The domestic chinchilla has appeared in our homes for about ten years. Different from the more famous rodents such as the hamster or the guinea pig, it can not be handled in any way. Here are our tips for respecting your chinchilla and successfully cuddling him that he will enjoy too.
Know your chinchilla
Give your chinchilla time to familiarize himself with his surroundings and with the members of the household.
You probably know that the chinchilla is a crepuscular and nocturnal animal. And do not believe that he will change his rhythm of life for you! It is you who will have to adapt to him if you want to cross the tip of his nose. It is essential to respect your need for sleep during the day.
It is an animal that needs a lot of space, and that in all dimensions, because it is able to make leaps of nearly a meter, both in height and in length. Living in groups in the wild, it is advisable to have two chinchillas so that they do not get bored and can rest together. For this to go as well as possible, it is essential to learn about compatibility between the sexes.
The chinchilla is a very skillful animal with its two front legs, showing itself able to open its cage. It is also and above all an animal very emotional, curious and receptive who manifests his emotions through different cries that you will learn to identify as your relationship progresses. Fear can also lead to the loss of tufts of hair, following reflex vasoconstriction. The chinchilla is therefore a very sensitive animal that should be taken care of.
Only patience, combined with a calm posture, will allow you to tame your chinchilla, to be able to handle and stroke it.
Given its sensitivity, the chinchilla is an animal unsuited to cohabitation with children under 12 years old. Below this age, mistakes are easy. The consequences can be serious and represent trauma, both for the animal and for the child.
The senses of the chinchilla
The chinchilla has rather poor eyesight: it is totally myopic beyond 40 to 50 cm. He compensates for it with very fine hearing, as well as a well-developed taste and smell.
Olfactory cues are indeed important in his life, most of the relationships between individuals in a group being based on the odors emitted according to the circumstances. Know that a chinchilla never forgets a scent! If he has had a bad experience with a person or one of his ilk, it will take a long time for him to erase his mistrust.
It also means that you should always give the chinchilla time to identify and recognize you by presenting your hand to him to smell before you want to touch him. And you need to make sure your scent is clearly identifiable and not obscured by other smells. If you’ve just cooked or perfumed yourself, your smell might be unrecognizable.
How to grab a chinchilla?
The chinchilla should not be caught by the protruding parts of its body, whether they are the ears, swivels, the tail or the legs, even though you will find authors who advise to grab the animal by the ears. It is neither more nor less than abuse, the seizure being painful for the animal.
The chinchilla’s thick, curved tail, covered in rather stiff spiky hairs, is more fragile than it looks. It is used by the animal to maintain its balance and to maintain itself in a seated position. However, it breaks easily at its end, in the event that the animal is seized by a predator (this is also the case for the lizard; this phenomenon is that of autotomy). The base, on the other hand, is much less sensitive.
It should not be taken either by a fold of skin. Because of the hair loss mechanism, it would quickly slip out of your hands.
Wear your chinchilla well
Chinchillas are a little larger than most domestic rodents. It measures between 20 and 35 cm, tail not included, the latter alone measuring between 15 and 20 cm. The weight of an adult chinchilla is between 400 and 800 g. It is therefore possible to be less shy than with smaller animals, especially since this animal rarely bites because that is not part of his defense reflexes. The handling is only easy. However, fearful and lively, it is advisable to remain cautious when wanting to wear it, and to always measure your strength. If you squeeze his body too much, it can trigger fear or flight reflexes and cause a serious or even fatal accident.
Like the rabbit, the chinchilla hates having its legs in the air. To wear your chinchilla properly, you must therefore place one hand under its thorax, two fingers – most often the thumb and index finger – positioned under the neck. The other hand is placed under his hindquarters and supports the base of his tail, without squeezing it because it is not a grip. The animal thus feels supported and secure.
Always be gentle and slow in your movements, even if you have handled the chinchilla before.
You can hold it against you: the sitting position is the most comfortable for you and the most secure for the animal. Once you are more comfortable, you can also put it on your arm, being careful to keep the other hand nearby and safely.
The basics of the relationship
Only one positive attitude and a reward system will allow you to develop a close relationship with your animal. The treats he loves the most and that you can use to tame him are timothy, green vegetables, and cactus fruits.
The different stages of taming are essential for you to be able to handle and stroke your chinchilla. You need to get to know each other first by leaving the bars between you, then giving him food regularly in his hand, then letting him explore you freely. He should always be free to run away from you and take refuge if he feels the need to. The slightest impatience or the slightest hindrance would make you start from scratch, so great is the mistrust of the animal.
If your chinchilla were to escape from its cage, the first instinct to adopt is to close the doors and windows to confine it in a specific place which will increase your chances of finding it. No need to get upset and loudly manifest it, it will only cause your chinchilla to hunker down in a corner without moving. He’s not smart enough to understand the reprimands.
After picking him up, let him cuddle up to you for a few moments, speak to him softly and affectionately so that he sees your presence as comfort. Do not keep him too long against you anyway, especially if you are only in the approach phase, and do not delay putting him back in his cage.