Chin-to-Chin Relationships

Chins are adorable, there’s no way around it. Who doesn’t love chubby chinchillas all cuddled up in a cuddle circle? But what do you do if there’s trouble in chinchilla paradise? What happens when chinchillas start fighting, barking, yelling, or attacking one another? There are a few different types of situations and ways to handle them that encourage safety and promote a peaceful living situation.

Fifi Snuggles

To preface, I’ll offer some fundamental advice for current and future chinchilla owners: please do not purchase a chinchilla in the hopes that he or she will cuddle with you – 90% of the time, this won’t happen. Chinchillas are a ton of work and have quite a few requirements for a healthy, happy life. Placing your hopes and dreams for who your chinchilla will ‘become’ or goals for how he or she will behave in relation to your expectations won’t work out well for either party. Secondly, please do not purchase an additional chinchilla for an existing chinchilla in the singular hope that your current chinchilla will have a new best friend – it’s a 50% chance that they will have to live separately, oftentimes for their entire lives – that means double the cages, double the play times, double the bonding efforts. Building up an idea in your head that your chinchilla needs a friend is potentially selfish and untrue – oftentimes, it results in disappointment. If you would like another chinchilla, you should make that decision for yourself as a capable and loving owner that is ready to take on an additional responsibility, recognizing the risks of potential disharmony in your existing chin-family.

Muff Buggy Cute

So far in my experience, I have had two major chinchilla-to-chinchilla relationship problems arise. First, the slow, eventual, and final separation of my two male chinchillas, Mitty and Muff. Second, a recent scare between my mosaic sisters, Lulu and Fifi. Sweetheart Koko, as you may have guessed, has never needed a soul to make her happy self any happier, so she has always been on her own in that way.

Koko Cuddly

When I first welcomed Mitty and Muff to my home, Muff roughly 6 months after Mitty, they were pretty great friends. They were around the same age and still quite young, under a year old. They shared a double-level cage and had a grand time, swapping stories about their kit days and demolishing shredded wheaties as a team. Their breakup was gradual, building up over time and finally resulting in permanent separation. It began with a few barks every few days, perhaps a scurry in the cages. There was no lost fur, no broken skin, no weight loss, no physical injuries, and both kids were still consuming and behaving quite normally aside from the one-offs. This continued for two months. In the third month, the frequency of their one-offs became less like aberrations in behavior and more like a consistent flow of small arguments. We even separated the cages with a partition, but Muff would burrow and dig and squeeze his way through the 1″ gap just to cuddle with Mitty. It was a back and forth of likes and dislikes, of cuddling and arguing, of love and hate.

Muff Crown

One day, Muff was squealing at the top of his lungs and going full Batman towards Mitty, chasing him around the cage. I decided, that was it. The next day, they each got their own cages and have been separated ever since. It was clear that the escalation was not going to lead anywhere but to a potentially violent place. An affirmation came a few months later, after they had settled in to their new living situations and made peace with their solitude. I was tidying up Muff’s cage while he was still in it and Mitty had a brief playtime. While Mitty was standing outside Muff’s cage, Muff went crazy trying to attack him – although he would not have been able to reach his nemesis, I put my hand up to block him from the wire mesh and he chomped down on my finger as if he was trying to tear it apart. Luckily, although the bite was deep, I was fine and so were they. I don’t blame myself for that situation, but I am thankful that it occurred. Muff is an extremely gentle chin, as is Mitty. I was able to learn that their problem was not inherent in their personalities, but rather brought out by one another. From that point on, they have had 100% security from one other and have never been able to make future contact – and they’ve been very thankful for it. They have grown into fine young men and flourish as their best selves without the conflict of an opposing personality.

Mitty Cookie Adore

Lulu and Fifi, on the other hand, are sisters. They cuddle and groom and play all the time. They’ve been great for years, but more recently, they had been having their share of problems, kacking and chasing one another around their shared cage. Before anything serious happened – that is to say, before any rough-housing or physical fighting – I took Fifi out, as it appeared she was the aggressor in most of their arguments. I placed her in a temporary cage and set it by the foot of their shared cage. I gave them a two day time out from one another, but they were always able to talk through the cage bars and sleep next to each other. They were given some time together every day to groom and say hello; it was evident that they missed each other greatly (surprisingly, Fifi more-so than Lulu). The time apart was healing for them, and since Fifi returned to their space, it’s been smooth sailing. As an owner, I’m always mindful that the bond between all of us needs to be built back up before returning to a comfortable place of trust and a solid sense of safety. It’s important to note that blood relationships are not immune to chaos or disorder, and require TLC from all parties to keep the good vibes going. The good thing about these girls (and luckily, how it played out with the boys) is that they will display their feelings vocally and behaviorally prior to lashing out physically.

Girls Together

It’s important to keep in mind that these examples of broken bonds and healing bonds are my stories, based solely on the disposition and personalities of my chinchillas. I have heard several horror stories from fellow chinchilla owners of pure physical violence emerging with minimal warning signs, leading to devastating injuries for their weaker chinchillas. The best advice I can give is to take great care to properly introduce chinchillas over a period of many weeks prior to allowing them to live together, monitoring their behavior constantly, and remove any aggressive chinchilla into a separate cage immediately upon any suspicion of anger or danger (weighing your chinchillas can be a good way to catch a bully by determining who is able to consume more and overall weight trends). Removing a bonded pair from one another for any reason will require the proper re-introductions to prevent conflict, and of course, there is no guarantee of rebuilding bonds.

Mitt Fat Upwards

Play it safe at all times and prepare for permanent separation, with extra cages, water bottles, and supplies. Keep a bottle of Blu-Kote for potential scratches or shallow bites. Always have the numbers of a trusted exotic vet and emergency vet on hand for potential emergencies. Remember, when it comes to your chin-kids, it’s better safe than sorry! You may have to mourn the loss of a bond, but it’s important to give each animal their full right to live a long, happy, and healthy life. You’re much better off enjoying their company one-on-one than having to deal with a crippling injury, or worse. In fact, you may get to know them better than you ever could have if they were still bonded. 🙂

Koko Dusty

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11 comments

  1. So true! It still amazes me how individual chinchillas are in their personalities and how strong those personalities can be. I watch my 5 girls (and now 1 boy) like a hawk for signs of, well, anything and so far so good. They’re in 4 cages: 2 pairs and 2 singles. All in the same room so they can talk. A fair bit of arguing goes on between some of the cages though 😉

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    1. Exactly, I’m still amazed at their individuality too! Oh, four cages seems to be the magic number 🙂 And we’ve got some singing and squealing over here too – it’s so endearing and a little humorous too!

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      1. I would love to get one of the singles a friend, I think he would be ok with just about anyone, but the very real danger involved and the good possibility that the pairing I choose won’t work out makes me hesitate. He’s already had a few playdates with another boy and they got along famously but that boy had to go home and I don’t think he’s going to be given up for adoption anytime soon! He’s still young yet too and it’s possible that his personality has yet to fully develop. Maybe later.

        The other single I brought home planning to introduce her to one of my girls but I totally misjudged her personality based on how cuddly and sweet she was with people. She HATES other chinchillas. Tries to kill them through the bars at playtime even. Oh well…

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    2. Yeah, I know what you mean about having that potential and also being very hesitant about bringing another chinchilla into the mix. Sometimes, it’s nice to keep the chin family as it stands, given that there are already some bonds that have been broken. Also, you never know! Maybe time will heal things for the better, although I’ve heard that positive change to be very rare.

      Sometimes, I feel like chinchillas are like dogs in the sense that some will get along great with humans and terribly with other dogs, or vice versa. They certainly are just as much work! 😛

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  2. I have 2 females that live together and 2 males that live separately. I’ve had the girls for about 1.5 years and they get on great with the occasional disagreement hear and there. I adopted the boys (brothers) from my niece about 4 months ago, they were living together but started fighting quite aggressively and she couldn’t give them the individual time along with her other male. Since i’ve had the boys they’ve settled down quite a lot and even though they live separately they play together all the time without any major issues. They only time I have to let them play separately is when the girls are in heat.

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    1. That’s quite rare and lovely to hear that the boys are getting along for the most part, despite there being ladies around! I’m glad to hear that they’re all doing well – I feel like no chin family is without their problems, but entirely worthwhile individually or together. 🙂

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  3. Thanks for this post! My husband and I have been considering getting a second chin to be friends with our 3yr old female. We just got her a ferret nation cage, an upgrade from the super pet one she had before. With the spare cage we thought now would be the time to try introducing a new chin (they could live in neighboring cages at first). But now I wonder if we should even try. I adopted a second rabbit last year to be friends with the first. I knew it was a long shot bc the first rabbit is really territorial, so in the end I have two rabbits that live separately. On top of that Tido, the chin, flips out when either of the buns have playtime in the living room. Perhaps she would react the same to one of her own kind too. I just worry that she is unhappy living alone with only humans to interact with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kelley! Thank you so much for visiting and for your kind words. As for Tido, I truly believe that if you are providing her with a loving and healthy life and environment, she does not need (and probably doesn’t want) another friend. Although, it’s very true that all chinchillas have their own unique personalities, I would have to say that it’s important to trust your instincts about whether or not another chinchilla is the right decision. If you do choose to get another, please make sure it’s NOT for your existing pet, but rather because you are capable and willing to take another pet in. The choice should be based on how great of a life you can provide for both chinchillas, regardless of how they get along. I must say, with 5 chinchillas and 4 cages, it has not worked out for my babies as well as it has for me. They actually are capable of being fully satisfied and happy living alone, and that’s one really unique trait that they have. Again, it’s completely your choice and I hope you come to the right decision for you and your fur family! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a 3 month old male and getting another male from the same breeder this month I would love some tips on this. It is my first chinchilla so I am excited to get another thinking they could grow up together reading this makes me think different I bought a new cage for them that I was not going to use until I brought toothless home and then just throw them in the same cage like I did with my dogs ( of course watching them like a hawk to make sure they got along) but any info would be really helpful.

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    1. Hi Heather! I think this is really a question for you. I would say that the chances are a bit better when they are younger, but every chinchilla is different. If you feel capable of taking care of them both in the case that they don’t get along, then I’d say it’s not a bad idea to try. As long as you are happy keeping them both if they don’t get along, the choice is yours to make 🙂

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