Turning a closet into my chinchillas home

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Active member
Feb 9, 2009
Los Angeles, California
I was going to turn a closet in the room where my chinchilla is, into a whole area for her to live. basically make screen doors to replace the closet doors and then add the appropriate living essentials to the area.

I was wondering about a few things like the dry wall, and painted molding and closet shelves... Will I have to sand all those down so there is no paint or will it not be an issue?

I can not image that it will not be an issue so i am sure that i will be having to sand all the paint off, but what about the drywall with the paint on it. Is this not such a hot idea?

Any input would be helpful.
A chinchilla can chew right though dry wall,molding and your shelves.
If they get their teeth on it they will chew it.

It's in their nature.
I really wouldn't recommend turning your closet into a cage. What about carpet? The chin can and will chew it. And if it's hard wood floors, they'll be ruined, and will eventually rot. The walls and shelves will also not be protected and if a chinchilla does nothing else, they chew like crazy. You won't have any shelves left, and those things are definitely not safe for a chinchilla to be ingesting. I'm not saying this is entirely impossible, but you'd really have your work cut out for you to make it safe. I can imagine it would get quite stuffy too, with or without AC.
I do not like this idea. As mentioned, your wooden floor will rot eventually and carpet will be chewed. Unless your shelves are untreated, and unpainted, they are unsafe. Besides, the type of wood will probably be unsafe for them even if untreated and unpainted. Chins will wreck drywall.
We let our chins play in our bedroom when they are out of their cages. They have basically destroyed the drywall within a foot of the floor - they like to tear the paper off in shreads. I tacked posterboard up along the walls which helps but they still chew thru the posterboard regularly to get to the wall. I also have a spot where they chewed thru the carpet down to the carpet tacks and had to rearrange the room to cover the spot with the dresser to keep them from hurting themselves on it. So basically what I'm saying is that the closet idea seems good in theory but may not work in actuality.
Also on the not a good idea wagon. The paint/drywall whatever else could prove to be toxic to your chinchilla. Stick with a cage.
I, too, don't think it's a good idea. There's just too much that can be a danger to the chin - wrong wood, paint, carpet, little ventilation, etc.
heck my chin cage was to close to the wall and there are literally chunks missing when my mom saw i got in trouble. unless you line the wall and floor with cardbored i dont see how they wouldnt chew on stuff there not supposed too
Unless you built your house you can't be sure what's in/on the walls as far as materials, I personally wouldn't want my chin living in/chewing on that. Also whereas a cage you can clean/replace, if something happens to your converted closet floor or walls it will be much more of an ordeal. If there is adequate ventilation in that space, why not just place the whole cage in there making it an alcove for the chin cage instead of converting the closet itself to a cage?
You'd have to line all the walls with melamine, figure out a way to get cross-ventilation (holes on more than just one wall), figure out a way to put a metal pan the size of the floor in the bottom AND remove it to clean and then you'd have a chinchilla cage.

Oh, you need to put in some sort of full spectrum light to cycle so they stay healthy. Even nocturnal animals need a light cycle.
I like HedgeMoms signature lol! so in the end its alot more trouble than what its worth. You would have to do some constuction and all that so im gonna say just guy a big ferret nation cage
Thanks for all your suggestions. I was planning on covering the carpet, the wood would have been sanded down/replaced with pine, and i do not have hardwood floors.

I now see that it is not a great idea for many reasons....

What exactly is melamine..... is it like formica?...or the stuff that covers the MDF that comes on a desk?

I guess i will stick with the cages for now, Just need to find a cheap on on craigslist.
I had my chins in a walk in closet for a time, and would just open their cage door at night and let them run around in the closet. It is a very bad idea for all the reason already stated. They DESTROYED that closet-walls, floor..it was a nightmare.
Please bear in mind, this was when I first got my chins and didn't know any better! I would never knowingly endanger them by giving them access to those kinds of hazards with the knowledge I have now.
Hi Everyone,
I actually got a membership just so I could reply to this post.

A little background-- I have two female chinchillas that I cannot easily bond. My first has free range in my bedroom, and I hoped the other would bond and they could enjoy the room together. Since that is not the case, a cage does not work for the second (Willow) since Jasmine (the one that has free range in the room) fights her through the bars of the cage.

So I had to get creative. I have housed Willow in the closet for a while now, and it has worked out for me.

1. You can buy a simple stapler from Amazon and a tarp and protect your walls and floors (and chinchilla) by securing a tarp along the walls and the floors before putting in all of the chinchilla's things (litter box, food, water, play things, etc.)

2. There technically is enough air in a large enough closet so that the door can be closed for a few hours without being a problem for chinchillas. However, it's good to keep in mind that chinchillas's respiratory systems are fragile, so a good amount of ventilation is important.

Below are pictures of Jasmine's free range environment and Willow's closet home. I hope it gives some ideas of what is possible

I also would appreciate any avant garde ideas for bonding from any of you!

Honestly I would get them proper cages for both chins, those areas could work for supervised out of cage playtime, but there are SO MANY reasons it's unsafe to allow chins to free roam unsupervised, especially in areas that are clearly not chin proofed. Even if they haven't chewed anything they shouldn't yet does not mean they wont, and there is a lot in those photos that is not safe for a chin to chew on. It's very common for chins to have access to things for months or even years then decide to chew it up, so you are taking a huge risk since you can't watch them 24/7. They are your chins and it's your risk to take, but understand you are taking a big risk with this current setup that could very likely result in sick or dead chinchillas. I've heard it time and time again that people think their chins are different and the exception to the rule, only to later hear about the chin getting sick, dying, or nearly dying and the person is all sad about it wanting sympathy, and yet it was 100% preventable and 100% their own fault for refusing to provide them a safe home.

To give a general run down of things not safe to have in the area the chin has access to in case you honestly don't know, plastic (so the tarps, litter boxes, and water bowls from what i can see right away), electric cords, fabric other then fleece and only if they don't chew on it (also the only safe stuffing is more fleece), plants (unless you are growing plants native to the chins natural habit and never use any fertilizer/chemicals), painted wood, or painted surfaces, chins have also been known to chew through drywall so the only safe walls would be once like brick, stone, metal, or concrete. Also water bottles tend to be much safer for chins then water bowls. I also wonder if you are even able to keep proper temp in the closest, not only do they need good air flow but also kept in cool temps, ideally below 70F, and a closest may not get enough air flow from your AC to cool it enough, and using a fan to blow in can cause a draft and make the chin sick. Also, it could just be the photos, but the running wheels do no look big enough, proper chin safe wheels are 15-16" diameter, though 14" is the bare minimum so long as your chins are small (like 600g range or smaller) or you go with a saucer style wheel. Wheels that are too small will cause spinal injury over time if the chin runs on them, and since wheels are not required, not having a wheel is better then allowing them to use an unsafe one.

It is possible to make a chin proofed room for them to live in instead of a cage, but it's not easy or cheap. The easiest would be blocking off a portion of the room and/or using things like large flight cages, so not really cage free but much more so then a normal cage. Something like this but set up for chinchillas instead of birds

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Yes, you are correct about the plants and cord to the lamp. I do move things around at night that I am concerned about them accessing when I am not able to supervise. (For example- one of the lamps in the pictures comes unplugged and gets moved at night while I am sleeping and they are not.) The worry about paint is something I have not delved into and maybe should. Thank you for the note about that. But I do not have an issue with them chewing the walls at all.

You can also look up what plants are edible for chinchillas. Bamboo, for example, does not hurt them-- that is in one of the pictures. And the wheel is just fine for Willow-- she loves it and uses it all the time. A chinchilla owner will be able to spot whether their pet has room on the wheel.

My point, though, was that it is possible to outfit a closet for a chinchilla. How someone handles the safety issues can vary from person to person. I have never had an issue with any of my past or present chinchillas chewing on tarps, but maybe that is a cause for concern for some.

One other comment-- my Jasmine will not drink out of bottles so I do not have a choice with the bowl at this point. It is glass, not plastic. It's not a bad idea to use a bowl when they have enough space not to run into the bowl while playing.

Thank you for your helpful comments!

The issue is although you are fine taking the risk, suggesting others do things that can very likely result in chins getting sick or dying isn't very nice, you have not shown how to SAFELY outfit a closet for a chin and that is the problem. So I wanted to just make sure people seeing this know your setup is not safe and why so that hopefully no one gets any ideas to do it themselves. The safety of items does not vary from person to person, most chins will chew on anything they they have access to eventually. If you allow your chin access to chew on inedible items like plastic, cloth, anything toxic (like none edible paint for example), it doesn't matter what you or anyone else thinks if they swallow any of it it can still cause damage to and blockages in the gut, as well as in the case of toxic items, illness and death. Again it is your chin and if you are willing to take that risk it's up to you.

I do know some chins can and do use bowls for various reasons, I am just saying it does come with a much higher risk then using a bottle. https://www.chins-n-hedgies.com/threads/water-bowl-vs-water-bottle.40607/ Just because it hasn't happened to you doesn't mean it can't or hasn't happened to others, so it's good to let people know the risks in case they don't already know. Many people also wrongly think chins are like rabbits and should have bowls vs bottles.

Also most live plants, including bamboo, actually can hurt them if they eat it, just like eating any other fresh grass (bamboo is a type of grass) it needs to be properly dried before it's safe for chins to eat or it can cause gut issues. There are certain cacti and other plants native to where they live that can be safe, but most plants need to be dried before the chin can safely eat them.