Month: March 2015

How To: Build Pine Litter Boxes

Litter training a chinchilla is possible, but success depends on your chinchilla’s personality. A chin that likes order in their home will typically be well-receptive to training, whereas the more throw-caution-to-the-wind personalities might not take to litter boxes quite as well. Still, there are a few tips that may help the success of training – the most important of which is the litter box, repetition, and consistency. Of course, the training we’re talking about is for #1 only! πŸ˜‰

Boxes

So, while I’m in the process of changing cages (yes, it’s happening and no, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet), I decided to re-imagine my litter boxes. In my custom cages, I had pseudo litter boxes, sectioning off a corner of each cage with pine frames and filling it with chinchilla-safe bedding. My favorite bedding is Eco-Bedding: a safe, recycled bedding that resembles crinkled recycled paper (or, actually, that’s exactly what it is). The chins have been using it for so long that they no longer have any impulse to snack on their bedding. Anyway, I’d decided a while back to construct pine litter boxes in place of the faux box structure, and this is what I came up with!

Litter Box

Step 1: Tools!

  • Kiln-dried pine. For each box, I used 2 pieces at 6.5″ xΒ  .75″ x 1.5″ and 2 pieces at 8″ xΒ  .75″ x 1.5″ – however, any lengths that will form your desired shape (triangle, square, rectangle, etc) will work. Try to make sure the surface area is high in relation to the height, so that it would be very difficult for your chin to flip the box over. Use a jigsaw to cut the wood to your desired lengths.
  • Drill & Screws
  • Cardboard & Box Cutter
  • Staple Gun & Hammer
  • Eye Hooks / Alternative: Machine Screw, Wing Nut, and Washer

Tools Box

Step 2: Construct!

With a drill, screw your pine pieces together to create your desired shape. It’s best to use a countersink method, which better hides the screws in the wood. After creating your shape, outline the box’s perimeter against a piece of cardboard and use a box cutter to cut the shape out. Use the staple gun to adhere the cardboard to the bottom of your box, using as few staples as possible to achieve a secure bottom. I use one staple in each corner and then hammer them in to make sure they are secure and impossible to remove without a screwdriver and some leverage. Finally, I use a drill to make a small hole on the side(s) of the box and insert the eye hook(s), which keeps the litter box secure to the cage corner. I use potential plurals, because cages can be different and may need more than one hook to stay in place. I have found that one hook works fine in my cages, because the bars are 1″ and the hook width-wise is 1.25″, meaning the hook would have to be turned vertically in order to be removed from the cage. However, an alternative is using a wing nut, washer, and machine screw – a common technique for removable shelving and other chin items.

Hooks

Step 3: Set Up!

The best way to introduce a litter box is to secure it to a corner of your cage, filling the box halfway with clean bedding and topping it off with soiled bedding. Since chinchillas have excellent sense of smell and smell is tied heavily to memory, the scent of their soiled bedding will encourage them to return to the same place to urinate. Of course, some chins will dig all the bedding out and trample all over it – the best way to move forward is simply to place the bedding back and continue to encourage the use of the box. It may take a few weeks, and it’s possible that it simply may not work for your chins, but the only way to know for sure is to keep going and display consistency as an owner. The cardboard will have to be changed out every 1-2 weeks, but it serves as an absorptive layer that retains scent and reinforces the training – and also tracks progress. Of course, you could use wood as a bottom, but all organic materials will also require changing out over time. To start off and build a new habit, the cardboard is a great and inexpensive way to encourage repeat behavior. A side note: please watch for cardboard ingestion. At the dimensions and with the installation of my litter box, it’s not possible for my chins to flip the box in order to reach the cardboard, but depending on your shape and method of adherence to your cage, cardboard ingestion could be dangerous and lead to blockage.

Koko Cutie

Step 4: Monitor!

Accidents will happen, that’s expected. When they occur, be sure to clean up the area well enough to remove as much of the scent as possible. Keeping all soiled bedding in the litter box will be the key to eventual success! Of course, there is no one solution for individual chins, but this method has worked for most of my chinchillas, and is continuing to show signs of potential success in the stubborn ones (cough Fifi and Muff). πŸ™‚

Fifi Smiles

Have a great week, all! I’ll be writing about my transition into Ferret Nation cages as soon as I’m able to formulate a solid opinion on the change. πŸ™‚ Cheers!

April 2015 Update: I have switched the cardboard bottoms out with kiln-dried pine! Over time, it became clear to see that the maintenance of cardboard was too frequent to be efficient. Pine will have to be switched out every several months, as opposed to every week with the cardboard bottoms. πŸ™‚

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How To: Chinchilla Dust Baths

This week’s post goes back to basics, but dust baths are a fundamental and important grooming topic to touch upon. There are always a plethora of questions that curious animal lovers or new chinchilla owners ask (you can find a complete one-stop post about Chinchilla Basics 101 here), and one of the major grooming questions always pertains to dusting! Not only is it necessary, it’s vicious, voracious, messy, wild, and scurrying adorable!

Dust

What is a Dust Bath? A dust bath is a cleaning technique used by chinchillas (and other select avian and mammalian species). This type of waterless bathing utilizes dust or fine sand.

Why Do Chinchillas Need to Dust? Since chinchillas have incredibly dense fur and originate from a cool, dry climate in the South American Andes, their fur is not meant to be immersed in water. Water is considered harmful and any immersion could cause fur loss, stress, fungal infections, and lead to overheating. Dusting is important for chinchillas to stay clean, remove any impurities from their fur, and prevent matting. Dusting helps remove unnecessary oils and dirt, and also serves as a form of temperature regulation, meaning it assists in keeping your chin cool and dry by preventing a buildup of heat-trapping irregularities (dirt, oil, heaviness, impurities).

V dusty muffy

How Often Should Chinchillas Dust? Dusting frequency varies on humidity, season, and some other factors. Typically, the range goes from 2 times a week to every single day. In areas that are humid and during warm seasons, the more frequent the dusting should be. As long as your chinchilla doesn’t have any dry skin problems, it’s safe to dust them daily. I dust my chins every day because 1. we live in an area of fluctuating humidity 2. they don’t have any dry skin issues and 3. they all love to dust. We’ve incorporated it into our daily weighing routine.

How Long Should Chinchillas Dust For? 5-10 minutes is a great amount of time. In my experience, they won’t dust all at once; oftentimes they’ll dust, prance around, shake it off, dust and repeat. Makes for quite a lovely mess!

What Type of Dust Should I Use? I recommend Blue Cloud Dust, which is a very fine natural powder mined from the Blue Cloud Mine in Southern California. The dust has a very high standard of quality, shakes out of chinchilla fur, and also carries a natural, clean scent. This dust can be found in bulk online through various chinchilla vendors or in smaller quantities at commercial pet stores.

Lulu Turnt

How Much Dust Per Session? I use 1-2 cups of dust and refill as needed.

Where Should I Dust My Chinchilla? I suggest a confined area that would be easy to clean and has ventilation. In my experience, bathtubs and bathrooms work great and have minimal clean-up time. It’s important to note that dust goes flying, gets everywhere, and it will be a struggle to maintain a dust-free environment, so keeping the dust bath far from electronics would be beneficial.

Lu Dusty Contrast

What Type of Dust Bath Container is Best? Of course, glass, ceramic, or metal is great – the most important factor being that the container won’t fall over under the weight of massive chinchilla rolls. Personally, since I’m constantly monitoring them during their dust sessions and do not keep a dust house in their cages, I use an open plastic bin that measures 16″ x 12″ x 7″ and for the most part, I leave the top off or partially covered to minimize dust-plosions. I’d suggest staying away from plastics in general, unless you are present and watchful in monitoring to prevent potential chewing. There are also a plethora of other choices, both for outside and inside of the cage usage – some chin owner favorites include bread pans, smaller cages, and large bowls with sturdy bottoms.

MuffDusty

Can I Reuse Dust? For the most part, yes. As long as the quality of the dust is the same, it’s safe to continue using and simply adding in some new dust each session. When chinchillas leave behind some poop, it’s easy to use a scooper or strainer to remove them from the dust. Sometimes, chins will urinate in the dust after they’re done to mark their territory. In those cases, I recommend spot-cleaning to remove the affected dust, pouring out the clean dust, and cleaning out the container before using again (it may be easier to just toss it all out, clean the container, and add new dust). Also, it’s time to change the dust if you notice dust particles clumping together due to retaining moisture over time. My mosaic girls will also leave behind loose strands of their constantly shedding fur, so if I begin to see those, I’ll change out the dust.

Strainer

Chinchilla Dust Hacks! Does your chinchilla have a light-colored mutation or have urine stains on their furry behinds? You can add a tablespoon of corn starch to their dust bath to help lighten up those stains! Also, you can use a damp cloth or unscented baby wipe to clean stained areas, making sure that you are cleaning the surface areas only and monitoring them until their fur is fully dry.

Koko Turn

Can Chinchillas Take Water Baths? As long as your chinchilla is in good health, the answer is no: they shouldn’t. However, certain extenuating health issues may allow owners to bathe their chinchillas in water – please consult a trusted exotic vet and/or trusted chinchilla savants to determine that a water bath is necessary prior to making this decision. Please note that urine stains are no a reason to bathe your chin in water, as there are existing solutions that do not put your chin’s health in harm’s way unnecessarily.

How Should I Store Chinchilla Dust? You should store your dust in an airtight container and keep it in a cool, dry place to ensure maximal usability!

Cutie Mitty

Happy dusting! Stay tuned for more chinformative chinformation next week πŸ™‚

Chinchilla Cookie Recipe

To celebrate the inevitable approach of spring – finally! – I’ve decided to share my chinchilla cookie recipe with everyone, so that our fur babies can have a delicious treat to celebrate with us! My mentality about these baked treats is more “baked” than “treat” – offering your chinchillas their daily diet in a different form or composition is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits and boost consumption! Diversifying is always a fun way to prevent boredom, too. These cookies are simple to make, and fun to consume.

Chinchilla Cookies

Cookie Flower

Makes 20-25 Small Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes / Bake Time: 2 hours

Mitty Eating Cookie

DOUGH: For the base of my cookie dough, I use a mix of pellets and hays. Since my chins’ diet consists of Manna Pro and Mazuri, I like to use 1 cup Mazuri and 1/2 cup Manna Pro. You can use the chin feed your chinchillas prefer! Mix the pellets with a variety of hays: a combination of Timothy and Alfalfa hay “dust” – you know, the leafy, dusty, tiny particles left over from hay bags. Sift through the hay dust to remove larger stems, as they won’t hold well in the dough. Place the 1.5 cup of pellets and 1.5 cup of hay dust in a food processor or blender, and blend until everything becomes a fine powder.

Cookie Dough

ADDITIONS: Place the mixture into a stirring bowl and add in one tablespoon of cold-milled ground flax seed and 1/8 cup of organic rolled oats. Separately, I prepare my water mixture, with 9 parts water to 1 part unsweetened apple juice (I use a juice press to press the juice from fresh fiji apples, for taste).

Cookie Flax

MIXING: I make sure all the dry elements are well-mixed, and begin adding in my water/apple juice mixture little by little, kneading the dough as I go. Hays and pellets have an absorptive reaction, so kneading by hand is the best way to tell how saturated the dough is.

Koko Cookie 2

REFRIGERATE: When the dough is at a cookie dough consistency, I place the mixture into a plastic bag. Then, I flatten the dough in the bag and refrigerate for several hours in order for the dough to set and become more easily mold-able (this refrigeration step is optional, but recommended).

Cookie Bag

MOLDING: When I’m ready, I’ll make small balls of dough, press them flat, and use a rolling pin to flatten the cookies evenly. I personally don’t use cookie cutters, because I prefer the natural shape each cookie has – but I’m sure they would be adorable if you chose to use shapes. Keep in mind that due to the consistency of the dough, it’ll probably take some time to form your cookies into dense enough shapes to bake successfully.

Muff Cookie

BAKING: Finally, I’ll bake the cookies at 200 degrees for approximately 2 hours – don’t forget to check the oven from time to time to gauge the cookie’s status. The low heat prevents burning, while allowing the cookie to fully bake through. Mold during storage can be a problem for home-cooked chinchilla goods if the water content has not been adequately baked out, so it’s important to make sure the final cookies are dry and brittle. Also, chins love the crunch!

Lulu Cookie 2

STORAGE: Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to dry overnight at room temperature. Keep cookies stored in an airtight food container in the freezer and serve as needed for a delicious treat! Since most of the moisture content has been baked out of the treats, freezer storage does very little to alter them.

Koko Cookie

There you go! Healthy cookies for your fluffballs. There are plenty of other versions out there that include pumpkin puree or molasses, but we opt for a more basic cookie treat that isn’t too much of a guilty pleasure! My chins enjoy 2-3 cookies per week as a supplement to their existing diet – although adding in these cookies means decreasing all other treat consumption. Cheers! πŸ™‚

Cookie Flowers

Custom Pet Portraits!

So, are you guys ready for this? It’s time! I’ve opened a shop on Etsy for custom chinchilla and pet portraits!

Enchilada LYC2Disco LYC2Gible LYC2

In an attempt to encourage everyone to celebrate their respective pet love, I’ve combined my passion for visual art and my sweet, lovable pets to create these art pieces for your space.

Sweetie LYC2Molly LYC2

I use largely natural materials to create my artworks, which are mixed media pieces created with linen paper, homemade herbal paint, fire, charcoal, watercolors, acrylic paint, graphite, and ink. They are carefully created with lots of time and lots of love, and produce an awesome effect that is perfect for any home or apartment!

Nala LYC2Oli LYC2Turbo LYC2

Celebrate your adorable pets with these unique artworks, which are centered beautifully on a 4-ply white archival mat board. The final size is 8×10″, with your pet’s likeness approximately 6×8″. Names and text can be inscribed in ink beneath your pet with a little linen paper plaque. These pieces ship fully assembled in a sleek black 8×10″ frame, and come with a pair of white cotton gloves for handling and care.

Sophie Charlie LYC2

Visit us today! We look forward to spreading art and love to as many awesome pet owners as possible πŸ™‚