Animal behavior is hard to gauge a lot of the time. They don’t make facial expressions, so how are we supposed to know how their feelings? Well, animals are actually a lot more obvious about how they feel than you might think.
Summary of this post:
- Can chinchillas get depressed?
- 5 reasons for chinchilla depression
- How to tell if your chinchilla is depressed?
- How to help a depressed chinchilla?
One of the most alarming behaviors in any animal can be depression. It can often manifest like an illness. In chinchillas, depression can be caused by many different things and can mean different things. Plus, their behavior when they are depressed can be hard to understand. Here are some things to know about chinchillas and depression:
Have you ever seen a dog after they have not seen their owner for a few weeks? They seem pretty depressed. Chinchillas are no different. But like all animals that can become depressed, the symptoms can be caused by many different things—it does not just mean your chinchilla is simply sad.
There are a number of reasons why a chinchilla may become depressed:
Chinchillas will mourn and feel the death of one of their friends or family members as much as a human will. If they have a cage-mate that died, they will have a period of time in which they adjust to being alone or being without that friend.
Do read our popular post on how to help a grieving chinchilla.
They can also mourn the loss of their owner if they are transferred to a new owner. Chinchillas get just as emotionally attached to other pets and their humans as more common pets do.
The reason a depressed chinchilla can seem like they are sick… is because there is a good chance they are actually sick.
Illness and depression can go hand in hand because many symptoms of illness are the same as symptoms of depression, as they can be the cause of each other.
If your chinchilla starts to act depressed, check their other symptoms to see if they are exhibiting signs of some other, or some specific, illnesses.
3. Lack of exercise
Chinchillas are very active animals. They love to hop, skip, and jump around any time they can. So, if you, as their owner, are not letting them do so enough, they can begin to get sad and depressed.
This can also happen if their cage or space of living is too small. Chinchillas need space and toys to entertain themselves.
Think about it, when you are unable to do much moving over a long span of time, you get pretty restless, sad, and definitely irritable, too.
4. Lack of love
So, not only are chinchillas in need of a good amount of exercise, but they also need plenty of love and affection.
When they do not get enough attention, they start to feel stagnant, much like when they do not get to play enough.
Chinchillas are very affectionate with their owners, so they really like it when their owner will do something as simple as just sitting with them.
5. Unclean habitat
Having an unclean home can be stressful for a chinchilla. They don’t get to pick when they can leave or when they can clean, which means it is up to their owner.
When their cage is left uncleaned for too long, it can lead to a buildup of urine and droppings within the cage, which can be stressful for the chinchilla—no one wants to walk around in their own waste.
The symptoms of depression in animals can vary from animal to animal, as do all illnesses. As said before, a chinchilla’s exhibition of depression can come across much like when they are sick, but here are some symptoms to look for should you feel your chinchilla is depressed:
Sign #1 Lethargy
Lethargic chinchillas are described as such because of their lack of activity. They tend to sleep or just sit for long periods of time, and they have very limited amounts of movement.
This is the number one indicator your animal is feeling depressed because it literally looks like they are not happy with their life.
Lethargy can be a symptom of both depression and illness, so it is definitely a very concerning behavior.
Sign #2 Lack of appetite
This symptom is also an aspect of lethargy. If your chinchilla is not eating or drinking anything at all, or at least less than they used to, this is a sure sign something is wrong—whether that be your pet is sick, depressed, or unhappy with their food.
Sign #3 Fur chewing
This symptom can be tied to the cleanliness of their cage. Typically, a chinchilla cleans its own fur, and it is assisted by near-weekly dust baths given to them by their owner.
However, chinchilla’s fur can become matted when they cannot keep up with their routine cleanings. Fur chewing is part of their way to clean, and it is also a symptom of stress.
If you catch your chinchilla doing an excessive amount of fur chewing, look for additional symptoms that might point to their being depressed.
Sign #4 Aggression
When an animal is feeling vulnerable—like when there are ill or depressed—they can act aggressively to compensate for their weakness. Chinchillas are no different, even though they are not usually aggressive animals.
They can become aggressive to any other being they come into regular contact with, like their cage-mates or owners.
Such behaviors usually include things like lunging at another being, making a lot of aggressive sounds or noises at someone else, or even as far as biting their owner or their cage-mate to the point of drawing blood.
Because chinchillas are not usually so aggressive, it is concerning to observe this sort of behavior. Aggression is a sure sign something is wrong with your pet, so it is important to quickly figure out what might be wrong with them.
Remember to check out our helpful article about how to calm an angry chinchilla down.
A chinchilla’s depressed behavior can be highly alarming depending on what degree it is. It is even worse when you have no idea how to get them better. Luckily, there are some things you, as their owner, can do to try to help your sweet animal.
Here are the steps to take should you find your chinchilla is acting depressed.
Advice #1 Figure out why they are acting strangely
This is simultaneously the most obvious and hardest step to complete. Before you can do anything for your animal you need to know what is wrong with them and why they are acting this way.
If you have no clue on how to diagnose or where to even begin with this step, just start with their most obviously concerning behaviors and try to figure what is causing those directly.
For example, if you feel they are not eating enough, try swapping food brands to see if that is their cause for their seeming distress.
Advice #2 Take them to a vet
If you cannot figure out a single reason why your chinchilla is acting the way they are, your next step should be to take them to a professional exotic animal veterinarian.
Depression can be the cause of and the symptom of too many life-threatening things to ignore for long.
So, if you are not going to be the one to help your animal, be honest about this with yourself and take them for some factual answers.
A vet can prescribe medicines and give advice based on years of practice with animals like chinchillas, so why not take advantage of their expertise?
Advice #3 Play with them.
Even if you have deduced that your chinchilla is not depressed due to inactivity, even if you have already taken them to a vet, it never hurts to show your chinchilla some more love and give them more exercise to help improve their health.
It will be good for their health and yours, too! It will give you peace of mind to give them the small comfort of playtime and affection from both sides.
However, chinchillas can heat stroke pretty easily. Therefore, it is important to read up our post about how much playtime do chinchillas need.
Advice #4 Do their favorite things
Give your chinchilla a dust bath. Give them their favorite treats. Give them a thorough brushing. Do whatever makes them happiest!
This is for the exact same reason you should give them more play time with you. It will make your pet feel loved and taken care of, and love helps healing in all ways.
Those happy feelings doing their favorite things will bring will encourage your chinchilla to have more energy and may heal faster.
Advice #5: Get them a playmate
Should you think your chinchilla is feeling lonely, or if your affection is not helping them get better, they might just be lonely.
So, try getting them a fellow pet. If you love chinchillas, one more will never be too many, and it may make your sweet chinchilla feel like they are not alone.
This goes especially for owners who struggle to spend enough time with their chinchilla due to their work schedule.
Getting them a playmate will take some of the pressure off your hands to be their sole interaction with another being.