When kept as pets, chinchillas, like other rodent animals, spend much of their time in cages. Given how elusive they are and how they can fit their bodies almost anywhere, it’s the best solution.
Of course, for a higher quality of life, they must spend some time each day outside of their cage.
Your first impulse could be to harness your chin to provide them with unsupervised playtime outside the cage or perhaps a walk outside. Unfortunately, this is something you should never do.
Chinchillas are fragile animals with delicate bone structures that can easily be harmed using a harness. Furthermore, chinchillas have incredibly thick fur, which can make gauging how tight to fasten the harness difficult.
The article below outlines why you should avoid using a harness on your chinchilla, as well as alternative solutions for giving your chin lots of playtime outside of the cage without risking their health and safety.
Can Chinchillas Use a Harness?
It’s Not Recommended
Using a harness to secure your chinchilla may appear to be a good idea with pure intentions.
Perhaps you’d like to offer your little companion some free-range outdoor time, or you could take them to the park for a mini-adventure.
However, this is not a wise decision for a variety of reasons. Harnesses/leashes should not be used on your chinchilla, according to both medical professionals and experienced chinchilla owners.
Are There Special “Chinchilla Harnesses”?
There are just a few companies that design and produce harnesses exclusively for chinchillas. Harnesses are typically made for all types of tiny animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
However, this does not stop businesses from marketing them to chins and their unaware owners. Just because it fits your chinchilla doesn’t suggest it should be worn.
Can Chinchillas Wear Collars?
Whether you want to take your furry buddy for a stroll or put a flea collar on them, you should always try to avoid putting collars on them. Your dog and cat may be able to handle it, but chinchillas are considerably tiny and brittle.
There are very few situations where a collar on a chin is permissible.
One example is after surgery, when they may require one to keep them from picking at a freshly healed wound. Breeding collars, on the other hand, are the most commonly utilised.
These are exclusively used by experienced breeders and are specifically made for chinchillas. In fact, they are only employed for one sort of breeding known as “breed running.”
Multiple female chinchillas are kept in separate cages, while a single male chinchilla is kept in a cage that runs parallel to the female cages.
The male can fit through the doorway to the female cages, but the metal collar on the female prevents them from exiting, allowing the male to make a “breed run” among the individual females.
These collars are exclusively used for breeding and are not intended for “walking” or cosmetic purposes. Furthermore, breeding chinchillas are closely examined to ensure that any collar concerns are addressed and corrected immediately.
Why are Harnesses Bad for Chinchillas?
Harmful to Their Bodies
Chinchillas are delicate and brittle creatures. Like most other rodent species, they have susceptible bone structures that can be easily fractured (or even broken) by a harness.
Chinchillas were initially thought to have “floating ribs,” which indicates their ribcage lacks a sternum. The sternum is a T-shaped bone that runs down the center of the chest and links the ribs.
However, this is not the case, as chins do have a complete rib cage. What really complicates matters is that their ribcage is mainly cartilage, which isn’t as robust as bone.
As a result, their ribcage isn’t as strong as that of other animals.
Aside from fragile bones, the harness can compress the ribcage on their organs, potentially causing internal injury.
Chins, as you may know, have pretty thick coats. It’s critical to their survival in the Andes. As a result, harnesses might be challenging to be put on them. It can be difficult to tell where their bodies are at times.
So, you can either put it on too loosely, causing them to slip out of the harness, or too tightly, causing stress and potential internal injuries.
Chinchillas Aren’t Technically Domesticated.
Domesticated pets have been bred to be more docile and submissive when handled by humans over hundreds of years.
As a result, dogs, for example, may be readily taught to walk on a leash and respond positively to a harness or collar.
On the other hand, Chinchillas have never been domesticated in this way. As a chin owner, you’re well aware that these are inherently nervous creatures who react badly to stress. They could not realize you’re not attempting to harm them by putting them in a harness.
Consider this: the only time something grabs their back or neck in the wild is when predators are attacking them.
Even if you have the best of intentions, it is possible that they will injure themselves when attempting to escape and break free from the harness.
Chinchillas, unlike other pets, do not walk at a fluid pace. Instead, they do more of a hopping motion.
This might be a concern if it prevents them from moving freely. It might create a lot of anxiety and even panic. As a result, chinchillas should never be walked like dogs (or even some cats).
Avoid Taking Them Outside (You Shouldn’t “Walk” Your Chinchilla)
Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains and have adapted to a very unique environment. The weather is chilly, dry, and at high elevation. For this reason, their living conditions in your home are so important to their health.
The cage should be kept in a cool, dimly lit area of your home, away from direct sunlight. If you “take them for a walk” with a harness or even let them roam your yard on a harness, you are exposing them to conditions that they may not be able to handle.
Chinchillas overheat easily in direct sunlight. They wouldn’t be able to burrow or escape surroundings that they find disagreeable if outdoors on a harness, especially on a sunny day with limited shade.
Furthermore, if their fur gets wet outside, they can develop hypothermia. Because of the thickness of their fur, it does not dry quickly. Remember that the Andes Mountains are a very dry environment, and they will burrow if exposed to moisture.
Can Chinchillas Use Exercise Balls?
Although exercise balls can be excellent for other tiny pets such as hamsters and gerbils, they are not suitable for chinchillas.
Chinchillas, as previously stated, are easily overheated. When they are playing or running, they require plenty of airflow and ventilation.
As a result, exercise balls can be stuffy and have inadequate ventilation, causing them rapidly overheat when moving.
Secondly, chinchillas pee and poo a lot; therefore, they’ll undoubtedly relieve themselves within the exercise ball. This is problematic since chinchilla fur is extremely tough to clean. You don’t want your chinchilla covered in their own waste.
Alternative Solutions to Harnesses
Chin-Proofing Your Home
Rather than using a harness to confine your chinchilla for free-roaming playtime, chin-proofing a room in your home is a great alternative!
It allows them to spend plenty of time outside of their cage while still keeping you in control and preventing them from getting into anything they shouldn’t.
Because chinchillas are masters of hiding and fitting into small spaces, you must be thorough. Check that all of the windows and doors in the room are properly shut.
Next, ensure no stray cables are sitting around or hanging close to the floor. They may harm your chinchilla if the cable is plugged into an electrical source, in addition to destroying your equipment and leaving you with dangerous frayed wires.
Once the space is finished, you can let them run freely in a climate-controlled environment without a harness. This is especially entertaining to see when they have a cage mate with whom to jump around and play freely.
Use A Playpen
Playpens are another excellent choice for giving your chin some open space to run and play. Using a playpen eliminates the need for chin-proofing and allows you to set up the pen and place them inside quickly.
It may not be as large as the entire room, but they will have plenty of areas to play. It can also provide owners with peace of mind by confining them to the enclosure and allowing them to run freely unsupervised.
However, it should be noted that chinchillas can jump surprisingly high, so be sure the playpen is tall enough to hold them. If your pen has shorter walls, you should chin-proof the room as a precaution.
With good intentions, a harness for your chinchilla may seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, they frequently cause more harm than good.
They aren’t as robust as cats and dogs and have sensitive bodies with delicate bone structures. You may think you’re doing them a favor, but they’ll be far happier playing outside their cage inside your home in a contained area.
This is not only safer for them, but you will be able to relax knowing that your furry little friend has enough area to play without risking injury or becoming overly anxious.