New Chinchilla owner - tips on cage, playtime, litter training, etc...


Jan 2, 2018
Upstate NY
Hi all - I know there have been a lot of posts from "new owners" so my apologies if mine is redundant and/or covering similar ground, but hoping to perhaps get some tips/advice from more experienced Chinchilla owners. Net-net my husband got me a 2 month old Chinchilla for Christmas. I had fallen in love with one we visited (with my son) in the pet store and my husband decided to surprise me. A week and a half and lots of Internet research later - we both realized - that this is far different than getting a gerbil or other small animal for a surprise pet and we spend last weekend doing some soul searching and long thinking of if we could provide the proper home and care for this wonderful little guy. Our decision was yes. We will have a dog next fall and will have to navigate that but since my Chin (we named him Dash) will be housed upstairs in my home office - we will be able to limit his exposure. There is also probably a cat sometime in our future (our passed last year), but again, when the time comes, we'll figure that out. For now - Dash is our pet and a week with him has told me - we made the right decision to keep him. Just having him here in my office is wonderful and he's already acclimated to the typing noises and is sleeping peacefully.

That all said, it was a bumpy start. We did everything wrong in the first feew days, having no real advice from the pet store. Putting him in a space that was loud (due to my 3-year-old son) during the day and trying to handle him and show him off - feeding treats - we had read a limited amount was okay - but didn't know not for a 2 month old, etc... but a long two days of research found the right info and now he's doing awesome. Upstairs and happy, playing and already trusting me and going onto my arm when I put it in the cage - either to offer it to him or to clean the cage. No more treats and the wheel has been put in storage until he is at least 6 months. In fact he is trusting me so much that I have to be careful when doing the quick daily clean, as he's exploring the open cage door. Sorry for the long post, but wanted to list all details, so here are my questions:

1. I currently have a starter cage. It does have plastic shelves, but he seems not inclined to chew on them but rather chew on the toys given to him (all safe) and the top of the Kaytee wood hiding structure we set up. Ultimately I will remove but so far seems not a concern. The question is -I bought a critter nation 60 inch tall cage - if I set it up I'll remove the ramps and set up ledges in its place, but I know with young ones (he is 2 months) falling is a fear - and wondering if I should leave him in his 36 inch cage for now and just set up another ledge or two for more jumping and wait until at least 6 months or even 9-10 months to move to a taller cage? He does seem content in current set-up.

2. I read he shouldn't have outside cage playtime at all until 6 months bc of young ones having trouble regulating body temperature - is that a tried and true rule? Can I let him out in controlled space for 10-15 min some days? He seems so inclined to want to play, I just don't want him to feel neglected.

3. Litter training. Currently I just have a dried pine bedding on the floor of the cage and to be honest, I'm having trouble figuring out where he is urinating. When I reach in the pine doesn't appear to be very wet. I've heard the best success is when they are young, but I'm unsure where to put the litter pan and how to go about it - re: do I remove all of the bedding on the bottom and just put it in the pan? And how necessary is it? Is it better to just let him have the bottom of the cage as his place to pee and do my once a week clean out of the bottom - putting in fresh bedding as needed and then the once a month deep clean? Would love some tips here.

4. Hammocks - I bought a fleece tent hammock, but haven't set up yet. Is that safe for a young guy? Or should I wait until he is bigger? Currently he sleeps on the top shelf or on top of his kaytee hide-a house. The shelf placement btw, are three shelves that span the width of the cage and are maybe 6 inches wide or a bit wider and are placed at three levels.

I think we are good on feed (we have Mazuri) and are using a mixed blend of alfalfa hay (which I hear is better for the younger guys due to nutrients) and got a bunch of safe wood and lava block chew toys which he seems to love. I also bought a lava shelf to install, but haven't yet.

Any other tips folks can share? I want little Dash to have the best home and happy environment I can give him, so really appreciate the input.