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Special Considerations for Chinchillas

By Katherine E. Quesenberry, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian),
Kenneth R. Boschert, DVM, DACLAM, Associate Director, Division of Comparative Medicine, Washington University

Chinchillas should be handled calmly and gently to minimize stress. A protective reaction in chinchillas, known as fur slip, may occur if the animal is frightened, resulting in the release of a large patch of fur and revealing smooth, clean skin underneath. It may also occur with improper handling, fighting, or anything that causes overexcitement. The fur can take several months to regrow and may be a different shade. To prevent this, chinchillas should be handled gently with the least amount of stress by moving slowly and speaking softly. Tame, nonpregnant animals can be removed from a cage by grasping and lifting the base of the tail while using the opposite hand to support the body. Pregnant females should not be handled unless necessary.

Chinchillas are prone to heat stroke at temperatures greater than 80°F (27°C). While chinchillas can gradually adapt to outdoor temperatures less than 32°F (0°C), the chinchilla’s preferred temperature range indoors is 50 to 60°F (10 to 16°C). The housing environment should be dry, free of drafts, moderately cool, and away from direct sun.

Taking your chinchilla with you when you travel is not recommended, as it can cause a great deal of stress to your pet. A better option is to locate a reliable pet sitter, or board your chinchilla in an appropriate facility. (Chinchillas should not be boarded in the same room with barking dogs.) If travel—such as a move—is unavoidable, planning ahead and taking certain precautions can minimize stress (see When You Travel).

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