Pet Articles

Chinchilla Behavior Problems

The chinchilla, if handled from a young age can be a friendly, curious pet. However, if they were not treated well as a young chinchilla, had a bad experience, or just grew up bitter and resentful, you will notice your pet performing behaviours with the aim of getting you or another chinchilla to ‘go away.’ These are called anti-social behaviours.

Biting

Nibbling is not anti-social; rather it occurs when the chinchilla lightly chews on the skin. They will do this while grooming each other, and may even nibble on you while giving it scratches under the chin; it is a sign of affection and acceptance.

Pressure biting can be a means of communication. For example, if you are holding the chinchilla, and it wants down or needs to urinate, a pressure bite is a very effective means of getting your attention. However, it can also be utilized when the chinchilla is feeling fear or is very stressed. In this circumstance, it is not a skin piercing bite because the chinchilla realizes that it is hurting the people or because their personality is too mellow to allow them to do so.
Biting can be used by a chinchilla when they are extremely stressed or frightened. The bite will penetrate the skin and be very deep. A chinchilla that is a persistent biter, either of people or other chinchillas, needs to have this behavioural problem addressed. Chinchillas are not biters by nature, and are usually very curious and gentle, so rehabilitation performed properly can usually be successful. Check with a local exotics veterinarian or chinchilla behavioural specialist for proper techniques.

Urine-Spraying

This behaviour can be very irritating for the owner, as who wants urine sprayed at them? It is especially common in female chinchillas that are more hyperactive. They have the amazing ability to spray urine up to a few feet. So what can you do if your chinchilla is spaying urine at you? First of all, look for warning sounds before the urine is sprayed so you can be better prepared to dodge it. Secondly, behavioural treatment is probably your best bet for a constant urine-sprayer. Causes for urine spraying include environmental stresses such as a noisy house, or the chinchilla is just defending its territory.

Teeth-Chattering

This behaviour is often exhibited along with rearing up. This is a behaviour that will often occur prior to biting or urine spraying. What causes a chinchilla to do this? They may feel uncomfortable, or trapped so use this as a defensive mechanism in hopes of scaring the intruder away.

Fur Biting

This is not an antisocial behaviour per se, but may arise readily in animals that show anti-social behaviours, as these tend to be the more intelligent or high-strung individuals. The reason being that these animals do not have enough mental stimulation in their environment and develop boredom, or perhaps they are having conflicts with a cagemate. Look at fur biting as a ‘bad addiction’ much like smoking in people. Comparing two people that smoke cigarettes, a person who is stressed may smoke a cigarette more often that one who is relaxed. However, the people who do not smoke at all will not be at risk for responding to stress by increasing their cigarette consumption. Likewise, some chinchillas will never resort to fur-biting, while others use this as a coping mechanism to certain stressors. This behaviour can become habitual or chronic over time, and occurs when a chinchilla bites at its fur, causing its coat to develop a choppy look. Although stressors are a trigger for fur-biting, medical issues such as ill health can also be a cause. In any case, it is important to try and resolve the self-mutilation as promptly as possible. It is usually not a behaviour that will just ‘go away.’ The stressor must be identified and completely removed from the chinchilla’s environment; the end result will be a much more relaxed and satisfied chinchilla.

The more observant you are, and the faster you notice your chinchilla develop one of these anti-social behaviours, generally, the easier it will be to solve. If you have adopted a chinchilla with these characteristics, a gentle hand and soft soothing words, with the tastiest chinchilla treats can do wonders! Persistence and patience is the key; if you are stressed than your chinchilla will also be stressed.

By Laura Platt – Pets.ca writer

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