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Old 06-19-2018, 12:47 AM United States
ItsAlexthe7 ItsAlexthe7 is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Nashville, TN
Age: 26
Posts: 1
Chinchillas: 1
Question Chinfella's Fur Chewing


This is my first post to the forum, though I've been a lurker here for quite some time. I'm generally just wanting opinions on the situation that I'm having with Chinfella's behavior.

I've had Chinfella for over 5 years. I have him in a Critter Nation cage for the entire 5 years (a double stack) with wooden ledges and fleece tubes. He is a single chinchilla because I'm too terrified to introduce anyone else because I will never forgive myself if I cause him any sort of trauma.

Chinfella has never had issues with fur chewing until the past two years. I've tried to move things around the cage every month (ledges, etc.) to try and mix things up so that he doesn't do it anymore. I purchase new toys (mostly from Petsmart because it's the most convenient) and mix them into his habitat. I've tried to limit his dust baths to every other day instead of daily, thinking that it was allergies or something.... Yet, we still have the chewing.

I will admit that I don't have enough time to let him out everyday, since getting him 5 years ago, my life has changed drastically--and I don't offer that as an excuse, just to level-set. I travel most days every week, so its very difficult to get him out of the cage. Not to mention, he's never been a "touchy-feely" chin, the owners that had him previously never handled him much, and he was a bit older when I got him. We're definitely comfortable with each other, but he's more 'I'll come to you, let you pet me and give me a treat, then leave me alone' so I let our relationship consist of that.

I'm not giving him up because I made a commitment, not to mention that it's extremely comforting knowing that he's gotten all of the food, water, and chew toys that he needs--and lord knows what could happen anywhere else.

He's a pretty chill dude, and he doesn't require much attention. I'm just concerned about the fur chewing. I'm not sure if it helps, but he's also barking frequently in his sleep (though I read once before it could just be a bad dream). I'm considering tossing the cage for a "Quality Cage" habitat in hopes that it will be new and exciting.

TLR (because who has time to read long threads?)
--> I've had my chinchilla for 5 years
-----> I've only had issues with the fur chewing / barking in his sleep the past 2 years
--> He was ~2 years old when I got him and wasn't handled much. He seems to like it that way, tbh, but I'm not the chinchilla whisperer. (He's like a grumpy old man since day 1.)
-----> We have a good relationship, he basically wants a short pet, treat, and then to be left alone and it's worked out for us
-----> And for me to never. EVER. try to pick him up "no-matter-what-dr.-phil-psycho-analysis-you-try-to-use-on-me"
--> The temp in my condo is ~69 degrees, if that's helpful.
--> We have 3 dogs, but I've put a baby-gate-thing around his cage in case that's what has been bothering him. Problems persist. (I also work from home when I'm not traveling--though not too often--so I have a decent understanding of the noise level, which is minimal.)
--> I'm not able to let him out too often because of that whole "traveling for business" thing I've got going for me.
--> Getting rid of him isn't a good option because I want to make sure he's still getting fed, watered, and toys (I can stomach not knowing what could happen to him). I'm pretty committed to sticking with the old grump because he's basically my spirit animal these days.
--> He lingers A LOT at the top of the cage, I'm not sure if that's useful

1) Would getting rid of his old cage help the situation?
2) Does he have anxiety? How would I be able to test that? I've looked for the common things I've seen here on the forum (noise, heat, animals), and am not sure if there was anything I could have overlooked?
2B) Would switching up his cage make things worse?
3) I switch things up monthly-ish to try and combat the bored, but it's getting more difficult cause his tubby-but keeps breaking the bars on the Critter Nation.
4) I'm debating on taking him to the vet--the most logical option, I know--but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find a vet in the area that takes chinchillas. Not to mention that whole grumpy-old-man thing I mentioned earlier. (he seems overall healthy aside from the fur, sleep barking, and top-cage lingering)

Any ideas what I could do here? I think that the cage is the right way to go, and I'm pretty sold on it unless there's anything I should consider.
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Old 06-19-2018, 01:44 PM Canada
Amethyst's Avatar
Amethyst Amethyst is offline
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Alberta
Posts: 1,413
Chinchillas: 2

Even a bath every other day may be too often unless you live in a humid area. Make sure his skin isn't getting dried out, check his feet and ears.

1. I'm not sure a new cage would help anymore then just rearranging the cage. A CN is basically an empty box when you take everything out, so it can be arranged in so may different ways.

2. I don't know if he has anxiety, has anything changed? Or did change 2 years ago that you can think of? New cage location, new animals (even a neighbor's animal that wasn't there before, new cat prowling or dog barking), do you spend less time with him then before? Chins are social animals and especially if he is an only chin then need at least an hour a day of interaction. Interaction does not need to be out of cage playtime, just sitting and talking with him, petting him, handing him sticks and/or treats, stuff like that. Chins can get depressed if ignored. They also tend to like routine, so if for example you feed him at the same time everyday, then suddenly start feeding at random times it can cause stress.

2B. It really depends on your chin, some enjoy new things, others find it terrifying. If you started to rearrange the cage more often 2 years ago then that could also be a problem if that stresses him out. I know my guys get all excited when I rearrange and add/subtract toys, ledges, perches, tunnels, etc in the cage, jumping around making little chatter noises and checking everything out. But others refuse to move much when their cage is rearranged or rearranged too often. Just like people, some enjoy rearranging their home or getting a new home, while others prefer everything to stay the same.

3. That seems to be one problem I've heard about the CN cages, the bars are not as strong as on the FN. The cages are almost the same, just different bar spacing and orientation. I know some people try using bigger washers, or something none chewable to act as a washer, so it spreads the load over multiple bars. However, if too many bars have broken it may be time for a new cage anyway.

4. Unless he is chewing all the way to the skin it's more likely to be behavioral or psychological, not really something a vet can help with. Fur biting in itself is not actually harmful, it's like someone biting their nails, it doesn't cause any actual issue unless they start self mutilating.
The other thing that can happen is fur chewing can become a habit, especially if it's gone on for years. So it is possible that something triggered it, and maybe even was resolved already, but now the fur chewing have become habit for the chin.

The only other thing I can think of that might help if boredom is the issue is, do you have a wheel for him? My guys have the flying saucer wheel, and they use that thing for a running wheel, slide, launching pad/landing pad, a swing... so not just a wheel, lol.

Also just to throw it out there, if you have the room for another cage, even another chin in the same room, not necessarily the same cage, can help some chins not feel so alone when you are not there. It can give them someone to "talk" to.
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