Chinchilla Behavior Characteristics
It is very important to understand your chinchilla behavior characteristics. Chinchillas personalities are unique from each other just like we people are. The number one rule between you and your chinchilla is never try to rush being friends. Each chinchilla is different, and we should try to use some time to understand and appreciate your chinchilla for who he truly is.
Do not expect a high level of control over your chinchilla’s behavior. They are extremely smart, and complex animals, and if you want a positive relationship with your chin, you will need to dedicate time and patience to understanding him and developing a rapport. Chinchillas can even differentiate between men and women!
It is very common for chins to be suspicious or reluctant especially when there is a change in environment. For example, a change in cage, another chinchilla partner, or even change in food, etc. Take some time for the chinchilla to get used to new items and try not to rule out the possibility so soon.
Chinchillas can furs on their tail when exploring, or when they nervous. When chins run, they usually hold their tail down, and this is most probably a defensive tactic, which they would use in the wild to keep their tail from injury or from being noticed and seized by predators. Chinchillas tail is also used for balance when they jump and also when they try to stand on something very thin like a branch.
Chinchillas are very clean and odorless animals. They will draw back their whiskers to clean them! Chinchillas do not do wet baths but only in their bowl with the special dust.
Chinchillas are not animals who can sit there and do nothing, because they are intelligent and will keep thinking. Therefore, a large cage with lots of accessories will be what they need. They need to be able free to run at least 10minutes 2-3 times a week in a secure room.
Chinchillas will often snatch food away from each other, right out of the others mouth as they’re chewing, in fact. They will take the treat and run to a corner or other spot where they can eat undisturbed. There is usually no fight arises when food is snatched probably because it is a common behavior in their society.
Chinchillas have and like routines. If you feed them every morning early or every afternoon then they will learn to wait you every morning or afternoon to feed them! If you introduce a routine, chinchillas do have an internal sense of timing and they will anticipate whatever it is. Some stability and predictability in their environment is good for chins, so it is best to choose a routine and be consistent.
Chinchillas need to rest in day and only active during dawn and dusk (crepuscular). The night on the other hand they are full of energy ready to chew, run, jump, fight and make loud noises for 10 hours at least!
One of the cutest things they do is nibbling your finger! Nibbling is a social behavior, it is a normal and no offensive mode of communication and should be accepted as not adversely. Nibbling can involve light or firm contact, but it is not insistent to the point of almost piercing skin, and it is done in a positive and friendly context. Chinchillas nibble each other while grooming to display acceptance and affection. All you need to do if the nibbling becomes a bit too rough is to speak a little louder with discipline and say “NO” one two times and pull your hand back a little as a deterrent.
Chinchilla Defense, Stress, and Pain Signs and Mechanisms
Fur slip is a defense mechanism that chinchillas have which is to release, “slip” his fur at the spot where it is touched. When the chinchilla is frightened in the process of picking him up or handling him, he may release fur at the point of contact. Fur slipping is usually harmless and the fur will eventually grow back.
When a chinchilla bit on its own fur, its called “fur biting”, and it appears as a patch of fur cropped shorter than the rest. It is impossible to tell by watching whether a chin is in the act of fur biting or just intensively grooming, you only know by the aftermath. The most common location for fur biting is on the flanks, but it can occur anywhere the chinchilla can reach, including the underside, around the legs, and the tail. In more serious cases, the whole lower body might be barbered right down to the skin. Fur biting is simply a neurotic reaction to stress, which can come in many forms, including a medical problem (internal pain, injury, recent surgery, amputation, etc.) or an environmental stress factor (boredom, malnutrition, cage mate incompatibility, etc.). If suspected medical issue, contact your exotics specialist vet immediately.
Biting occurs when a chin is in extreme stress or fear. Because of their front long and very sharp teeth a chin’s bite is really painful. As we said before chinchillas are different from one another. Therefore, some chins may never bite no matter what. Some others may bite only if they really being stressed and feared. There are chins also that biting no matter what. Chinchilla bites are often deep and piercing. It is rare for chinchillas to bite a human, but biting between chins is commonly seen. There also could bite itself and this indicates a chinchilla at his most stressed or afraid, when he is using the most persuasive, urgent means conceivable of communicating his feelings. Some chins, in particular those who have had negative or limited experience with people, may not even realize that their bite will affect the human. But in any case, it is very important trying calmly to put the chin down and not to display anger, pain or fear. Such a display will only make the chinchilla more afraid and it will reinforce the biting behavior, showing the chin in very dramatic terms that biting grants him power leverage whenever he feels helpless or upset in any way.
Urine spraying occurs when a chin rears up and expels a jet of urine, which can easily reach up to a few feet in length. The chin may stand on her hind legs for a moment and give a warning sound first in low buzzing tones, but there is not always forewarning. Males can spray urine but rarely do, as it is almost exclusively a female behavior and is especially common to females with a high-strung or oversensitive temperament. Such temperamentally difficult chins may take more time to get to know, and may require more bonding effort on your part, but in our opinion these are often the most intelligent, fascinating and fun chins to know. The urine is not harmful in any way, to people or other chins. Urine spraying is often fear and stress-related behavioral problems but also could be for domination and fighting between chins.
A chinchilla may release an odor from his anal gland, which is a scent gland located in the opening of the anus. The odor is not particularly pungent but it is definitely noticeable within a range of about 2 meters and it is one of many warnings that a chin may give leading up to biting or urine spraying. In fact, most of the antisocial behaviors are signs pointing to the possible or eventual deployment of those two ultimate defenses. This odor also happens when the male chin tries to dominate the female.
Chinchillas are capable of making an incredibly wide range of sounds, which are somewhat similar of a squirrel. Depending on their personalities, some chins are very vocal (gruffing, barking) while others may normally make no noise at all, but most fall somewhere in between.
When a chinchilla want to communicate, or happy, or feels annoyed, or is scared or feels threaten it will make sounds. One of the most common sounds that chins make is their “bark,” which actually sounds more like honking than barking and the chin makes it by standing still and abruptly drawing in air through his nose. The sound will vary in pitch between chinchillas.
Chinchillas do NOT respond to negative actions – punishment like hitting, smacking or flicking, which can easily lead to wounds or reprimands by shouting or similar displays of anger. Such discipline is neither suitable nor effective in relating to chinchillas and it will have the opposite desired effect. Therefore, when the chin receives a hostile reaction to his attempt to communicate these feelings, it justifies his need for a stronger defense and the behavior will worsen, even escalate.
A chin that bites or sprays urine may appear to be vicious or may seem to be offensive and hostile. However, in reality the antisocial behavior, communicates the chinchilla’s intense feelings of vulnerability, demonstrates that he is feeling defensive for some underlying reason that needs to be pinpointed and resolved in order for the antisocial behavior to stop. When we successfully with love and patience find and solve these problems, the chin will finally be able to feel reassured that he is now in good hands, relieved of what is troubling him and secure in his environment.