Chinchillas are needy pets, but sometimes you need to take a holiday or business trip. So how long can you leave a chinchilla alone, and what happens if you do?
Can you go on holiday if you have a chinchilla? If you leave a chinchilla alone, it may get injured or sick and require care that you can’t provide. Also, chinchillas can self-regulate food intake, but can also accidentally pee on their food or waste it, meaning they would run out. And since your chinchilla’s cage requires spot cleaning each day, it would get dirty quickly. If you are going away, get a friend or family member to look after your chinchilla, or arrange for boarding.
The guide below first looks at all the reasons why you can’t leave a chinchilla alone, at least for extended periods of time. We’ll then look at how long you can go on holiday for, and steps you can take to keep your chinchilla safe while you’re away.
Can You Go On Holiday If You Have Chinchillas?
Since your chinchilla lives in a cage, it can’t fend for itself. You need to look after it. This means that you can’t go on holiday unless you make arrangements for its care. To explain why, below are a list of reasons why chinchillas can’t live alone for extended periods of time.
1) Can You Give Chinchillas Unlimited Food?
It is possible to give chinchillas lots of food at once. Many owners refill their chinchillas’ hay racks and food bowls each morning, but this isn’t strictly necessary. You can offer a chinchilla unlimited hay and hay pellets, and it is able to self-regulate its intake of food. This means that if the food stayed clean and fresh, the chinchilla wouldn’t gorge itself, but eat the food bit by bit.
The problem is that the food won’t stay clean and fresh. As hygienic as they are compared to other rodents, chinchillas aren’t perfect, so:
- Your chin will nibble at a piece of hay before throwing it to the ground
- Your chin may nibble on a pellet but spit it up (especially if it has problems with its teeth)
- Your chin may accidentally pee on its hay and make the whole batch inedible
What this means is that you can’t ration out seven days of chinchilla food and expect it to last for seven days. If you’re on holiday, your pet may therefore not have enough to eat. While it wouldn’t starve unless you went for a long holiday, this would be terrible for its health, and could induce fighting between cage mates.
2) Do You Need to Change a Chinchilla’s Water?
As well as frequently restocking your chinchilla’s food, you’ll have to replace its water.
Chinchillas don’t drink water quickly. They come from a part of the world where there isn’t much access to fresh water, so they’re used to conserving what little they get. So, your pet won’t run out of water, even if you left it for a week.
But that doesn’t mean you can fill up your pet’s water bottle and forget about it. You should clean it semi-regularly to ensure that bacteria doesn’t build up on the spout. No animal’s mouth is clean, and when your chinchilla drinks, it transfers some of this bacteria to the spout it drank from. This isn’t a major issue as chinchillas don’t have people to clean up after them in the wild, and they survive just fine. But if your chin gets a cut in its mouth, it will get infected much more easily if it drinks from a dirty spout than a clean one.
So, this issue isn’t as major as that of food, but it’s still worth thinking about.
3) How Often Should You Clean a Chinchilla’s Cage?
Owners recommend cleaning a chinchilla cage every day.
This might sound excessive, but it’s not. The idea is to ‘spot clean’ your chinchilla’s cage. This means performing basic tasks like sweeping up poop and discarded hay, wiping down dirty surfaces and mopping up anything wet. You may also need to replace your pet’s bedding. This takes all of five minutes per day.
But if you don’t spot clean your pet’s cage, things can go wrong, and quickly. If the bedding/fleece on the floor of your chinchilla’s cage gets sodden, your chinchilla’s fur will get wet. This could make your pet too cool, and it could develop a fungal infection. Damp fur can also get dirty, greasy and matted if left damp for a long time.
A dirty cage also makes bacterial infections more likely. Any cut or scrape your chinchilla gets could become infected, and even minor infections can develop into sepsis if left untreated. So if you went on holiday for a week, your chinchilla’s health and quality of life would be affected.
4) Do Chinchillas Get In Accidents?
Another issue is that your chinchilla might accidentally hurt itself. While they do enjoy taking frequent sleeps throughout the day, chinchillas are highly active creatures. They enjoy running on wheels/saucers, and spend lots of time hopping up and down from platforms (like how they hop to and from rocks in the wild). There are lots of ways that chins can hurt themselves because of this activity:
- Getting their feet caught in the bars of the cage, or in a hay rack
- Falling from a height
- Getting into a fight with a cage mate
Accidents can cause severe injuries: big bite marks that get infected, broken feet or legs, broken ribs, internal bleeding and more. These injuries can be life threatening, but are at least very painful and require immediate medical attention. If you aren’t there to provide care/take your chin to the vet, it could suffer for a long time.
5) Do Chinchillas Get Sick Easily?
Chinchillas don’t get sick more easily than other pets. However, they can get sick, and they do have care requirements that need to be met.
Your pet could experience typical health conditions like respiratory infections or UTIs. These can develop quickly, are painful, and can become life threatening. Or, your pet could experience less common conditions like tumors, kidney or liver issues, bumblefoot and more. It’s best not to leave your pet alone if it has one of these conditions.
While not strictly speaking ‘illnesses’, failure to meet your chinchilla’s care needs can cause poor health. If your chinchilla overheats, it can get heat stress; if your chinchilla’s cage is too humid, its fur can get damp. Say, for example, that you go on holiday and your A/C breaks down while you’re away. Your chinchillas could develop heat stroke and pass away. This isn’t highly likely, of course, but it could happen.
6) Do Chinchillas Get Lonely?
Chinchillas are social animals, and enjoy the company of other chinchillas. While it is possible to keep a chinchilla alone in a cage, you only should if you spend lots of time with it. If you leave your chin alone for extended periods of time, whether you’re on a holiday or not, it will get lonely. Coupled with its lack of food and dirty surroundings, it would likely become very stressed and want to escape as well.
If your chinchilla lives with another chinchilla, it won’t get so lonely in your absence. But chinchilla pairs and groups can fracture without warning. When this happens, the pair/group start fighting and these fights can get intense. One chinchilla can even kill another. If they start fighting in your absence, you can’t stop them, and this could happen.
7) Will My Chinchilla Remember Me If I Go on Holiday?
Your chinchilla won’t forget you if you have to leave overnight, or even for a few days.
Chins recognize you in various ways. The chief way is through their sense of smell, which is excellent compared to ours. It has to be: in the wild, chinchillas are prey animals, and their noses are a key tool in identifying, locating and avoiding predators. Your chin can pick up on all the scents that make you smell unique: your pheromones, the foods you eat, the soaps you use and the clothes you wear. They learn to identify and trust you over time, and won’t forget that unique ‘fingerprint’ if you’re gone for a few days.
As such, this isn’t a reason for you to avoid going on holidays. But the other points above still are.
Can You Leave a Chinchilla Alone for a Week?
A week is too long for you to leave your chinchilla alone.
There are, of course, the risks that your chinchilla will hurt itself while you’re away. This is unlikely, since if you take an average week, your chinchilla probably won’t get hurt or sick. Take last week for example: did your chinchilla injure itself or develop an infection? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
The problem you can’t get around is that your chinchilla will probably run out of food for the reasons discussed above. Its cage will also get very messy if you don’t spot clean it regularly. There is no way of preventing these problems: you can’t put a Roomba in your chinchilla’s cage!
Can You Leave a Chinchilla Alone for a Weekend?
Leaving your chinchilla alone for a weekend isn’t anywhere near as much of a problem. You can give your chin enough food to get by, and its cage won’t get too messy while you’re away.
Again, though, there’s the chance that your pet could get sick or injured. It’s like having children: your 10-year old can survive for a weekend, eating whatever’s left in the fridge, and probably not getting into any trouble. But it’s still irresponsible to leave them alone for a weekend. If something goes wrong, you’re not there to make it right.
Can You Leave a Chinchilla Alone At All?
It stands to reason that there is a safe amount of time for you to leave your chinchilla alone. After all, your pet won’t pass away the moment you leave the room, and you don’t have to watch over it every minute of every day.
As a rule, an overnight stay somewhere is likely going to be a safe choice. It would be exceptionally unlucky for your chinchilla to somehow get injured or otherwise need your care in such a short amount of time. As such, we recommend against leaving your chinchilla alone even for an overnight stay, but it’s not likely to be a problem if you do.
How to Safely Go on Holiday If You Have Chinchillas
Chinchillas can live for twenty years, so it’s unreasonable to say you can never go on holiday or even leave the home for an overnight stay (e.g. a business trip, or if you have to go to hospital).There will eventually come a time when you can’t be at home for a night, and when that time comes, you need to be prepared.
To get around this issue, there are lots of things a chinchilla owner can do to stop their chinchillas from getting sick, getting in accidents or running out of food.
Have Somebody Check on Your Chinchilla
What most owners do is have somebody they trust periodically come to their house to check on the chinchilla. People do the same thing all the time with dogs and cats, or even with houseplants. You can do the same with your chin.
If you do plan on doing this, it’s ideal to pick a friend who knows about chinchillas, or at least has spent time around your chinchilla. The more they know, the better. That’s because if there is a change in your chinchilla’s behavior (e.g. because it’s sick) then the person checking in can tell. They would also know how much food to give, how and when to clean, and so on. Needless to say, but pick a person that you trust completely. And if possible, make these arrangements long before you actually need to call on the person to help.
If that’s not possible, leave a list of the things that the person will have to do. The list should include:
- Feed two tablespoons of pellets per chinchilla per day
- Refill the hay rack once per day
- Use a dustpan and brush to sweep up after the chinchillas once per day
- Allow the chinchillas to bathe in a dust bath at least once per week
- Check that the chinchillas are behaving and moving normally
You can call the person checking on your chinchillas each day to check up on them. Bear in mind that some people don’t like being called frequently, though!
Give Your Chinchilla to a Friend or Family Member
Alternatively, you could take your chinchilla and its cage to somebody else’s house for them to look after. Your friend/family member may prefer this as it’s more convenient for them, especially if you’re away for a long time. Again, pick somebody that you trust and preferably somebody who knows how to look after chinchillas. Avoid anybody who:
- Has kept chinchillas before, but has neglected them
- Has lots of other pets in the house
- Isn’t going to be at home (as what would be the point?)
You could call the person taking care of your chinchilla periodically to see how they’re getting on.
Are There Kennels for Chinchillas?
There are boarding services for small animals, not just cats and dogs. These places vary greatly in quality, so if you do plan on leaving your chinchilla somewhere, check it out in person first. If possible, find one through word of mouth, as a review from another chinchilla owner means far more than an online review.
What you can’t do is give your chinchilla to some kind of general kennels that accept any animal. That’s because chinchillas don’t like being around other pets. Chins are prey animals, so when they smell or hear animals that could be predators, they get scared. While you’re enjoying your holiday, your chin would be frightened for its life. Somewhere that only accepts small animals would be better.
Go for One Night
If you don’t have any choice but to leave your chinchilla alone, you must minimize the amount of time you are away. The less time you are away, the less likely it is that any issues will occur. While we don’t recommend doing so, if you only went on holiday for one night, your chinchilla would at least still have food and a reasonably clean cage. That doesn’t stop the potential for accidents happening, but it’s better than going away for a week.
(Final Option) Don’t Keep Chinchillas
Let’s say that you’re thinking about getting a chinchilla, but you aren’t sure yet. You have a busy lifestyle that means you have to take frequent business trips, and you live alone. You like to take holidays, too, when you get the chance—at least one a year. And on top of that, maybe you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet.
If that sounds like you, then a chinchilla wouldn’t be a good choice. There are lots of pets that can live alone for extended periods of time, and which are comfortable without human company. Some are just as cute as chinchillas, so you should consider picking one of these instead.