Chinchilla Behavior and Temperament [Here’s What to Expect]


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When you sit down and look at your options for a new family pet, you may not be the typical dog or cat person and may be leaning towards getting a rodent.

Narrowing down the scope even further, maybe you have decided not to be the typical hamster, bunny or guinea pig fanatic and you want to join the real exclusive club of the “cool pet owners”.

Kidding of course.

All the pets we have mentioned are great.

However, chinchillas are in an entirely different class and make for some amazing family pets.

Don’t get too ahead of yourself too quickly.

Understanding a chinchilla’s behavior is crucial.

Especially before adopting a chinchilla.

However, if you recently adopted a chinchilla and you’re in your initial phase of learning the ins and outs and the recommended and not recommended practices, you have nothing to worry about.

It’s a walk in the park and this post is designed specifically to cover everything you need to know about your chinchilla and how your chinchilla is likely to behave.

Trust me.

If there is one post on my blog you absolutely must read, this is one of them.

Hang with me for 5 minutes and I’ll have you as close to an expert on chinchilla behavior as humanly possible.

Here is what you need to know

Understanding a Chinchillas Behavior

Now that I have you all pumped up and ready to learn, it’s time to dive straight into how a chinchilla is likely to behave.

The first and most important thing to understand about chinchillas is where they originate from and why they have some of the unique personality traits that they possess.

Chinchillas originate from the Andes Mountains but also have lived in geographical areas such as Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina.

Chinchillas are not a “hunter” in any form.

In fact, chinchillas are only used to be the “hunted”.

This makes it easy to understand when you first get them home and they are very skittish, somewhat frightened and why they take time to adapt to their environment in the early days.

You would be the same way if you were accustomed to constantly running for your life from predators,’ animals and even human hunters at one point in time.

Keep in mind, your chinchilla clearly wasn’t a part of this directly, but it is how chinchillas are genetically programmed to behave.

A Chinchilla’s Temperature Must Be Monitored

Timid at first but loving and affectionate after the bond has developed.

The geographical location where chinchillas are used to roaming is also what causes some confusion about certain best practices and why chinchilla’s needed certain temps and habitats to survive.

This is critical for chinchillas.

Chinchillas must be kept at ideal temperatures in your home.

Use items such as chilling pads or even a dehumidifier to help control humidity and temperatures for your chinchilla.

I specifically use these chiller pads for my chinchilla’s cage (link to Amazon)

In addition, I use this dehumidifier (Link to Amazon) in my basement near my chinchilla cage to help control the climate even more.

Chinchillas also can’t live outside (Link to My Blog Post About Chinchilla’s Not Being Safe Living Outside)

Although chinchillas can live outside in the geographical locations we discussed previously, they can’t likely live outside where you live.

The Andes and the other countries are known for mild temperatures with very limited rain.

This is a big deal because chinchillas cannot get wet under any circumstances.

This is because of their very dense fur and the chances are that wet fur can lead to your chinchilla becoming very ill.

Now that we are well aware of the origin of chinchilla’s, it’s important we discuss the specific behaviors that directly impact how great of a family pet they can potentially make.

Additionally, we need to cover the behaviors that will directly impact you the most over the course of your chinchilla ownership.

This leads us directly into one of the most important topics.

Chewing and biting.

Chewing and Biting

You can’t win every battle.

The great news is that chinchilla’s do not bite.

It’s not that chinchillas never will or never would bite but on the grand scale, chinchillas are not aggressive towards humans or owners unless mishandled much like many pets will display if scared or in pain.

Here are a few examples of when a chinchilla could potentially bite you but still very rare that this would occur.

  • Placing Your Hands in Their Hiding Box Attempting to Grab Them
  • Attempting to Hold or Cuddle Too Often in The First Weeks After Adoption
  • Improperly Picking Up A Chinchilla
  • Cornering a Scared Chinchilla
  • Non-Bonded Chinchillas Sharing a Cage Together

Keep my original statement in mind when looking at this list.

I have personally accidentally done a few of these things and my chinchilla has never attempted to bite me.

However, I have seen enough forum and Facebook group posts over my time scrolling around that I do know that these actions may provoke a nibble from time to time.

If you can effectively avoid doing these things as often as possible, you likely will never have an issue with your chinchilla biting or showing aggression, and you have 15-20 years of happiness that awaits you.

As far as chewing, I wish I could say the same, but I can’t.

Chinchillas are 100% heavy-duty chewers.

Chinchillas like to chew on just about anything they can find or get their teeth around.

In fact, promoting healthy chewing with the correct safe items is advised due to their teeth that never stop growing throughout their lives.

Not having the ability to file and grind their teeth can cause health problems down the road if it goes ignored or unnoticed.

Don’t Allow Your Chinchilla Around Loose Wires

This is the one spot where you need to be careful.

You need to make sure that your chinchilla is never exposed to exposed wires. Again, chinchillas will chew on nearly anything and this includes wires.

Additionally, chinchillas need to be kept in one chinchilla proofed room where the wires are protected.

A chinchilla should never have the ability to free roam the house (Link to My Blog Post About the Dangers of a Chinchilla Free-Roaming the House)

Unfortunately, when a chinchilla is outside of their cage, you also need to ensure that they have supervision.

Chinchillas can fit and squeeze into tough places where it may be difficult to locate them if you aren’t paying attention.

My chinchilla loves to burrow in the couch when I’m not paying attention.

Chinchillas’ are not an animal that should be left outside of the cage without supervision due to these dangers.

Although Chinchillas Are Easy to Care For, Always Be Cautious

While chinchillas are extremely self-sufficient and easy to care for, they do have small requirements.

I often get asked, if I would feel safe leaving my chinchilla alone for the weekend.

This again is completely up to you but I’m not a big fan of it.

As long as your chinchilla has adequate food and water inside of their cage, it likely would be okay.

At the same time, the chances that an air conditioner unit takes a crap on you and could cause overheating is a chance I’m personally not willing to take.

Not to mention, when you return from your trip, your chinchilla may be a little upset for the skipped days of playtime.

If you need to leave for the weekend, ensure someone stops by that understands and is comfortable with your chinchilla.

This is a much better and safer approach to take if you need to leave for a weekend.

Now it’s time to get into the fun stuff and what everyone looks forward too when they embark on the journey to adopt a chinchilla.

The love, bond, and cuddling that may follow if you play your cards correctly.

Affection, Love and The Bond That Can Be Formed

Anytime you are discussing a chinchilla’s behaviors, it’s imperative to discuss the loving traits that chins possess.

Let’s make one thing 100% clear. Chinchillas are very affectionate animals.

Once you have established a bond and your chinchilla has warmed up to you, they will begin showing love.

My chinchilla will greet me front and center at her cage bars daily when I enter the basement. It wasn’t like this in the beginning.

This took some time of warming up to me, being handled and took time for her to slowly recognize me as the owner and someone she could feel safe with.

The important thing to remember is that it does happen.

The beginning may feel like an eternity when your chinchilla is shyer and not quite as happy to see you.

However, soon, your chinchilla will enjoy being pet, scratched and be willing to sit in your lap.

If you are curious about the cuddling potential of a chinchilla, you’re in luck because that’s what we are covering next.

Stick around for a few more minutes to find out.

Cuddling and Handling a Chinchilla

This is when some chinchillas’ owners can become frustrated and impatient in the early stages. Chinchilla’s are not 100% cuddly animals on the grand scale.

Some chinchillas grow into becoming cuddly rodents and some do not.

A lot of this has to do with how your chinchilla was socialized from a young age.

Often, I read that chinchillas adopted from pet stores often have a more difficult time adjusting to being handled as opposed to chinchillas that came from a reputable breeder who socialized them since birth.

Don’t get me wrong here.

This is by no means a guarantee that you are out of luck. It all falls into your hands and how you approach the situation.

Don’t force the issue or force your chinchilla to cuddle or be handled if they don’t prefer to be.

This is a sure-fire way to do nothing more than scare your chinchilla and weaken the bond.

Respect your chinchilla space and allow them time to adjust to your smell, touch and physical appearance.

Eventually, your chinchilla will be okay with you handling them and I’ve been through the process myself and dealt with the frustration.

It took time and I had to do the research to learn certain techniques about handling chinchillas to help strengthen the bond and to help my chinchilla feel safe.

This all begins with the proper technique when handling your chinchilla.

You see, some chinchillas don’t like being held.

At least not in the beginning. Some of this can be fixed by purely picking your chinchilla up correctly.

If you haven’t read my post about how to pick a chinchilla correctly by the base of the tail, you can see that here.

This is a great start and an excellent way to make sure your chinchilla feels comfortable with your handling and feels safe while in your arms.

Now it’s time to touch on the difference between the ladies and the men when it comes to common chinchilla behaviors.

The Difference Between Male and Female Chinchillas

A lot of debate circles around this topic from current and prospective chinchilla owners.

In all reality, there isn’t much of a difference between male and female chinchillas and how they behave.

In fact, everything we have discussed thus far into this post would remain the same with male and females.

One of the biggest differences is clearly the ability for the female chinchilla to reproduce (with the male chinchilla’s help of course).

Additionally, female chinchillas have been known to spray urine from time to time when they feel threatened or scared.

Female chinchillas will also show an increased amount of energy when they are in heat which is clearly not a chinchilla behavior that would happen with a male chinchilla.

Outside of these few behaviors that a female chinchilla may display, your chins will likely be one and the same or close to it.

Both male and female chinchillas are both capable of showing love, being affectionate and loving you in the same fashion.

It just takes a little time and bonding for everything to come to fruition.

Does Pregnancy Impact A Chinchillas Behavior?

Pregnancy does impact the female chinchilla’s behavior slightly as we mentioned previously.

A female chinchilla in the heat is going to be more energetic.

Additionally, female and male chinchillas when attempting to mate may enjoy chasing each other around more than usual.

Outside of this, no a female chinchilla won’t act much differently whether she is pregnant or not.

How Social Can You Expect A Chinchilla to Be?

Chinchillas are extremely social animals and you will soon learn this while owning and raising your own chinchilla.

Chinchilla’s crave attention from you and other chinchillas when possible.

Chinchillas are even known to get restless and bored when they are lacking interaction or playtime.

I guess you could say this is a great argument towards the fact that chinchillas really do get lonely.

Chinchillas in the wild are used to running in groups of other chins and when you have built a bond with a chinchilla, they love the time out of the cage that you two spend together.

They look forward to it and if allowing your chinchilla out for playtime is something you can’t accommodate, it’s likely that you shouldn’t be adopting a chinchilla in the first place.

Chinchilla’s will even be friendly with family, friends and younger children.

My chinchilla has never been mean (Link to My Blog about If Chinchillas Are Mean) to my 2-year-old son, my wife or any of my other family or friends that want to interact with her and get her out of her cage.

Chinchillas are just meant to be a loving, affectionate and fantastic pet.

Case closed and no arguments about it.

If chinchillas are so friendly with us, how do they act with other chinchillas?

I’m glad you asked because that’s what I intend on touching on next.

What About 2 Chinchillas Living Together?

This can become a lot of fun if you do it correctly.

First and most importantly, it’s imperative to know that chinchillas love being around one another if it’s done correctly and the bonding is performed slowly.

Again, chinchillas are extremely social creatures and love interaction.

Bonding two chinchillas is a discussion for a separate post, but the point is simple.

2 chinchillas can absolutely live in harmony and share a cage together if you take it slow and perform the bonding process.

In fact, most chinchilla owners venture out to get a second chinchilla.

My biggest recommendation if you plan to do this is to ensure you have a proper-sized chinchilla cage to accommodate for chinchillas.

Something such as the Critter Nation 2 cage (Link to Amazon) would be your best bet.

I have a full review dedicated to this cage that you can read here and it’s the current cage I use for my own chinchilla.

I’m not far from doing so myself but have really devoted most of my time to learning everything possible about 1 chinchilla first so I can share with all the readers.

I do know for a fact that chinchillas do great in pairs.

It’s coming soon though so be prepared.

The Bad Behaviors A Chinchilla May Display

Now we get into some of the less desirable traits you may experience as a chinchilla owner.

Breathe easy because it’s not a long list.

However, chinchillas do have a few traits about them that can be frustrating at times.

We have already touched on some of them.

It’s always imperative to only use 1 room of your home and ensure the room is safe.

This is because no matter how much love your chinchilla has for you, they are naturally prone to run away and find a nice dark hiding spot.

Additionally, chinchillas can get irritated with a lack of social interaction which is why I pointed out that you should not adopt a chinchilla unless you are positive you can interact and spend time with them.

Outside of this, the biggest concern is chewing.

Chinchillas will always be a chewing animal and love to chew about anything.

I have owned my chinchilla for quite some time and I honestly can’t think of any other behaviors that are frustrating or non-desirable.

For the most part, chinchillas are extremely unique and awesome pets to own and I recommend chinchillas as a family pet 100%.

Natural Abilities and What Chinchillas Prefer to Do

Part of owning a chinchilla means that you take the time to allow your chinchilla to display their natural abilities and act as chinchillas should.

This includes ensuring you have a large enough cage for your chinchilla to jump around inside.

This includes making sure a cage is vertically large enough with plenty of shelves.

Chinchillas can jump and they can jump well (Link to My Blog about Chinchilla’s Jumping Abilities).

Additionally, when you have your chinchilla out for playtime, you need to have an understanding that chinchillas are also master climbers.

This is another big reason to chin-proof your room where you want to interact and have playtime with your chinchilla.

Chinchillas can and will climb as much as possible.

Make sure you encourage this. In a safe manner of course and make sure that your chinchilla cage encourages this behavior as well.

Doing so will only lead to a healthy and happy chinchilla that’s getting adequate movement and exercise daily.

Sleeping Behaviors and What to Expect When the Sun Goes Down

Surprisingly enough, this is a hot topic when it comes to owning or adopting a chinchilla.

Potentially new chinchilla owners want to know when these furballs like to go to sleep.

Well, chinchillas are considered crepuscular which means that they are most energetic and active two times per day.

Dusk and dawn.

Outside of these times, you can expect your chinchilla to sleep a substantial amount of the day.

If you want to know more of those specifics, you can read my post about how many hours a day chinchilla sleep here.

Now, I can’t speak for all chinchilla owners but what I love about my chinchilla is the fact that she is willing to play and interact nearly any time of the day.

Ideally, I would stick to her prime times such as early evening or early morning, but life doesn’t always work like this.

If I enter the room, she’s up and ready to interact.

Additionally, for the most part, your chinchilla will sleep however they choose, and this varies based on your specific chinchilla.

My chinchillas like to sleep in her hiding box or every now and then, you will catch her sleeping in her hammock.

I have also noticed that at night is when my chinchilla is most active even past sunset.

I typically dim the lights in the basements and she tends to enjoy it with a little less of the bright lights and begins chewing on her various hanging items in her cage and running around more freely.

Don’t turn off your lights completely, however.

I have a post about how chinchillas can see in the dark to some extent much like humans but it’s always better to leave some light on to allow them to navigate their cage a bit more safely.

You also don’t need to be present during these night time fun times with your chinchilla.

If your chinchilla is in their cage and supplied with adequate food and water, they don’t need much supervision.

For the most part, they are going to act a bit crazy and hop around but not much else takes place.

If you need reassurance on this topic, feel free to stop by post about what chinchillas do at night that you can see here.

It breaks down the question and topic in more depth and perhaps will relieve a tad bit of anxiety for you.

Your chinchilla may not even sleep in these manners discussed previously.

It varies so greatly that I needed a dedicated post to discuss in-depth how chinchillas sleep that you can see here.

Some Noises You Can Expect from Your Chinchilla

The noises you can expect from your chinchilla are also going to vary greatly from chinchilla to chinchilla in different circumstances.

For instance, my 1-year old female likes to bark and also let out some squeaks from time to time.

My chinchilla primarily barks if I’m in the room and working and not letting her out for playtime.

It’s her way of letting me know “hey, I’m waiting to come out and play”.

Additionally, she will often make a purr or squeak type noise when I scratch her ears or under her chin.

This I have decided is the sound she makes when she’s happy and relaxed.

However, as I said, chinchillas can make noises for different reasons.

You will slowly learn about what makes your chinchilla happy or displeased and likely they will have a noise that goes hand in hand with this situation.

Chinchillas are just known to act a bit crazy, make sounds and even display physical attributes such as shaking at times depending on their environment.

It’s part of what makes owning a chinchilla so much fun.

I also have a full post about chinchilla barking and other noises that you can see here if you are wanting further information on this specific topic.

It does a good job breaking down several more noises that you can expect from your chinchilla.

How to Adjust and Provide Adequate Care for Your Chinchilla

Alright, loyal readers. Here’s where the rubber hits the road. You need to understand one thing that is very important.

Here it is.

Whoever says chinchillas are hard to take care of, are 100% incorrect.

I have extreme OCD and an extremely demanding job.

I do have the luxury of working from home but did not have the time or patience for an animal that would require a ton of work.

In fact, I adopted my chinchilla originally because my son and my 7-year-old yellow lab are legitimately best friends.

I know my dogs getting up there in age and I have owned Labradors in the past.

I know how the story ends and I wanted my son to begin making a new friend with a pet that’s easy to care for.

Additionally, I wanted a pet he could interact with and learn responsibility.

When you factor in how clean I prefer my house to be and how limited my schedule is, you can trust me that chinchillas are not difficult to manage.

Do they require some love and affection?

Yes, what animals don’t require love and affection?

Do you need to clean their cage once a week or twice? Yes, do you also have to change a cat’s litter box?

I think you see my point.

Here is How Your Prepare to Own a Chinchilla in 5 Easy Steps

I’m going to make this as easy as possible and wrap up this section of this post.

Here’s how to prepare for your chinchilla in the plainest English and most simple to understand fashion.

Step 1- Save Back 300.00. This covers an adequate cage and your initial cost.

Step 2- Chin Proof 1 Room. This can be a bathroom if need be. Protect and cover the wires.

Step 3- Plan to spend 30-60 minutes interacting with your chinchilla everyday

Step 4- Clean your chinchilla cage 1-2 times per week (invest in fleece liners to make this easier)

Step 5- Keep Your Chinchilla Fed with the correct pellets, hay, and freshwater.

Seriously people. That’s it. Is there more to it?

Of course, I could write on this topic all day but in the grand scheme of things, this is the 5 steps that will provide you 15-20 years of a bond with a great pet assuming you don’t run into any illnesses or other unfortunate circumstances.

Now, let’s move on and wrap up a few final points so I can send you on your way before you run out of coffee and get irritated with me.

Chinchillas Are Extremely Unique and Smart Animals

This is often overlooked, and I personally find it sad that it is.

It’s overlooked because I don’t think as many believe in adopting a chinchilla as I would like to see.

However, chinchillas are smart animals.

So smart that they recognize timing, habits, and patterns.

They understand when it’s time to come play.

My chinchilla even is learning potty training at the moment (for pee, not poop, unfortunately).

Additionally, my chinchilla knows exactly the pocket I often keep a treat or two on standby and even responds to name-calling.

No, this didn’t happen right away, but it did happen with enough time and interacting.

This is another reason that chinchillas make great pets and one of the most significant reasons why I recommend adopting a chinchilla as soon as possible.

Being Prepared and Proofing Your Home in Advance

We already touched on these 2 paragraphs above.

However, here is 1 quick recap on what you need to do to prepare for a chinchillas behavior.

Let’s assume you are adopting a chinchilla tomorrow.

Start today by ordering wire protectors for the room where you intend on allowing your chinchilla to play.

If need be, scroll back to up my link to my blog post about chinchillas chewing wires. The same wire protectors I purchased from Amazon will be included in that post.

Next, you need to order your chinchilla cage.

Clearly, it’s advised to find the best chinchilla cage possible with adequate size.

Go ahead and order this and get it to your home. If you need help, visit my post about the best chinchilla cages that you can see here.

It’s going to detail three cages I’ve personally ordered and tested out of my own pocket to make sure I provided in-depth reviews for all of you.

The cage I use currently is included in the post as well as the specifications and the link to Amazon if you still need to purchase one.

Outside of this, you need to trust your breeder with recommendations.

Ask your breeder about your chinchillas’ specific behaviors, social skills and how aggressive/friendly your chinchilla is.

I asked my breeder 100’s of questions and everything else I googled just like you are right now.

Outside of this, get the common-sense type items for chinchilla such as the food, bowls and water bottles.

This is really all you need to do to prepare. It’s going to be okay and gets easier each day.

Don’t Worry People. Chinchillas Are Not Hard to Care For

The last thing I wanted to emphasize one more time is to breathe easy.

Chinchillas for the 3rd time in this post, are not hard to care for. They are easy, loving and friendly pets.

They are also very cheap to own which is clearly a big benefit of owning a chinchilla as well.

Take a breath and get ready for a lot of fun and happy moments soon.

My chinchilla still finds ways to express her behavior and make me smile every day.

It’s truly a great pet to own.

Final Word, Chinchillas Make Great Pets If You Are Ready and Aware

Alright, loyal readers.

Most importantly, if you read to this point, I appreciate you greatly and hope you gained some insight into common chinchilla behaviors.

That was my main goal in this post.

Additionally, if you didn’t find the specifics you needed, be sure to use the links throughout the post to navigate specific topics even more in-depth.

Outside of this information, all I can do is reassure you that chinchillas are fantastic and 100% worth owning.

If you are the fence currently, get out there and get the adoption taken care of. Just make sure you report back and share your stories.

Speaking of that, do you feel I left out anything important to the readers about a chinchilla’s behaviors?

If so, be sure to share your comments and stories below.

If not, me and “chili” appreciate you and thanks for stopping by. 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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