I'm paranoid about my chin's behavior recently

DoubleChinnies

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This will be long, so stay with me.

I'm trying to get to the bottom of my chinchilla Mayu's behavior. Just a little background: I've had her for a little over a year and we went through so much together. We were both in a stressful environment and my ex husband yelled a lot. When I finally got out of that house and it was just me and Mayu, I went through a period where I didn't have a chin-proofed room for her to run around in and she started fur chewing. I had no idea how much our living situation had stressed her out. When I noticed her beautiful fur start to become patchy, I immediately mended the situation and got a room ready for her and since then, she's been allowed to roam my bedroom. I let her out for playtime every night if I can, but I don't go more than two days without out-of-cage time.

However, I'm perplexed by a few things:
  1. She doesn't touch her chew toys anymore. I've tried changing them out, getting her new ones, even different ones she hasn't had before. She'll nibble on the new toy for a day or two, then leave it untouched it seems.
  2. She's so picky about hay. She doesn't seem to like any of the timothy hay I've given her. I've done first cut and third cut. I make sure none of the hay is old or musty. I read to try different hays to see what she likes, so I gave her oat hay to change things up. She nibbled on it for about a day, then left it alone completely. So, I gave her orchard grass to see if that'd spike her fancy and when I did, I made a mixture of red rose petals, calendula, and lavender to add to the mixture to encourage her to eat. She loooved the mix I made, but so far, it looks like she mostly picked through the hay to find the goodies. I've even cut down her pellets to make sure she only gets 2 tablespoons a day (Mazuri). I'm not sure what to try next.
  3. She's been sleeping a lot more at night in the past week or so. I know this may be my fault because I've brought a new chin into my room in hopes of bonding them successfully (and if not, I have the capacity to maintain two separate cages). My other female is named Mochi and I keep their cages next to each other, a few inches apart. They don't seem to be interested in each other enough to communicate through the bars - that's a whole other topic. In order to keep both cages next to each other, I have to keep Mayu's cage in front of the window. I have blackout shades that I keep drawn at all times and my room is always cool. I'm thinking the change of light in the room could be messing with her sleep schedule? Even with my blackout shades, does being in front of the window still affect her?
  4. The fur chewing. I've been doing everything in my power to get her to stop and to be honest, I don't ever see her doing it. I think I caught her doing it once or twice? I know it's hard to get them to stop once they start, but I've read some things about them swallowing their fur and that concerns me. I never find any fur in the cage. Could this be why she's acting strangely?

    My chinchilla is pretty unique in that she always seems so calm and relaxed, she sleeps out in the open, I've never once seen her sleep in her hideaway or her hammock. She commonly sleeps on her side and I know this doesn't necessarily mean she's sick, but I know it can be a sign of illness. Either way, I'm a worried mom and would love some input. I saw her sleeping on her side when I got up this morning and it took me saying her name a few times for her to wake up.

    Ps. I got my new chin Mochi from a reputable breeder, she was quarantined, and healthy as can be. And most of this behavior started long before she came home, so I don't think it has much to do with the new arrival.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this!
 

Amethyst

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I would get her checked out by the vet, just to rule out any health issues. Chins are good at hiding issues so any change in behavior should be investigated seriously. Not chewing and not eating hay can also be a sign of tooth or mouth issues, and you can't see the molars without at the very least a camera scope. Fur chewing can cause hairballs, so that is something else to get checked out.

For hay you want to feed primarily timothy hay, it's the most balanced for everyday feed, and it the very least you want grass hay. Oat is a grain hay, which can be gassy in large amounts, as well has different nutrients then grass, so it's more of a treat hay. Have you tried different brands of timothy? Also have you been keeping a weight record on her? Especially if you cut down on pellets you want to make sure she is eating enough hay so she isn't loosing weight. Although most adult chins only need about 2tb (30g) of pellets a day that is in addition to a handful worth of hay. So if they still don't eat their hay even when the pellets cut back they likely aren't getting enough to eat.

I would also make sure that the window isn't causing the cage to be warm, I know you said they have blackout shades but they can sometimes get warm. Also if the window is open or leaks it can cause a draft. Chins also do still need a day/night cycle, so even if you are not in the room they do still need light during the day.

Laying out in the open and even on their side is normal if they feel comfortable in their environment. Unless it's something new I wouldn't really think that was anything to worry about. If you notice her stretching out a lot it could be a sign of gas or blockage though.
 

DoubleChinnies

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I've given her Oxbow timothy hay and I order regularly from AZ Chins. I only recently ordered oat and orchard to see if she was bored with that she had (by Oxbow). Do you have any recommendations for what to try next for timothy hay? I haven't been weighing her and I just found out that I should be monitoring that. I can start keeping a record now, I just need to get a small scale. For the pellets, I had been filling her bowl and letting her pick at it however much or however little she wanted, then found out about the 2 tb/day, so I started putting only 2 tb a day just in case that's why she's been neglecting her hay.

I think I'm going to move her cage because the lack of light is probably why her sleep schedule has changed the way it has. The area around the cage doesn't feel warm to me, but then again, she's more sensitive than I am.

I always took her lying out in the open as a sign of her being comfortable, so it's good to have that confirmaiton. This morning, she looked more stretched out than normal.

You're right, I'm thinking a trip to the vet would be good for some peace of mind. I'm worried about her mouth for sure since she hasn't been using her teeth enough. Thank you!
 

DoubleChinnies

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Thank you HaXena! I'll look into getting that hay soon.

Update: Took her to the vet today and she has a more thorough exam scheduled on Thursday; She'll be under sedation so the vet can look at her back teeth, so I'm a little nervous about that, but I'm relieved to know that I'll get clearer answers soon. Vet said she most likely will need to have her teeth trimmed.
 
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