Just buying a chinchilla and getting a nice cage is not enough.
You also need to provide a number of items inside the cage.
There are essential items and strongly recommended items.
There are also ones that are great, but not required.
Finally, there are items some owners put in the cage, that simply shouldn’t be in there.
These are things that could actually harm your fragile little rodent.
Keep reading for a full rundown of all the items chinchillas need in their cage, some that are optional, and ones that should never be in there.
- 1 What Do Chinchillas Need In Their Cage?
- 2 Proper Chinchilla Cage Set-Up
- 2.1 Choose The Right Room For Your Chinchilla
- 2.2 Choose The Right Cage For Your Chinchilla
- 2.3 Items Your Chinchilla Needs In The Cage
- 2.4 Optional Items For Your Chinchilla Cage
- 2.5 Items To Keep Out Of The Cage
- 2.6 Always Keep Your Chinchilla Cage Clean
- 2.7 What Size Cage Does A Chinchilla Need?
- 2.8 Can Chinchillas Have Bedding?
- 3 What Chinchillas Need In Their Cage: Final Thoughts
What Do Chinchillas Need In Their Cage?
Chinchillas several items in their cage from day one. First of all, they need an adequately sized cage with room to climb and jump. That cage needs to be filled with the following items, at a minimum.
- Aspen shavings or other bedding (like fleece liners)
- Water bottle
- Food bowl for chinchilla pellets
- Hay feeder for fresh Timothy hay
- Wooden chew sticks or chewable toys
- Chinchilla-safe hanging toys
- Hiding/nesting box
- Multiple shelves or levels
The items listed above are the absolute bare minimum you should provide your chinchilla during your initial cage set up.
They are not only needed ensure proper care for your chinchilla, but hey also keep your chinchilla happy, interacting, and enjoying its environment.
Below, I will break down these items in-depth and go over additional items I highly recommend getting. Basically, we will cover everything you need to know, in order to properly set up your chinchilla cage.
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Proper Chinchilla Cage Set-Up
It is imperative to understand what your chinchilla needs in its cage when you first arrive home with your new pet. For several reasons.
First, chinchillas need the ability to act like themselves which can include behaviors such as jumping and climbing. You want to promote these natural tendencies and not hinder them.
That is why choosing the best chinchilla accessories and understanding what a chinchilla truly needs in its cage is so important. It makes a big difference.
It is part of keeping your chinchilla happy.
Before we dive into a list of items your chinchilla needs inside of its cage, let’s start with two even more basic (and important) matters first: where to keep your chinchilla cage and the importance of choosing the right chinchilla cage.
Choose The Right 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 pet.
This is the first step in proper chinchilla planning. You need to know this before you even start considering additional items for the cage.
When you first bring your chinchilla home, it will need some time to adjust. It won’t be as friendly and cuddly during the first few weeks. You need to allow your chinchilla time to get used to the smells, sounds, and just the overall environment of its new home.
Temperatures need to fall between 60 and 70 degrees F. Humidity levels should also be very low, just like they are in their natural habitat in the Andes mountains of northern Chile.
Chinchillas can overheat easily if you put them in a room with temperatures that are too warm and a high humidity level.
Chinchillas often make noise at night, which can include rattling the cage while jumping and climbing from shelf to shelf. Additionally, chinchillas can make noises, like 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.
You have probably read that chinchillas do not smell and were thinking you could keep it in your bedroom for that reason. This is 100% true. Chinchillas do not smell. But that is not the issue. It’s the noise.
Ideally, you want a room with hard floors for your chinchilla cage. Chinchillas do poop a lot, and often the poop can fly out of the cage and onto the floor. This is due to the 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.
A hard floor just makes everything a bit easier to keep clean. But since the poop nuggets are hard, even cleaning them off a carpet isn’t too much trouble. It’s just not as sanitary.
Choose The Right Cage For Your Chinchilla
Up next on our list comes the chinchilla cage you choose. This is critical. These little rodents need space to jump and be normal chinchillas.
Make sure you do not choose a cage that’s too small. It is also a good idea to avoid cages with wire bottoms. They can be rough on your chinchilla’s feet.
I highly recommend the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation Dual-Level cage. It is the cage I use myself, after having tried several. You can see why I chose this cage in my comparison of the best chinchilla cages.
When you purchase this cage, select the option that adds to the second story. It’s not much additional money, but the additional benefits to your chinchilla are huge.
And if you are purchasing 2 chinchillas, you definitely want to get the second story. The two-story version is the absolute smallest cage you should consider if you have two chins.
This cage also meets the criteria we discussed previously. It has non-wire flat-bottom trays that can be pulled out and cleaned. It has multiple stories and has ramps and platforms for additional climbing.
But you certainly don’t have to follow my advice on this. If you troll around any chinchilla Facebook community or read forums, they all recommend the same cage, or something similar.
Where do you think I got the idea to look into this cage in the first place? It was from all the research I did prior to getting my chinchilla.
If the dual-level cage is out of your current budge, 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 for the second level 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 necessary, because they fulfill your chinchilla’s essential needs. Those are:
- Happiness and entertainment
Items Your Chinchilla Needs In The Cage
Now let’s take a closer look at each of the essential cage items. Then we’ll look at some items you should not have in the cage.
#1: Chinchilla Bedding (Shavings)
You need to have bedding for your chinchilla. Even if your chinchilla is fully potty trained to pee into a litter box, you still need some kind of bedding.
Note that I started with wood shavings, but now use fleece liners. And I recommend them for everyone. You can read about those below (item #10).
But the traditional form of bedding is wood shavings, so let’s go aver those here.
Your chinchilla will poop very frequently and will also pee. Having your chinchilla walk on urine-covered 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 Aspen Shavings. You can see the ones I used in my article on the best bedding for chinchillas.
Aspen is one of the cheapest and longest-lasting options to use. One 2500 cubic inch bag of these aspen shavings typically lasts me about 6 weeks with regular and diligent cage cleanings.
#2: A Food Bowl With Pellets
Your chinchilla will consume pellets and hay. These should be pellets formulated specifically for chinchillas, and the hay should be specifically designed for chinchillas as well.
The food bowl is meant for the pellets. You only need one food bowl in the cage and it should always have pellets in it.
Chinchillas often eat some of their pellets and some of their hay. Their moods can change, so always having both options available is your best course of action.
#3: A Hay Feeder With Hay
As we discussed previously, you need to ensure you always have hay available for your chinchilla.
I recommend the Small Pet Select Timothy Hay. It is my top choice for chinchilla hay. One bag should last you more than a month.
For the hay feeder, you just need something simple that attaches to the side of the cage. Your chinchilla will grab hay to eat as he or she pleases. The same article on the best hay also lists the best hay feeders a bit further down.
I use a hay feeder by Zafina, but it seems to no longer be available. All of the models in that article are great. The top choice is obviously the best, but the second is close behind and saves you a bit of money.
They are all easy to disconnect from the cage to clean and wipe down, and your chinchilla will have no issues pulling the hay from the feeder into its cage as it pleases.
#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 chinchilla’s favorite items to fool around with inside the cage, day or night.
You can use hay cubes like the Kaytee timothy hay blend 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.
For hanging toys, you can either build your own with chinchilla-safe wood or purchase them. I personally purchased mine from the breeder rom whom I bought my chinchilla.
For something very similar to what I use, check out the Kaytee Perfect Chew:
It’s almost an exact replica of what I purchased, and it actually costs quite a bit less than I paid. I’ll be getting those next time.
I would recommend only having 1 in the cage at a time. It’s plenty for your chin to do and encourages it to go up to the top level of the cage to play and paw at the hanging toy.
Wooden chew sticks are a great addition, too. I recommend always having a few of those in the cage as well. Just make sure they are safe wood. I recommend these simple and inexpensive sticks.
#5: Hiding Box/Nest Box
Chinchillas can get scared. They can get scared by noises like kids screaming, or even natural noises an old house can make like furnace kicking on.
In the wild, chinchillas are preyed upon. They are the hunted, not the hunters. Just about anything sends them running. It is only natural for this behavior to continue in captivity.
That said, your chinchilla being overly frightened or experiencing too much anxiety can cause problems, like fur slips or possible overheating.
A chinchilla needs a place where it feels safe. A hiding box provides that.
They are simple boxes with a top hole to climb out of and a side hole to enter through. I have an article reviewing the best nest boxes for chinchillas.
The top choice in that article is the same style and size as my hiding box. I crafted it myself , but modeled it after that one. These are simple to make, but even simpler, and quite cheap, to buy, if you don’t want to do it yourself.
#6: Multiple Shelves Or Levels
I’m going back to my original cage recommendation with this tip. Your chinchilla should have multiple levels in the cage and plenty of space 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 I 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 its cage on multiple levels.
#7: 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 there is nothing clogging up the spout and cleaning the water bottle prevents harmful bacteria from growing inside.
I recommend something straightforward like the Lixit glass tube water bottle.
It’s cheap and easy to clean. It’s the exact model I use (I use two of them, actually), and I’ve never had an issue with it.
Consider buying at least two, so you always have a backup ready in case one gets clogged or some other problem arises. I currently have three, and keep two attached to the cage at all times, so I’m not recommending anything I wouldn’t do myself.
Now that you know what you need to have let’s also cover a few things that are not absolutely necessary, but still highly recommended.
Optional Items For Your Chinchilla Cage
The following items are optional, but they are ones I highly recommend. I have all of them myself in my chinchilla’s cage.
#1: A Litter Box (If You Potty Train Your Chinchilla)
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.
#2: Fleece Liners
Many chinchilla owners place something like fleece over the cage trays or shelves. These fleece liners replace the use of wood shavings in the cage.
Using fleece has a number of advantages. It makes cage cleanings much easier, it is better on your chinchilla’s feet, and it saves you money in the long run, since you no longer need to keep buying more wood shavings.
This article has much more on fleece liners for your chinchilla cage. Read it if you have any questions about this.
#3: Toilet Paper Roll Or Other Safe Cardboard
You need to do some due diligence and research 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 your chin is intelligent with its cardboard, a toilet paper roll is a great safe and 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.
Finally, we need to go over some things you absolutely should never include in your chinchilla cage. It’s not a huge list, but these are all items owners often place in the cage, so it is important to go over them.
Items To Keep Out Of The Cage
The following 3 items are often included in a chinchilla cage, but they should not be in there. They could present a danger to your pet.
#1: Chinchilla Dust Bath House
Chinchillas bathe in dust. That is a topic for another post. Luckily, I have already written it. If you want to know why chinchillas bathe in dust, read that article.
Obviously, your chinchilla should have a good dust bath house (though you could also just use a bowl, if you don’t mind the additional mess).
But the dust bath house should not be in the cage. First of all, we have already mentioned several times how chinchillas poop and pee frequently. The dust bath will definitely be used as a toilet.
Then when your chinchilla decides to bathe in the dust, it ends up rubbing urine and feces al over its fur. Not only can this cause disease, it also means more (and nastier) work for you when brushing your chinchilla.
Another problem is that most dust bath houses are made from plastic. This is fine for the dust bath, but if you leave it in the cage wit your chin, it will undoubtedly chew on the house.
And plastic is not good for your chinchilla if it swallows it.
#2: Anything Plastic
Plastic is a chinchilla no-no. If your chinchilla eats plastic, it could be fatal. It could result in choking or digestive track issues.
Don’t use plastic toys or items like plastic food bowls. Chinchillas love to chew on things, and this is only asking for trouble. This is also why you don’t want to keep the dust bath house int he cage.
Always avoid plastic inside your chinchilla cage.
#3: Any Cardboard That Could Be Toxic
We touched on this before, too. Cardboard is fine, but you need to make sure it is safe. A lot of cardboard contains toxic components. The article linked to above in the section on toilet paper rolls will help you out wit this.
You should be a seasoned professional with successfully setting up your chinchilla cage by now. 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 into a great deal of detail on this here, but to remain ethical and keep up with your chinchilla’s hygiene, you should be cleaning their cage a few times per week, at the very least. I do a quick clean every single day to remove poop and other debris.
You should do a more thorough cage cleaning once a week, at the bare minimum.
What Size Cage Does A Chinchilla Need?
A chinchilla’s cage needs to be large. Both height and width are important. The cage should be 3 by 2 by 2 feet, at an absolute minimum.
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. You can learn about the proper cage sizing for chinchillas here.
Can Chinchillas Have Bedding?
Yes, chinchillas can have bedding. In fact, chinchillas should always have bedding.
Chinchillas need bedding for urinating and pooping in their cage, without it producing an odor or causing the chinchilla to walk in its own poop and urine.
Aspen shavings are a common choice for chinchilla bedding. Be sure to change the bedding 1-2 times per week.
Or you could use fleece liners like I do, which eliminates the need to replace the bedding.
What Chinchillas Need In Their Cage: Final Thoughts
This may have felt like a lot to take in, but it’s really not. Chinchillas make incredible pets in large part because they are so easy and cheap to care for.
Even purchasing all these items in one checkout on Amazon would probably cost 30 to 40 dollars (not including the cage or fleece liners) and could be completed in a few minutes.
The items on this list all go toward ensuring your chinchilla is happy and well taken care of.
If you get all of the required items, you will already be about 90% of the way towards being an ethical and great chinchilla owner.
Chili and I wish you the best of luck with your new chinchilla and the journey you have ahead of you.
What are 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!