Why Do Chinchillas Shake? [Don’t Startle Your Chinchilla]

Chinchillas display many behaviors that are nearly impossible not to smile at. However, a chinchilla shaking may have you concerned as a new chinchilla owner.

Chinchillas understand your routines such as when it’s time to eat and even when it’s time to take a much-needed dust bath.

A chinchilla can even express its approval of a visitor with a stare-down or other (paw-like) gestures and body language.

The behaviors are strikingly similar and the way they adapt and build trust with us as owners.

It’s also what makes them even more appealing to us as pet owners.

However, with owning pets, as the pet-owner, we will always have questions arise from time to time.

For me, the question was simple in nature.

Why do chinchillas shake?

After owning my chinchilla for 5 years and some additional research on the topic, here is what I can tell you on this topic.

So, why do chinchillas shake? Chinchillas primarily shake due to fear. If a chinchilla is frightened, it’s likely to shake from fear. It’s also important you ensure that your chinchilla isn’t displaying other odd behaviors that could indicate the shaking is due to an illness as opposed to fear.

Keep in mind that fear could be one reason and a primary reason that your chinchilla shakes but it’s not the only reason why you may be having this issue.

Visually witnessing your chinchilla either shaking its head or full body can definitely leave you concerned and filled with anxiety.

Why do chinchillas shake grey chinchilla in corner of the cage

Let’s dive into some of the other possibilities and keep you prepared to handle a shaking chinchilla correctly and with some TLC.

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Reasons for Concern and Potential Reasons for Chinchillas Shaking

We have discussed that your chinchilla shaking may also indicate an illness.

It’s important to monitor and learn to distinguish the difference between your chinchilla being ill, scared, or just displaying some non-ordinary behaviors.

Be sure your chinchilla isn’t shaking from something more concerning than fear.

If it is fear, you have other issues to worry about as well.

Chinchillas are known to lose their fur or slip fur causing bald spots out of fear.

Chinchillas, when scared, can also panic to escape from your grasp while holding them.

This makes it especially important to understand the proper technique to use when picking up your chinchilla to hold them in a fashion they are comfortable with and in a fashion where they feel safe.

In most cases, if your chinchilla is shaking due to illness, your chinchilla will also be lethargic and acting strangely in other ways.

It’s possible you also notice a lack of appetite and your chin not drinking or consuming as much water as usual.

In chinchillas or any exotic pet, this is referred to as “nonspecified illness”.

In plain English, it could very well mean that your chinchilla is very sick.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be tough to distinguish which of the many diseases your chinchilla may have contracted and caused the symptoms that your chinchilla is displaying.

Another possibility for chinchilla shaking could be the extremely rare but possible scenario where your chinchilla has fleas.

Again, this is very rare and if it does happen, it’s likely because your chinchilla is around another pet that may have fleas such as interactions with dogs or cats.

Potential Health Concerns Your Chinchillas Shaking My Indicate

I assume you are concerned at this point in the post as to what the potential illness maybe that’s causing your chinchilla to shake or lose his/her appetite.

Here’s a list of potential issues that your chinchilla may be experiencing.

  • Liver Disease
  • Dental Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • Insulinoma
  • Sepsis
  • Intestinal Disease
  • Muscular Disease
  • Neurological Disease
  • Other Possible Diseases

Unfortunately, there isn’t a real way to figure out which one.

You will have to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

It’s recommended during this time to keep your chinchilla comfortable by ensuring that he/she doesn’t get too cold or too hot.

To do this, ensure that you have a room where your chinchilla sleeps and is housed kept at ideal temperatures and cool temperatures to avoid overheating and illness.

Still, be sure to see your vet as soon as possible.

You also want to do your best to make sure that encourage and attempt to get your chinchilla to drink as much water as possible.

Lastly, if you have other pets in the household, you will want to make sure your chinchilla is kept out of harm’s way.

During this lethargic period, your chinchilla may not only be shaking but may also be too weak to run away and or defend themselves from your other household pets.

In these situations, be sure that you also monitor your chinchillas’ behavior and energy levels.

Be careful with over handling your chinchilla during these times as well in case your chinchilla feels more prone to bite.

When chinchillas get sick or ill with an infection or disease, it tends to progress rapidly and if not caught or handled quickly, can result in death.

Obviously, something all of us chinchilla owners want to avoid at all costs.

Other Possibilities That May Be Causing Your Chinchilla to Shake

Some chinchilla owners have reported their chinchilla shaking for reasons that we have yet to discuss and these possibilities are much less harmless for your chinchilla.

In fact, they are pretty encouraging compared to the possibility of your chinchilla being sick or ill.

Let’s dive into a few more of the possibilities causing your chinchilla to shake, shiver or twitch.

Your Chinchilla Is Trying to Maintain His or Her Balance, Another Cause of Chinchilla Shakes

Many chinchilla owners mention that their chinchilla will enter these shaking and quivering spells when they are out of the cage and in a playful and friendly mood.

Most of the individuals that have experienced this mention that it’s most prevalent when your chinchilla is climbing on you such as your head, shoulders, or arms.

This could be considered nothing to worry about and nothing more than a nice cuddle session with your chinchilla.

When your chinchilla is resting on your head, shoulders, or arms you may experience this moment where your chinchilla appears to be shaking like crazy.

Owners report that they notice no-ongoing issues and it becomes a regular habit of the chinchilla when trying to sit still or relax in “chill mode” while bonding with you.

Picture your arm as the balancing beam and your chinchilla is simply just trying to stay on without falling.

A Shaking Chinchilla Can Also Indicate Love or Enjoyment, Building the Bond with Your Chinchilla

Another possibility is that your chinchilla expresses comfort by doing a slight shake.

My chinchilla will shake when she is out and active and when she is close to me, she will even shake or “purr” in a sense.

Owners further state that their chinchilla doesn’t seem fearful or attempt to run away and seems to be enjoying themselves when they are in this playful cuddling mood.

My chinchilla is the same way.

She climbs all over me and when she gets near the edge of my shoulder, she may shake trying to maintain her balance before she falls.

This is of course, usually right when she decides to poop in my lap or do something else that’s slightly rude but still humorous.

Chinchillas are just easy to care for.

Chinchillas are also extremely enjoyable pets to own.

It’s tough to find many reasons to ever get frustrated with a chinchilla.

Unless it comes time to scoop them up and place them back in their cage.

If this is you, always remember to try the “base of the tail technique” to pick your chinchilla up and return them to their cage safely.

Your Chinchilla May Love Being Scratched

Finally, your chinchilla may be shaking due to purely loving being scratched.

Picture a dog for this scenario.

When you scratch them in the right spot you get the wild shaking and leg kick out of them.

This isn’t an illness or fear taking place.

It’s pure joy and chinchilla heaven.

If you scratch your chinchilla and get a shake in response, you may just be hitting the perfect spot that he or she enjoys.

Lastly, always remember your chinchilla is fully capable of scratching themselves as well.

If you walk in and notice your chinchilla shaking briefly, you could have walked in right after your chinchilla had just completed their own shakedown and scratch session on themselves.

They are capable of grooming themselves and it is nothing to worry about.

The Cause of Chinchilla Shaking Can Vary Greatly

Your chinchilla has a variety of reasons as to why they may be shaking.

It’s common for several reasons but it’s also possible that your chinchilla is shaking from something more serious.

In most circumstances, it’s nothing major to worry about.

It’s always best to keep an eye on the shaking and make sure it’s not related to your chinchilla not feeling good or having an illness.

If you believe it is something that could be more serious, it’s important to contact or visit your vet just to play it safe.

Do you have any chinchilla related stories to share in relation to a case of the shakes?

Share Your Thoughts About Your Chinchilla Shaking

Why was your chinchilla shaking and what did you do about it?

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.



Josh Martin

My Name is Josh and this is my 4 year-old female chinchilla "Chili". We created Planet Chinchilla to share all the stories about owning a chinchilla that you need to know. I'm the Author of the eBook "The Ultimate Chinchilla Care Guide, From Adoption and On"

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