Male animals are often assumed to be the more aggressive and territorial sex. When we think of animal aggression, we immediately think of a predatory male animal—the protectors of the wild. However, this is not always the case. In smaller animals—like chinchillas, for example—it is not uncommon for males to be the “fairer gender”.
Male chinchillas can, of course, become aggressive, but only when agitated—as goes with all animals. But what does this mean for having a pet male chinchilla? Here is a bit more information on a male chinchilla’s aggression tendencies and what to do about them:
Are Male Chinchillas More Aggressive than their Female Counterparts?
No. Male chinchillas are surprisingly not more aggressive than female chinchillas. If anything, female chinchillas are far more aggressive than male chinchillas will ever be.
Females are instinctively more territorial than males. This is due to the social hierarchy of chinchillas in the wild. Chinchillas typically live in large groups in their natural habitat, and these herds are matriarchal, meaning the females are in control. The females are even physically larger than their opposite gender. Males travel from group to group to find mates and are free to travel from herd to herd, while the females stick to their own territories. Because of this, females are highly territorial, since they are the ones who must protect their food and young.
In domestic situations, when chinchillas are pets, females still tend to be more aggressive than the males. Even though they do not have to do so for survival, female chinchillas can be overly protective of their water bottles, food supply, and their young, if they have had a litter while in captivity.
But, what does an aggressive chinchilla even look like? You will first recognize aggression through their vocalizations—when they are upset, they will let you know by excessive grunting and barking. If they are really peeved at you, they might become more physical—like lunging at you, running away from you, or even, biting you when you get too handsy. When a male gets aggressive, his first tell of frustration is his barking, but if you have a female, beware of her teeth because she is not afraid to use them.
To find out more, check out our popular post about chinchilla fighting signs.
Possible Causes of Aggression for Males Chinchillas
While females are generally more aggressive, this does not mean males do not ever become aggressive or even spray. They can still become so if they are agitated. There are very few things that will specifically or exclusively irritate a male chinchilla. Most things that irritate them will also aggravate a female chinchilla—save for a few things. Here are some examples of things that might cause aggressive behavior in a male chinchilla:
1. Hair rings
If a male chinchilla becomes suddenly aggressive, it is possible they have a hair ring. What is this? Hair rings are what happens when a small amount of hair wraps around the male’s penis, underneath their foreskin. It can happen after a male has recently mated, but it is not limited to post-intercourse. A hair ring can happen at any time, and it can make them extremely uncomfortable, as it limits their penis mobility and ability to urinate.
As with any animal or being, being uncomfortable or in pain can make a male chinchilla upset or aggressive. This means that if you own a male chinchilla, you must check their penis regularly. They can clean and remove these themselves, but sometimes a hair ring can form before they can fix it on their own. If you notice your male chinchilla constantly cleaning—licking—themselves (down there), you should probably check them for a hair ring. If it gets really bad, you might need to take them to a vet to have it removed.
2. New mates or new cage-partners.
Male chinchillas, while they are not territorial in general, can still become so when they are introduced to a new cage-partner. The whole idea of sharing their space can be intimidating, confusing, and, sometimes, infuriating for the small animal. Even if it is a new cage-partner of the same gender, a male chinchilla may not become more accustomed to them faster than if it is a female. When you put two, non-territorial beings together, it takes them a while to get used to one another.
However, if you put a new female into a cage with a male who has lived on his own for a while, it is likely both parties might become aggressive at first. The female will feel immediately on edge, and the male will get offended you are making him share his home. Sharing is not always caring when it comes to chinchillas. Also, when a female chinchilla is in heat, she becomes far more aggressive than usual, which can be confusing for the male as he will instinctually attempt to mate—especially if he has never interacted with a female before.
3. Little interaction with their owner.
Chinchillas are highly social animals, so when they do not see their owner for a while, they can get restless and angry. This worsens when you have a strong bond with your pet, because they feel more personally neglected when you do not give them attention.
Chinchillas are independent—you can leave them alone for a weekend, and they will be fine. But, if you leave them alone for too long, they can begin to panic—which may cause them to act out when they do see you. They basically throw a tantrum because they are not getting enough attention.
4. Little exercise.
This ties into social interaction for chinchillas. If a chinchilla has a smaller enclosure, with little room to jump around, they get restless, and if they also have not seen you in a while, the whole situation can escalate quickly. It is best to let them out for at least an hour a day in a bigger area to jump around, run, and see you so they can meet their socialization and exercise quotas for the day.
Male chinchillas are not neat freaks, but they do not like to be dirty, either. When they are left in dirty cage, or are not given the chance to properly clean themselves, a chinchilla’s fur can become overly greasy, causing it to get matted. This is much like when you have a tangled section of hair, so you know it can get uncomfortable and annoying, and it only worsens then longer you leave it alone.
If your chinchilla acts out and this seems to be the reason, it means it is time for you to give them a dust bath. Get a bowl of sand and let them roll around for a little while. They will feel loads better.
How to Calm a Chinchilla Down:
So, what do you do if your chinchilla starts to get aggressive towards you or their cage-mates? Here are a few tips:
1. Separate them.
If you have more than one chinchilla in a cage, and they start to act aggressively and fight, separate them as soon as possible. Chinchillas can get physically aggressive—especially females—which can cause physical harm to another chinchilla. They seem sweet and cuddly, but they have some fire within them that can hurt another being.
Separating them is essentially giving them a time-out from one another so they can cool down. When they are calm, they can be put back in the same space—just monitor them in case one holds a grudge.
2. Give them love and let them out.
Sometimes a chinchilla just wants to know that it is loved. If a male chinchilla is upset because it has not gotten a lot of interaction or active time recently, letting him out and showing him attention will calm him down. Sometimes all a chinchilla needs is attention and space to run around after they’ve been cooped up for a while.
So, let them out of their cage, or at least put them in a space big enough for them to run all their energy out. If you really want to let them know you care, sit down in the space with them or next to them and have some treats at the ready. If you’re an owner who has a solid bond with your chinchilla, they will love the opportunity to climb on you and eat the treats you have to offer—it’s the real reason they love you.
3. Give them a dust bath.
Dust baths are always a good thing for a chinchilla. They absolutely love them. You can never go wrong with offering them one, and it is an easy way to make them happy fast. Chances are, they will never turn you down for a chance to roll in some sand.
Chinchillas are fairly easygoing animals—especially the men of the species. At the end of the day, just make sure they get enough attention, food, and water, and do not make them uncomfortable. By just doing these simple things, your chinchilla will rarely act out, but hopefully these tips will help you deal with those few rare occasions!