If you have chinchillas, you’re likely to have other pets too. But do dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils and rats get along with chinchillas? If not, why not?
Can you keep chinchillas with other pets? It’s possible to do so if you’re careful, although it’s not recommended. That’s because other pets could attack your chinchilla, or at least cause it distress. If you must keep other pets with chinchillas, keep them in separate rooms and don’t let them play together. Avoid direct or indirect contact to limit the spread of fleas, worms and ticks.
The guide below first looks at why chinchillas aren’t good with other pets, and looks at some specific species (cats, dogs, other rodents and so on). It finishes by making certain recommendations, such that if you do want to keep both chinchillas and other pets, you can do so safely.
Are Chinchillas Good With Other Pets?
We recommend against keeping both chinchillas and other pets. There are three main reasons why:
- Chinchillas are prey animals, and predator animals like dogs and cats will recognize them as such, so could attack
- Other animals cause chinchillas distress
- Chinchillas can cause other animals distress
It is possible to keep chinchillas with other animals successfully, and many owners do so. But it’s not recommended practise.
Are Chinchillas Good With Dogs?
Chinchillas aren’t good with dogs. Dogs are predators with hunting instincts. Chinchillas are prey animals. Almost every owner thinks their dog is different to others, that it’s better trained, that it would ‘never hurt a fly’, and so on. But a dog’s instincts can kick in at any moment.
The specific instinct that causes the problem is called the prey drive. This is a reflex that dogs have; when they see something running away from them, they want to chase it. So your dog may be perfectly well behaved while your chinchilla sits and watches it nervously. But if the chinchilla tries to run away, the dog will likely try to chase it, and what happens at the end won’t be good news for your chin.
If you think this wouldn’t happen because dogs were bred to hunt other animals, not chinchillas, that’s not true either. Many dogs (particularly terriers, e.g. rat terriers) were bred specifically to hunt for rodents. Chinchillas are rodents. We recommend against keeping dogs and chinchillas in the same house.
Are Chinchillas Good With Cats?
Chinchillas don’t get along with cats, either, and for the same reason. Cats are predators while chinchillas are prey.
If anything, cats are worse around chins than dogs are. That’s because you can at least partly train a dog, while cats do whatever they like. There’s therefore more of a chance that your cat will pester your chinchilla by sitting near its cage, reaching its paw through the bars, and so on.
The same applies to them playing together. Cats have the same chasing instinct that dogs do. The only comfort is that most cats wouldn’t be able to kill a chinchilla, as chinchillas are too big. But even so, they wouldn’t ‘understand’ each other—the chinchilla would think it’s being hunted, while the cat would think it’s hunting. Neither thinks it’s playing!
Are Chinchillas Good With Birds?
If you want another pet and you already have a chinchilla, a bird wouldn’t be a bad choice. Chinchillas don’t have predatory instincts, so wouldn’t hassle your birds. And unless you’re planning on keeping a golden eagle in a cage, the bird won’t want to eat your chinchilla either.
The only problem is that birds can be quite noisy. They squeak and they squawk, and your chinchilla might not like that. Some chins don’t mind these kinds of noises or this much noise, but some do, so bear that in mind before you get one.
Are Chinchillas Good With Other Rodents?
Chinchillas are fine with other rodents, so long as each pet has its own space. You can’t keep them all in the same cage, and ideally, you shouldn’t keep them in the same room either.
- Are chinchillas good with mice? Yes. Mice are small and non-threatening. The only issue is that they have a strong smell to themselves and their cages, which your chinchilla will smell if it’s in the same room.
- Are chinchillas good with rats? Yes, but again, they have a strong smell. If your chin smells other pets, it won’t feel as secure in its home, even if those other pets aren’t predators.
- Are chinchillas good with hamsters? Yes.
- Are chinchillas good with gerbils? Yes.
- Are chinchillas good with guinea pigs? Yes. Chinchillas and guinea pigs are closely related as they’re both from South America—but you still can’t keep them in the same cage.
- Are chinchillas good with other chinchillas? Yes! Chinchillas thrive when placed in small groups, ideally pairs, although they can live alone perfectly well.
Any other small rodent does equally well in the same house as a chinchilla. So long as you don’t keep them in the same cage or allow them contact, there’s no problem.
Are Chinchillas Good With Rabbits?
Rabbits aren’t, strictly speaking, rodents. But as they’re small animals, they’re considered here too. Chinchillas can live in the same house as rabbits without issue. Both rabbits and chinchillas are prey animals, so neither will feel threatened by the other.
What might be a problem is if you keep the cages of both animals in the same room. While they won’t be scared that the other pet is a predator, your chinchillas might not appreciate being in a room that smells like other animals. Chinchillas navigate the world with their senses of smell and hearing, so if they can constantly smell some other unknown (to them) animal, it might make them stressed.
Can Chinchillas Play With Other Pets?
Chinchillas can’t play with other pets, whether those pets are predators or prey animals. If an animal is a predator, it obviously can’t play with your chinchilla because it might attack it.
It might come as a surprise that another prey animal like a rabbit or a bird can’t play with a chinchilla either, but it’s true. There are two reasons why. The first is that chinchillas have unique body language. They hold their ears back when they’re tired to show that they’re sleepy, they make loud barking noises to alert the rest of the herd to danger; and at the other end of the spectrum, they stand up and stare at each other when they feel aggressive.
Unfortunately, other animals don’t understand this body language. And some other animals, like gerbils, have body language of their own.
How to Keep Chinchillas And Other Pets in The Same House
If you do plan on keeping chinchillas with other pets, at least do so carefully. Here are a set of guidelines you can follow to ensure that all of your pets remain happy, healthy and safe.
1) Never Keep Chins in The Same Cage as Other Pets
This is an absolute rule that you must adhere to. Chinchillas cannot live in cages with any other pets. Of course, that applies to cats and dogs; you can’t crate them together when you go out. But it applies to rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, mice, rats—any other animal.
Even though chinchillas and other small rodents have roughly similar needs, they won’t get along if kept in the same cage. That’s because they would view each other as competitors so would fight over resources like food, water and shelter. This applies even if your chinchilla and other pets are normally well-behaved.
2) Give Your Chinchilla Its Own Room
Chinchillas are skittish at the best of times. Your pet will be even more nervous and distressed if it’s bothered by another of your pet’s, e.g. if it stares at your chinchilla’s cage or makes loud noises.
You can avoid this problem by keeping your chinchilla in a room that no other pet is allowed in. You could pick the basement, for example, or your bedroom. It doesn’t matter which room you pick, so long as the room is suitable for chinchillas (with regards to temperature, humidity, natural light and so on). This will:
- Stop the other pets from making your chinchilla stressed; it may not even know they’re in the house
- Avoid nasty accidents when your chinchilla is out of its cage playing
- Ensure your chinchilla’s room doesn’t smell like other pets (which it does, even if you don’t notice it)
- Stop fleas and other pests from spreading
Of course, you can spend time in the room. It’s just your other pets that can’t. So long as you and your clothes don’t smell like other pets, that won’t be an issue.
3) Avoid Direct Contact
Direct contact between your chinchilla and other pets is bad for obvious reasons. First and foremost, the other pet could attack your chinchilla.
Another reason is that parasites like fleas, worms and ticks can be passed from pet to pet through direct contact. Chinchillas very rarely get parasites because they’re kept securely in cages, so never have contact with a neighbor’s pets, or feral animals. But if your other pets have these parasites, then there’s a chance that through direct contact, they could be passed on.
On top of that, chinchillas don’t know how to play with other pets. If your chinchilla and your dog, for example, were left to ‘play’ then they wouldn’t know how. Dogs play by bouncing around, and are rough. While chinchillas like to bounce around too, they’re much too delicate to play with a big animal. And besides, your chin would think it’s being attacked, not being played with.
Chins can’t play with other rodent pets either. That’s because different rodents express body language in different ways. Plus, your chin will feel defensive over its space, its food and its water, which won’t make it want to play with an animal that it sees as a direct threat to its resources.
4) Avoid Indirect Contact
That being said, parasites like fleas don’t just live on their hosts; they infest your furniture, your bedding, and your home generally. So when one of your pets brings home fleas, they’ll end up in the carpet or somewhere else around the room. Then, the next time you let your chinchilla out of its cage, the parasites could infest it. You can avoid this by keeping your chin in its own room.
Something else you have to do is wash your hands before and after handling any of your pets. If you pet your dog before handling your chinchilla, your hands will smell of dog, which will worry your chin. Avoid this by washing your hands with unscented soap.
Aside from this, be sensible and be safe. If you have to make any decision regarding your chinchilla and another pet, think: if I were my chinchilla, would I be happy with that? If not, don’t do it.