For a prey animal like a chinchilla, taming and bonding won’t be seen as fun, games, and adventure.
No matter how friendly your little animal may be in the future, it will not start its relationship with you by taking the first steps, all happy and excited and ready to get off on the right foot. A chinchilla in a new situation is usually very, very scared.
Your job in those first few weeks with your new chinchilla is to alleviate these fears, show it that there is nothing to fear, and show it that you belong to a new category of friendly benevolence rather than the old category of ‘bogeymen’ with those owls, hawks. and foxes.
Move carefully and don’t push things. Don’t rush the relationship – the cage is fairly new at first and should give you time to explore it on your own terms.
Taming your chinchilla
1. The first week with your chinchilla
The taming of your chinchilla begins in the first week, even when the little animal gets used to its new environment and you practice self-control and stay away.
You are not ignoring it; You feed him, give him water, and keep his house clean, but you don’t pick him up or try to touch him.
The whole time you work around the cage, you are speaking in a low, reassuring, and peaceful voice, letting him know that you are there, that you care about him, and that you will give him space and his own time to come to you.
2. Good connotations
Phase two begins when your chinchilla has had a chance to adjust to his new home. This is when you get used to yourself up close and personal while refraining from any pursuit movements.
You should also refrain, both now and in the future, from eye contact; For a prey animal like a chinchilla, this will be seen as a definite threat.
Prepare a treat for your little pet and hold it carefully between the bars of the cage. Keep it there for a while, until it comes and catches it. You can talk to him; Chinchillas can be trained to understand words.
If he ignores the treat completely, put it away and try again later. If he comes and smells it but isn’t brave enough to take it off your fingers, put it inside the cage for him to find and pick up later.
One important thing: A chinchilla is very prone to blood sugar swings and diabetes and cannot have many treats. One a day is the limit, and even then, not all of them can be sweet like raisins; one raisin a week is a good rule of thumb.
Another point to keep in mind: After your chinchilla has been tamed, you should stop giving him treats behind the bars of the cage; save them for more direct and personal gifts.
A chinchilla that is used to accepting treats in this way is likely to consider everything between the bars as food and will nip and bite any finger that finds its way inside. This is not bad behavior; it is just a natural consequence of regular feeding between bars.
3. Introducing your hand to the chinchilla
Once your chinchilla is ready to grab treats through the bars of the cage and remember, it probably took a while as he can only eat one a day, it’s time to get him used to your hand. Again, you need small steps.
On the first day, open the cage door and put your hand in there. Just leave it there; don’t move, not even your fingers. A chinchilla should come up to sniff, explore, or even stand on top of it, and being a curious little animal, it will if you leave it there long enough.
Success depends more on your patience than anything else. Don’t move, leave your arms limp, let it explore. When you cannot stay still any longer, gently withdraw your arm.
The second time you do this, put the treat in the center of the palm of your hand. Again, leave your arm there for as long as you can comfortably. If your chinchilla doesn’t take the treat from your palm, just put it away and try again later or the next day. If it does, congratulations! you have reached your first major milestone in chinchilla taming; Teaching your pet to eat from your hand.
If he starts biting you, don’t panic. This is not hostile behavior; the chinchilla is accepting your hand as a new cage mate and trying to groom you. It may take a little getting used to, but these friendly nibbles won’t make you bleed.
4. First scratches
This phase is when you really first touch your new pet, and it begins a day or two after your chinchilla has started eating from your hand.
Open the cage and put your hand in as before, and after the chinchilla walks over and takes the treat, and is exploring your hand, bend one finger up and gently scratch around the ears or the side of the head. That’s it. No grabbing, no scratching a lot with the whole hand, just a small scratch with a finger.
When you lift your finger and start scratching, be aware that he may freak out and run to the back of the cage again. If it does, leave it! This is extremely important. He will come back again, and you haven’t lost anything. However, if you try to reach for it and grab it, he will be terrified of you and you lose all the profits that you had made.
Where you go from here depends on his reaction. If you take it well, keep scratching, even putting two or three fingers into play if you like. If it dashes away but comes back, you can try again. If he does go on and off for a while, it’s probably best to let him keep scratching for tomorrow. Just leave your hand there for a few more minutes, still and limp, and then gently remove it and close the cage.
Soon your chinchilla will be comfortable with you petting and scratching, and he will be comfortable eating from your palm and taking exploration trips up your hand or arm.
How to properly hold your chinchilla?
The key to holding a chinchilla is to lift it confidently, firmly, calmly, slowly, and gently.
Chinchillas, as a rule, do not particularly like to be held; They are active little creatures and appreciate being in charge of their own mobility. But there are times when you will need to hold your chinchilla; And, after your chinchilla has gotten used to its new home and has been tamed, it helps to get some practice done.
There are two important things to remember not to do when holding a chinchilla.
First, never grab it by the tail. A chinchilla’s tail is quite delicate and is bound to break off and free the chinchilla if it is held between its teeth by a predator. The same will happen if you try to grab the chinchilla by the tail. There will be blood, it will be ugly and the tails will not grow back.
Then never pick it up by the neck, like a kitten. This will start another defense mechanism, skin slip, as it let go of its skin in an instinctive effort to break free. It will fall off and you will be left with a very strange-looking chinchilla. The fur grows back, but it will take up to six months.
It is better not to grab a chinchilla from above. Extend your hand, let your chinchilla begin to explore it and then lift it with both hands from below and bring it towards your chest, with its back against your chest and its front gently supported by your hand.
The rhythm of your breathing will help it calm down. Make sure to hold on to it firmly, because if it feels any uncertainty in your grip, it will try to jump and has no idea what a safe distance to fall is.
Once it’s comfortable, you should be able to hold it against your chest with one hand while using the other for whatever you need to do.
A less preferable way is to hold a chinchilla with one hand in front, between the front and back legs, and the other hand on the back and holding the base of the tail firmly.
How not to interact with your chinchilla
Your chinchilla may look like a feisty little fireball, but on the inside, it’s still a shy, delicate, and scared little creature.
It is important that you never forget that it is a prey animal, an animal used, for countless centuries, to flee from hunters. It is equally aware that it is entirely in your power.
Always treat your chinchilla with care. Any slips, quick flashes of temper, or sudden yelling, spanking, or scolding could have permanent damaging results.
Suppose your chinchilla is doing something wrong and you yell at it, throw something at it, or scare it. It doesn’t have the mental wiring to connect the two events and understand that it was bad and now you are being punished.
All he knows is that the huge creature that he had begun to mentally label as friendly benevolence is indeed a terrifying great hunter. He will probably stop any troublesome behavior and run and hide, but you will also have lost his trust.
If, on the other hand, you distract him in a non-threatening way, such as clapping hands or calling out words he has come to understand, he will also stop the mischievous behavior. And you will have retained his trust. If he doesn’t obey you, you can also gently lift him up from below, hold him against your chest, and gently reprimand him about how he is expected to behave. No, he is not likely to understand you, but he will be distracted and will know that he is loved.
Never scold your chinchilla, never hit or spank him, and never punish him by denying his food and water. Never chase it either.
Chinchillas are extremely fast, and you will surely scare them off and miss any forays you have been making on their affection. It is highly unlikely that you will catch it that way.
Never, except in an extreme emergency, catch him by throwing a blanket or sweater over him. This will bring him back to the days of the Andes when he fled from the black shadow of the hawk, and those are memories you won’t want to associate with your presence.
Another thing that is always counterproductive is trying to look your chinchilla in the eye. People tend to consider eye contact as a positive gesture; Thousands of romance novels have praised the power of a single glance. But that’s the culture of the people, and it doesn’t translate into the Chinchilla language.
To a chinchilla, looking into its eyes means only one thing: an ugly threat.
Bonding with your chinchilla
Bonding is a very special process and there is no magic formula for it, but there are some essential ingredients.
Spend time with your chinchilla; focused and quality time. Hang around the cage talking, letting your arms dangle in the cage for hours, barely moving at first, and then scratching the chinchilla’s head when it comes to visiting.
Be consistent with your time; spending an entire Saturday afternoon flitting around the chinchilla’s cage and then ignoring it for the rest of the week won’t work.
Be consistently gentle and let all your movements be slow and measured. Putting fear into the equation will completely hijack any bonding attempts, so make sure your little animal always feels safe.
Talk to your chinchilla often in soft, modulated tones. Use it as a name regularly. Talk while cleaning the cage, while changing the water dish, and while putting fresh hay in the hayrack. Talk when you share an occasional gift.
Meet on its terms
Don’t rush the bonding process. Giving him a chance to come to you and wait for him to come will be much more effective than reaching out and grabbing. If you catch him, he has only one thought: how to escape. If you wait, his curiosity will take over and he will come to explore.
How to play with your chinchilla
With all of that in mind, then what does playing with your chinchilla involve? Not exciting chase games like you could do with your pup. Don’t relax together in the recliner, like you would with your kitten or even his hamster.
First, your chinchilla is too easily frightened, and secondly, he’s too excited and mobile.
Playing with your chinchilla means letting him take the initiative and being willing to be a part of his fun and explorations. As you get to know your chinchilla and understand what it does and does not enjoy, playtime will get even more fun.