If you've come across this page, I bet you're wondering how you should go about adding another chinchilla to your home. There are many ways to go about doing just that, but each method comes with it's own pros and cons. With any stressful situation, there is a risk that your pet may become defensive or harmed. Chinchillas look cute, cuddly, innocent and full of love but they are capable of doing some real damage. If you're hoping to bond some chinchillas, do so carefully, and only when you'll be able to stick around to monitor them for awhile. I will be sharing what I know about bonding chinchillas, my personal experience, and I will also be touching some topics that are widely debated. I will try to keep my personal feelings separate from the facts. I also want everyone reading this to know that there is not an exact science when it comes to bonding chinchillas. I lean more on the side that it's simply luck or chance. . . and we just have a few methods that help boost our chances.
First, Why is it that you want another chinchilla? Most reasons are perfectly acceptable. If you simply just want another... we understand! If someone is telling you that you MUST have 2 or more to have a healthy happy pet... then you need to know that is not true. Even though Chinchillas are by nature social animals, not every Chinchilla is social. In the wild they live in colonies that can be found in the double sometimes triple digits. However; you also can find several individual or small groups of Chinchillas in the wild too. The reason they form such massive groups is because it's best for their survival. What is better than 2 ears and 2 eyes? 200 ears and 200 eyes! Also... they naturally want to be close for breeding purposes. Regardless, in captivity, your pet chinchilla should be kept safely in their cage. They won't have such a strong urge to have 100s of other eyes watching out for them. Regardless of all of this, some chinchillas just don't want other chinchillas near them. It has nothing to do with sex preference. They just do not like other chinchillas. When you have a chinchilla that does not accept or get along with other chinchillas, the best thing you can do is just to spend time with your pet. They can and do get plenty of socialization from their owners.
Do you think they NEED or DESERVE to breed? Chinchillas do not have to be bred to be healthy. It's a very poor and common misconception that any female needs to have at least 1 litter to be healthy. Chinchillas never HAVE to be bred, and quite honestly, most chinchillas should not be bred. Chinchillas sold as pets are sold as pets for a variety of reasons. They were either too small, or their genetic line was culled ( closed ) because down the line chinchillas started showing signs of genetic defects and responsible breeders decided not to continue breeding those lines. Also, breeding irresponsibly and making poor low-quality pairings will produce animals with lower quality. Their looks and health become compromised. So you should not seek out a Male / Female pairing unless you have properly learned how to determine what is and is not quality, and how to make a successful pair. Chinchillas deserve to have well educated owners who will not do them the dis-justice of using them to produce animals that may develop fatal genetic illnesses or diseases.
We will not give advice on how to pair breeding animals here. That is a subject better addressed by breeders and you can attend a show by Empress Chinchilla Breeder Cooperative or Mutation Chinchilla Breeder Association in almost any US state. You can also reach out to them on-line and join a monthly news letter with information about chinchillas.
Now, if knowing that they do not HAVE to have a cage mate to be happy, nor do they need to be bred to live a healthy life, but you still would like to add another same sex or sterilized chin to your home to provide extra socialization for your pet, great! There's just a few things to consider first.
1. Do you have enough space to quarantine the new animal?
When you get another chinchilla, you are bringing in a new animal from a different environment. They can harbor illness that you may not notice right away. The incubation period for some viruses can be a minimum of 14 days. Chinchillas hide illness very well, and only exhibit signs of being unwell once they have been ill for quite some time and are nearing the end. Other issues like ringworm can also be hard to spot in it's early stages. Showing only a few small spots near moist areas of the body.
Quarantine would be the responsible thing to do to protect your current and new pet. In order to Quarantine, you will need to keep the new animal separate from your current pet. This is ideally done by keeping the new pet in a temporary cage in another room, or at least as far away from your current pet as possible. It's also wise to keep a supply of pellets, feed, and hay, separate for your new pet to prevent contamination. Changing your clothes between rooms will also help present the spread of ringworm if it is present.
Most breeders and rescues suggest a 30 day quarantine to insure that your new chin is in the best health that you can judge. Even if you take the new pet in for a check up with your exotic vet, they can only diagnosis what they can see. If your new pet is just a carrier or just starting to feel the effects of a virus your vet will not be able to catch the signs. Moving from one place to a new place is enough stress to lower your pet's immune system too, making them susceptible to any illness they may come in contact with from point A to point B.
2. Are you prepared to have two cages for the duration of your pet's lifespan? Even with the best efforts, you may never be able to bond your pets. If they will not cohabitate, you will have to keep them housed separately. This means separate cages, separate emergency carriers, and separate play-times. Many owners comment that they will just request to swap the new animal out for a different animal, then try again, but understand that is not something any reputable breeder would agree to. Swapping animals around like that is a great way to get an outbreak in your herd... and if you find a breeder who is doing that... it's a great way for you to end up with a sick animal. The risk of being stuck with 2 cages is present when you prepare to bring on a second chinchilla, you agree to this when you bring that second chinchilla home. So you need to be aware that everything might possibly double. Double the feed expense, double the hay consumption, double the cage cleaning time and effort, double the footprint of cleaning out wood bedding, double the cost for wood toys and chews, additional costs for cage accessories, more dust residue around the house, so on ect.
Even if you successfully bond your new chinchilla to your current chinchilla, there is always a chance that their bond will break. It can be 2 weeks, it can be 2 years, and suddenly they may start fighting and attacking each other. So there is always a chance that you will have to have a second cage and a second set of all needed items to house 2 separate chinchillas.
3. Are you able to confidently and correctly determine the sex of your Chinchilla? We don't want to go on a whole rambling spew of why you should not breed random pet-only chinchillas here since that is not the topic of this page, but we do want to touch the topic. Don't worry, you can bet your best horse we will have a separate page all about breeding risks and ethics later! The reason we wanted to specify the importance of being able to sex your chinchilla is because you should definitely seek out a same sex companion for your chinchilla. We're sorry, but Dusty does not need a girlfriend and Daisy does not need a boyfriend. Breeding chinchillas is not all cute dust bunnies and glitter. Things can get dangerous, dirty, and depressing. Kits often escape or die in pet-style cages. Pet-only females are often too small to pass kits safely through the birth canal, thus causing their mother to tear them apart ( killing them ) to rip them out of her, or cost their owner $1,500 for an emergency c-section and spay. You would be surprised how many people use the excuse " I was not breeding them! " or " I am not a breeder. " when they were well aware that they housed a male and female together.. It's basic stuff you learn in grade school. Male + Female = Baby. The worst is " Well, they have never had a baby yet! " which is the most cringe worthy, because as stated above... kits escape pet style cages. They are born fully mobile with open eyes. They can fit out of any bar spacing 1/2" or larger. Odds are, they have had kits... you've just never seen them.
Always check the gender, even if you purchase from a reputable breeder or rescue. Mistakes happen, and the only person responsible if breeding occurs is you, the owner, because you have a responsibility to check your pet's sex.
You may have also heard the myth that you cannot house 2 males together, in-tact or otherwise. That is just a myth. You can have males live together. You have no better chance of having a male + female pair than you do having a male + male or female + female pair. The only time that becomes and issue is when you try housing males with any number of females. When you introduce a female ( or more ) into a group of males, you then give them a reason to fight. Introducing a female to males is going to cause them to fight over dominance and breeding rights to the female/s. We've personally had the saddening experience of collecting a badly mauled male chinchilla, who was housed with his father, brother, and mother. It was a gruesome sight that would have easily been avoided if the pet owner did not house a male and female together allowing them to breed... or at least removed the male kits so they did not begin to fight once they reached sexual maturity.
That was a larger section. To sum that up, it is important to know the sex of your pet and pick an appropriate cage mate. Meaning, keep things safe and simple and get a same sex cage mate. Also, don't try to add a female in with a pair or more of males, because you will create a life-threatening situation if they ever start fighting over dominance... there is no escape from an aggressor when you are trapped within the same cage.
Important information and tips for all bonding methods:
You will need a neutral cage to introduce the animals in. The cage must be empty, and recently cleaned. There must not be any odor or items that belonged to either animal. This lowers the chances of the animals fighting over territory they have claimed. Putting a new animal into a cage that smells like your current chinchilla, with all their belongings, is almost always going to end in territorial fighting.
Never hold one chinchilla up to the other. This will prevent them from socializing properly. The less dominant animal should always be able to back down/away, and if they are being held up to the dominate animal, they can not back away and it can be interpreted as a dominance threat.
If you notice fur slip, separate, and retry in a week.
If your pet draws blood, or causes other bodily harm, separate and never attempt to house those two animals together again. They are not compatible and have shown you that by causing harm.
Dominate chinchillas chew down the whiskers of lesser chinchillas. You may trim the whiskers of each animal down to 1" to help with dominance. This does not hurt them. Whiskers or "vibrissae" are long coarse hairs that are used as sensory organs. There is no feeling in the whiskers outside of the body. The base of these hairs are packed with nerves that send sensory messages to the brain of the animal. Whiskers are used for balance and determining width and distance. So it's wise to keep cages simple when whiskers are trimmed. The reason whiskers are trimmed is to make the animal feel smaller ( less dominate ) and disorient them slightly.
Supplying a dust bath while bonding helps soothes the nerves of stressed animals. Use an open container or dish, not an enclosed box.
Applying a small dab of vanilla extract or vinegar on the snout of the nose helps mask the smell of other chinchillas. This is not a method that works long-term but may help when re-introducing chins who may have caused fur slip.
Do not introduce during play time, even if in a neutral area. A large space like a open room allows the animals distance and to avoid contact with each other. This also lets them avoid establishing dominance and creating a bond. Chinchillas may also feel more defensive in a open space, because they are prey animals.
Dominance mounting and fighting are different. Your chinchilla may make disgruntled noises out of annoyance while the other humps them. This is just a dominance act. However, if fur begins flying, or they start attacking each other by biting or chasing aggressively, they should be separated. Your chinchillas need to establish dominance among themselves, but use your best judgement when monitoring their behavior.
Try introducing during the day, around noon or early afternoon. Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents, active at dawn and dusk. During the day is when the rest and will be less likely to fight.
If weather permits, placing the animals in a neutral carrier and moving them to a new room, onto a running washer, or taking them on a short car ride helps bonding by causing them to focus on what is going on around them vs. on the other animal.
These are the two bonding methods we've used with success, we will add to the list as time goes on.
Method #1 : Side by Side bonding.
After a quarantine period you can start to introduce your chinchilla to your new chinchilla. Side by side meaning, place the new chinchilla's cage about 4" from your current chinchilla's cage. Failing to leave a gap can result in the chinchillas biting paws, noses, and lips while fighting through the cage bars. Leave the cages side by side for one to several weeks before trying to introduce your pets inside the same cage. You can even move the cages from side to side, so your pets get use to the other chin being on either side of their cage.
Placing them side by side allows them to see, hear, and smell each other without being able to physically reach each other. This will prevent them from immediately fighting and harming each other.
When you are ready to introduce them, you need to prepare an empty cage. The cage must be cleaned and have no signs of previous occupants. Keep it simple, no houses to hide in, no hammocks to hide in, 2 food bowls, 2 water bottles, and a dust bath ( optional ). Place your pets in this cage, and monitor. If they are interacting well leave them be, and monitor. If they are fighting, separate and try again from the beginning in a few days.
Method #2: Smooshing.
Smooshing is a bonding method where you place 2 or more chinchillas you would like to bond in a small carrier together, after they have gone through quarantine period. The idea is to give them enough space it sit , stand, or lay down, but not enough space to fight. Generally, the chinchillas will be stressed out and more concerned with what is going on around them, and not with who they are caged with. You still must monitor the animals during smooshing. Smooshing can take 1 day, and can take up to several attempts. I prefer to leave them in the carrier for 3-4 days. I supply a water bottle , feed, and hay when they are in the carrier for a few days, and I clean it every other day. After I feel confident they are getting along well, I thoroughly clean a cage and move them into it. I monitor them in that cage for the following days.
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