When you first embark on the journey on owning your first chinchilla, you may have several questions. Well, let’s be real. You probably have hundreds of questions. I know I did. I was on google nearly every minute, in the beginning, trying to learn as much as I possibly could about being an ethical chinchilla owner. Some of the questions I had, in the beginning, seem somewhat silly now, but I still like to take the time to break down the answers for all the new chinchilla owners reading. One of the questions I had, in the beginning, was merely on the topic of chinchilla handling and best practices. Do chinchillas like to be held? After raising and going through the process with my own chinchilla, here is what I can tell you on this topic.
So, do chinchillas like to be held? Chinchillas may enjoy being held if they were raised and conditioned to enjoy handling from a young age from the rescue or location you adopted them from. Other chinchillas will not be as open to being held and may prefer some distance or less frequent handling.
Yep, I get it. Most likely not the answer you were looking for, but unfortunately, that’s the cold hard truth of the matter. Some chinchillas will be perfectly content being held and will enjoy a good head scratch, and some may be a bit squirmier or have issues with being handled and loved on.
Especially in the beginning and warming up phase. I wanted to give you a few pointers about understanding chinchillas and if they will enjoy being held or not and give you a better idea at some best practices you can begin implementing immediately or after your upcoming chinchilla adoption.
If you hang with me for just a minute or two, I’m confident I can relieve some anxiety about becoming a chinchilla owner and get you well on your way towards understanding your chinchilla more thoroughly.
Let’s dive into the details.
Understanding Chinchilla Boundaries and Respecting Them
First and foremost, one of the biggest keys and tips I can give you is to respect your chinchilla and their wishes as far as handling is concerned. Chinchillas are known to be very friendly. Yes, they love you, and over time, they will begin to recognize you as the owner and the trusted caretaker.
However, chinchillas do go through a warm-up phase where they need to adjust to sounds, smells, and your presence. This isn’t the best time to determine if your chinchilla genuinely likes to be held or not. During this time your chinchilla isn’t going to want to do much of anything.
They may be scared or hiding in their wooden box. That’s okay and this only last 7-14 days for them to fully adjust to their new settings.
Break in Slowly but Surely to Gain Your Chinchillas Trust
Your chinchilla may need some further time to adjust to you when outside of the cage for playtime. It is essential that when you have your chinchilla out for playtime that it’s a chinchilla safe zone where your chinchilla can’t easily run away.
Remember, everything is new to your chinchilla at this point and it’s entirely possible that they would prefer to jump, dart or find a hiding place. You want to respect them during playtime as well.
Maybe offer a chinchilla safe treat and see if you can slowly condition your chinchilla to sit on your lap while enjoying the treat. Make sure not to just give your chinchilla treat without any behavior associated with being touched, held or cuddled.
You want to associate being handled by you as the best thing in the world! You want to put your chinchilla in the most relaxed state of mind as possible! This is how you start conditioning your chinchilla to love being held and understanding that you can be trusted.
Don’t Force the Issue, Love Takes Time
Another key tip is to make sure you don’t force this. Pretend you are drawing a circle around your chinchilla. The circle is the point where your chinchilla may get frightened by you getting to close to their personal space.
If your chinchilla continues to shy away or offers to push back, that’s okay. Allow them to play and sniff around and don’t force the handling. The less you force it, the more natural and the faster it will happen.
That was my experience at least.
As you begin to condition your chinchilla slowly, trust me they will start to become cuddlier and enjoy hopping all or over you. When you reach this point is when you can start finding out if your chinchilla truly enjoys being held or not. Here’s how to do it.
How to Pick Up Your Chinchilla
I don’t see as many individuals who are looking for information about holding a chinchilla. More individuals I speak to are more afraid of the actual motion of picking the chinchilla up. This is with good reason, and I get it. Chinchillas are fragile with a toothpick like rib cage and tiny bones in the feet.
When I first got my chinchilla home, I was terrified to pick her up as well. I used the hand in the face and grab by the tail method, and it’s still the method I use today.
I see a lot of individuals who say it’s not very comfortable for the chinchilla, but in all honesty, it’s what the rescue owner showed me how to do, and I did once with success and hadn’t ever changed my method thus far into my chinchilla ownership.
It’s simple. Take your non-dominant hand and place it in front of your chinchillas face to block her from running away. At the same time, simply take your other hand and grab at the base of the tail and scoop with both hands until you have a grasp of your chinchilla. Once you have your chinchilla in your arms, you no longer need to continue holding the base of the tail.
Now, it’s all about holding the chinchilla. Take a deep breath, it’s easy as 1,2,3.
How to Hold Your Chinchilla Properly and Comfortably
Now, you have already done the hardest part about handling a chinchilla as a new owner. You have them in your grasp, and now you just need to keep him or her comfortable so you can begin showing some scratches and love towards them.
You can do this my simply using one arm to allow your chinchilla to rest within and hold them close or firmly towards your chest and body. Use your other hand to offer some scratching or even a small treat or two (chinchilla safe of course).
Outside of this method to hold your chinchilla, you have plenty of options but figuring these out merely is trial and error. Your chinchilla will inform you if they enjoy what you are doing or not.
No, they aren’t going just to bite you (well, no guarantees of course) but they will either relax and stay calm for a few minutes or be immediately squirmy.
The Final Word. Respect Your Chinchilla and They Will Respect and Love You Back
The most important thing you can do for you and your chinchillas’ relationship merely is to respect their boundaries and afford them love and care regardless of if they love to be held or if they don’t.
Some chinchilla owners even report that it can take a year or longer to open and be entirely comfortable with the owner and all forms of handling. I lucked out, and this took about 10 days, but I also got my chinchilla from a fantastic rescue where she was treated great and socialized with often.
I hope that your chinchilla breaks in quickly for you but if he or she doesn’t, don’t worry and don’t rush it. Time will pass, and your chinchilla will begin to love and trust you are giving you the opportunity to hold him or her as often as you wish.
Be sure to check out our related questions below in case you need further information on the topic.
What’s your experience with your chinchilla enjoying being held or possibly hating the idea of being held? How long did it take for your chinchilla to warm up to you and begin allowing you to handle him or her more often? Be sure to drop a comment below.
Can You Hold a Chinchilla by The Tail?
Yes, you can hold a chinchilla by the tail. It’s recommended not to hold a chinchilla by the tail strictly but to use the chinchilla’s tail as a mechanism to pick them up and then adjust to a more comfortable holding position after you have a good or strong grasp of the chinchilla.
Do Chinchillas Like to Be Handled?
Yes, chinchillas like to be handled in some circumstances. In other circumstances, you may have a chinchilla that does not want to be treated or held. It depends on how young the chinchilla was when socialization began and how you approach and condition your chinchilla when you take over ownership.
Can You Cuddle with a Chinchilla?
Yes, you can cuddle with a chinchilla. You need to respect your chinchillas’ boundaries and treat your chinchilla’s fears with respects in the beginning. Over time, your chinchilla may love to be cuddle or enjoy the activity of cuddling. For more information on this topic, be sure to my post here.
It discusses everything you need to know about if you can cuddle with a chinchilla or not.