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Chinchillas aren’t quite mainstream pets yet so it’s natural that there are many myths and questions about them. You may be wondering if your chinchilla is going to do better with a buddy. While it’s a good idea to have a buddy for your chinchilla thanks to how they live in the wild, they don’t need to be kept in groups and pairs.
How Chinchillas Live in the Wild
Wild chinchillas live in the crevices along mountains and rock formations, and also in small burrows close to rocks. These animals are native to the Andes Mountains and have lived across the mountains in Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. In the wild, chinchilla herds are quite large and there can be as many as 100 different animals living together. Herds help provide chinchillas with protection from predators and allow for more social interactions.
Chinchillas in the wild and natural herds adopt social roles. One of the most common roles is to be the guard or lookout chinchilla and his or her job is to watch for danger as other members of the herd play, eat, and sleep.
Can a Chinchilla Live Alone?
Even though chinchillas live in colonies or herds, it doesn’t mean that you need to do this with your pet chinchilla. These animals can live on their own with human caretakers. When it comes to keeping a chinchilla as a pet, it depends on how much time you have to spend on social contact. Since these animals are naturally social they require a lot of attention from you.
Chinchillas are crepuscular animals, and this means that they are active in the hours just after dusk and before dawn. If you have plenty of time after school or work then you can find an hour or two when your chinchilla is active that you can dedicate. However, if this isn’t an option then you may actually need to get your chinchilla a companion.
How to Introduce Your Chinchillas
If you do get your chinchilla a buddy then you need to know how to introduce the two. You likely already know that you can’t just introduce two animals and expect them to get along right away. Introductions will take patience and time.
Since you want to have your chinchillas live with each other be sure to purchase a bigger habitat. While an adult chinchilla should be kept in a cage that is at least three feet by two feet, you should have a larger space for two chinchillas.
Once you have a new habitat, you can put the new chinchilla in it. Put the cage in the same room as your other chinchilla. Be sure the cages are at least a few inches apart. This will allow the two to smell each other through the cages in order to start getting used to each other.
After a week, your chinchillas will start accepting the scents. You can now do different things. You can switch the cages and not change the bedding, or you can allow your chinchillas to share a dust bath.
Sharing a dust bath may be easier than cage switching. In order to do this, place a bit of the sand bath in a container and then let one of our chinchillas use it. When that one is done, let the other use it and then return the first one to the bath.
You can do dust bath sharing for three to five days. Then allow them to spend some time out of the cage together. If the chinchillas are getting along then you can place both of them in the cage together.
What Should You Do if Your Chinchillas Are Fighting?
It’s possible that even if your chinchilla wants a buddy, they may not get along. This can be an issue if you are trying to pair two females together since they are more territorial than males. However, males can be more dominant and this can cause fights if both want to be the dominant one.
There will be some signs if your chinchillas are fighting but know that fights aren’t particularly dangerous. The animals will charge and jump at one another but will rarely bite.
Fighting may not be harmful but chinchillas can stop drinking or eating and become withdrawn when fighting. You may notice that they appear more stressed and anxious.
The physical fighting will be the easiest to spot but chinchillas can also make barking noises if they not happy with their buddy. You should hear the noises from both of them, regardless of who is the aggressor. Females may spray in an attempt to mark territory. If one of your chinchillas is fearful because of aggression then you may notice missing hair.
The hair loss can be caused by slip fur. This is where a chinchilla releases patches of the hair as a defense mechanism to get away from another during a fight.
If you notice signs of fighting then be sure to separate them as quickly as possible. Some chinchillas don’t want to be paired together but are okay with having a mate that lives next to them. Many chinchillas will like this arrangement and you may find that your pet is happy as long as it’s in the safety of its own little space.
Don’t feel bad if your have introduced your chinchillas and they are fighting. Separate them and try again after some more play sessions to see what happens.
If your chinchillas have been fine and suddenly start fighting with each other then this could be a sign that one of the animals is ill and both chinchillas should be seen by a veterinarian. Some aliments, such as respiratory infections, can be transmitted form one chinchilla to another.
What Happens When Your Chinchillas Play Together?
When your chinchillas are playing together, you might see them wagging their tails. There are noises that you may hear but they are distinct from aggressive barking noises that these animals make when fighting. You may notice grunting sounds or gentle and low chirps. As your chinchillas start to get to know each other, they will chase each other and play with toys you give them. However, chinchillas don’t spend a lot of time playing.
If your chinchillas are happy together, they will spend more time resting, feeding, and exhibiting comfort-seeking behaviors. If the chinchillas play for a while but then ignore each other, this is fine.
How Do Your Chinchillas Bond?
If you are lucky then your chinchillas will bond with one another. Bonding is different from interactions you may see when your chinchillas are just playing with each other. Chinchillas that have bonded are more social with each other. They may sit or rest side by side and you may even see the animals napping with their eyes partially closed.
Bonded chinchillas will also groom each other and it’s possible you could see them biting one another. However, this isn’t a cause for concern and it’s called nibbling and is a sign of affection. However, if one of them is a little too forceful when grooming then you may hear a grunt or a squeak. If you don’t notice that your chinchillas are bonding, this isn’t a cause of concern. The animals are going to be most likely to bond at a young age.
At the end of the day, your chinchilla’s personality will dictate whether or not he or she wants to be alone or would be better off with a buddy.