Chinchilla owners are puzzled on whether or not they should keep their chinchilla cages covered during the night. The idea behind this is that they want to provide a safe and calm environment for their pet while providing them undisrupted play and sleep time.
Covering your chinchilla’s cage at night is actually something you should avoid so that you would not disrupt their natural sleeping, breeding and eating patterns, which depend on the natural light sequence. In addition, overheating and the buildup of humidity is another very important factor, which greatly affects your pet’s health and you can avoid this by not covering your pet’s cage.
5 reasons why you should not cover your chinchilla’s cage at night:
There are multiple reasons why you should reconsider covering your pet’s cage at night. Chinchillas are skittish and they do like their privacy and covering their cage might provide them with security but it can have other negative effects, which you should be aware of upfront. Some of these negative effects can have a serious impact on their physical and mental health. In order to keep your pet healthy and happy we will provide you with the main reasons why the cage should be uncovered at all times, especially at night so that you can make an informed decision:
1. Keep your chinchilla included in your life
Chinchillas are very curious, intelligent and social animals that generally don’t like to be alone. They like to observe and they like to be included in your everyday routine. For this reason, you should keep the cage uncovered so that they can see everything that is going on and not feel isolated which could lead to depression.
Being included in your everyday life will keep your pet happy even if it seems that he/she is just sleeping throughout the day. The familiar noises and sounds that come out from you being home and the occasional sight of you will provide comfort to your pet and keep it feeling safe and secure knowing that you are around.
Chinchillas are aware of their surroundings and they will react within a second when something changes. Frightful at heart they will seek cover if you make any sudden movements or come to them in a hasty manner. If you have your chinchilla in your bedroom you might be woken up in the middle of the night by the rushed sound of your chinchilla “running and hiding” in its cage, just because you have tugged the blanket.
By covering a chinchilla’s cage while you sleep you would just increase its skittishness, as it would not be able to see what is going on and it would be ready to “run” at any sudden or unfamiliar sound even if it is just you turning on your side in your sleep. Since chinchillas like peace and quiet it is always in your pet’s interest to keep it in a calm part of the house where there would be no need to cover and “shield” your pet from its surroundings.
2. Prevent overheating and humidity buildup
The most important reason why you should keep your chinchilla’s cage uncovered is simple – airflow. You want your pet’s cage to be thoroughly ventilated, to have that undisturbed airflow which will help keep your pet’s cage at a comfortable temperature while also keeping it dry.
When covering the cage, you are risking the temperature to rise thus causing your pet to overheat. Chinchillas are very heat sensitive and the temperatures above 80° F can be fatal and lead to a heat stroke. Temperatures would rise up even during the night because you are preventing fresh air to flow into the cage when your pet is most active. Your pet would jump and run around raising its body temperature thus raising the temperature inside the cage without the ability to cool down and allow the hot air to escape.
The air humidity is also a very important factor in your chinchilla’s health. When you cover your chinchilla’s cage it will not only lead to the increase of the temperature inside but also to the rise in the humidity levels. Your chinchilla needs cold and dry air in order to remain healthy and happy. Besides humidity you would be trapping your chinchilla in an air locked environment where the odor from its waste would not ventilate naturally and would stay trapped along with your pet.
3. You risk messing up its day-and-night cycle
Besides getting your chinchilla very hot and humid there is another key reason why you should not cover your pet’s cage. Chinchillas behavior is adapted to the natural light sequence due to their evolution. In the wild chinchillas hide away from predators and the sun during the day and only come out at night when it is cooler and safer.
Your pet chinchilla will also be very calm during the day when it’s activity level will be down to a minimum, but by sunset and night time it will be periodically very active. By covering your chinchilla’s cage, you will deprive it from orienting itself to the time of the day, which will affect your pet’s feeding and sleeping patterns and overall happiness.
You should however keep your pet away from direct sunlight, but allow the natural light to appear in its cage. The twilight hours are natural indicators for your pet’s activity so during these times your chinchilla’s cage should be uncovered in order to avoid any confusion and disorder to its normal routine.
4. Accidents can happen in the pitch dark
Although chinchillas are crepuscular animals, which means that they are mostly active during the break of light (dawn and dusk) and at certain periods of the night, they actually do not have good eyesight and it is not adapted to seeing in the dark. This is just one of the reasons you should not cover your chinchilla’s cage.
Since your pet does not see well in pitch dark and this is actually the period when it is mostly active, it will be difficult for your chinchilla to move around in the cage freely. They simply jump a lot and might miss a shelf and end up falling and being injured.
This does not mean that you would have to provide a night light for your pet, but you should also not deprive it from getting any light that appears in the room at night. So, by keeping the cage uncovered during the night your pet will be able to navigate in it using the minimal light that naturally occurs in the room.
5. Covering the cage is not a long-term solution
Covering a chinchilla’s cage should never be used as a long-term option or on a daily basis, not even at night. Chinchillas like to observe their surroundings and by depriving them from being able to see, interact and react to what is going on around them you would make them feel very uncomfortable and sad.
If you want to shield your pet and provide it with a safe environment, make sure you keep it’s cage in a calmer part of the house while also having at least one hide box in the cage where your pet can hide away and seek shelter and security.
The negative effects from covering your pet’s cage outweigh any potential benefits and with chinchillas the rule is “better safe than sorry” as in: it is better to take every precaution than to risk having your pet fall ill. Covering your chinchilla at night is basically cutting it out from your life, when your pet is actually awake and ready to interact and bond with you.
Are There any Exceptional Situations?
Yes, there is. If you live in a cold place and a cold snap happens, for instance your heater went broke, covering your pet’s cage with a light cotton sheet could be an option to prevent the heat escaping the cage and preventing your pet from getting too cold. Another example is if you are planning to have guests over for dinner and it is not possible to put your pet’s cage in a quieter room, you can cover the cage with a light cloth.
In these situations, you should have in mind that the cover is just a temporary “fix” to provide your pet with more comfort but you should regularly check up on your pet.
Do not forget to check the inside temperature of the cage and make sure that it is not getting to hot, also check for signs of your chinchilla being in distress like barking, making a “kack” sound, hiding, chewing and rattling the water bottle, racing back and forth on the bottom of the cage or any other unusual behavior. If your chinchilla expresses any of the aforementioned behaviors you should immediately remove the cage cover and find another solution to keep your pet safe and calm.