Problematic Chin Behaviors

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Filed in Small Animals, Chinchilla

Though Chinchillas can be terrific, fun pets, owners should also be aware of some potential behviors they may offer up.  Understanding the potential behavior problems chins may engage in will help you better prepare yourself for managing this little critter.

Like many rodents, chins love to engage in bahaviors such as chewing, biting, and kicking. Preparing yourself to handle these natural behaviors will help you and your chin live a happy, stress-free life. Below are some brief descriptions of behaviors followed by ways to handle them effectively.

Chewing

Just like rabbits or even goats, chinchillas love to chew, chew, and chew. Your chin may chew on your furniture, chew on his cage, walls, woodwork, electrical cords, books, and whatever else is available. You chin may even trying to chew on you! The first step to preventing this behavior, is to give your chinchilla acceptable items to chew on.

Additionally, you should provide your chin with a strong metal cage, as opposed to wood or plastic one. No matter how much freedom you want to provide, you should never let your chinchilla have full run of the house, unless you are present to supervise his activity at all times.

Entertainment is important, so give your chinchilla chew toys such as wooden blocks, pumice stones, branches, mineral stones and other pieces of cardboard or wood, such as an empty toilet paper roll; items your chin can destroy will be welcome additions. Also, give your chinchilla a wheel on which to exercise; this will help him work out stress (hey, it's hard being so cute) and get exercise, which can lesson his need to chew (though not eradicate it).

If you do give your chinchilla free run of the house, it's important to chin-proof your home. It's important to remove any poisonous chemicals within reach, plug up any holes, remove electrical cords and furniture that you want to keep safe, smooth out sharp edges, move potentially poisonous plants, and shut any open windows.

Biting Humans

Since chinchillas love to chew, you can expect them to take a nibble at your fingers or toes. Your chinchilla may be checking you out to see if you're edible! If he does this, hopefully he won't draw blood, but it's best to be prepared. Pay attention to his actions. If he looks like he's about to take a bite, simply remove your hand or toe from the scene. Or give a little yelp if he takes a quick nibble, to let him know he's hurt you. Give him a couple tries with this feedback and them give him a time out if he persists. Once he figures out that you're not tasty (since he's a vegetarian), he should leave you alone.

Since your chinchilla may take a long time to get acquainted with you, try to avoid petting him at great lengths until he becomes accustomed to you and the joy of petting. Use plently of rewards! He may bite you if he feels threatened, or he may even urinate.  

Biting Others and Themselves

When chinchillas bite other chinchillas, the message they're trying to send is back-off. Chins can be very aggressive and territorial about their homes. Most chins are social, but every animal has its own personality, so use your best judgment when deciding on whether to add a second chinchilla to your family.

If you do decide to broaden your chinchilla family, be sure to give them time to adjust to each other. Try placing the new cage right beside the old cage, giving them time to adjust to each other. After several days, you can try putting them together in your first chin's cage. Be sure to monitor this meeting of the chins, just in case you need to remove the new one due to fighting. Just like people and other animals, some chinchillas just do not get along.

Kicking & Scratching

Chinchillas have tiny, powerful legs (ever see them run?), so they have the ability to kick and scratch. Kicking is a natural behavior, especially when they are handled improperly. Be extra careful when handling your chin; let him get used to you first before trying to pick him up. Never let young children handle a chin.

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