Chinchillas are exotic animals and have very specific requirements. Many people assume that they can be cared for the same as other pets, however, this is far from the truth.
There is a lot of confusion regarding chinchillas going outdoors and I wrote this article to help clear up some common misconceptions.
Can you take your chinchillas outside? What to take note of?
Although it may be tempting to do so, it is not recommended for chinchillas to be taken outside. There are many dangers for pet chinchillas if they are not kept in a controlled indoor environment.
Summary of today’s article:
- Why is it not recommended for chinchillas to be taken outside?
- Can I walk my chinchilla outdoors?
- Can my chinchilla ride in a car?
- How can I safely give my chinchilla an outdoor experience?
- Safest at home
Even though wild chinchillas are masters of navigating their native climate of the Andes Mountains, pet chinchillas do not fare well outdoors. It may appear like your pet chinchilla is missing out by living inside, however, this is not the case.
Taking a domestic chinchilla outside can have disastrous consequences and should be avoided.
Reason #1. Chinchillas Are Escape Artists
When given freedom, chinchillas will tap into their curious nature and explore everything they can find. While this behavior should be encouraged in a chinchilla proofed room during playtime, it is not a good situation when your pet is outdoors.
Chinchillas are incredibly agile creatures, which is how they survive in their native habitat. A runaway chinchilla is small and incredibly fast, making them difficult to catch once they are on the loose.
An inquisitive chinchilla will take off like a bolt of lightning, ending up in a variety of potentially hazardous predicaments. Chinchillas are skilled climbers and capable of scaling trees and other tall structures with ease.
There are countless places that your chinchilla could climb where you would not be able to reach them.
Wild chinchillas often burrow in rock crevices and a chinchilla on the loose will be able to hide in places that most humans would overlook. A hidden chinchilla outdoors may not ever be discovered by their caretaker, leaving them to fend for themselves indefinitely.
A lost domestic chinchilla will be completely out of their element and succumb to a terrible fate if they are not found.
Reason #2. Chinchillas Will Chew On Everything
A Chinchilla’s teeth are constantly growing, so they must chew frequently. As every chinchilla caretaker has witnessed, chinchillas will chew on anything they can sink their teeth into. In the safety of their cage, this is not an issue, however, it is a completely different story outdoors.
A chinchilla on the loose outside has a variety of things to chew on, many of which may be covered in paint or contain toxic substances. A chinchilla in a backyard may go after fences, outdoor furniture, or even the walls of a house!
Chinchillas are very drawn to plants and consume a variety of leaves and twigs in their natural environment. The main concern with a chinchilla outdoors is how quickly they can consume unsafe foliage or bark.
There are many types of plants that are lethal to chinchillas if consumed. Additionally, your chinchilla could eat plants that have been treated with poisonous pesticides or other dangerous chemicals.
Reason #3. Lack Of Climate Control Outdoors
Chinchillas are extremely sensitive to heat and humidity. A chinchilla’s natural habitat is very arid and cool.
Chinchilla fur is extremely dense and is designed to keep them well insulated from the sometimes freezing temperatures in the wild. When a chinchilla is indoors, their climate can easily be controlled by an air conditioning unit that not only cools a room but also dehumidifies.
If a chinchilla were to spend any time outdoors, they would be at the mercy of the weather. A chinchilla exposed to heat can easily suffer heat stroke once the temperature reaches 75° Fahrenheit.
Heatstroke is the number one killer of chinchillas which is why they should always be in a temperature-regulated environment.
Humidity is also an issue for chinchillas since their fur is suited to arid environments. A chinchilla’s fur must stay dry at all times.
Chinchillas who are exposed to moisture can develop a host of ailments including fungal infections and respiratory illness. Taking a chinchilla outdoors risks potential exposure to rain, humidity, and other sources of water such as puddles or wet grass.
Reason #4. Risk Of Predation
Chinchillas are prey animals in the wild and that fact also holds true in domestic settings. A chinchilla has very few self-defense mechanisms and relies heavily on the ability to flee from potential predators.
A chinchilla outdoors will be vulnerable to other animals who may view them as a meal. Although a fenced-in backyard may appear safe from predation, there are many cunning hunters on the prowl such as cats, coyotes, and even foxes.
Predators on the hunt are adept at camouflage and capable of easily shielding themselves from the view of chinchillas and their caretakers.
Additionally, there is also the possibility of an attack from above. Wild chinchillas fall prey to large birds and a domestic chinchilla outdoors can also be a target.
Birds such as owls and hawks can spot and scoop up a pet chinchilla very quickly. If a large bird were to grab your pet, there would be virtually no way to retrieve them again.
These types of attacks occur very suddenly and are more common than many people realize.
Reason #5. Outdoor Excursions Can Be Traumatic
Chinchillas are naturally skittish and it often takes a long time for them to become comfortable in their environment. One of the worst things you can do as a chinchilla caretaker is expose your pet to situations which will foster mistrust or distress.
Domestic chinchillas have been raised in captivity, therefore they do not have any desire to be outdoors. Although they may enjoy the new freedom at first, the situation will quickly devolve into chaos since chinchillas derive a sense of security from their somewhat predictable indoor environment.
Exposing a chinchilla to the outdoors can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of fear and insecurity. If a chinchilla were to suffer an especially bad experience outdoors, they could become traumatized.
Chinchillas do not need to go for walks. Chinchillas get plenty of exercise in a proper cage setup and from frequent playtimes in a supervised environment.
Some people walk their chinchillas with harnesses or collars. This practice is extremely dangerous and should not be encouraged!
Chinchillas have thin ribs that can break easily under pressure. Constriction of a chinchilla’s midsection can also lead to the crushing of their internal organs or spinal cord.
Chinchillas are going to walk, run, and bounce wherever they want. A leash or harness is guaranteed to inflict undue pressure on your chinchilla’s anatomy and can lead to severe injuries.
Pet chinchillas are happy to roam unabated in a chinchilla proofed room while supervised by their caretakers. There is no reason to attempt to walk a chinchilla and the practice will only lead to disastrous results.
Be wary of any harnesses or collars that claim to be safe for chinchillas!
Chinchillas should not be taken for recreational car rides for many of the same reasons that they should not play outdoors. There will be occasions where you will need to transport your chinchilla and it is fine to do so if you follow a few key procedures.
First, make sure that your chinchilla is in a comfortable travel cage that is secured from moving around while the vehicle is in motion. Verify that there are no loose objects in the cage as these can fall on your pet during travel.
You will also want to remove their water bottle while the car is moving since the bead will cause the bottle to leak, potentially getting your chinchilla wet. Make frequent stops to provide your pet with food and water since they will not have access during the ride.
Maintain a cool temperature in the car and use shades to cover any windows that may allow sunlight to stream on your pet’s cage.
If a chinchilla has a proper cage setup and receives adequate playtime, they will be thoroughly content. If you are feeling like your chinchilla could benefit from some additional stimulation, you can safely bring the outdoors to them.
The easiest way to let your chinchilla experience a taste of the outdoors is to set up a television within viewing distance of their cage. Chinchillas love to watch TV and will generally respond well to nature documentaries and travel footage.
You may also place your chinchilla’s cage within sight of a window as long as they are not being exposed to the heat of the sun.
Domestic chinchillas who are taken outside are subject to many hidden dangers and it is not advised to take the risk. Chinchillas in captivity have no reason to go outdoors and are perfectly happy with a well-designed indoor habitat.
Have fun playing with your chinchilla inside, and if you want to add something new, throw a little television viewing in the mix!