If you recently purchased a chinchilla, you likely are going through what I call the “I have no idea what I’m doing” phase. It happens. It happened to me, and it happens to all of us who embark on the journey on becoming a chinchilla owner. That’s okay, and hopefully, I can shed some light on a few topics. Many individuals need to know the basics right away. This includes setting up your chinchilla cage. A question that arises frequently is on this topic. What do chinchillas need in their cage? After owning a chinchilla, trial and error and some additional research, here is what I can tell you.
So, what do chinchillas need in their cage? Chinchillas need several things in their cage beginning on day 1. Chinchillas need to have an adequate size cage with room to climb and jump. Additionally, chinchillas need the following items to be present in their cage.
- Aspen Shavings or Bedding
- Water Bottle
- Food Bowl with Chinchilla Pellets
- Hay Feeder with Fresh Hay
- Wooden Sticks or Play Toys
- Chinchilla Safe Hanging Toys
- Chinchilla Hiding Box
- Multiple Shelves or Levels
The items listed above are the absolute bare minimum you should be providing your chinchilla during your first cage set up. I wanted to break down these items in depth and go over additional items I highly recommend having present in your chinchilla cage.
The items we discuss are not only to ensure proper care for your chinchilla. It’s also designed to keep your chinchilla happy, interacting and enjoying their environment and the ethical items you need to plan on purchasing when first adopting your chinchilla.
Let’s dive into the details.
Proper Chinchilla Cage Set Up, Picking the Correct Room for Your Chinchilla
Something many chinchilla owners neglect to consider before arriving home with their chinchilla is the actual room where they will house their new chinchilla in. This is the first step in proper chinchilla planning. You need to know this before you even start adding additional items to their cage.
When you first bring your chinchilla home, they will need some time to adjust. They won’t be as friendly and cuddly during the first few weeks. You need to allow your chinchilla to get used to the smells, sounds, and the environment in the new home.
Additionally, you absolutely must make sure that you pick a room of your home that will remain at chinchilla safe temperatures. This will fall between 60-70 degrees F and ideally, will have very low humidity levels.
Chinchillas can overheat easily due to choosing the wrong room with too warm of temperatures. Additionally, you need to realize that chinchillas sleep many hours and sleep at odd hours. You won’t want your chinchilla sleeping in the same room as you.
Chinchillas can often make noise at night which can include rattling the cage while jumping and climbing from shelf to shelf.
Additionally, chinchillas can make noises such as barking when they become startled or frightened. Unless you want to wake up at odd hours due to this noise, you will want a separate room.
Don’t Forget About Chinchilla Hygiene When Choosing A Location for The Cage
Relax. Everything you have read is 100% true. Chinchillas do not smell so this isn’t the issue. However, you want to choose a room ideally with hard floors for your chinchilla cage. Chinchillas do poop, and often the poop can fly out of the cage and onto the floor.
This is due to them climbing and jumping and knocking those little pellets around. Additionally, chinchillas do lightly shed. It’s not noticeable in most cases but whichever room your chinchilla is in, you will notice the shedding or dander after a few weeks of owning your new chinchilla.
Choosing the Correct Cage Comes First. The Additional Items Come Second.
Up next on our list comes the chinchilla cage you choose. This is critical for your chinchilla. They need space to jump and be normal chinchillas. Choosing a cage that’s too small is highly advised against. Additionally, when possible, you want to avoid the wire bottoms. This can be rough on your chinchillas’ feet.
I highly recommend a cage such as the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation. When you purchase this cage, select the option that adds on the second story. It’s not much additional money for the benefits you are providing to your chinchilla.
You definitely have to consider the second story if you are purchasing 2 chinchillas. This would be the smallest cage you would want in this situation.
Additionally. It meets the criteria that we discussed previously. It has non-wire flat bottom trays that can be pulled out and cleaned. It’s multiple stories and has ramps and platforms for additional climbing.
You certainly don’t have to follow this, but if you troll around any chinchilla Facebook community or read forums, they are all going to recommend the same cage or something similar.
Where do you think I found the cage or got the idea from? At the bare minimum, I recommend the one-story Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation cage. This will get the job done for now, and you can consider the add on option in the future.
Now it’s time to move on and cover the items that need to be in your chinchilla’s cage. These items are to include a few essential needs. Here’s a look at them.
- Keeping Your Chinchilla Is Happy and Interactive
- Feeding Your Chinchilla
- Ensuring Your Chinchilla Feels Safe
- Providing Your Chinchilla, The Ability to Climb and Jump
- Ensuring Your Chinchilla Has Water
Must-Have Items for Your Chinchilla Cage
#1- Chinchilla Bedding (Shavings)
You need to have bedding for your chinchilla. Unless your chinchilla is fully potty trained to pee into a litter box. Your chinchilla will poop very frequently and will also pee. Having your chinchilla walk on urinated plastic trays or even trays and levels wrapped in soft coverings is not the best hygiene practice.
Be sure to have bedding or shavings for your chinchilla cage. I highly recommend the Aspen Shavings that come in the 2500 cubic inch bag. This is one of the cheapest and longest lasting options to use. One bag of these aspen shavings will help typical last me about 6 weeks with regular and diligent cage cleanings.
#2- A Food Bowl for Your Chinchilla
Your chinchilla will either consume pellets or hay. These should be pellets formulated explicitly for a chinchilla, and the hay should be specifically designed for chinchillas as well. The food bowl for your chinchilla should consist of the pellets for your chinchilla.
You only need 1 food bowl in the cage. Ensure that it always has pellets available. Chinchillas often eat some of their pellets and some of their hay. Their moods can change so always promoting both options is your best course of action.
#3-Hay and a Hay Feeder
As we discussed previously, you need to ensure you always have an adequate level of hay available for your chinchilla. I recommend purchasing the Kaytee Timothy Hay. One bag should last you more than 1 month. You can either opt to use a platform such as Amazon or check at a local department store such as Farm and Fleet.
For the Hay Feeder, you need something simple that attaches to the side of the cage. Your chinchilla will grab hay to eat as he or she pleases. I like the Zafina, plastic hanging feeder. It’s what I currently use, and it works great.
It disconnects from the cage easier to clean and wipe down, and my chinchilla has no issues pulling the hay as she pleases into her cage.
#4- Chinchilla Safe Chew Toys or Hay Blocks
Now, we have some of the basics taken care of, but we still need some options for your chinchilla to play with. Safe chew toys and hay cubes/blocks are my chinchillas’ favorite items to mess with in the cage day or night.
You can use hay cubes such as the Kaytee Natural Timothy Blend Hay Cubes. I typically place 2-3 or three in her cage at the same time and put them on separate levels. I like to promote her climbing and jumping around to get to her favorite items.
Hanging Toys for Your Chinchilla Cage, Build It or Buy It
For hanging toys, you can either build your own with safe chinchilla wood or purchase them. I personally purchase mine from the breeder I bought my chinchilla from. However, for something very similar to what I use, you can look at options such as the Natural Pumice and Wood Hanging Toy by Kaytee.
It’s almost an exact replica of what I purchase, and they are cheap for a pack of three. I would recommend only having 1 in the cage at a time. It’s plenty for them to do and encourages them to go up to the top level of the cage to play and paw at the hanging toy.
#5- Toilet Paper Roll or Other Safe Cardboard
This, you need to do some diligence and research on before using cardboard inside your chinchilla cage or during playtime. Often, new chinchilla owners don’t understand the difference between safe cardboard and cardboard that can cause harm.
I also only recommend toilet paper rolls if you won’t be leaving your chinchilla alone in the cage with the toilet paper roll. Chinchillas will bite and chew on the cardboard, and if they don’t spit it out, they can choke or develop a digestive tract issue.
However, once you discover that they are intelligent with their cardboard, a toilet paper roll is a great safe, and a free toy for your chinchilla cage.
Chinchillas absolutely love toilet paper rolls so be prepared to replace them often and to clean up the shredded mess that these can create around the cage or in your designated play area.
#6- A Litter Box (If Your Chinchilla is Potty Trained or Being Trained)
A litter box is only needed if your chinchilla is potty trained or you’re going to attempt to potty train your chinchilla. I’m currently going through this process right now. It takes time to be ready for the challenge.
This is one item that is not a must-have on the list, but if you are potty training, you will place this inside the chinchilla cage. You will want this kept in the opposite corner from the food bowl and where your chinchilla typically enjoys eating.
#7- Hiding Box
Chinchillas can get scared. They can get scared by noises such as kids screaming or even natural noises an old house can make such a furnace kicking on. In the wild, chinchillas are preyed upon. They are the hunted, not the hunters.
Your chinchilla being overly frightened or experiencing too much anxiety can cause problems such as fur slips or possible overheating. A hiding box needs the ability to feel safe. A hiding box provides that. They are simple boxes with a top hole to climb out of and aside hole to enter through.
A great option would be the Kaytee Hut Hideout. It’s the exact same style as my hiding box. I crafted my hiding box. They are simple to make, but for a cheap, quick fix to show up on your doorstep in a few days, this would be a recommendation.
#8- Multiple Shelves or Levels
Going back to my original cage recommendation with this tip. Your chinchilla must have or should have multiple levels in the cage and plenty of ability to hop from platform to platform. I don’t care how you get it done if it’s safe.
One option is purchasing the Critter Nation Cage we discussed previously. Another option is crafting your own shelves with metal inserts to attach to a similar cage.
Whatever the case may be, to ensure your chinchilla is happy and to remain ethical, you need to provide plenty of space for your chinchilla to roam freely through their cage on multiple levels.
#10- Soft Covering for Platforms (Optional but Recommended)
This is another optional addition you can use for your chinchilla cage. Many individuals who own chinchilla go the extra mile by placing something as fleece over the cage trays or shelves. This is only recommended if your chinchilla doesn’t urinate freely all over the cage and is potty trained.
You see, chinchilla poop is extremely easy to clean and doesn’t have an odor. You can simply sweep the poop nuggets up or even vacuum them. Urine would be a different story. To recap, only use this option if your chinchilla doesn’t freely pee all over the cage. This would only cause a huge mess in this situation.
#11- Water Bottle
I think the need for this is self-explanatory. Your chinchilla drinks water like any other small rodent. A simple plastic drip water bottle attached to the side of the cage is all you need. My only other big recommendation for this is to ensure you clean it when you refill it.
You always want to make sure no plugs are present in the spout and cleaning the water bottle will prevent harmful bacteria from growing inside the water bottle. I recommend something straightforward such as the Kaytee Chew Proof Water Bottle. It’s cheap and easy to clean.
It’s the exact model I use, and I’ve never had an issue with it. Consider buying two, so you always have a backup ready in case a plug or problem arises. I currently have three, so I’m not recommending anything I wouldn’t do myself.
Now that you know what you need to have let’s also cover what you absolutely should never include in your chinchilla cage. It’s not a huge list, but it’s a few items that individuals often place in the cage, and it should be avoided.
Items Not to Place in Your Chinchilla Cage
#1- The Chinchilla Dust Bath
Your dust bath for your chinchilla should not be placed in the cage itself. First and foremost, a dust bath is a great bonding time between you and your chinchilla and gives them a chance to get to know you. Additionally, we have mentioned several times how chinchillas’ poop and pee frequently.
Placing the dust bath house in the cage is bound to result in poop and urine filled dust which defeats the entire purpose and can cause your chinchilla’s hair to clump or become soiled. All this will lead too is additional work such as brushing your chinchilla and the cage being covered in ash.
Only use the dust bath during the time out of the cage. Don’t place the dust bath inside the chinchilla cage.
#2- Anything Plastic
Plastic is a chinchilla no-no. If your chinchilla eats plastic, it may kill them. It could result in choking or digestive track issues. Don’t use plastic toys or items such as plastic food bowls. Chinchillas love to chew on things, and this is only asking for trouble.
Always avoid plastic inside your chinchilla cage.
#3- Any Cardboard That Could be Toxic
You should be a seasoned professional with successfully setting up your chinchilla cage. Now it’s time to discuss the last piece of the puzzle. We will hit on it quickly and have you on your way.
Always Keep Your Chinchilla Cage Clean
I’m not going to go in a great deal on this but to remain ethical and keep up with your chinchilla’s hygiene, you should be cleaning their cage a few times per week. Once at the bare minimum. Sweep and remove poop and other debris daily and complete a full cage cleaning once a week at the very least.
Final Word, A Large Cage with The Essential Items and Proper Cleaning Is Essential
Chinchillas make incredible pets. This may have felt like a lot to take in, but it’s not. Even purchasing all these items in one checkout on Amazon would probably cost 30-40 dollars (not including the cage) and could be completed in a few minutes.
To recap, what does a chinchilla need in their cage? The items on this list will ensure your chinchilla is happy and well taken care of. If you get most of these items, you will already be about 90% of the way towards being an ethical and great chinchilla owner.
I’d like your thoughts. What’re your recommendations for what chinchillas need in their cage? Be sure to drop a comment below, and as always, I appreciate you and thanks for reading.
If you have any further questions that I didn’t answer, be sure to stop by our related questions area below. I don’t like any fellow chinchilla owner having any doubts about best practices or what will make our furry friends happy and safe. See you next time.
What Size Cage Does a Chinchilla Need?
A chinchilla’s cage needs to be large. Height and width are important. A chinchilla cage should be 3 Feet by 2 Feet by 2 Feet. The larger the chinchilla cage, the better. Chinchilla cages should be tall and wide to promote climbing, jumping and running. All of these are natural behaviors and keep a chinchilla happy and healthy.
Can Chinchillas Have Bedding?
Yes, chinchillas can have bedding. Chinchillas should always have bedding. Aspen shavings are a common choice for chinchilla bedding. Be sure to change the bedding 1-2 times per week. Chinchillas need bedding for urinating and pooping in their cage without it producing an odor or causing the chinchilla to walk in their own soiled poop and urine.