Your chinchilla’s cage has to have a liner or bedding, otherwise the cage would get dirty, and quickly. The most popular choice by far is fleece—but is it safe? And if not, why is it so popular?
Is fleece safe for chinchillas? It is, so long as your pet doesn’t chew or eat it. It can line the bottom of the cage or any platforms above it. There are also chinchilla-safe fleece toys you can buy, and chinchilla fleece hammocks too. If you spot your chinchilla eating fleece lining, it’s likely bored, so give it extra chew toys and cage accessories. Otherwise it could block up your pet’s gut.
It’s rare for a chinchilla to chew on its fleece cage lining. But when it does, you have to stop it as soon as possible. The guide below described exactly how to use fleece in a chinchilla cage, where to use it, and what to do if your pet starts nibbling on it!
Note: by the end of this post, you will have learned a lot. But more than anything you will have learned how strange a word ‘fleece’ is to read, write, or say out loud…
What Is Fleece?
You may be surprised to learn that fleece is a 100% synthetic product, despite being named after the ‘fleece’ coat of sheep. It’s made from a kind of plastic called polyester. Polyester is made from petroleum and petroleum derivatives. The chemicals involved are heated up until they form a thick, syrupy fluid. Once this dries it can be spun, almost like cotton candy, to make long threads.
These fibers are first woven into a light fabric, before they’re brushed to make them puff up. This gives fleece its softness and absorbency.
Depending on the brand of fleece that you’ve bought, it may contain other materials like wool or rayon to give it a slightly different texture. These other types of fleece may be suitable or unsuitable depending on what’s in them. If the material makes the fleece easier to chew and break bits off of, it’s more likely to cause impaction in your chinchilla’s gut.
What Is Fleece Used For in Chinchilla Cages?
The core use of fleece is as a lining, both for the cage floor and for platforms. It’s soft and absorbent and can be reused over and over. It also looks nice; it’s not natural, but it comes in lots of patterns and colors that make your chinchilla cage look attractive.
Chinchilla Fleece Liners
The most common use of fleece in this context is as a chinchilla fleece cage liner. It’s placed on the floor of the cage to give something soft and comfortable for your pet to stand on.
However, fleece shouldn’t be placed directly on the wire floor of the cage. If you did that, your chinchilla’s feet could fall through the gaps in the bars and break. For that reason, fleece is wrapped around something solid like chinchilla-safe wood. This gives a combination of solidity and absorbency.
Fleece can be used either in conjunction with or instead of bedding. Kiln-dried pine is perhaps the most common kind of bedding aside from fleece. Your options when using them together include:
- Placing a layer of bedding over the fleece liner for extra protection
- Only putting bedding in one corner of the cage, for your chinchillas to use as a toilet
- Lining your chinchilla’s litter tray with fleece/KD pine, and the rest of the cage with the other material
- Lining the cage floor with KD pine, but lining the platforms above it with fleece
Coupled with the designs and colors fleece comes in, this gives you great control over how your pet’s cage looks.
Chinchilla Fleece Platform Liners
Fleece can also be used elsewhere in the cage. It can be wrapped around the wooden platforms of the cage to a) stop the chinchilla chewing them, b) give a consistent look and feel to the cage, and c) because it’s comfortable for your pet to stand on.
You’ll especially like using fleece here if your chinchilla isn’t properly toilet trained. These chinchillas will sometimes pee from high up on their platforms. Using fleece here will keep them clean.
You also shouldn’t use plastic platforms, as chinchillas will chew them. But if for some reason you have to have them, wrapping fleece around them will protect them somewhat.
Chinchilla Fleece Hammocks
You can also have chinchilla hammocks made of fleece. Chinchillas enjoy using these either to sit or sleep in. You can convert a regular fleece cage liner into a hammock if you like, although there are ones you can buy ready-made, too.
All you have to do is tie it securely to each corner of the cage and keep it taut. Somewhere between two platforms is ideal so that the chinchillas can access it easily. Hammocks also double as a safety net if you have a nice, tall cage.
Chinchilla Fleece Toys
You can also buy all sorts of random things made from fleece for your chinchilla. Examples include:
- Fleece hides/fleece cubes
- Dangly toys they can nibble on
- Fleece tunnels and fleece pillows
So long as the material is a suitable fleece, and so long as it doesn’t have any other unsuitable materials on it, these toys are perfectly safe.
Bonus: Chinchilla Carrier Fleece Liner
Fleece can also be used to line a chinchilla’s carrier. Like other pets, chinchillas should have carriers for if you need to take them to the vet, or if you need to move house with them. To give your chinchilla something comfortable to sit on, line it with fleece. Again, you can use a regular fleece liner for this.
How Do You Make Fleece Liner for Chinchilla Cages?
Making fleece liners for chinchilla cages is easy. All you need is suitable fleece and a pair of scissors. Here’s a quick guide on how to make a liner, from start to finish:
- Pick out a suitable kind of fleece.
- Measure the area that you need to cover. The liner should be bigger so that you can fold it underneath, or fasten it.
- Draw the outline of the area you want to cut out with a marker and cut it. The sharper the scissors you use, the better, as fleece can be awkward to cut.
It’s as easy as that. You could add a button on one side and a loop on the other so that you can fasten the fleece on the underside of the wood floor. Alternatively, you could tie the corners of the fleece to the sides of the cage. But folding it tight should be fine.
Types of Fleece Suitable for Chinchillas
If you want to make your own chinchilla cage lining, don’t use any old fleece. You should use anti-pill fleece.
Pilling or bobbling is where the fleece forms tiny lumps that come away from the body of the fabric. This is the same thing that wool clothing does. You can pick off the bobbles to maintain the look of the fabric, but eventually it gets worn down as more and more material is lost.
But looks aren’t the problem here. Rather, the issue is that your chinchilla can nibble on these tiny pills/bobbles. You don’t want your pet to view the lining as something it can chew, so this is best avoided.
Also, when you make your own fleece lining, avoid using cuts of fleece that have anything on them (zips, other materials, logos, etc.) The ideal lining is pure fleece. You should have lots of linings to hand for when the one in the cage gets dirty. If there is anything like this on the fleece, put it on the underside of the flooring where your chinchillas can’t reach it.
Is Fleece Safe for Chinchillas?
Fleece is a chinchilla-safe material for cage flooring, platform lining and litter tray lining. It’s absorbent and can be easily cleaned, so makes an excellent reusable form of bedding. It won’t hurt your chinchilla’s feet unless it’s used incorrectly (i.e. without a solid base as a cage floor).
The only way in which fleece could hurt your chinchilla is if it chews the stuff.
Chinchilla Chewing Fleece/Chinchilla Eating Fleece
Chinchillas destroy just about everything in their cages. They are natural gnawers (or maybe ‘gnatural gnawers’?) of anything soft enough to be nibbled on. That’s because they need to stop their teeth from growing too long. If they do, this is referred to as malocclusion, and it could kill your pet.
You should get your pet to stop chewing fleece because it’s not a digestible material. Indigestible materials get stuck in a chinchilla’s gut and cause impactions. This can lead to gastrointestinal stasis and death.
This behavior can be controlled by giving your chinchilla something more suitable to chew on like an apple wood stick. There’s no way of stopping your chinchilla from gnawing; only from gnawing the wrong things. So if your pet has lots of chew toys, and cage accessories like wooden running wheels that are more suitable for chewing, it should stop trying to eat its fleece.
Boredom can be a big driver of behaviors like these, too. So if chew toys don’t stop your chinchilla chewing its fleece cage flooring, switching the cage up with some new toys or new platforms might help.
What to Do If Your Chinchilla Eats Fleece
The first thing you should do is give your chinchilla something else to gnaw on.
But fleece is one of many materials that can cause impaction in a chinchilla’s gut. So, is there anything else you have to do to protect your pet’s health once it’s eaten fleece?
If your chinchilla only ate a tiny amount of fleece, it should pass in its poop. You’ll see this when it happens because the fleece isn’t digestible. It will look exactly like it did before your chinchilla ate it.
But if your chinchilla ate lots of it, it will form a solid mass that your pet can’t pass. This is a big problem, and you should take your chinchilla to the vet for advice. Monitor it to make sure it continues to eat the correct diet (hay, hay, and more hay). Check that it continues eating normal amounts, doesn’t lose any weight, and doesn’t overly struggle to poop.
How to Clean Chinchilla Cage Fleece
Chinchilla cage fleece will only get dirty in a few different ways. It can get dirty with:
- Urine and feces
- Bacteria/fungus from old hay if it isn’t swept away
- Blood if your chinchillas are fighting
- Fur if your chinchilla is fighting, shedding or barbering itself excessively
All of these things can be adequately cleaned with basic detergent. You don’t need to soak them in bleach to kill any bacteria in them (although you can). Ideally you should use a detergent that won’t make the liner rough as this makes it less absorbent. You should also avoid fabric softener as many owners say this stops the fleece absorbing anything.
You can throw the liners in with the rest of your laundry if you want. A cycle will completely get rid of any germs and nasties, so these won’t affect your clothes. If you’re squeamish about that idea, as lots of people would be, you could always wash them separately.
If you want to go the natural route, you can rinse and wash the liners by hand. It’s no more disgusting than changing a baby, and you can wear gloves if you like. Some owners recommend washing fleece with vinegar to avoid using harsh chemicals. For a more detailed look at how to clean a chinchilla cage, check our relevant guide.
How Often Should You Change Out Chinchilla Cage Fleece?
Fleece in a chinchilla cage will quickly get wet and dirty, because your pet has to go to the toilet. That means you have to frequently change it. If you don’t, your chinchilla’s fur will get damp and stained yellow because of the soaked-up urine.
This is why owners have lots of fleece linings available at any one time. In the same way that you own more than one pair of socks, so you can wear fresh ones without having to launder them every day, so too should you have lots of fleece linings for your chinchilla’s cage.
How frequently you need to change fleece lining depends on your chinchilla. Some can be toilet trained while others can’t. But as a rule of thumb, you should change it any time it’s wet to the touch. A slight dampness isn’t too bad, but if the fleece is wet, that means it won’t absorb any more so it should be changed.