Chinchillas are exotic pets and often have behaviors that deviate from the norm. Dogs are famous for licking humans, but few people consider that chinchillas will lick their caretakers as well. I wanted to write this article to discuss the reasons chinchillas lick people and why it’s such an endearing quality!
Why do chinchillas lick you?
Chinchillas are absolutely adorable, so when they decide to lick you, it is a welcome surprise! Similar to other domestic pets, chinchillas will lick people for a variety of reasons.
Summary of today’s article:
- Why do chinchillas lick humans?
- What other ways do chinchillas show affection?
- Will my chinchilla bite me?
- Do chinchillas groom themselves?
- How can I get my chinchilla to lick me?
- Happy chinchillas bestow licks and kisses
Chinchillas have many motivations for licking humans. Let’s check out a few of the most common reasons.
Reason #1. Smells Food Residue On Your Skin
Chinchillas are total foodies and love to eat! Due to their small size and fast metabolism, chinchillas are known to snack throughout their waking hours and will even stir during their sleep cycle to get in a quick meal.
Chinchillas will shamelessly beg for treats and gravitate toward anything that resembles a decadent food. Although many people do not realize it, they often have food residue on their hands or mouth long after they have eaten.
Chinchillas possess a good sense of smell and will hone in on food scents immediately. A chinchilla who smells food on your hands will lick your skin to get a taste, often resulting in them pleading for whatever it is that you may have had for a meal.
If your breath still smells like something you ate, be prepared for a chinchilla kiss. Chinchilla smooches can be quick and take you by surprise, but they are probably one of the cutest things your fluffy pet will ever do!
Reason #2. Mistakes Part Of Your Body For A Treat
Chinchillas may resort to licking or nibbling on parts of your body if they mistake it for a treat. This may sound odd at first, however, much like the above example, chinchillas can be tricked by their senses.
If you have a sweet-smelling fragrance or body lotion on your skin, this will most likely lead to some investigation by your chinchilla. Scented lip gloss is the messiest cosmetic as the gooey texture will stick to your chinchilla’s fur if they get too close.
Painted fingernails and toenails are commonly mistaken for treats due to the bright colors, so don’t be surprised if your chinchilla gives them a little nibble. Cosmetics can be dangerous to your pet if ingested, so it is best not to encourage your chinchilla to try to eat them.
Reason #3. Showing Affection
Similar to other animals, chinchillas will show affection through grooming behaviors. Grooming will often take the form of licking, although chinchilla licks will generally be more like quick darts of the tongue instead of the incessant, slobbery licks you may receive from a dog.
Your chinchilla may do a couple of quick licks at first and you might not even notice since healthy chinchillas don’t drool. If you respond positively to chinchilla licks, your pet will most likely continue licking in order to maintain your attention!
Chinchilla pairs who are bonded will frequently lick each other. Mother chinchillas will groom their kits to keep them clean and adult chinchillas will frequently continue this behavior.
When chinchillas groom each other, especially on the face, they are showing that they are not fearful of being bitten and are comfortable enough to be vulnerable. A chinchilla grooming a human is often expressing the same emotion.
When a chinchilla feels safe enough to groom you, take it as a compliment that you have earned their trust!
Reason #4. They Are Curious
Most people have heard the phrase “curious like a cat”, but that adage holds true for chinchillas! Chinchillas are ridiculously curious, and if they feel safe, will take the opportunity to explore anything that appears new or exciting.
After being in their cage most of the time, it should come as no surprise that your chinchilla will want to get to know you better. People use their senses to explore the world and chinchillas do as well.
Chinchillas may employ their sense of taste to learn more about something in their environment, including their caretakers. By licking you, your chinchilla can retrieve information that they will use to become more familiar with you.
Human skin releases pheromones through sweat. It is theorized that chinchillas are capable of not only detecting these pheromones but also recognizing them. By licking your skin, your chinchilla is memorizing your scent and keeping the information in their mental database.
This is important because your pet’s familiarity with your scent helps to strengthen the bond that they have with you and will lead to a better relationship.
Chinchillas do not hide their feelings and suffice it to say that you will always know where you stand with them. Chinchillas have a wide range of emotions and will gladly express affection once they are comfortable.
An affectionate chinchilla may hop over to where you are sitting during playtime and climb in your lap or on top of your head! Many chinchillas are obsessed with human hair and will roll around in it if you are lying on the floor.
A chinchilla sitting on your shoulder may even try to burrow under the collar of your shirt. Chinchillas like to vocalize their feelings and will produce happy squeaks and grunts to let you know that they are feeling the love.
Chinchillas will often nibble gently on something unfamiliar, especially if they are very young and still learning about the world. Your chinchilla may nibble on you in an attempt to become used to your scent or even figure out what you are.
These nibbles are extremely gentle and have more to do with being inquisitive as opposed to an actual attempt at biting. Even if your chinchilla tastes food on your skin, they will be very careful not to bite.
If your chinchilla bites you while licking food remnants from your skin, it is most likely accidental. Gently tell them no if this occurs so that they recognize that they have hurt you and can adjust their behavior.
Chinchillas are very clean animals and grooming is part of their self-maintenance routine. Chinchillas will groom themselves in a variety of ways, often focusing on keeping their luxurious fur tidy.
You may see your chinchilla pecking at their fur, using their teeth to tame stray strands of hair. This behavior is completely normal and should not be of any concern unless you notice bald spots emerging from the areas being nibbled.
If you do encounter bald patches from your chinchilla grooming themselves, it may be a sign that they are stressed and they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dust baths are the most important chinchilla grooming tactic. Wild chinchillas will find volcanic ash to bathe in, however, domestic chinchillas are reliant on their caretakers to do this for them.
By giving your chinchilla a dust bath several times a week you are providing a necessary component of their grooming routine that they cannot do for themselves while in captivity.
Male chinchillas will examine themselves for something called fur rings. Fur rings, as the name suggests, are literally rings of fur that sometimes form around the male chinchilla’s penis.
Fur rings may develop through mating or a solitary male chinchilla can get one from the accumulation of their own fur. Fur rings constrict the penis and are very painful.
Male chinchillas will frequently groom themselves and use their teeth to remove fur rings on their own. Chinchilla caretakers should look for fur rings during routine health inspections and gently remove any hair that has been trapped.
If you are unable to release all of the hair in a fur ring, your chinchilla’s veterinarian will be able to take care of it for you.
The number one way to get your chinchilla to lick you is to foster trust with them and form a strong bond. A chinchilla who is fearful or uncomfortable will not feel compelled to explore you or show any type of affection.
While not all chinchillas will lick their caretakers, there is a high probability that a happy chinchilla will engage in similar behaviors such as gentle nibbling or nuzzling. By taking good care of your chinchilla and making them feel safe you are increasing the likelihood that they will end up kissing you!
Although not all chinchillas will lick humans regularly, most will kiss or nibble their caretakers at some point. These behaviors are completely normal and extremely cute.
Chinchilla nibbles are common and should not be confused with bites. If you are longing for affectionate chinchilla licks, keep strengthening your bond with your pet and they will be more inclined to give you kisses