Every chinchilla care guide addresses the most common care issues—but what about humidity? If you get your chinchilla’s humidity level wrong, it could have severe consequences…
What’s the ideal humidity for a chinchilla? A rough limit of 50% is optimal, while lower is better. Higher humidity levels cause damp fur and damp bedding. Measure humidity with a hygrometer and use air conditioners or dehumidifiers to lower the humidity. If that’s too expensive, move the chinchillas to a less humid room, provide frequent dust baths, and spot clean damp bedding.
Excess humidity causes damp fur, which is a nightmare to fix, and can cause severe health issues. It also facilitates bacterial and fungal growth so is best avoided without exception. Follow the guide below to learn how to measure and correct humidity problems for good!
How Humid Should a Chinchilla Cage Be?
Humidity is a measure of how much water is present in the air. It is created by plants and animals as they breathe, or by water sources. Some places are much more humid than others. Meanwhile, chinchillas live in the Andes, near the Atacama Desert. This region is very dry, and chinchillas have adapted to it well. They are used to low humidity and low amounts of available fresh water.
As such, you have to keep them at the appropriate humidity. Otherwise, they can get sick (e.g. with damp fur or eye infections). The optimal chinchilla humidity level is below 50%. If you notice the humdity rising above that level, you should take active steps to lower it, like using a dehumidifier.
How to Measure Humidity in a Chinchilla’s Cage
You shouldn’t rely on weather reports to tell you how humid it is. That’s because weather reports tell you how humid it is outside, not inside. You can keep a room at 0% humidity while it’s 100% humidity outside, or vice versa. The most relatable example is if you have AC: the humidity will be much lower inside than out.
Instead, you can measure humidity with a tool called a hygrometer. This is like a thermometer, but for humidity. You place it inside the chinchilla’s cage and it will tell you how humid it is in there. These are common in the pet trade as there are lots of animals, chinchillas included, that have strict humidity requirements.
Some hygrometers come packaged with thermometers as a two-in-one tool. These are useful, because you should keep a tab on how warm your chinchillas are, too. Just make sure you buy a recognized and trusted brand as it’s possible that a poor quality one could give you the wrong reading. A good way around this is to have two hygrometers, each of different brands.
How Humid is Too Humid for Chinchillas?
If the humidity in your chinchilla’s cage goes above 50%, it isn’t an immediate death sentence for your pet. There’s no need to panic. The problem is if you leave the humdity too high for too long, your pet may develop damp fur, or a respiratory or eye infection.
Above 50%, the potential health risks become more common on a sliding scale. There is very little practical difference for your chinchilla between 51% and 49% humidity, so if there is no possible way to get the humidity down further, monitor your pet to see if it develops these problems. If it doesn’t, there’s no problem.
But at 100% humidity, it’s guaranteed that your pet’s fur and bedding will become damp, even sodden.
How Do I Protect My Chinchilla from Humidity?
Now that you’ve established how humid your chinchilla’s cage should be, and you’re taking steps to measure the humidity, you can proactively protect your chinchilla from these unsuitable conditions.
There are lots of ways to do that. Some of them are free, while some of them cost money. As is always the case with life, the more money you spend, the better time you (and your chinchilla) will have. But some of the free options do work well, especially when combined together.
1) Pick The Least Humid Room for a Chinchilla
Begin by picking the best room in your house for chinchillas to live in. There are many factors to consider like direct sunlight, levels of noise and interaction, and safety. But you should weigh these other factors against humidity, too.
Homeowners can find that basements are particularly humid. That’s because they don’t have windows, so the humid air has no way to escape. If you spend lots of time down there, the water you breathe out will gradually make the room more humid. You may also have household appliances like your washing machine there, or an unnoticed leak. All of these things contribute to the humidity.
As such, a bedroom may be a good choice. Bedrooms are far away from the clanking and banging of kitchens and household appliances, and you’ll get good opportunities to spend time with your chinchilla in there. This is something you’ll have to gauge for yourself, though, as every home is different.
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2) Should You Open a Window for Your Chinchilla?
Again, whether this will help depends on where you live. But opening a window can let hot, stuffy, humid air out and let cool air in. This would benefit your chinchillas in two ways, as they also prefer cold temperatures.
But if you live somewhere that it’s hot and stuff outside like Florida, this would be a bad idea. You could be letting in more humid air than you’re letting out, in which case your chinchillas stand a higher chance of getting damp fur and bedding.
3) Do Chinchillas Need Air Conditioning?
An air conditioner serves two purposes. First, it keeps the temperature low. But as a byproduct of how it works, an air conditioner will also dehumidify the air.
It works by sucking in air from inside the home and running it through a series of pipes. The moisture in the air is evaporated, and the evaporative process cools the air down (which is why we sweat). The cool air is then pumped back into your home, while the residual water is dumped outside. There are other kinds of air conditioner, but this is likely the kind you have.
As such, an air conditioner provides a slight dehumidifying effect. If you live somewhere that’s only slightly or occasionally humid, an air conditioner may be all you need. So, for example, if your chinchilla’s room is 55% humidity in the summer than an air conditioner will probably have enough effect to lower thatn figure below 50%. But it can’t tackle, say, 80% humidity.
4) Do Chinchillas Need Dehumidifiers?
You ought to buy a dehumidifier if you live somewhere that gets frequent high levels of humidity. These can be expensive at more than $100, or far more if you want a high quality one. But there’s nothing as fit for purpose as a purpose-built dehumidifier.
Owners who live in states with humid summers like Florida or New York would benefit immensely from having one—and not just because their chinchillas would be more comfortable! They’re also necessary if you keep a chinchilla in a humid room like a basement. Owners also buy dehumidifiers for chinchillas if they have lots of them, as the more chinchillas you have, the more moisture there will be in the room (as chinchillas breathe out water like we do).
One caveat is that dehumidifiers raise the temperature in the room. The most effective can make the room warmer by several degrees Fahrenheit. As such, you should closely monitor the temperature as well as the humidity if you decide to use a dehumidifier. You should ideally find a setting on the dehumidifier that dries the air enough, but doesn’t raise the temperature too much.
You could also use small dehumidifiers which aren’t powered by electricity, but naturally absorb moisture. These contain small crystals or balls that absorb water from the air. These aren’t as effective, but are a cheap solution that has a slight effect.
5) Frequent Dust Baths to Prevent Damp Fur
The most important side effect of high humidity is damp fur. Chinchillas aren’t supposed to stay damp for long periods of time. As their fur is so thick, it’s difficult to dry even in warm weather. As such, it can develop bacterial or fungal infections.
One way of preventing that is with frequent dust baths. Dust baths wick up any oils or water in a chinchilla’s fur and leave it dry and clean. So, if you have no choice but to keep your chinchillas somewhere humid, more frequent dust baths would help.
Owners typically allow their chinchillas to dust bathe twice a week. You could consider upping that to four times a week if it helps. It is possible that bathing that frequently will cause eye irritation because of all the dust, however.
6) Frequently Change Bedding
Humidity affects your chinchilla’s bedding as well as its fur. The purpose of bedding is to absorb moisture, after all; urine, or any water that spills in the cage. It also absorbs moisture from the air. This applies both to fleece and to KD pine/other beddings.
In instances of high humidity, bedding can absorb too much liquid. When it does, it becomes wet to the touch, like a sponge with too much water in it. This is bad for your chinchilla’s fur and feet, as dampness makes them cold. Bacteria also multiply more quickly in the presence of water/high humidity.
As such, you should change your chinchilla’s bedding more frequently than normal. This will prevent the bedding becoming sodden and having a knock-on effect on your chinchilla’s fur.
7) Remove Water Sources From The Room
Bodies of water contribute to high humidity levels. That applies to ponds and lakes, but also to smaller water sources like leaks or cups of water. A leak can make a room much more humid than it would be otherwise. So, for the sake of your pets and the structure of your house, get it fixed as soon as possible.
The same applies to appliances. If your chinchilla lives in the same room as the washing machine or dryer, these will make the room too humid for your pet. Switch rooms and you should see an immediate improvement.
8) Chinchillas and Fans
Fans can help cool you down and make you feel less humid in the summer. But they aren’t suitable for chinchillas as they won’t have the same effect.
The only reason why fans work is that they help your sweat evaporate. As we said above, the process of evaporation leaves the surface the water evaporated from cooler. Precisely why this works doesn’t matter for now; what matters here is the fact that chinchillas don’t sweat.
There would be little point if they did. The sweat would get caught up in their fur, which is exactly what they don’t need. If anything, your chinchilla would dislike the loud noise and the feel of the air from the fan hitting it. In short: don’t bother using a fan. Use one of the other tips above instead.
If none of these tips can stop your chinchilla’s fur from getting damp when it’s humid, then it may be impossible for you to keep one as a pet. You should only keep any pet if you can care for it properly. If you cannot, it’s at best neglectful, and at worst cruel. So, take immediate steps to check the humidity in your chinchilla’s cage and correct it if you haven’t done so already.
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