Should I Cover My Chinchilla Cage?

Covering your pet’s cage with a blanket is common practise, but does it work for chinchillas? Would it de-stress your chinchilla, or just make it overheat?

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Covering your pet’s cage with a blanket is common practise, but does it work for chinchillas? Would it de-stress your chinchilla, or just make it overheat?

Should I cover my chinchilla’s cage? No, as even though it would prevent sounds and lights from stressing your pet, it would make your chinchilla overheat. There are select circumstances like while traveling or in a cold snap that cage covers are useful, but you must check continually on your chinchilla’s temperature to ensure it doesn’t overheat.

The guide below first looks at the rationale behind covering your chinchilla’s cage, before addressing each benefit and each drawback of doing so. We’ll then recommend some guidelines for you to follow for your pet’s safety, before finishing by looking at select circumstances in which covering your chinchilla’s cage does make sense.

Chinchilla Cage Covers

If your chinchilla is particularly skittish, you may be tempted to cover its cage with a cloth. This is common practise with other pets, and it can protect them from getting stressed out. That much is true of chinchillas, too.

The problem is that covering your chinchilla’s cage will make your chinchilla overheat. For you that might be uncomfortable, but for your pet, overheating is a very real death sentence. So while cage coverings may have advantages, they have much more important drawbacks. We therefore recommend against using them.

Can You Keep Chinchillas in The Dark?

While you shouldn’t keep your chinchilla in the dark 24/7, covering the cage for a brief period won’t be unusual for your chinchilla. In the wild, chins spend much of their time hiding underground or in rock crevices, so are used to darkness during the day. It’s the overheating problem that you have to watch out for, not your chinchilla’s mental health.

Pros And Cons of Covering a Chinchilla Cage

Before doing anything for your pet, you have to understand how it will affect it. Some of the effects of covering your chinchilla cage would undoubtedly be positive, but the fact that it would make your chinchilla overheat is a serious one. The sections below look at each of these positives and drawbacks in turn before making recommendations.

1) Can Chinchillas See in The Dark?

This is less a ‘pro’ or a ‘con’, but it is something to bear in mind as we move on.

Chinchillas aren’t quite nocturnal—they’re actually crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dusk and dawn. But they do spend more time awake during the night than the day.

But even despite that, chinchillas don’t have great night vision. They also don’t have good daytime vision, either. Their vision is blurry all the time, and they rely on their senses of smell and hearing instead. What this means is that your chinchilla won’t be stressed or unhappy due to not seeing outside the cage.

2) Cage Coverings & Stress

Cage coverings go one step further, though, because they could even prevent stress.

Chinchillas are skittish animals at the best of times, and can get scared by bright lights, sudden movements, loud (even quiet) noises, smells they don’t recognize, and all manner of other things. A cage covering would block your chinchilla from seeing any sudden movements, which can scare them even if they appear ‘blurry’ to your pet. They will also block out some of the loud noises that might frighten your chin.

This isn’t just something that you can do for your pet, but something it can do for itself. Wild chinchillas find shelter in rock crevices and old, abandoned burrows. Similarly, your pet chinchilla finds shelter in its hide. Covering your pet’s cage would be like making a great big hide for your pet.

3) Covering and Cage Temperature Regulation (Overheating)

Cage covers change the temperature and humidity in the cage for the worse.

The core problem with covering your chinchilla’s cage is that it will make the temperature underneath rise significantly.

It’s the same as being in a tent. If you’ve ever been camping, you’ll know that even if you don’t have anything to heat your tent with, it will warm up when you’re inside it. That’s because it holds onto the heat from your body heat and your breath. Blankets do the same thing, as will any cover you place on your chinchilla’s cage.

Chinchillas should never be kept in temperatures higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 degrees Centigrade. Their thick fur will make them overheat, and this can happen surprisingly quickly. If your chinchilla’s room is already 65 degrees F/18 degrees C, a normal indoor temperature, then a covering could raise the temperature in the cage past 70F/21C sooner than you think. Overheating will result in heat stress and death. As such, you should look for other ways to de-stress your chinchilla that don’t run these risks.

An added-on risk is that the cage cover will raise the humidity of your chinchilla’s cage. This isn’t as serious an issue, as humidity takes a longer time to affect your chinchilla. But your chin’s fur should be kept dry rather than damp, so on top of overheating, your chinchilla would be uncomfortable because of the humidity too.

4) Should Chinchillas Get Direct Sunlight?

Because of the problem of overheating, chinchillas shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight.

You may think that this is an argument in favor of covering the cage, but it’s not. This makes the idea an even worse one. While the covering will keep the light from your chinchillas, the light will warm up the cover and the cage inside. This will make your chinchillas overheat even quicker.

What’s far better than blocking the light is to simply put your chin cage somewhere that direct light won’t hit it. That’s why so many people keep their chinchillas in the basement.

Should You Cover Your Chinchilla’s Cage?

On balance, then, you shouldn’t cover your chinchilla’s cage. But all of the above applies to covering your chinchilla’s entire cage. There may also be times that partially covering the cage makes sense.

Fleece Cover Between Chinchilla Cages

There would be some benefit to covering the side of your chinchilla’s cage with fleece or similar material if you’re keeping two cages side by side. Doing so would stop the chinchillas from seeing each other. While they would still hear each other, if they stress each other out, this would help somewhat.

If you have two chinchillas that do make each other stressed, we would recommend keeping them in two different rooms. But this would be better than doing nothing.

In a Sudden Cold Snap

If there is an exceptional cold snap, covering your chinchilla’s cage for a limited time may be a good idea.

Say, for example, that you live in a cold country. If your heating stops working and the temperature drops to freezing, you could cover your chinchillas’ cage to keep them warm. While chins can survive below freezing, it’s better for their comfort and health to avoid that.

If you do plan on doing this, check continually on your pets to see if they are too hot. Place a thermometer inside the cage if you haven’t already to see if the temperature stays at a comfortable and safe level for your pets.

While Traveling

Traveling with chinchillas is difficult, and one thing some owners recommend is covering your chin’s cage during the process. The idea is to stop your chinchilla from getting stressed by the bright lights and sudden movements, e.g. outside your car window.

As you can imagine, while some people recommend doing this to keep your pet calm, others warn that it makes their chinchillas overheat. A good compromise is to cover part of the cage so that heat can escape, but your chinchilla still feels more secure. As above, keep a close eye on the temperature within the cage, and control the overall temperature of the car to keep the cabin below 70F/21C at all times.

Aside from these circumstances, though, there’s no need to cover your chinchilla’s cage. If your chin is stressed, for example, it makes more sense to prevent whatever’s stressing it: other pets, loud noises, excessive handling and so on. Or, if your chin’s cage is in direct sunlight, move it somewhere that it’s not. These are long-term solutions while cage covers are a short-term solution at best, and a risk to your pet’s health at worst.

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New owner, don't know where to start? Or do you need a handy chinchilla reference guide? Check out our Chinchilla Care 101 eBook, or get what you need from our online store!