Help! It’s been two months and I still can’t touch my chinchilla.

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I really need advice from experienced owners. I got my chinchilla two months ago now and have made very little progress. He will eat treats from my hand and let me touch his nose but that’s about it. I’ve tried to take him out for playtime by trapping him in his dust bath and carrying him to his playpen but he is very skiddish and trapping him again to put him away is so difficult. And I certainly can’t pick him up because if I try I will have to chase him all over the place and he just gets more and more scared. I know in order to build a bond I have to take him out everyday but I can’t because I can’t get him in and out of the cage and playpen. I get so anxious I’m going to ruin what little progress I’ve made. I can’t even remove the tufts of fur that he sheds. I really don’t know what to do.
How do I get him to trust me to pet him?
I’ve been feeding him treats from my hand every day and I still can’t even touch him two months later. I’ve been researching as best as I can but at this point I need someone to just tell me what to do.
 

Amethyst

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Depending on where you got him it can take months or even years to get the point of tolerating handling. Some of the best things to do it just sit by the cage and talk to him open the cage and let him come to you and climb on your hands and arms. Let him come to you, you can't force or rush it you have to go at his pace. You also should not chase him during playtime, chins are pretty defenseless prey animals, so every time you are doing that you are proving to him you are not someone to be trusted. It's best to have a bonded formed before you do playtime so you aren't having to chase him, work on just getting him use to holding him for short times in and near the cage so he can go back in the cage if he feels scared. Obviously you can scoop him up and move him out of the cage if needed during weekly cleanings but it might work best if you can put him in a small cage or carrier so you can put him right back in the cage after.

Since you have been chasing and trapping him I would just look at it as you are starting from square one as though he is a brand new chin at this point, it can often take as long as it has happened to get over it, so if you have been chasing and trapping him daily for the past two months expect it to take at least that long to start trusting you. Go back to just giving him food, hay, and water and tidying up the cage everyday and doing the weekly (or however often) cage cleaning. It's best not to give treats everyday but you can rotate giving different things, a treat some days, a chew stick or toy another, hand feed pellets, a hay cube, pieces of a different kind of hay then you normally feed or a specific part of hay he likes (some chins think the seed heads are the greatest thing). Once he is coming to greet you when you enter the room and coming over for pets and climbing on you when you go to the cage then you can carry him over to the play pen. Again once you get to the play pen allow him to explore and come to you at his own pace, don't chase him if at all possible. If you really need to get him you can throw a blanket over him, that normally stops them long enough to allow you to scoop them up so you can put them back in the cage without any chasing or too much stress involved. I know a lot of people use the dust bath to try to lure the chins back, but frequently that just causes the chin to become wary of the dust bath, most are too smart to fall for that more then a couple times. You can even just start with a smaller area, like on your bed for example (put a blanket down first so you don't get poops all over the bed ;) ), so you have some control over where he goes and can't get too far from you.
 
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Ok thank you! I kept pushing playtime because all the stuff I read online said time out of the cage everyday was really important and I felt guilty not trying. I feel better knowing I’m not being a bad owner if I don’t take him out until he trusts me.
I will spend time just trying to get him used to me in his cage. Thank you again, I really needed some educated advice.
 

Amethyst

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Different people have different opinions on how much out of cage time is required, a lot of breeders say they don't need any at all 🙁. Chins are social creatures, but not really highly active, like say a dog, that require a lot of exercise everyday. So although I think playtime is important, I think that interacting with the chin, even if just in the cage, is a lot more important. Unless you chin is in a very tiny cage they likely get all the physical activity they need just inside the cage, if you don't already you can also get him a chin safe wheel (at least 14-16" diameter, solid metal) if you are worried he isn't getting enough exercise in the cage.
 
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Yeah I got him a chin spin but I’m not sure he uses it. I’ve never seen him on it, but maybe I’m just asleep when he uses it. Any tips on showing him how to use it?
 

Amethyst

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You can try sprinkling some dust on it, sometimes that can get them to step on the wheel and get the idea of how it moves. You can also try luring him with a tasty treat, get him to go on the wheel then hold it just in front of him so he walks forward. I would also just make sure the wheel spins properly, sometimes the bearings can go on those or get gummed up so they don't spin right or are hard to spin. Some chins just simply don't like wheels though, wheels are not important for chins to have like they are for other rodents but still sucks because they are so expensive. They do tend to use the wheel mostly at night, maybe try setting something on the wheel or mark on the wheel with a washable marker so you can maybe see if it moved overnight.
 

lgr

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1. Do not chase your chinchillas. You are like Gozilla and he is a tiny civilian. If it makes sense. OK it will scare the chin and chin will go defensive like bark at you. Bite you. Fight or flight moment. So do not never chase chinchilas. Instead let them come to explore you.

2. Do not trap them in small area. My chinchilla appeared claustrophobic. Maybe they think you will relocate them or sell them away in small box. So don't do that. Using a food pack or treats is enough most of the time. Literally you try dangling his food pack and chin will come. It is natural for them. No need trap in small area please. Cause fear and truama to your little buddy

3. 2 mths cannot touch? How old is your chin and does he have previous owner? Try this. Talk to them in soft voice. After handing treats give small touching rubbing. So slowly they learn to asscoiate touch with good food. Play with them during play time. Like be physically inside play pen. Let it explore you freely. This builds trust. And is bonding between you your chinchilla.

Remember no chasing, no trapping. No confinement in small areas
 

HaXena

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Sioux City, IA
I really need advice from experienced owners. I got my chinchilla two months ago now and have made very little progress. He will eat treats from my hand and let me touch his nose but that’s about it. I’ve tried to take him out for playtime by trapping him in his dust bath and carrying him to his playpen but he is very skiddish and trapping him again to put him away is so difficult. And I certainly can’t pick him up because if I try I will have to chase him all over the place and he just gets more and more scared. I know in order to build a bond I have to take him out everyday but I can’t because I can’t get him in and out of the cage and playpen. I get so anxious I’m going to ruin what little progress I’ve made. I can’t even remove the tufts of fur that he sheds. I really don’t know what to do.
How do I get him to trust me to pet him?
I’ve been feeding him treats from my hand every day and I still can’t even touch him two months later. I’ve been researching as best as I can but at this point I need someone to just tell me what to do.
Knowing I had no place to let my chin “out” for exercise or play, I built him a small enclosure around his cage. It took a little over a year of daily visits from me, inside his enclosure, before he allowed me to touch him.
he LOVES chin scratches and affection from me now! He will use me as a jungle-jim & fall asleep on my shoulder but still will not allow me to pick him up.
I’ve trained him to recognize a specific tap equals a treat so if/when I need him in his carrier, the tap/treat works as a lure getting him where ever I need him.
I would talk n sing to him but took it 100% at his pace, instantly backing off if he was uninterested.

after 4 years, he has finally begun to trust other people too.
 
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Thank you! That gives me hope. I will definitely get a playpen that wraps around his cage so he can come and go from play as he pleases. I feel a lot better knowing he could still appreciate affection at some point in the future. And I will try the tap treat thing at some point too. Until I get that level of training, what should I do if I need to get him in his carrier? For example, I recently moved into a dorm and I know at some point there will be fire drills. I don’t know if I should get him in his carrier to practice evacuating him in an emergency, or if I should save him the stress and not take him out. And if I am supposed to evacuate him, how should I do it? Everyone repeatedly says not to trap, chase, or grab, but I don’t know of any other option. If he isn’t trained to get in his carrier on command, and he won’t willingly allow me to pick him up, what other way is there to get him out of his cage?
 
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HaXena

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Sioux City, IA
Thank you! That gives me hope. I will definitely get a playpen that wraps around his cage so he can come and go from play as he pleases. I feel a lot better knowing he could still appreciate affection at some point in the future. And I will try the tap treat thing at some point too. Until I get that level of training, what should I do if I need to get him in his carrier? For example, I recently moved into a dorm and I know at some point there will be fire drills. I don’t know if I should get him in his carrier to practice evacuating him in an emergency, or if I should save him the stress and not take him out. And if I am supposed to evacuate him, how should I do it? Everyone repeatedly says not to trap, chase, or grab, but I don’t know of any other option. If he isn’t trained to get in his carrier on command, and he won’t willingly allow me to pick him up, what other way is there to get him out of his cage?
Training my guy was FAST! Every time he gets a treat I ether tap or tick w/my tung the rhythm that means "treat." Sound = food is something they learn quickly.

If your body is in a place they can explore, they will crawl all over you, you just have to keep your hands to yourself, which is SO hard to do! I started holding treats with my lips and ticking the treat sound. The next time we had play time he was regularly checking my face and mouth to see if treats magically appeared 🥰

Maury still will not allow me to pick him up but getting him on my shoulder is easy with a cheerio in my lips, once he's there, he's easy to scoop up. He complains, chirps and yells at me but no longer tries to escape being held.

Just don't overdue treats and make sure they're OK for chins, a few pieces of oatmeal or rose hips.
I was finally able to purchase a used double decker Critter Nation cage. His carrier fits inside the cage so I leave it there. He uses it as another hiding spot.

The beauty part of this setup is that If I need him in his carrier, it's super easy to calmly 'corral' him towards the carrier, he will go in himself to get away from me. All I have to do is act like I'm trying to pick him up. Again, I'm talking calmly and moving slowly so it's not a stressful situation but he will go into his carrier all by himself.

if your carrier doesn't fit inside your current cage, have it around for him to climb on and inspect during his playtime outside his cage. Put things in it for him to find, chew sticks or toys. Point is, make sure he has regular ability to interact with his carrier in positive ways, then when you need him in it, he doesn't associate carrier with stress.

The best thing you can do is slow way down and pay close attention to YOUR chin, will a bit of time you can learn how your guy communicates with you. My guy has specific noises and body language, as I got better at reading him, he allowed me much more leeway and now "asks" me for chin or belly scratches!

Be forewarned, you do this stuff, your not going to notice it happening but all of a sudden you'll be head over heals in love with that stupid little ball of fluff!

EB1FF38D-66D2-487A-85D4-6DCA41EB8BAA_1_105_c.jpeg
 

HaXena

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Location
Sioux City, IA
Thank you! That gives me hope. I will definitely get a playpen that wraps around his cage so he can come and go from play as he pleases. I feel a lot better knowing he could still appreciate affection at some point in the future. And I will try the tap treat thing at some point too. Until I get that level of training, what should I do if I need to get him in his carrier? For example, I recently moved into a dorm and I know at some point there will be fire drills. I don’t know if I should get him in his carrier to practice evacuating him in an emergency, or if I should save him the stress and not take him out. And if I am supposed to evacuate him, how should I do it? Everyone repeatedly says not to trap, chase, or grab, but I don’t know of any other option. If he isn’t trained to get in his carrier on command, and he won’t willingly allow me to pick him up, what other way is there to get him out of his cage?
Sorry, I realize I went on a tangent there and didn't really answer your question.

Personally, I would not subject your guy to a legitimate fire drill until you've established more trust with him.

In a real emergency, you're going to have to do... what ever you gotta do, right? In the mean time, building trust is your #1 priority.
 
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