Tried to Smush Chinchillas Together - One Attacked the Other

tmburton

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Oct 26, 2014
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Boise, ID
We have had our chinchilla Puff for just over a year now (September 2020). She has been alone since we got her, but she came to the store we bought her from with 2 other chinchillas and lived with them for a couple months before we got her (I know this because one of my best friends was pet room manager and knew when she had come in and how long she had been there). Our previous chinchilla (Houdini, 14f) had lost her longtime companion suddenly and was lonely, so we wanted to get her a new chinchilla as a friend. Unfortunately, they never got along, and Puff ended up in her own enclosure apart from Houdini until Houdini passed earlier this year (July).

September of this year, we went to get a new chinchilla as a companion for Puff. Puff originally had all indications of wanting to be housed with another chinchilla, but it didn't work out with our old girl, so she has been alone for a year. We got Rose a few months ago, put her in a separate cage next to Puff, and they've been able to see and smell each other side by side since middle of September. I have observed them on several occasions sitting next to each other (in their separate cages) on shelves near each other, and the barking and peeing stopped after a few days.

Today, we attempted to "smush" them together in a small cage. We put a towel in one side to minimize the space, and set them in together. Within maybe 20 seconds, Puff had decided to start attacking Rose, even with no space to do so. We distracted her with a treat momentarily and then some movement by picking up the cage, but it didn't matter. We had to separate them and it appears Puff will not tolerate a roommate.

My question is - once the smush method doesn't work, does that mean they can never be put together? Can we try the method again or will it yield the same result? Are there any other methods that would work or are they incompatible? I am hesitant obviously, but don't want to have them spend their entire lives side by side. My husband wants to rehome one of them because he says we got Rose so that Puff would have a companion, and now that she has shown she doesn't want one, there's no point in keeping both. I kind of want to just expand the cage Rose is in, leave them in their separate cages side by side, and let them live that way. We interact with them throughout the day, and they are both friendly to us and immediately interactive when we come into the room.

I have owned chinchillas since high school (20 years ago) and never had a problem introducing them so I don't know what to do next. Any advice would be helpful.
 

Jawramik

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Nov 3, 2021
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I'm new to chins, so I'm sure someone else can give you more in-depth advice on contentious introductions, but from what I understand, so long as no blood was drawn, you have the option to try again (though perhaps using a different method, I'm not sure, I'll let those with more knowledge and experience speak to that).

I would, however, urge you to think very long and hard about rehoming one of your chins. When you took Rose and Puff home, you made a commitment to each of them to care and provide for them. Ideally that commitment to them should last the rest of their lives. That's what it means to bring an animal into your home. So long as you're capable of meeting their needs and maintaining separate cages (which it sounds like you were already doing when you had Houdini), I'm not really sure why you'd re-home one. Chinchillas are intelligent, free-thinking creatures that aren't always going to behave or react the way we expect. That reality is also part of having pets. It's not really fair to them to get rid of one just because they don't behave exactly the way you planned.

When you re-home, you can also never be totally sure what sort of an existence they're going to have in their new home. Sometimes people seem really great and nice and turn out to be terrible pet owners. Or maybe the person you give your chin to is fine, but down the line they decide, for whatever reason, to re-home the animal again, and the next person is awful. You just never know how it's going to work out in the end.

I understand that there are times when rehoming really is necessary and in the best interest of the animal, but at least from what you've posted, it doesn't sound like that describes your situation. Unless there's some reason you're unable to care for them in separate cages, I'd urge you to try to keep them both, regardless of whether or not they end up as cage mates.
 

tmburton

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Boise, ID
I'm new to chins, so I'm sure someone else can give you more in-depth advice on contentious introductions, but from what I understand, so long as no blood was drawn, you have the option to try again (though perhaps using a different method, I'm not sure, I'll let those with more knowledge and experience speak to that).

I would, however, urge you to think very long and hard about rehoming one of your chins. When you took Rose and Puff home, you made a commitment to each of them to care and provide for them. Ideally that commitment to them should last the rest of their lives. That's what it means to bring an animal into your home. So long as you're capable of meeting their needs and maintaining separate cages (which it sounds like you were already doing when you had Houdini), I'm not really sure why you'd re-home one. Chinchillas are intelligent, free-thinking creatures that aren't always going to behave or react the way we expect. That reality is also part of having pets. It's not really fair to them to get rid of one just because they don't behave exactly the way you planned.

When you re-home, you can also never be totally sure what sort of an existence they're going to have in their new home. Sometimes people seem really great and nice and turn out to be terrible pet owners. Or maybe the person you give your chin to is fine, but down the line they decide, for whatever reason, to re-home the animal again, and the next person is awful. You just never know how it's going to work out in the end.

I understand that there are times when rehoming really is necessary and in the best interest of the animal, but at least from what you've posted, it doesn't sound like that describes your situation. Unless there's some reason you're unable to care for them in separate cages, I'd urge you to try to keep them both, regardless of whether or not they end up as cage mates.

I 100% agree. I am perfectly fine buying an extra cage section and keeping them separate for the rest of their lives. I don't plan on rehoming either chinchilla at this stage. Just mostly wanted to know if there are any other methods for introducing them that might be beneficial.
 

Jawramik

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I 100% agree. I am perfectly fine buying an extra cage section and keeping them separate for the rest of their lives. I don't plan on rehoming either chinchilla at this stage. Just mostly wanted to know if there are any other methods for introducing them that might be beneficial.
I apologise if I came off as preachy or lecture-y. I rescue animals with my roommate, and we've ended up with some delightful pets who were given up for reasons that I find...well, stupid. I'm sorry for directing some of that frustration towards you.
 

tmburton

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Boise, ID
I apologise if I came off as preachy or lecture-y. I rescue animals with my roommate, and we've ended up with some delightful pets who were given up for reasons that I find...well, stupid. I'm sorry for directing some of that frustration towards you.
No problem! I agree when we adopt an animal we have to be on board even knowing things might not work out. I had really hoped they'd get along, but even if they don't ever get along, they will both have 2 story homes next to each other for the rest of their days.
 

Amethyst

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Personally I hate the smoosh (or smush or whatever you want to call it) method to bond chins, I find it horribly cruel. ☹ The idea of trying to bond animals by put them in a traumatic enough situation that they hopefully bond over their shared trauma rather then kill each other just does not seem right to do to an animal at all to me. Maybe breeders have a different way of doing it that I don't know about, I know a lot of them swear by it, but I have heard of several cases of chins getting seriously hurt or even killed when owners try doing that.

Since you have already given them both a bad situation to remember an associate with each other it's very possible you ruined any chance there might have been of them will ever want to be together now. For the most part personalities need to mesh for a bond to work, not all chins get along with all other chins, so sometimes no matter what method you do it just wont work. Having a cage mate in the past doesn't really mean anything in a new pairing. If you still want to try though, and no actual blood was drawn and no big fur slips happened, I would separate them and wait for them to calm down, it make take a week or maybe even a month for them to hopefully forget what happened to them. When and if they are calm next to each other again then try the slower intro method where you do short play times in a neutral area, increasing over time. Start with short 5 minute play times and work up from there, during that time you can also do cage swapping to help mix their scents and get them use to each other's scents. Also offer food, chew toys, and dust bath during playtime so they can eat and bathe together to help them bond more. If they get to the point that they are good during playtime, as well as eating next to each other, bathing together, etc, then you can try supervised time together in the cage you plan for them both to be in. It's best to go slow, the whole process can take weeks or even months, but the whole idea is you are trying to build a bond on friendship which takes time just like when bonding with the chins yourself.
 

JohhnyBishop

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My 5 cents, I think attempting to bond random chinchillas is a hard gamble.
I think the best cage mates are family members of the same sex e.g. two sisters, two brothers, father and son, mother and daughter.
I think bloodline is important and even if one is dominant and they squabble it won't end up bad.
In my case the difference of personalities is one thing but I found the attacker to be a more territorial female chinchilla who simply don't like other females on her turf. It's not only that she attacks but she also stalks "the intruder". She's full on alert when another female is in a line of sight.
I don't know why some people say that chinchillas can fight unless the blood is drawn. I cannot function in a slow motion to keep up an eye on the fight.
I think it's a matter of seconds before one of them loses an eye.
 

Amethyst

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My 5 cents, I think attempting to bond random chinchillas is a hard gamble.
I think the best cage mates are family members of the same sex e.g. two sisters, two brothers, father and son, mother and daughter.
I think bloodline is important and even if one is dominant and they squabble it won't end up bad.
In my case the difference of personalities is one thing but I found the attacker to be a more territorial female chinchilla who simply don't like other females on her turf. It's not only that she attacks but she also stalks "the intruder". She's full on alert when another female is in a line of sight.
I don't know why some people say that chinchillas can fight unless the blood is drawn. I cannot function in a slow motion to keep up an eye on the fight.
I think it's a matter of seconds before one of them loses an eye.
I think maybe you are misunderstanding, you don't just let them fight until blood is drawn. First introductions should be done once the chins are calm in cages next to each other, and done in a neutral area if at all possible. Most female chins are territorial, if not possible to do in an area new to both chins, then clean the area and put out new things so it's not any one chin's territory. Also the introduction time should be short at first, just a few minutes, before putting them back, ideally end before anything really happens. Stalking is not a good sign, same with excessive chasing (more the a minute or so), large fur slips, excessive mounting, or a lot of pee spraying or barking, those are all signs you need to slow things down. However those things alone don't mean you should give up entirely after just one try, give them a break from each other, like a few days to a week until they calm down, if you don't wait they will just pick up where they left off. Then you can try again, however if at any point during the short playtime introductions one ends up biting the other and draws blood then that is a sign that it's time to call it quits with bonding. Similarly bonding pairs, regardless of being related or not, can sometimes squabble, but so long as it's not excessive (very minor fur slip, a bark or two, chase for a couple seconds, etc), doesn't happen often, and no blood it's normally not a sign they are going to kill each other.
 

JamaisVu

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I share @Amethyst 's view on the smoosh method. I know it works, but it just doesn't agree with me...

I was lucky in that my pair came bonded. When I asked the rescue about how they decided they were a good pair, she told me that they were in cages next to each other and kept showing interest, so she decided to try to introduce them in a neutral area and it worked super well.

From what I have come to know in the last 10 years since I adopted them, both of my chinchillas were naturally very mellow-tempered and the male in particular was very social and extremely curious, so they likely just had the right type of personality to accept a mate.

Sorry I can't help you on this. I'd reach out to a rescue that does introductions or a breeder to see what they think.
 

Pixie1984

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Feb 18, 2017
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A failed attempt doesn’t mean it’s over or that that particular method won’t work. If you want to try it again then with any smooshing I find picking up the carrier & walking around a bit whenever there are any signs of a disagreement works in settling them. When they’re secure enough in each other’s company to fall asleep is usually when I know it’s worked. The largest amount I’ve smooshed was my herd of 6, a handful of alfalfa hay placed in each corner of the carrier as a temporary distraction worked well in that instance. Mine all go nuts for it & everything stops in their quest to seek out every last strand & demolish it, so you could also try adding some just before they go into the carrier to take the edge off that focus on each other a bit.
That said, as you found out before you lost your previous chin, no pairing is ever guaranteed to work or even last if it does work. Like people they can fall out a bit from time to time, only tolerate each other to a certain point, & some even take an instant dislike to another chin & refuse to tolerate them within any shared space at all. I have one ridiculously dominant female that flat out won’t take to any chin but the male she’s paired with for breeding. She can’t even be kept with her own female kits after 12-13 weeks because of it.
I also have a male that will attack any chin male or female that gets anywhere near him, every space is “his space” regardless of how neutral it is or how much scrubbing has gone in to removing scents if it’s a cage, he won’t even tolerate one sat next to him in another cage. He actually came to me after he killed his brother in his previous home despite being kept with him since birth for just over 1yr. With me he’s the sweetest little guy in the world, but at the sight of another chin he’s an instant bomb going off.
Hopefully with the chin you’ve had longer it’s just a case of her getting over the last negative experience she had with your previous chin. I do find that chins who have had a negative bonding in the past with a different chin tend to be a bit more on edge & defensive with any potential new partner, especially if their experience was down to them being unaccepted/bullied by the past chin. However, if she was the issue last time with your chin that passed just like she was with the new one, then I’d take that as a sign that she’s a pretty dominant girl. In that case you can try trimming her whiskers just enough to make them shorter than the other chins. Chins use whisker chewing to assert their dominance & hierarchical status within their herd structure, so by lowering her status it should make her much less likely to aggressively challenge the other girl.
 

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