Owners frequently report chinchilla females humping each other. But can it be true? And if it is, why would they bother?
Do female chinchillas hump each other? They do, as humping is a display of dominance. The dominant chinchilla will hump the other occasionally because it shows the other who’s boss. Sometimes, the subordinate chinchilla will fight the other off or try to hump it back. This is normal behavior. It’s also possible that the pair are trying to have sex.
The only issue is if you notice your female chinchillas fighting aggressively. If they pull each others’ fur out, chew each others’ whiskers, or even draw blood (which can happen!), you should separate them.
Can Two Female Chinchillas Hump Each Other?
Humping isn’t exclusively done by males to females in chinchillas. A male can hump a male or a female, and a female can hump a male or a female. That’s because sex isn’t the only cause or meaning of humping.
As such, yes: you will frequently see your two female chinchillas humping. Any chinchilla pair might do so. Normally it will be one of the pair humping the other, but both may take turns being the ‘humper’. This behavior isn’t something to worry about unless the pair continually fight aggressively. This will happen if the chinchilla on the receiving end wants to be the dominant one of the pair instead.
So, two females can’t produce offspring, but can still hump each other. The question is: why?
Why Are My Two Female Chinchillas Humping?
There are a surprising number of reasons why female chinchillas might hump each other. Most of them are related to the female pair trying to figure out who’s the dominant, and who’s the subordinate.
For the record, male chinchillas can hump each other too. But this guide is specifically about female chinchillas doing so.
1) It’s a Dominance Display
Because chinchillas are social animals, they have clear hierarchies in their groups. These hierarchies are reinforced by behavior. It’s as if the dominant chinchilla is constantly saying “I’m the boss… I’m the boss!”
It’s natural and safe for a chinchilla pair or group to have one dominant chinchilla. There are several signs of chinchilla dominance that you can spot, and if you see them in conjunction with humping, you know that’s the underlying cause. They are:
- Barking loudly. The dominant chinchilla is trying to intimidate the other one.
- Chasing. The dominant one will try to scare the other by chasing it; if the other chinchilla doesn’t like that, it might try to chase the other in return.
- Boxing matches. This is where the two chinchillas stand up on their hind legs facing each other. It’s more like wrestling than boxing, although ‘boxing’ is what owners call it.
Even once the two chinchillas have established who the boss is, dominance displays will continue. One chinchilla will continue to hump the other occasionally.
2) You Have Two Female Chinchillas Fighting
As you can see from the list above, the line between basic dominance behavior and plain fighting is an easy one to cross. If the chinchillas are constantly fighting, then you may notice a lot of humping, perhaps both ways.
But in this scenario, where the two chinchillas are fighting aggressively, the chinchilla on the receiving end won’t behave in the same way. Whereas a happily subordinate chinchilla would sit there and accept what’s happening, a subordinate chinchilla that wants to be dominant will make that clear. It will:
- Push the other chinchilla away
- Turn around and bite at the other chinchilla
- Turn around and stand up
One defensive behavior is spraying. This is where a female chinchilla shoots a stream of urine at another chinchilla (or owner!) it doesn’t like. It’s typically seen during unwanted mating, when a male wants to mate when a female isn’t in season, but it can occur here too.
Other chinchilla fighting signs you may spot when dominance displays turn sour include:
- Whisker chewing. This is where the dominant one chews the other’s whiskers to make them smaller. If it does so repeatedly, aggressively, and until the whiskers are very short, you should consider separating them.
- Pulling hair. Barbering is fine, but dominant chinchillas can take things too far.
- Blood in your chinchilla’s cage. Not strictly speaking a ‘behavior’, but this is a final-stage sign that the fighting is getting far too serious.
When chinchillas fight this hard, you have to separate them. They could hurt each other, even kill each other. This is also why you have to introduce chinchillas properly, otherwise the pair will fight.
3) You Have a Mis-Sexed Female Chinchilla
The third potential answer is that the humping chinchilla is actually a male. When a breeder has a baby chinchilla, they will ‘sex‘ it, which means checking whether it’s male or female. While an experienced breeder will get this right, an inexperienced pet shop owner or assistant could get it wrong, and tell you that the chinchilla is a female when it’s not.
This means that the male is trying to get the female pregnant. Chinchillas are very good at conceiving kits (babies), so they won’t need to mate many times to have offspring. Unless you are fully prepared to look after baby kits, we recommend separating the pair immediately.
You can tell what sex a chinchilla is by looking at its genitals. Both males and females have something called a urethral cone, which looks like a penis. The penis is actually housed inside. But the distance between the urethra and the anus is much greater in males than females, and this is what experienced breeders look for.
It’s not outside the realms of possibility that the pair are humping because they are simulating sex.
This is something that not a lot of owners are aware of, but there are lots of animals that display both gay and lesbian behavior. The precise reasons why aren’t clear, but it’s reasonable to assume that it’s what the animals want to do: so they do it. It’s common across most mammals, small mammals like guinea pigs included. While chinchillas aren’t listed on Wikipedia as among the animals that have been observed engaging in homosexual behavior, it’s also reasonable to assume that they do, given that so many species do.
The interesting question is where the line is drawn between dominance-humping and genuine sexual humping between same sex animal pairs. The likely answer is that we’ll never know.
5) Excess Hormones
Some owners report that their female chinchilla pairs will start humping after they’ve seen a male.
So, for example, say that you introduce a female to a male so they can breed. Once the male is gone, you may notice your females humping. Owners say that it’s as if the male ‘taught’ them about humping, and now they do it themselves.
Others say that female pairs hump each other early in life. This, again, could be related to hormonal changes. Chinchillas go through a kind of puberty like other animals do, where they have lots more hormones coursing through their bodies than they did when they were immature. This could be the cause of excessive sexual behavior.
How to Stop Female Chinchillas Humping
If the pair aren’t fighting aggressively, humping isn’t a problem. In established pairs with a clear dominant and clear subordinate chinchilla, humping is natural and normal.
It’s only if the pair are fighting aggressively (biting, tearing out hair and chewing whiskers) that there’s a problem. But here, the problem isn’t humping specifically, but the fight over dominance.
In this scenario it’s best to separate the pair. Some chinchillas don’t like being paired up, and prefer to live alone. So long as you spend lots of time with your chinchilla/s, it won’t get too lonely.
Another alternative is to trim your chinchilla’s whiskers. Contrary to popular belief, trimming or clipping whiskers doesn’t hurt as whiskers are made from the same thing as hair. What does hurt is if you pull the hairs out. Either way, if you trim both chinchillas’ whiskers to an inch or so long, they will both lose confidence and stop fighting so much.
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