Understanding your chinchilla takes time and patience. As you spend time with your pet you will learn to recognize his preferences and personality traits. Once you understand the basic tenets of chinchilla behavior, you'll know how to accommodate his needs and whims. The following is a list of some of the most common behaviors and characteristics of chinchillas to keep in mind.
In general, chinchillas are relatively calm and easy going members of the rodent family. They are quiet and usually shy. They rarely bite and are not too difficult to handle but they may urinate when annoyed, particularly if handled when they really aren't in the mood. Females have been known to stand on their hind legs and spray urine if they feel intimidated or frightened.
Despite being calm and quiet, chinchillas are very agile and love to climb and jump so they need plenty of space. In the wild, chinchillas are typically active at dusk and through the night but in captivity, many adapt and become more active during the day.
Female chinchillas can be aggressive toward males. Up to 20 percent of male and female pairs may never breed because the female just doesn't care for the male. If you decide to house a male and female chinchilla together, make sure the cage is large enough to allow the male to escape the female. In most situations, it is best to house the chinchilla alone.
The incisors (front teeth) of the chinchilla continuously grow throughout their life. For this reason, chinchillas gnaw and chew on almost anything. Wooden cages should be avoided because the chinchilla may be able to chew an escape route. Make sure your pet has plenty of wooden toys to chew on to keep his teeth in tip top shape.
Most small mammals do not need baths but the chinchilla does. Not the normal type of bath but a dust bath. There is special fine dust available at pet stores and a dust bath should be provided one to two times weekly. Place the dust in a bowl that is large and deep enough for the chinchilla to roll around.
When frightened, a chinchilla may shed patches of fur. This is known as fur slip and it can take several months for the skin and hair to grow back. This usually happens when the chinchilla is handled or grasped while trying to flee. The chinchilla would rather sacrifice a small patch of hair to an attacker than to lose his life. So, do not chase or grab a frightened chinchilla. Let him come to you and only try to pick him up if he is calm and willing.
By taking the time to learn about the normal behavior and needs of your chinchilla, you and your pet will have a much happier and healthier relationship.