Chinchilla Cage Layout: For Beginners

So, you’ve bought your chinchilla’s cage and everything that goes in it. But where do you put your pet’s food bowl, its platforms, and everything else? If you get this decision wrong, your pet’s health could be at risk…

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!

So, you’ve bought your chinchilla’s cage and everything that goes in it. But where do you put your pet’s food bowl, its platforms, and everything else? If you get this decision wrong, your pet’s health could be at risk…

Where’s it best to put a chinchilla’s things? Its hide should go on the floor of the cage. Platforms attach to the side of the cage, and should be about one foot in height difference (to prevent big falls). Your chin’s hay rack or food bowl should be attached to the cage wall just above floor level, so they don’t get peed in. Its water bottle should be outside the cage with the spout pointing in, so it can’t fall on your pet. Its exercise equipment should be near the floor of the cage too, again to prevent falls. Things like chew toys and pillows can go anywhere in the cage.

The guide below first takes a brief look at what goes in a chinchilla’s cage. We’ll then address what goes where, and the important reasons behind placing each thing in a certain place. It might not seem important, but putting everything in its right place can prevent accidents and give your pet a long, happy life!

What Goes In a Chinchilla’s Cage?

Chinchillas have lots of needs, and it’s your job to cater to those needs. Some of those needs are obvious, like the needs for food and water. Others are less so, such as the need for a hide or for platforms to jump to and from. Below is a table describing everything that chinchillas need, and how important it is.



Importance out of 10

Water bottle

A bottle like those given to other caged pets.


Hay rack

A feeder which holds your chinchilla’s hay and stops it getting dirty.


Separate food bowl

A small bowl that holds fresh food.


Chew toys

Toys made of bamboo, wood or grape vine that stop your pet’s teeth getting too long.


Shelter (chinchilla hide)

A place where your chinchilla can hide, where it can’t see or hear anything that stresses it out.


Small pillow

Something for your chinchilla to sit on or up against.


Exercise saucer

Like an exercise wheel, but made specifically for chinchillas.



Things that make your pet’s cage look more like a chinchilla’s natural habitat.


Hammocks Fabric strung between the walls or platforms of the cage that the chinchilla can safely sleep in. 6/10
Platforms Levels the chinchilla can jump to and from. Essential as chinchillas love to jump. 10/10
Substrate Lines the bottom of the cage to a) keep your pet comfortable, and b) prevent feces/urine pooling and building up. 10/10

You can learn all of this from generic guides on what goes in a chinchilla’s cage. But what you might not know is where exactly to put each of these things! That’s what the sections below will answer.

1) Where’s It Best to Put a Chinchilla’s Water Bottle?

chinchilla water
Chins need water bottles like any other small rodent.

Your chinchilla’s water bottle is an essential piece of kit. Your pet can’t live without it. Wild chinchillas get much of their water from their food, but since you’ll be feeding your chinchilla hay, it will need to drink its water instead. As for where to put the bottle, we recommend fastening it to the outside of the cage with the spout poking in. If you fasten it to the inside, and there’s an accident and the bottle comes loose, it could fall on your pet and seriously injure it (especially if it’s a large one filled with lots of water). If it’s attached to the outside, it will fall outside the cage, and can’t hurt your pets. You can attach the bottle to any side of the cage, although we don’t recommend attaching it to the door. Putting extra weight on the hinges of the door could bend them out of shape if they’re particularly flimsy. If you have more than one chinchilla, and you’re going to give them more than one water bottle, place them at opposite ends of the cage.

2) Where to Put a Chinchilla’s Hay Rack & Food Bowl

Of all the things in your chinchilla’s cage, it’s arguably most important to put your chinchilla’s food bowl in the right place. That’s because your chinchilla can tip its food bowl, spilling its food everywhere. If it’s on a platform, it could tip the bowl off the edge, hurting itself or the other chinchillas in its cage. At the same time, if you put the bowl on the floor of the cage, your pet might pee in it. So where on earth should it go? You have two options. The first is to not have a food bowl at all. Instead, you can put a tiny hay rack in your chinchilla’s cage. A hay rack is like a food bowl, but a different shape, that attaches to the side of the cage. It’s like a newspaper rack, if you’ve ever seen one of those (or, more accurately, like the hay racks that farm animals eat from). Hay racks are a good choice because they can’t be tipped, and can’t be peed in. You attach this slightly up from the floor of the cage, on any side. Your second option is to buy a food bowl that attaches to the side of the cage. You can buy kits that you set up in your pet’s cage: a metal frame that attaches to the cage bars, and a small bowl that sits in the frame. Owners commonly use these for snacks with a hay rack for hay, but you can buy a big bowl that lots of hay can fit in. Again, you attach this slightly up from the floor of the cage on any side that you like. Of these two options, we recommend a hay rack. That’s because these attaching food bowls can typically be tipped over too, as it’s only the frame that attaches to the cage bars. But you can have either.

3) Where to Put a Chinchilla’s Chew Toys

You can put a chinchilla’s chew toys anywhere in its cage. So long as they’re accessible, there’s no issue with them being on a platform, in a second hay rack, on the floor of the cage—wherever you like. If you have more than one chinchilla, you could consider picking two places that you regularly put them, just to prevent fighting.

4) Where Should I Put My Chinchilla’s Hide?

You have a little more flexibility when it comes to placing your chinchilla’s hide. Most owners put the hide on the bottom of the cage, but you could put in on a platform if you like. So long as your chinchilla has easy access to it, and it can walk rather than jump through the entrance of it, you can put it anywhere. This is useful if you’re planning on having more than one chinchilla, because when you have more than one chinchilla, having more than one hide is a good idea. You could put one hide on the floor of the cage and one on a platform. This achieves a couple of things:

  • It means that both chinchillas always have a hide available
  • It’s interesting for the chinchillas, as they have hides in different places

Don’t put the hides directly opposite each other, as then the chinchillas would see each other. Sometimes, the chins will want a bit of seclusion away from each other, so it’s better if they’re pointed in different directions—although this is really splitting hairs. So long as the hides are easily accessible, you can put them most anywhere you like.

5) Where to Put Your Chinchilla Buddy/Cuddly Toy

Chinchillas can enjoy having cuddly toys, especially if they live alone. Chinchillas can cuddle when they sleep, e.g. with one resting its head on the other. If your chinchilla lives alone, a cuddly toy will give it something to do that with. Your pet’s cuddly toy can go anywhere in the cage. But since many other things have their own spaces, and since you don’t want it to get covered in pee and poop, consider putting your chinchilla’s cuddly toy on one of the many platforms in its cage.

6) Where Does a Chinchilla’s Exercise Wheel or Saucer Go?

exercise wheel
Chinchillas can’t fit in tiny wheels like these. They need their own special ones which are a lot bigger.

Your chinchilla’s exercise wheel or saucer should be on the floor of the cage. It shouldn’t be placed high up on a platform. That’s because if it’s high up, there’s a chance that your chinchilla could fall out/off it and severely injure itself. While chinchillas can jump from a surprising height, they’ll injure themselves if they’re unprepared for a drop, even if it’s only a ‘short’ drop of a couple of feet. Other than that, you don’t need to be any more specific. You can put your chinchilla’s exercise kit anywhere in its cage, so long as it’s on or very close to the floor.

7) Where to Put Decorations in a Chinchilla’s Cage

There are all sorts of decorations you can put in your chin’s cage, from safe rope to ceramics. If you get anything heavy to put in your chin’s cage, don’t put it on a platform, as if it falls it could kill your pet/s. But other than that, you basically have free rein.

8) Where Should I Put My Chinchilla’s Hammock?

Chinchilla hammocks are exactly what they sound like. To work properly, a hammock has to hang down, suspended from two or four sides. You don’t strictly need one, but chinchillas do seem to like them. Like the food bowl above, getting the placement of the hammock is important. They’re typically secured high up in the cage between two platforms. This allows for easy access. They’re best secured on all four sides, tied at each corner, so that your chinchilla doesn’t easily fall out, nor does the hammock collapse underneath its weight. There are also hammocks available which are meant to sit in the corner of the cage, in which case that’s exactly where you should put them! You can tell that they’re meant for the corner of the cage because they’re triangular.

9) Where to Put Platforms in a Chinchilla’s Cage

The platforms should be attached to the walls of the cage, around the sides. So far, so obvious! There are two schools of thought on placing the platforms in a chinchilla’s cage. The first is safety-conscious; the idea is to not space the platforms too far apart, as this makes it more likely that the chinchilla will miss a jump and fall. While chinchillas can safely jump five feet to the ground, they can hurt themselves if they fall unexpectedly. These owners place the platforms in a graduated fashion, i.e. like stairs, six inches to a foot above each other and gradually moving upwards. The second school of thought is to place them far away from each other, to give the chinchillas more chance to jump. Chinchillas can jump both far and high, and this serves as a kind of exercise for them in captivity. We recommend taking the former approach. Your chinchilla can still get plenty of exercise by jumping up short distances. As such, place the platforms around the sides of the cage, one above the other, moving upwards like steps. If you have a large ledge that’s like a second floor, you can run the platforms up to it. A distance of about six inches to a foot is plenty to satisfy your chinchilla’s jumping needs.

10) Where to Put Substrate in a Chinchilla’s Cage

fleece substrate
Anti-pill fleece makes a great substrate to line the bottom of the cage with. You can also place it on platforms so long as it’s pulled taut.

Substrate is what lines the bottom of the cage, so that’s where it should go. We recommend a solid piece of woood that covers the whole cage bottom, with non-pill felt wrapped around it. You could also consider putting this kind of substrate on the platforms of the cage. This helps prevent bumblefoot, a condition chinchillas develop when they stand on solid surfaces for too long. If you do this, ensure that the felt is pulled taut and secured very carefully; you don’t want it to make your chinchilla slip or miss a jump. What you should take away from this guide is that you have a lot of freedom in placing things in your chinchilla’s cage. While some things are dictated by safety—like the placement of your chinchilla’s cage platforms—other things you can place almost anywhere. We recommend playing around with the placement of things in your chinchilla’s cage so that it looks good and provides your pet with lots of stimulation. You can also frequently rotate the toys, hides and so on in your chinchilla’s cage (i.e. switch them out for new and interesting ones) to keep your pet entertained.

Below, you can find our chinchilla quiz, new posts for further reading, and a signup for our Chinchilla Newsletter!
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The Big Chinchilla Quiz

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This quiz features questions on every topic of chinchilla care, from behavior to nutrition. The questions are multiple choice, and each answer is explained. Some of the answer explanations contain links for further reading, which you can click and open in a New Tab. And if you take it again, it will come up with new questions each time!

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1 / 10

Are metal exercise wheels chinchilla-safe?

2 / 10

How much kiln dried pine—if you use it—do you need to line your chinchilla's cage with?

3 / 10

What's the difference between alfalfa hay and timothy hay?

4 / 10

Are chinchillas good pets for children?

5 / 10

Are female chinchillas friendlier than male chinchillas?

6 / 10

Can two chinchillas of the same sex hump each other?

7 / 10

Are our pet chinchillas descended from long-tailed chinchillas or short-tailed chinchillas?

8 / 10

Do chinchillas need cage mates?

9 / 10

Are carrots suitable for chinchillas?

10 / 10

One of your chinchillas is grooming the other. But it seems like it's being a bit... Rough. Sure enough, the groomer has pulled some of the fur from the 'groomee', and it's littered all over the cage floor.

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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!