Chinchillas are not like more common household pets when it comes to affection. They do not rub against your legs like cats do, nor do they bark and lick your face, toes, or hands like dogs do. Chinchillas show affection for their owners in different ways, but just because you do not know what those ways are, does not mean your chinchilla does not like you.
Here are some things to keep in mind about how chinchillas show you how they feel for you:
Do Chinchillas Get Attached to Their Owners?
First, let’s define what this even means. A chinchilla’s—or any animal’s, really—definition of liking you does not mean the same thing as it does in the human vocabulary. When a chinchilla likes you, it means they trust you.
When you first get a chinchilla, it probably will not seem like they like you very much, but that is only because they do not know you—yet. You have to earn their trust and form a bond with them before they will ever start to show you their true affection for you.
Signs Your Chinchilla Likes You
You can tell your chinchilla has begun to trust you—and therefore, like you—based on their behavior. Here are some things to look out for:
1. They do not hide from you
When a chinchilla is just starting to get used to their environment, they tend to hide away in their cage or designated space. They instinctively try to get away from whoever the new person is who has been manhandling them.
However, when they start to get used to your presence and what you do for them, they start to trust you more—or, they at least know you will not harm them upon entry.
This trust makes them feel safer around you. So, once you have it, they will feel more comfortable being out and about in their space when you approach, which signals you are growing on them.
2. They eat and drink regularly
Just like how you are not hungry after a long road trip, chinchillas take a while to warm up to the idea of their new food in their new space—especially when it comes to giving them small treats in addition to their regular food. Something about the idea of a giant hand reaching towards their food bowl and dropping unknown substances seem suspicious to a new chinchilla.
Because of this, new chinchillas might noticeably avoid food for a little bit. Any time a chinchilla feels unhappy, their eating habits shift. When you and the chinchilla are first establishing a bond, the will seem lethargic and not hungry—at least until they start to trust you.
When they do begin to like you—and grow accustomed to the fact that you’re the Food-Bringer—they will have not problem eating when they feel hungry and drinking around you.
3. They jump around
This is one of the easiest ways to tell if a chinchilla likes you. They love to jump and move around. In the wild, chinchillas live freely in rocky areas, with lots of places to jump around, so large cages are best for them. And, if they have the room, they will use it all for acrobat practice.
When they like you, they will get excited to see you. You can tell when this happens, because they literally jump around with enthusiasm. If they don’t like you, they will stick with the hiding-from-you method.
Some owners think they’re just jumping because they know they will probably get a treat when they see their owner—but if you want to think it is because of your mere presence and the chinchilla’s affection for you, that’s okay too. No one will tell.
4. They talk to you
This is another easy way to tell if a chinchilla likes you. If they start to bark, grunt, hiccup, or squeak when they see you, it is probably a good sign they are excited. It is almost like a small kid telling you about their day when you finally come home from work. They want to tell you all about it!
Now, if they start making noise and jumping around when they see you? Oh, man. That chinchilla really loves you.
5. They let you cuddle them
This is a big one. Chinchillas are not natural cuddlers, and they are not overly, physically affectionate. But, they do appreciate a good petting, and if they really like you, they might sit in your lap for a bit.
However, when they are first getting to know you, this will not happen. They will probably avoid you altogether while they are still getting to know you. Definitely do not expect to hold them in your lap and pet them for hours—ever, really—but definitely not at first.
For them, it would be like some stranger petting your hair in the Walmart grocery line. You can tell they like you when you are able to hold them for longer periods of time, or when they start to want to climb all over you.
6. They seem much happier.
This is an overall tell to gauging whether your chinchilla has begun to trust and like you. As that bond forms between you, they start to settle into their life and physically start to seem more content with their home.
You can tell if they are truly happy if they are doing all the things above. Chinchillas are noticeably different when they are not happy with their life. But, when your chinchilla is happy, it means they trust you and feel safe around you—and they like you because you care for them.
How Do You Get Your Chinchilla to Like You?
You want your chinchilla to like you so you can get to the fun, playing parts of having a chinchilla as soon as possible, right? And the only way to do that is to establish that bond as fast as you can. Here are some pointers on making your chinchilla as happy and comfortable as possible:
1. Give them lots of space.
As said before, chinchillas love to move around—run, jump, hop—you name it. Giving them lots of space to be able to do this in will encourage them to explore their surroundings more when they are first exposed to them. Once they explore, they will become more comfortable, as they will feel more in control over their space.
This does not mean they will automatically bond with you once they explore their new home, though, but when they feel they are in control over their surroundings, they will feel like they can approach you on their own terms.
2. Feed them, and be the only one.
Chinchillas will associate you with food faster if you are the only person feeding them and taking care of their space. Once they establish that, they will begin to associate you with a need that you take care of—which will escalate the formation of that bond.
This doesn’t mean there can never be another person who helps, but if you want to be deemed your chinchillas object of affection, you need to let them bond to you as their food supply.
3. Give them dust baths.
Dust baths are key. If there is a vice for chinchillas, it is the dust bath. They love to roll around in dust to clean themselves, and if you are the one who helps provide that for them, they will love you in no time.
4. Don’t rush them.
Forming a bond takes time. Even though you are ready to be best friends with your pet, keep in mind that their whole world just turned on its head, and they need time to get used to that. Let them explore their space and who you are, and let them feel like they are learning to trust you on their own terms. Bonds can only form over time, and while they are forming, you just have to love them through the transition.
5. Be physically around them
Being absent a lot will get you nowhere when it comes to forming a bond of trust and affection with an animal. If they cannot associate you with being their caretaker, no bond will form.
But, once that relationship is established, their affection for you is cemented when you are there to play with them and take that relationship further. The more they see you, the more they will begin to understand who you are, and eventually, they will grow to like you.
Chinchillas are easy to please, but each one has its own personality. Part of them liking you is you liking them back—which can only come from the two of you bonding through trust and affection as you learn each other’s habits and personalities. When they like you, you will know.
How Long Does it Take a Chinchilla to Get Used to You?
It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks for a new chinchilla to get used to you and the new home. Every chinchilla is different so be prepared to have a bit of patience there.
During this time, it is very important to give them lots of space to settle in. Try not to handle your new pet too much because that may stress them out instead.
Once you see that your new chinchilla is getting comfortable in its own cage, it will be time to let it out of the cage to roam around the room in your presence. Before long, your new pet will be comfortable enough to approach you for treats and games. Enjoy the company of your new chinchilla!