Most people know that Chinchillas need food and water, that's just common sense, but do you know what they need everyday in their cages to keep them healthy and happy? In this article I'll tell you exactly what your Chin needs, and a few things that are optional too.
Space is valuable in a chinchilla cage, they like to climb and jump around and that requires space. Too much junk in their cage will just get in the way, so what are the necessities for every chinchilla's cage?
Food and Hay – As you would have guessed, this is pretty important. Chinchillas need a special kind of food that's available at all pet stores and tons of places online. I order mine in bulk online to save myself the trip to the store. The alfalfa hay is very high in protein and so should only be given as a treat, timothy hay can be available all of the time though.
Water – Your chinchilla should have access to water at all times. You can go with a bottle or a dish. The bottle will need to be on the outside of the cage, with the nozzle through the side of the cage so it does not get chewed on. The dish should be ceramic or metal, but heavy enough not to be knocked over easily. That would just make a mess and leave your little chin without anything to drink, which is why I prefer the bottle. Less mess, quicker to refill, and harder to spill.
Bedding – Your options here boil down to newspaper and wood shavings. As mentioned before, stay away from pine and cedar shavings. Apple and willow woods are the most recommended and if possible, try to get a hold of shavings that have been kiln dried. The chemicals in pine and cedar make them great for absorbing odors, but terrible for your little chin's lungs. The kiln-drying helps to decrease the levels of those chemicals, and therefore make the shavings safer.
A Way To Stay Fit – Chinchilla's love climbing, jumping, and running. Climbing and jumping should be taken care of with the design of the cage, so we'll focus on running here. One thing to avoid is spokes, if you're getting a wheel make sure the sides are solid. My chin's favorite has been the flying saucer, a place to play with no dangerous spokes, can not argue with that.
Dust Bath – What? Yep, a dust bath. Chinchilla's love it. Do not let them overdo it though. 2 times a week for 10 minutes each is plenty, any longer and it's not healthy for their fur or their skin. You can keep the bath in their cage as long as there's a way to cover it up so they can not get at it. You need to regulate how much they use it. I find the best way is to simply keep it out of the cage and then place it when it's time to use it. (Helpful hint: dust baths are a great way to get your chinchilla back into its cage without a fuss)
A Place To Hide – Whether it's a small wooden house, a log made of hay and honey, or just some tubes they can run through, your chin needs somewhere that they can get some alone time. As with everything else that goes in the cage, make sure it's safe to chew on. Better yet, why not choose something that's healthy to chew on? Which brings us to:
Fun Things To Chew On – This can be anything, as long as it's safe. Wooden platforms and ledges (apple and willow are the best types of wood for this, avoid pine and cedar) are my personal favorite, and lava ledges are a close second. Chewing on these objects will keep your chin's teeth healthy and strong, and help to avoid dental problems like malocclusion.