proofed, 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 details how to avoid your chinchilla running away from you.
To counter this behavior, I immediately started training my female chinchilla that her dust bath 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 also offered her a treat when she came to me and the dust bath container.
I did this for a few months.
Now we are 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/nest box or to come basically anywhere I need her to.
I Know 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 to show you exactly what I’m talking about. When it’s ready, I’ll add it to this article. You’ll see, it’s fun to watch or interact with a chinchilla in this manner.
#2: She Won’t Eat Old Timothy Hay
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 to 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 have to 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 believed, and she will do what it takes to get her way.
Another fun way that chinchillas can show their intelligence.
Insider tip: Make sure to choose the best chinchilla hay for your chinchilla to remain healthy.
#3: My Always Chinchilla Urinates In The Same Corner Of Her Cage
I’m sure many chinchillas exhibit this behavior, but I think it goes to show her intelligence.
If chinchillas were not intelligent animals, she would not exhibit this type of behavior.
I’m currently even working on potty-training my chinchilla in a small litter box to see if I can improve further on this behavior.
This isn’t fully developed yet, but I will be sure to keep all of you posted with the progress. If it ends up working (update: it has worked and she is full potty trained!), it’s just one more example proving that chinchillas are brilliant animals.
#4: She Runs Towards The Cage Door Before And After Playtime
My chinchilla currently knows when her playtime is. I know other animals like 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. 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.
She raises her front legs to let me know that it’s time for her to go to sleep and for me to leave her alone.
I think it’s not only hilarious but goes to show that chinchillas are surely smarter than most people give them credit for.
#5: My Chinchilla Checks My Pockets Every Day For Treats
I keep a bag of raisins in my pocket. My chinchilla absolutely loves raisins. The bag is sealed and shouldn’t be emitting any odor.
However, she knows it’s in my pocket, and when she’s done climbing, jumping, or being crazy, she immediately runs toward 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, 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.
#6: She Inspects The Zip-Up Doors On Her Playpen During Playtime
I have covered this in another blog post. You can read about my recommendations for the best chinchilla playpens here.
Keeping a safe area for your chinchilla in addition to the correct temperatures 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.
I love the JesPet 61 inch play pen (the top recommendation in the post I linked to above on the best playpens). I have been using this playpen for 4 years and it’s a life-saver for sure.
It eliminates a lot of proofing work and allows you to play with your chinchilla in a much closer manner. If you have the budget for a small upgrade, look at purchasing this playpen first.
My chinchilla has learned this 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.
It worked perfectly 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.
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
My chinchilla has 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 a rodent, I think it is remarkable that they have this level of intelligence.
#8: She 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 more often than others.
I know, I shouldn’t actually be aware of this, if I were being more diligent with cage cleanings, but unfortunately, it’s easy to spot the large piles of chinchilla poop.
What I do with hay cubes or other treats is place one 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, 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 both I and my chinchilla love it.
#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 is always 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.
So she never shows 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.
#10: She 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 understands what certain objects are and what to expect in the immediate future.
#11: She Nibbles Me And My 4-Year-Old Son Softly
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 4-year-old son.
My chinchilla has never once bitten me or my son. She will nibble, but incredibly softly.
Compared to the rapid bite she gives her wooden stick toys or even a treat bag during playtime, this 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 then two-year-old son’s fault, and the hair grew back very quickly.
#12: My Chinchilla Has A Favorite Water Bottle (The More Expensive One)
I’m not saying that my chinchilla thinks she’s a desperate housewife, but she is particular about several things.
If I ever have to 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 keeping both water bottles in the cage and washing both at every cage cleaning.
But she won’t touch the cheap back-up water bottle. No matter what.
I don’t know if it’s in a spot she doesn’t like or just isn’t feeling it from this water bottle.
Whatever the reason, I find this humorous. Chinchillas have unique personalities and will let them shine if you give them the opportunity to do so.
#13: My Chinchilla Prefers To Pee In Private
I find this funny to watch. If we are out for playtime and she decides that it’s time to urinate, she doesn’t want to be watched. She starts looking for 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 her business in private.
What a well-mannered young lady.
Are Chinchillas Smarter Than Dogs And Other Animals?
Chinchillas are extremely smart, but I can’t say that a chinchilla is smarter than a dog.
A dog is capable of learning many things that a chinchilla can’t. But chinchillas are undoubtedly more intelligent than most people believe.
Chinchillas are also more trainable than most believe and very similar to a dog in this fashion.
Sure, they cannot learn commands such as sit or shake, but they can learn routines, their own names, and even basic potty training, like urinating in a litter pan.
Overall, dogs are smarter and more capable than chinchillas, but the chinchilla is probably one of the smartest rodents available as a domestic pet.
Chinchilla Intelligence: Final Thoughts
Listen. I get it. Perhaps chinchilla can’t do every trick a dog or different pet can do.
However, for being a small rodent, they are capable of way more than people give them credit for.
So let’s recap briefly: are chinchilla’s smart?
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 about 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.
Chili and I wish you the best of luck with your new chinchilla and we can’t wait to hear your stories about how smart your chinchilla is.
What are your thoughts on how smart chinchillas are?
Do you believe chinchillas are smart?
Do you have any cool, intelligent behaviors that your chinchilla displays that you would like to share with all the readers?
Be sure to share those thoughts, stories, and concerns by dropping a comment below.
As always, Chili and I appreciate you stopping by and reading today and we will see you again next time.