Biting is just part of owning a pet. Most cat and dog owners have been bitten by their pet at some point. But it is important to understand how much biting to expect. You should also understand why your pet wants to bite.
So, if you are thinking about adopting a chinchilla you might be wondering if they bite. Well, the short answer is yes. Chinchillas do bite. But there are ways to prevent excessive biting.
In this post, we are going to take a deep dive into chinchilla biting habits. By the end, we hope you understand why chinchillas bite and how to reduce this behavior.
Before we go any further, let’s look at what chinchillas bite with, their teeth.
Chinchillas are rodents. Rodents are characterized by their large front teeth. These teeth continue to grow throughout their entire lifetime.
Chinchillas have to chew, nibble, and bite to grind down their teeth. If not, their teeth will grow to an uncomfortably large size. And this can lead to dental and oral issues. So, chinchillas need access to bark or chew toys to keep their teeth at a reasonable size.
As we mentioned earlier, all chinchillas chew. This is the main way they grind down their growing teeth. Without chewing, chinchillas would have overgrown teeth.
Wild chinchillas often chew bark or twigs to grind down their teeth. But pet chinchillas might not have access to these items. So, it is important to provide your pet chinchilla with chew toys.
When selecting a chew toy, make sure to pick a safe and nontoxic variety. Willow, popular, and aspen branches make good chew toys for chinchillas. Some chinchillas even like to chew pumice stones.
In addition to chewing, chinchillas also nibble. Chinchillas often use their mouth to explore their environment. This is nonaggressive and very different than biting.
If your chinchilla starts to nibble their hand, you should let them continue. They might be trying to get to know you. Or, it could be a sign of affection. Chinchillas often nibble other chinchillas to show affection.
You shouldn’t have any trouble determining the difference between a nibble and a bite. Nibbles are gentle and affectionate. Bites are hard, painful, and aggressive.
Yes, chinchillas do bite. But this is an aggressive tactic. Chinchillas might bite for a variety of reasons including:
- Lack of socialization
If your chinchilla becomes stressed or anxious, they may decide to bite. Or, if they think their territory is being invaded, they may become defensive and bite.
If your chinchilla hasn’t been socialized to people, they may bite out of fear or confusion. Sadly, chinchillas also bite if they have been treated badly in the past. If you adopted a rescue chinchilla, it might be more prone to biting if it experienced trauma in the past.
What to Do if Your Chinchilla Bites
If your chinchilla becomes stressed or anxious, it may decide to bite. So, you need to be prepared for this to happen.
Chinchillas have sharp teeth. So if your chinchilla bites, it will probably be very painful. But, you need to remain calm and approach the situation appropriately.
If your chinchilla bites:
- Don’t flinch or yank your hand away. Yes, this might be your natural reaction. But it is important to remain calm and leave your hand where it is. If you yank your hand away, your chinchilla will learn that biting was effective. And if they want you to leave their territory in the future, they will bite you again. So instead, leave your hand where it is to show that biting is not effective.
- Be firm and yell “no!” You don’t want to be overly aggressive towards your chinchilla. But, you need them to understand that biting is not acceptable. Use a stern (but not hostile) tone to tell your chinchilla “no!”
- Treat the wound. After your chinchilla has calmed and you are able to remove your hand, you need to treat your would. Chinchillas can cause a painful injury. Wash and bandage the wound. If it was an extreme bite, you may need to get stitches.
Create a Calming Environment
Often, chinchillas bite because they are stressed. So, make sure you create a calm environment for your pet. This will help relieve their anxiety and prevent them from biting you.
There are a few ways you can create a calm environment for your chinchilla:
- Make sure your chinchilla has a large cage. Chinchillas get bored and stressed in a small environment. If they don’t have enough room to explore and run, they will become anxious. So, give your chinchilla a large cage with plenty of room to move around. Also, make sure your chinchilla has some time outside of their cage. They need time to run around. During this time, make sure your other pets are out of the way. Your chinchilla will become more anxious if they encounter another pet.
- Give your chinchilla toys. Chinchillas get bored easily. They need stimulation. If they are bored, they might be more prone to biting. So, give your chinchilla toys and a wheel. These will keep them occupied.
- Cover their cage. Although chinchillas need stimulation, they can get overstimulated. From time to time, cover their cage with a large sheet or towel. This will help keep them from being overstimulated and stressed by the outside environment.
- Clean their cage. Chinchillas need a clean environment. They can become anxious if their cage is dirty. So, make sure you regularly clean their cage. Change out their food and water. Remove and fecal matter. Switch out their toys.
These are just a few simple ways to help relieve your chinchilla’s anxiety. If you have tried these tips and your chinchilla is still anxious, you may want to speak to a veterinarian.
How to Handle Your Chinchilla
In addition to creating a calming environment, you can prevent biting by handling your chinchilla properly. If you don’t handle your chinchilla properly, they might feel stressed, afraid, or threatened. These emotions could cause your chinchilla to bite.
So, to help prevent biting, learn how to handle your chinchilla the right way.
Step 1: WASH YOUR HANDS. Before handling your chinchilla, make sure to wash your hands. You might have some residual aromas from food on your hands. Your chinchilla might smell these aromas and decide to bite your hand to taste the food. So, prevent this by washing your hands.
Step 2: NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS. Chinchillas are easily frightened. So before holding your chinchilla, simply place your finger through their cage. Don’t make any sudden movements. Leave your finger where it is and be patient.
Step 3: LET YOUR CHINCHILLA COME TO YOU. After placing your finger through the cage, wait for your chinchilla to approach you. This will help build their trust. Be patient, it might take a while for your chinchilla to approach. When they do, let them sniff and nibble your finger.
Step 4: SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHINCHILLA. The final step is to make sure you spend time with your chinchilla. You need to build their trust. They are less likely to bite you if they know you and trust you.
Now we know that chinchillas bite. But, they usually only bite if they feel threatened or stressed. So, it is important to create a calm environment so your chinchilla will feel less inclined to bite.
Remember, chinchillas need to chew and nibble. This is the best way for them to grind down their continuously growing teeth. But biting is a more aggressive tactic. Try to build trust with your chinchilla so they will feel less threatened by your presence (and will be less likely to bite you).
Has your chinchilla even bitten you? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below!