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Bonding With Your Chinchilla


Chins are actually very social creatures and live in colonies called herds in the wild. As long as you own the chin, you will be part of its herd. Initially this may take time, but with patience and a willingness to devote time to him or her, you can wind up with a very sweet little bundle of fur.

I have been very lucky in the temperaments of my chins; I have three of the sweetest furballs I've met, and the fourth is slowly coming around. I'll go ahead and describe the methods that I use, in the hopes that you can find the same results with your chins.

Initially, I let the chinchilla set the bonding pace. After bringing it home, I leave it alone for a couple days. This is important, as it needs to acclimate to the new surroundings you've placed it in. Each location has different sounds and paces of life. You don't want to overwhelm and eventually stress the chin by introducing a bunch of new things at once. Give it at least two days, if not four.

Once I feel the chin has had sufficient adjustment time, I move very slowly and simply sit in the same room. This way the chin gets used to my smell as well as my presence. If he or she is not fidgety with my presence at all, I'll talk softly and approach the cage. Keep in mind, you need to watch for any indications of stress such as the chin hiding from you or jumping around frantically. If you see any of these, you may want to back off for a while and revert to the previous step.

If the chin calms down and allows me to be in the room while speaking softly to it, I'll open the cage door and stand there, allowing it to come and investigate me. I may or may not place my hand inside the cage, depending on the chin's reaction to the open door. Again, I'm moving at the chinchilla's pace, and only taking the next step when it feels comfortable on both sides.

Once the chin is comfortable with me in close proximity to its cage with the door open, I'll place my hand inside and leave it lay on a shelf or the floor. This allows the chin to smell me and get used to my hand, which eventually leads to comfortability in being handled. You can use a treat in this instance as well by placing it farther and farther up your hand and arm, encouraging the chin to climb on you, but remember that all treats should be given in moderation. When I did this, I chopped a single raisin into multiple pieces, that way she was only getting one treat rather than the four she thought she was getting!

Where the chin will go from this step varies greatly. One of my chins will cautiously step out onto my hands, then jump back onto a shelf, just testing the waters. Another will jump onto my hands and catapult onto my shoulder, ready to go. Yet another will sit perfectly still on my hand, allowing herself to be pet. Keep your eyes open and watch what the chin is comfortable with, then go from there. Whatever the chin chooses is where you need to start. Take its cue and then expand upon that. Above all, you're earning the chin's trust and showing it you are not an enemy but a friend.

Lastly, a tip given to me by a breeder has worked wonders. If you want an extremely friendly and social chin, until the chinchilla is totally comfortable with you, don't let it have time to run free. Carry it with you, rather than allowing it to explore whatever area you've chinproofed for that purpose. Wait until you've bonded, or else the bond won't be as strong as you may have hoped. I made this mistake with my first chin. While he readily comes out of the cage to me, he immediately wants down to play.

Most importantly, take your time. Don't expect the chin to be your best friend immediately -- it's something that takes time. Once you've bonded, you'll have a friend for life.