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Preparing for a New Chinchilla

There are several things that your new chinchilla will require once you bring it home. You should ensure that all items are ready and set up before your furball comes home.

A good quality cage should be the first investment made. There are several acceptable types of cages, both on the retail market and home made. The most important feature of a cage should be safety. Avoid cages that are plastic coated or have any sort of plastic shelving. Chins will chew on this and, if ingested, the plastic could cause serious harm and even death. Plywood should also be avoided if it will be accessible to the chin for chewing. The glue used to keep the wood together is also toxic if ingested.

Other features to look for in a cage include wire width apart, safety of construction, and a solid or a wire bottom. Wire width should ideally be baby safe -- 1" x 1 1/2" or smaller. When checking for safe construction, you should look for any spots a leg or toe could get caught as well as any loose fittings. It's better to avoid an accident than end up with a broken leg.

Solid versus wire bottoms is a common argument among chin owners. I've used both and feel as long as the wire is 1/2" x 1/2" or smaller, either is fine. However, you may want to provide solid untreated pine shelving or lay some cardboard down for the chin to sit on, as wire may get uncomfortable.

You will also have to choose a food for your chinchilla, as well as a container to put it in. When it comes to choosing a food, I prefer Mazuri due to ease of access and freshness. Research is the best way to make an educated decision about your chinchilla's food, in my opinion. I'm working on an article comparing ingredients of different chinchilla foods at the moment. It's a work in progress but the page is located here if you're interested.

The food container itself should be unable to tip over, either by being secured to the cage or being a heavy ceramic bowl. Again, you will want to avoid plastic containers, as they will be chewed on and can cause harm.

A water bottle is the next item your little furball will need before you bring it home. A glass bottle may be best if the chin will have access to anything other than the sipper. If the bottle itself will be inaccessible, plastic with a metal sipper works quite well. Just remember that your chin needs fresh water daily, the same as you or I do.

Whether you choose a solid or wire bottomed cage, your chin will need to have some sort of bedding to catch droppings and absorb urine. Avoid cedar shavings at all costs. The wood contains certain oils that are harmful to many small animals, including chins. Aspen is the best type of wood bedding to use, with kiln dried pine being the second best. Ideally, a recycled paper product should be used because it will contain no harmful oils and is dust free. I prefer the recycled paper variety but it is costly compared to the other two safe wood products. Currently I'm using aspen but kiln dried pine is widely used and causes little problems. Just keep an eye out for any allergies or eye problems and make sure the pine is kiln dried.

Now that you have all of the necessities to provide a safe and healthy home for your new furball, all that's left is to enjoy the company of your newest pet. Treat him right, earn his trust, and he'll love you forever.