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Should I Get Another Chinchilla?

This question comes up all the time from chinchilla owners, as it rightfully and naturally would. Should I get another chinchilla for my existing chinchilla(s)? Is my chinchilla lonely? Does my chinchilla deserve a playmate? Cage mate? Best friend?

The answer, unequivocally, is no. Well, it’s no and yes. Let me explain!CuddlesIf you are a current chinchilla owner, you know that chinchillas are unique animals that are a true gift to the world! They have one-of-a-kind personalities with their own cute idiosyncrasies, adorable quirks, and delightful oddities that are distinct to each individual pet. This allows us to come to a few conclusions: 1. Chinchillas are particular, 2. Chinchillas are individualistic, and 3. Chinchilla behavior can sometimes be categorized as inexplicable. These reasonable conclusions – along with the fact that chins can be territorial – show us that the odds of one chinchilla getting along with another chinchilla is slim (depending on your chinchilla’s personality, of course).Mitty smilesThis is not to say that chinchillas can’t be properly introduced over time and come to be great mates – it’s only to say that your chinchilla does not need another chinchilla to live a long, happy life. This is a main point to consider. In my personal experience, every single one of my chinchillas (with the exception of the mosaic sisters Lulu and Fifi) live alone in their own cage and are living a healthy, satisfying existence. Do I wish they got along? Of COURSE! Did I try to bond them within reason? Definitely! Do I still have dreams? Forever and always. It’s my dream for all my babies to cuddle up and coo at me. However, it’s only a dream – that’s my reality, and that’s okay.Koko Cuteness BellyThe only reason you should get another chinchilla is because YOU – as a responsible, capable owner – want to take on the duty of another precious life in your home. That means double the mess, double the work, double the expense, double the personality, and double the adorable joy that comes from each and every chinchilla. Be aware that your decision will impact YOUR life, your existing chinchilla’s life, and your new chinchilla’s life as well. The main focus should be the well-being of your pets, despite their ability to cohabitate.Mitty sleepingSo, let’s say you’re ready to take the next step: another fluffy baby in the household! Great: congratulations for coming to this decision based solely on your willfulness to take on another chinchilla, understanding the great probability that he or she may not be able to live amicably with your current chinchilla. Bravo! What’s next? Firstly, if you have intentions to house your chinchillas together, you must purchase a chinchilla of the same sex (unless one of them has been fixed). Then, be sure to purchase all the necessities your FIRST chinchilla required: new cage, water bottles, shelves, hammocks, accessories, food bowls, and fleece! Do not pick up another chinchilla without first getting all the essentials that he or she may need. Never assume you can just plop him or her in with your existing fluffball – that could have devastating consequences for either or both babies. It’s also good to brush up on the basics for each new chinchilla, as no two are alike.sistersThen, you can introduce your chinchillas slowly to one another, placing their cages near one another to allow them to get accustomed to new smells and the new presence. I won’t go into the controversial topic of talking about how exactly to introduce your chinchillas, as there are plenty of suggestions out there and very strongly opinionated owners. The safest way that I have found is to place them in proximity to one another with a barrier and allow them to react to one another without having to fear for their safety. Based on their reactions initially and over time, you can safely determine how they might react with one another. In my experience, my boys got along until the ladies arrived, and the ladies never got along with one another (aside from the sisters, of course). I would never consider housing the males and females together because none of them are fixed, and I don’t have the capability to take care of any kits with my very full-time job if anything were to go wrong with the birth. I can’t stomach the idea of losing any of my existing babies, even to their babies.

What I’ve learned is that my chinchillas are generally solitary animals, and I am their best human friend. I clean, scratch, and provide emotional support to them (oft via song), and they have shown me time and time again that they don’t need – and never needed – another chinchilla friend for them to live a loved, loving life. No, your chinchilla is not lonely or lacking. Are they bored sometimes? Maybe. But that’s what stimulating cages, safe chews, and occasional treats or playtimes are for! You can provide a beautiful, fulfilling life for your chinchilla – never doubt that. They do deserve a great mate, and I’m certain they can find that in you.scratches

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How To: Chinchilla Holiday Photography

One of our favorite ways to get festive during the holiday season is with winter-themed chinchilla photo shoots! This guide will go through my process with photographing LY Chinchillas on my own with no strobes or flash (basically, nothing fancy)! Be sure to have a fast camera (I use the Fujifilm X-T10 Camera because of the super-fast continuous shooting mode) and light sources ready to go!Koko Warm Posing XmasThe very first thing to check prior to starting the shoot is the chin-proof factor. Admittedly, the actual time on set is very short – and the rest of the time is spent coaxing your little one back on set or sending them back to their cage to nap off a hard 10 seconds of work! In those off-set moments, you’ll need to make sure that everything is completely chin-proofed to prevent any accidents, fur loss, or injury.Muff Sideways HolidaysThe next thing you’ll want to check are your ambient light sources – that means your natural light, ceiling lights, desk lights, lamps, floor lamps, whatever other illuminating tools you may have in the shooting area. This will help capture your chinchilla by allowing you to have a faster shutter speed due to more available light. Normally, I prefer a clean white light, but for the holidays, there’s nothing wrong with a warmer glow that comes standard in most home lighting.
Grab a portable spotlight if your natural lighting is low – ideally, this will be somehow diffused. You can do this by using a strong flashlight or adjustable desk lamp covered and tied down with a very sheer scarf. This will make sure that your light is not too harsh and capture your chinchillas in all their softness.Set design holidays 2016 The third step is to create your set: start out with a fun, safe idea and execute! Fleece is always great, but other textures can be visually pleasing too. For my holiday shoot this year, I went with simple silver and white tree decorations, along with a chunky knit sweater. It’s important to note that these decorations are obviously not safe for consumption, so I would not suggest this for anyone who is starting out with shoots; managing the talent on set is a huge part of the multitasking these types of productions require!Lulu Munching Warm HolidaysThe final step is to shoot away! I like to set up the scene, get the lights on, take a few test shots, and then plop them in one by one to see how they react. Normally, my chins are very confused at the new environment, so they’ll take 10 seconds to look around before dashing off. Those 10 seconds are crucial! With a fast continuous shooting mode, you can grab up to 8 images per second – more than enough to finalize at least one adorable final shot.Mitty HolidaysKnowing your chinchillas, staying very patient, and setting realistic expectations is key: after shooting for years with them, I know that Fifi will be tough to contain (she has a strong dislike for unfamiliar environments) – so during this year’s shoot, she slipped out of the roster by her own sheer determination. Remember, it’s your own selfish cute-loving self who happens to be encouraging them to pose for adorable photos, so never get frustrated if things aren’t working out. If someone is being a diva, simply save the shoot for another day. Or, if you know a shoot is coming up, hold off on safe chews and treats for the week prior and let them munch on set. If difficulties arise, the rule is: better safe than sorry, always! It’s not worth straining your relationship with your beloved chin over some images.Muff Holiday Warm EatingDon’t be apprehensive to reinvent the concept if needed. Sometimes, simple is better. A fleece backdrop and a chew stick can yield incredibly cute shots, too! Staying basic is an awesome way to start learning how your chins will behave in front of the lights and camera. It’s always truly just a buildup of trust, anyhow. We all wish you a very warm and happy holidays with tons of bonding and photography, sweet friends! Koko Cute Head Warm Holidays

How To: Prepare Chinchilla Wood!

During apple-picking season, you may be compelled to think about your fluffs while you’re out with friends and family, gathering delicious ripe fruits by the handful. I certainly always think about my chinchillas, especially when I’m out and about in nature! As my fluffs are indoor pets, I always dream up ways to bring a taste of the outdoors to them. On occasion, one way I do that is by preparing delicious chin-safe woods with organic, pesticide-free wood. Multitasking in the orchard is always a challenge, but the chins will thank you! 🙂

Apple Orchard

Because apple wood is an absolute favorite for all my chin-babies, I love to source what I can during the season from healthy apple trees at local, untreated orchards in upstate NY or eastern CT. I’ll always ask the orchard manager if it’s okay for me to snip some branches from the trees as I’m picking my fair share of apples, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll comply with a smile. I aim mostly for twigs and sticks – the thinner, the better, as those are plentiful and easy to collect (and the chins love destroying twiggies!). Plus, smaller sticks and twigs are easier to manage when you’re preparing the wood for chewy consumption. Be sure to snip live branches, as those are the safest for your chins to chew once properly prepared.

Koko Fall

When you’ve gathered your arsenal of future treats, the first step is to break or cut them to size – delectable treat size, that is! I usually aim for 4-5″ in length, because they fit so perfectly in those adorable chinchilla paws. 😛 Place the pre-sized goods into a container of hot water, and use a clean toothbrush or scrubber to remove tannin and lichen from the sticks. You may have to rinse and repeat several times until the water runs clear over the sticks. Alternatively, you can opt to boil your pre-cut wood for 15-20 minutes, rinse, and scrub. Boiling the wood will help sanitize them better than hot water alone. It’s also fine to use a combination of these methods, as long as you fully implement one or the other.

Muff Cholla

After a final rinse, air dry the sticks over a towel. Once the sticks are completely dry to the touch, evenly space the sticks over aluminum foil or a tin pan, and place your chin-treats in the oven. Baking the wood is a matter of personal preference: some like to bake at an extended period of time on the lowest possible temperature, while others are more aggressive with the baking process. The most common range of temperatures fluctuate from 170 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lulu cute

While chinchilla owners have their own preferences, I suggest trying out a few different temperatures to determine your favorite. Keep in mind that time and temperature can – and should – vary, depending on the thickness of your wood and overall quantity. I generally like to veer in the middle, around 230 degrees for as long as possible. I constantly keep the oven light on and check for any smoking bark. I’ll rotate the sticks or coins every half hour or so. Eventually, you’ll be able to see or test whether or not the wood is done – coins may be cracked, wood will be dry to the touch, and twigs will snap crisply and easily.

Apple Stick

Finally, turn off your oven and remove your sticks to cool. Once cooled, store your wood in a cardboard box and keep your goodies handy in a cool, dry place close to your chinnies. Or, you could work on some more DIY projects, such as creating hanging toys from your delicious woods! They’ll thank you for all your hard work – or at the very least, they’ll delight you with their happiness as they’re munching away! 🙂

Mitty Hanging toy

Plastic is Bad, Wood is Good!

When it comes to chinchilla care, all owners understand – or will eventually come to understand – the negative risk associated with plastic consumption. It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to this issue, as pet stores and manufacturers across the world push its occupants towards plastic for an obvious profit. It’s cheap, easy to produce en masse, and nearly indestructible – except when it comes in contact with a determined set of chinchilla chompers. Today, I’m raising my digital paws to the sky and asking all chinchilla owners to please – for the love of fluff – switch to a chinchilla-safe wood alternative.

Mitty Home

Plastic consumption can cause blockage or impaction in a chinchilla’s digestive system, causing discomfort, pain, or even death. Sure, we’ve all had experiences of miraculous chinchilla digestion: for example, Muff, why are you drawn to chewing fabric? Why does it enchant you so? Why must I chinchilla-proof my outfit before handling you? 😉 I will say that my chinchillas have had their share of quirks and unsafe behaviors, but their mishaps are always recognized, seriously addressed, and prevented until the behavior is eventually resolved. But the simple relief of your – or my – chinchillas being safe after an unsafe behavior is no indication of future success. Yes, plastic can kill your chinchilla. I mean, it probably won’t, but it can. And putting your chinchilla in a potentially dangerous situation when you have the power to chinchilla-proof their living and playing space is simply unnecessary. As good owners, it is our responsibility to take the care of these fluffy lives very seriously and get rid of the plastic.

But how can we go on? How do we really live in an affordable manner without plastic? I mentioned in my Ferret Nation post that when it comes to cost-effective production, the small animal industry too often turns to plastic. Outside of cage fabricators, there are also major manufacturers pushing cheap dust houses, running wheels, litter boxes, hideaways, water bottles – plastic, plastic, plastic. As small of a media sector as there is for the small animal community, we need to stop listening to the part of it that is telling us to put perceived low cost and ease of purchase over the health and well-being of our animals.

Koko Sleepy Ledge

The answer is, we need to shop differently and stop the flow of plastic consumption. Stop by Home Depot or a lumber supply, grab some cheap kiln-dried wood, screws and washers, and learn to make some simple things for your chins. And yes, it is actually cheap – as cheap or cheaper than plastic, and far more healthy both in the interim and long-term. Another DIY option is to cover plastic items tightly in fleece, a safe way to modify existing plastic items. A great way to think about improving your chinchilla’s environment is to look at the process as a positive bonding experience – a way for you to give your energy to your fluffy child in a way that they can truly appreciate. As chin owners, we really don’t get to experience a silent cuddle without any signs of struggle, so watching your chinchilla enjoy their well-made home is truly an expression of appreciation for all the work that you’ve done. And yes, we know that you have done a lot of work, and the work ceases to end, especially if you’re doing a great job.

Ladies Cage Wood Ledge

Or, a less energy-consuming alternative: find a vendor that makes safe chinchilla ledges, platforms, houses, and accessories. There are plenty of great home-spun chinchilla vendors that put a lot of work and energy into making some beautiful accents for your chinchillas so you don’t have to! I will note, however, that when energy goes down for the end user, cost will tend to rise: the cost of purchasing from these vendors is almost always at least double the cost of producing these goods yourself (although a lot of people don’t want to make the initial investment of purchasing a drill, saw, and other construction materials needed to start on projects that require energy and attention, which I also understand). But honestly, if you aren’t going to break out the tools and do it yourself, by all means – buy from these vendors. It’s a higher cost than plastic, sure – but it is invaluable for your chinchilla to have that safe, healthy environment that he or she needs. The investment is not short-term, and it’s important not to lose sight of that.

Muff Home

Since the chinchilla pet owning market has not really spoken out against plastic in mainstream commercial avenues (i.e. endorsed by major chinchilla-selling pet stores) most creators of chin-safe goods will be sold at a premium. The more we evolve and begin to understand the chinchilla on a national scale – their complexities, individuality, health requirements, and all the basics – will we begin the full evolution of a safer, inexpensive, more comprehensive chinchilla market that gives our fur-babies exactly what they need, at a cost that won’t break the bank.

We already do so much for our chins, the least the industry could do is recognize and proliferate the true requirements that chinchillas need so as to promote ownership that is not ignorant for a lack of preliminary information. Ignorance will continue in each and every pet kingdom, that’s just the unfortunate truth. However, we should do our best to dissuade unfit owners through education and knowledge. I know the knowledge is out there, and amazing owners and breeders contribute to the chinchilla society, but too often the contributions are laced with a high-strung attitude about best practices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a person without opinion, and I definitely feel that there are a great many ways how to raise a chinchilla and a great many ways how not to. But I think there needs to be an open dialogue with the community – chinchilla owning and not – about chinchilla ownership and coming to an understanding of general chinchilla needs, and having that conversation turn into a pedestal for future expansion of the industry. The lack of a centralized commercial understanding of chinchilla care – or the willingness to promote bad care in exchange for profit – is unacceptable.

Hay Feeder 1

For my chinchillas, I make everything out of kiln-dried pine, from litter boxes to hay feeders to ledges, platforms, and toys (toys are often made from a variety of vendor-purchased pear or apple woods). I use stainless steel bowls, glass water bottles, and metal pans with fleece covering as a replacement for the stock plastic components in my cages. But then again, I’m just one loving chinchilla owner, and I can only do so much for the community at large. Chinchilla education starts with you, learning and sharing and learning again. There’s an endless ocean of information out there, and it’s spectacular. I spend a lot of my free time reading and learning and searching for more, for the simple reason that I care about chinchillas and would like to know more. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, but always try to fix your mistakes and practice great caution before making any decisions or setting your mind to some half-fact that could negatively impact your chinchilla. Knowledge is always power: the type of power that leads to a happy chinchilla home. Also, don’t get discouraged if you can’t do everything at once: making improvements is a process that expends time, money, and energy. You learn about what works best for your chinchilla, making positive changes whenever you can.. and every step counts.

Providing a happy home is, above all else, providing a healthy home. The happiest home is an environment that allows your chinchilla to explore their personality, growth, and development in a space that fosters and caters to their safety and health. I urge all owners to get rid of plastics inside your chinchilla’s cage and replace them with delicious, crunchy, dental-health-promoting chinchilla safe woods! 🙂

Muff Sleeping Litter Bxo

Muffton sleeping like a baby in his safe wood litter box! He might not use it as he should, but enjoys it all the same!

 

Get To Know: Koko Bear

KOKO BEAR [my sweetfaced sweetheart] AKA Koko, Ko, Ko-Bear, Fatty-Ko, RoKoko

Extra Dark Ebony, Born 06/28/2014, approximately 700 grams

Koko Box

Role in Playtime Kingdom? Lovely damsel in distress – desperately in need of a good scratching! She absolutely melts for scratches in any situation, and oftentimes needs mom to swoop in for a cuddle and scratch!

Favorite Hiding Place? Koko doesn’t have very adventurous playtimes, and couches are her haven. She’ll simply waddle her cute butt around under the periphery of the couches (most of the space beneath the couches have been blocked for playtime safety purposes) and pick a spot to prance around back and forth.

Physical Capability? Koko is cautious! She likes to take her time, and stick to the well-known spots. She also isn’t capable of jumping very high or wall-surfing (yet). As slow as Koko is in most environments, she’s also capable of being speedy in her home! She’ll dart around her cage with exact precision. Every time she receives a shredded wheatie in her cage, she’ll run all around her cage with the treat in her mouth for a good 3-4 minutes before choosing a corner to settle down in and get her munch on!

Koko Tutu

Vocal? Hardly! Koko is super quiet, except for little squeaks when you traverse onto her belly during scratch-time.

Human Cuddle Status? Yes, she will! Shocking, right? But Koko is a surprising little jellybean and a total joy to have. She’s the most recent chinchilla to join the family, and it has been a whole new experience! She’s unlike any of my other babies.

Koko and Ellen

Favorite Way to Be Picked Up? This delicate fluffball enjoys being picked up by the torso and tail – she always starts head-shaking when she’s picked up, and it immediately ceases after she’s adjusted (thank goodness her shaking was proven to be an expression of nervousness, not a neurological problem)!

Intelligence? Low. But who needs it when you’re the sweetest chinchilla in all the land! Koko is the slowest to come to the cage door for treats, and when anyone talks sweetly to her, she looks all around in honest confusion! I’m glad she has the eating and drinking thing down, though 😛

Ko ball

Is She Compatible with Other Chinchillas? I personally believe she would be, if I had a sweet cage mate for her. But in the current state of events, no one likes Koko’s scent! It’s so unfortunate: the mosaic sisters have each other, and they look at her as a threat.. the boys don’t register that she’s female, even though they’ve all gone through a lengthy introduction process with her! Sometimes, things just don’t work out the way you’d hope. But it doesn’t detract from the happiness they experience and the joy they bring a dedicated owner separately!

Koko Box Pink

Ready for a Photo Shoot? She’s the reigning queen of photo shoots! I have an endless arsenal of super-cute Koko photos, because she’s so darling and docile and happy to be there. No treats needed – this model is a pro!

Koko Posing

Love to Dust? She dusts in sporadic energetic bursts, but I don’t think she enjoys it or dislikes it either way. Just another part of life for this little sootball.

Three Words/Phrases to Sum Up Her Personality? Docile Darling, A Pure Joy, Luckiest Find in All the Land