What Does it Mean When a Chinchilla Lays on its Side?


Knowing and Watching Chinchilla behavior is key to keeping your Chin healthy.

Have you seen your chinchilla laying on its side? Seeing a chin on its side can be alarming. At times, this can be an urgent health concern. However, other times, it is not a health concern at all. Unfortunately, chinchillas don’t often show they are not well until it is time for an emergency visit to the Vet. No pet owner wants that!

In this article, we will show you how to identify whether your chinchilla is in trouble.


Why is My Chinchilla Laying Down?

Chinchillas normally sleep sitting up on all fours, but they are known to lie on their sides at times.

If a chinchilla sleeps on its side, it can mean it is overheated, tired after exercise, bloated, pregnant, or simply feels comfortable at home.

That said, always remember, the best thing you can do for your chin is to take it to the vet at the first sign of distress.

5 Common Reasons a Chinchilla Lays on its Side



 1. Your Chinchilla Could be Overheated

A chinchilla can die a horrible death from heatstroke at 80 degrees. Anyone wanting to own a pet chin must be aware of temperature and heatstroke.

Probably the most sought-after attribute of the Chinchilla is the thick softness of their fur. Once hunted for their pelts, the dense fur serves two beneficial functions for the chin:

  • The natural habitat of the chinchilla is in the higher altitudes of the Andes Mountains. These mountains of South America are dry and the temperatures range on average between just under 50° to about 70°. This cold and dry weather is the perfect climate for the chinchilla. So, those beautiful fluffy coats served as insulation from the cold temperatures of the mountains.
  • The fur coat of the chin also serves as a defense mechanism. When predators try to attack the tiny animals, the fur is instantly released (leaving a bald spot) to release the chin from capture.

However, because of this thick soft coat, the chinchilla must be kept in temperatures under 72 degrees. The ideal temperatures range from 50-60° Fahrenheit with less than 40% humidity. Anything over 78° and the chinchilla can begin to show the signs of heat exhaustion.

To release the heat from their bodies, a chinchilla will sometimes stretch out on its side. The large ears assist the chin in releasing heat as well. The redder the ears, the more dangerous the condition may be.


2. Your Chinchilla Could be Tired After Exercise

For chin lovers, it is no secret that chinchillas need endless exercise. As mountain natives, they have the ability to run very quickly and jump from level to level. Chinchilla homes should consist of levels for them to jump to and from, simulating the rocky regions of the mountains. In addition, owners usually provide a wheel for the chin to run in during times of play in the cage home.

Letting your chinchilla out to run around your home in a supervised manner is a good idea for their physical health. But, as you know, heavy exercise increases body temperature. With no sweat glands, it is difficult for chinchillas to release internal body heat. Cooling down after a long session of playtime is especially important and may include stretching out a bit to cool the entire belly region.

chinchilla tired after exercise


3. Your Chinchilla Might be Having a Bloated Stomach

If you notice, while it is on its side, the abdomen is distended or bloated, this condition is called tympany. Tympany occurs when there is either a change in diet or the chin has eaten too much.

In these two cases the gas build-up comes on within two to four hours and can be very painful. The chinchilla will try to stretch or roll to relieve the bloating. 

Bloating can also occur when the chin is nursing. It is caused by an imbalance of calcium metabolism and can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening.


4. Your Chinchilla Might be Pregnant

Chinchillas usually carry two kits, or babies, at a time (but can carry up to 6). The gestation period is approximately 110-112 days long. A weary mama chin may stretch out on her side to alleviate the discomfort and weight of pregnancy.

How do you know if she is carrying babies?

You can start by looking for the tiny red nipples bumps to stick out from the fur indicating she is pregnant. Another way to check, if she is resting from pregnancy, is to watch the belly. Often you can see the little ones moving around inside her.

READ :  How To Know If Your Chinchilla Is Sick

In that case, let her rest and keep an eye on her, then call the vet for a prenatal visit!


5. Your Chinchilla Feels Comfortable at Home.

Finally, your chinchilla may just like sleeping on its side. Most chins sleep on all fours, but some will choose other sleeping positions when very relaxed and feeling safe at home. That can be a good sign.

chinchilla sleeping

As you get to the know the personality and nuances of your chinchilla you will see what they like, where they feel safe, and what signs they show when they are at rest. If there are no other signs from pregnancy to heat exhaustion, then maybe your little one just likes sleeping that way.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian the next time you have a check-up for your chin. It is always good to keep them informed of your pet’s habits and actions. As always, your vet is the best source to consider when determining the health status of your chinchilla.


When Is This a Problem?

Any of the following Symptoms should be cause for concern for the Chinchilla owner:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Rolling or stretching excessively
  • Red Ears
  • Decreased appetite
  • Changes in toilet habits and/or condition

If your pet chin is on its side with red ears and breathing heavily, you need to immediately take measures to cool it and get it to a vet. The next signs could be seizure and death in a rapid progression.

Each of the symptoms listed above should be closely monitored and a call should be made to the veterinarian. Chinchillas can go downhill very quickly, so it is important to always watch for changes of any sort.


1. When All Your Chinchillas Are Laying on Their Side

If you enter the room your chinchillas are in and they are all laying on their sides, there is most definitely a problem. Diagnosis and treatment are needed as soon as possible.

You will want to check the following things:

  1. What is the room temperature? If their ears are red, they could be too hot.
  2. Look at their bellies to see if they are swollen. Then determine if you have changed their diet or if maybe they got into something they shouldn’t have.
  3. Try letting them have free play time in the home and see if they respond.
  4. Finally, see if they are responsive and will eat and drink.

Again, please do not hesitate to call your veterinarian if problems persist.


2. When They Don’t Respond to Treats

Chinchillas can be finicky eaters. One day they may appear to love a treat and the next day no want anything to do with it. Try a different treat first. New treats may just not be good on their stomach, so switch back to one you know they tolerate.

Chinchilla Lays on its Side

If you are concerned the chinchilla might be sick or have an upset tummy, try letting it out to play or offering a dust bath to assess activity levels.

Also, be sure to give your chinchilla for swollen belly or abscesses. 


3. When They Pee and Poo Where They Lay

Chinchillas are highly intelligent and can be trained to use a liter box, if done correctly and at a young age. So, altered toileting patterns can be a concern. There are a couple of reasons your chin could be going where they lay.

First, it can be a sign of stress. Stress can be caused by many things, just as in humans.

Second, If the chin is lethargic, there may be an illness to be concerned about.

This is one of those times to call the vet.



Pet ownership is a joy and a responsibility one should not consider lightly. Taking on the life of a chinchilla is like taking on a human baby in many respects. Chins can live 10 to sometimes as many as 20 years.

They are a hands-on pet needing constant upkeep. For the pet owner who wants to be completely involved with the life of their pet, a chinchilla can be a very fulfilling companion.

So, if your chinchilla is lying on its side, consider the reasons above and then call your chinchilla veterinarian. It is the best care you can give your beloved pet and well worth the time and money.


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