Back and forth relationship

TokoandRoo

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Joined
Jun 5, 2018
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2
Hello all! I'm new to this site but I'm so glad I found it!

I will try to explain my question as best I can:
I have 2 female chinchillas who will be 4 years old in September. They have always been cage mates and best friends. (They aren't sisters but they were both born in September 2014. I originally had two sisters but one of them passed away about a week after we got them. That's a different story for maybe a different day. My heart is still healing from that experience.) We were able to find someone who had a girl chin the same age as our Roo. When they met, Roo immediately went to the new chin and snuggled in, success!!
They lived peacefully with each other for about 2 years in one of the those "2 story cages" that can be found at pretty much PetSmart. Anyway, one day I walked in to check on them because Toko (short for Toko'ua - 'sister' in Tongan) was barking. (She was the adopted chin.) She is very vocal, much more than Roo.
On this particular day, she was 'downstairs' sitting in the wheel. Roo was 'upstairs' hiding in a corner. I immediately knew they had been fighting because of their behavior and also the small clumps of fur in the cage. I separated them immediately and tried to calm both of them down. I looked online for helpful tips. Most of them mentioned sexual maturity which I had already suspected, but it still didn't feel like the right answer. I came to the conclusion that it very well could have been because Toko was protecting the food. Up to this point, they shared everything, food dish, wheel, wooden house to cuddle on top of, etc. I food have 2 water bottles because they went through it quickly.
We gave them a cooling off period for a few days like some sites mentioned and Toko immediately went after Roo. Luckily my daughter was in there with me to help referee. After that I only let them out one at a time. After maybe a week, they each started to go to the cage and try to 'talk' to the other one. We decided to try round 2 and it was like nothing had ever happened! Yay! We cleaned out the whole cage to try to make it as neutral as we could. We also had 2 of everything, one on top, one on bottom. We put them up for the afternoon. We went to bed and I heard Toko barking do i jumped out of bed and it was the exact same scenario with Toko being upset and Roo hiding. I was so sad.
They still played together outside of their cages just fine. They would even go 'visit' the other 'apartment' during this time and there wasn't ever a problem. I went out of town for a while and my husband who doesn't really like to sit and get cute little dusty furballs walking and jumping on him and using him as a springboard. Weird, right?!? Whole I was gone, he would let them both out when he got home from work and then go about his evening and put them in their cages before he went to bed. These were all unsupervised play times. They also have been getting song really well during playtime for over a year.
About a month ago, my husband let them out when he got home from work. I wasn't home from an appt yet so he just did his normal for when I'm out of town. He went to bed and I followed a few hours later. I saw the light on in the chin's room and realized that he forgot to put them to bed and forgot to tell me. Anyway...Toko was sitting in her wheel, upset and barking (later on that night) and Roo was nowhere to be found. I was so scared every time I had to look under their cage or in her little hutch or in Toko's little hutch, etc. I was praying that I wouldn't find a dead chin. I finally found her on a card table in that room with a box of books and a sheet over it and the sides were all taped to the wall to prevent little chin teeth from eating the books. She had somehow managed to get under that sheet. She was terrified. There was so much for all over the room. Clumps of it that were as big as my palm. I could tell which fur was Toko's and which was Roo's. I have never seen so much fur. I put her in her cage. The next few days, she would let me pet her but if I tried to go from head and down her back and over her right hip, she would squeak a little and run away. The other hip was fine. She was tender there for a few days but never had a limp and would let me pick her up as long as I didn't touch that right hip area. In the last few days from 'full recovery' I think she was still squeaking because she was scared that it would hurt.
After that, obviously play time was just one at a time. When Roo was out, Toko would go crazy and run around her cage, tracking Roo wherever she went in the room. If Roo came too close to her cage, she would lunge forward at her with her little paws pushing in front of her while making a sound. She also was grinding her teeth do i learned what that meant that night. Next it was Toko's turn to play so Roo went in her cage and Toko came out. I was curious how Toko would be with Roo. She seemed very interested in her through the bars, and thenvery suddenly, Toko makes this mean sound and I had the joy of witnessing the urine spraying but apparently Toko's not a very good shot because Roo was in her cage in front of Toko and I was behind Toko. She got me all over my head and some on my lip. Yum...
So, no more visiting through the bars. I was sad. I can tell that neither one of them likes to be alone. They just touch noises and sniff each other when I give them their individual playtime. Roo is a little more cautious aboutgoing to say hi to Toko when Toko is in her cage, but she loves it when Toko comes to her cage to visit. Today, Toko got to come out first. After a few baths, Toko came to sniff Roo. They sniffed for a good few seconds. Eventually, Roo sat right at the door, facing me, giving me those "please let me out Mom, I promise we'll be good" looks. They still only get separate playtime but their cages are now side by side instead of 2 floors. We are waiting to see how they do before we put the cages touching each other.
So...long story. I apologize. What do I do??? Is this just something that they are going to do every now and again?
(And, the night of the big fight - my husband didn't feed them knowing that I was coming home later and would do it because that's what we always do. But, I assumed that he did it because I was unusually later that night. I think they got in a fight over food, even though Roo could've gotten to her cage and her food. Toko loves her food. I also thought that it could've been a fight over the wheel. They both have one but they always wasn't what the other one has.)
I'm guessing they can never be cage mates, but I am hoping that we can figure out a way that they can be play time friends. And always supervised and not too long if we can't supervise. They usually don't have play time for 4 hours. That was a parent blunder.
So...any suggestions?
 

Amethyst

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Honestly I would never trust them alone together again, chins can fight to the death. I really don't agree with any unsupervised out of cage playtime, not even a minute, even for a single chin, too much can go wrong that you don't see if you aren't there. If you can't supervise the chin it needs to go back in it's cage.

I would be very reluctant to allow them to even play together at this point, but I have had chins that didn't want cage mates but enjoyed having playmates. It does sound like it could have been resource guarding, so I would make sure to take food completely out of the equation when/if they are out together. If Roo could get to her cage I would guess then that Toko could too? So it's possible that Toko went into Roo's cage then or if both cages where accessible then maybe Roo went in Toko's cage. I never allowed none cage mates in each other's cages, it can cause a fight, especially females. In the chin world females are the more territorial ones.
 

TokoandRoo

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Joined
Jun 5, 2018
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2
Amethyst,
I just saw your reply! Meaning I just now figured out how to get back here. Ugh. I'm not the brightest.
Thank you for your reply. After a cooling off period I let them out and play again. Their cages were apart so we slowly moved them closer. After a while, they both started to sit/sleep in the bottom corner closest to the other. That's when I figured they were okay to try playing outside of the cages again. They did really well. They will sit next to each other, Roo definitely being the one who is looking for some love, and they will sometimes start grooming each other. They'll talk to each other a bit while this is going on and then one will give that little sharp bark like "okay... that's enough for today" and I usually say to them "girls... be nice..." they will both stop, look at me and usually separate until the next meeting when one is just sitting there and the other comes up to see what she's up to.
Now I have another issue with Roo. Long story short, I'm a horrible chin Mom and my hubby, although he means well, doesn't notice much when it comes to any changes in their appearance and/or behavior. He was sitting with them every evening while I was downstairs. What I didn't know is that he started letting them out to just "run free" for an hour or 2. Yeah. Not good! They didn't necessarily fight... there wasn't hair everywhere... but when I went in after learning that they were out by themselves and this had been their routine for a while. (Since March 10th I was "living downstairs" because my youngest daughter came home early from college - only to find out that she would've been sent home with all the other students on March 13th because of Covid 19 - to have knee surgery which required me to be close to her for the first 4 - 6 weeks. She was not allowed to put any weight on her right leg, which was locked in an extended position for the first 4 weeks. She a dancer so this was quite the emotional ride with lots of tears and physical therapy. I was basically unaware of anything else that was going on in my house if it didn't involve my daughter. Not a good excuse to ignore my chins, but like I said, I thought hubby was going in every day with them.)
When I did find out and one day went in, Roo was pressed up against the window, ears down, looking really cute but I knew that position. I asked hubby and he said, "she is always up there. She likes it there." I told him it looked more like she was hiding, he didn't really agree because he said that she did it whether he was in the room or not.
Whenever I'm in the run from the start, Roo will go take her dust bath, say hi to Toko, try to go jump in Toko's cage and after she realizes the door is closed she will run around a bit and eventually come and fall asleep on my lap or shoulder.
I was also avoiding the chin room because my daughter is allergic and I didn't want to get her dusty. But, she loves the chins and said "screw it, allergies" and went to say hi to them. She was holding Roo and said, "Mom, she's way too skinny. This is her spine... she has never been this light." Of course that's when I actually "see" Roo for the first time in a long time. Then I remembered that I took a picture of her the end of February to send to Christy and to show Jack because it looked like she was developing a little hunchback. She was always the smaller of the two but she had been losing weight, I think, but I just brushed it off as "She has always been small and Toko is bigger. Next to Toko she looks even smaller. Her 'winter coat' is shedding as well so I'm sure that's it." Hubby was picking her up everyday to put her in her cage because she really likes him. He just puts his hand down, she crawls in and into her cage she goes. Apparently he wasn't noticing that she was getting lighter and lighter. I also thought that she just looked like she lost weight because her coat was changing colors because of the change of seasons.
Nope. Try again, horrible chin Mom! That darker streak down her back is her spine. What do I do???
They will both be 6 years old in September.
Thank you,
Collette
 

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