Chinchilla fur keeps it warm, but that can work against your pet sometimes. It’s easy to get your chinchilla too hot, and if you do, the worst could happen…
What’s the ideal temperature for chinchillas? The chinchilla’s temperature requirements sit between 57 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit/14 and 21 degrees centigrade. Chinchillas can overheat and die at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can survive freezing temperatures (32 degrees Fahrenheit/0 degrees centigrade) but should be kept at a comfortable, cool room temperature.
The easiest way to keep your chinchilla’s cage at the right temperature is with A/C. But what do I do if my A/C unit fails? Can chinchillas overheat in hot weather, or get too cold in winter? The guide below answers these question, and much more.
Note: if you think your chinchilla has heat stroke, you must take emergency action. Call a vet and follow their advice. This post is for informational purposes—it’s long, and if your chinchilla is experiencing conditions that could kill it (which heat stroke can), every minute counts.
How Hot Should a Chinchilla Cage Be?
Your pet chinchilla should be kept at cool room temperature or below. Experienced owners recommend ranges between 57 and 70 degrees. Some people keep their chinchillas in warmer conditions than this, but chinchillas can die of heat stroke at temperatures of 75 degrees or higher.
The warmer the conditions you keep your chinchillas in, the moer humidity matters. Chins hate high humidity because they come from a cool, dry habitat and need to keep their fur dry. But not only does humid air get fur wet, it also makes it more difficult for your chinchilla to cool down. So, pay attention to that too.
This is a surprisingly divisive topic. Owners disagree about the precise temperature range required; if you don’t adhere to those correct temperatures, you might be labelled cruel. But at the same time, it may be next to impossible to meet those requirements in your current living situation (e.g. if you live in a very hot place, if you live with your parents, or if you can’t afford constant A/C).
Do Chinchillas Like Hot or Cold?
Chinchillas prefer cold conditions over warm. That’s because they developed to live somewhere that can get very cold (the Andes Mountains and the foothills around them). That’s why they developed such thick fur.
This is reflected in the pet chinchilla’s care requirements. While chinchillas should be kept at roughly room temperature, they can survive cold conditions below freezing easily. But even a short time in full, hot sun can kill a chinchilla.
This is because chinchillas have adaptations that help them in the cold, but cannot adequately thermoregulate in the heat. When it’s too cold, a chinchilla can:
- Snuggle up against its cagemate
- Hide in its hide
- Move around to keep warm
But when it’s too hot, chinchillas can’t cool down. They can’t pant effectively, they can’t sweat at all, and they can’t unzip their fur coat and take it off. That’s why you have to be very careful not to let your pets overheat.
What Temperature Is Too Cold for a Chinchilla?
So, chinchillas like it cool, but how cold can chinchillas tolerate? Chinchillas can happily live in temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 21 degrees centigrade). 50 to 55 degrees is the average temperature in the chinchilla’s mountainside habitat, so it stands to reason that it will survive this temperature in captivity too. For this reason, 50 degrees/10 degrees centigrade is the lowest that most owners will allow their chinchillas to get.
That being said, chinchillas can also easily survive temperatures lower than this. They can survive at temperatures of freezing and below. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should; you should keep your chinchillas comfortable rather than pushing them to the limit.
Average Chinchilla Body Temperature
Despite being so furry, the chinchilla’s average body temperature isn’t much different to ours. Vets state that it’s between 98.5 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37-39.5 degrees centigrade. This is only slightly warmer than the average human body temperature.
Can Chinchillas Overheat?
Chinchillas can easily overheat in direct sunlight because of heat stress. Heat stress is where the body can’t get rid of excess heat because of high air temperatures, nearby heat sources radiating their heat, high humidity, exercise or direct physical contact with something hot. Chinchillas are especially susceptible to overheating because of their fur. Heat stress will in turn cause things like heat stroke.
The precise temperature at which overheating sets in depends on your chinchilla. That’s because some chinchillas have thicker fur than others. The thicker the fur, the quicker the chinchilla will overheat.
Chinchillas cannot become acclimatized to heat. This is something that some owners believe, but it’s wrong. Chinchillas can tolerate temperatures of between 70 and 75 degrees, but could quickly die of heat stroke if they exercise too much or there’s a sudden heat spike.
Signs a Chinchilla Is Overheating
There are precious few signs that a chinchilla is overheating. That’s because chinchillas are so good at hiding poor health. All the effects of a slight overheating problem are internal; you will only notice that your chinchilla is suffering when it eventually develops heat stroke.
Low level temperature stress will gradually damage your chinchilla’s health. That’s why people think chinchillas can ‘acclimatize’ to slightly higher than average temperatures. But just because you can’t see damage, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Signs a Chinchilla Has Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is what happens when a chinchilla (or any animal) has been too hot for too long. It’s where excess heat causes damage to the internal organs, and even the brain, which all begin to shut down. Needless to say, but this is life threatening.
Chinchilla heatstroke causes several changes to behavior and physiology:
- Your chinchilla’s ears will turn red and veiny. Your pet is pumping blood to its ears. The blood gets close to the surface of the skin, so this is a way of cooling it down slightly. The redness comes from there being lots of blood there. This is easier to spot on chins with lighter ears/fur.
- Your chinchilla’s breathing changes. It will become much faster (although overheating isn’t the only cause of rapid breathing).
- Your chinchilla will start to drool.
- Your chinchilla stops moving. This is known as lethargy, and it’s associated with severe ill health. Your pet may also go unconscious.
Besides this, though, there are many effects you can’t see. These all occur inside the internal organs, which get too hot to function. Normal bodily processes cannot continue, which is what eventually leads to death.
Do You Need a Chinchilla Cage Thermometer?
You should ideally have a thermometer set up inside your chinchilla’s cage. They’re so cheap, and so easy to use, that there’s no downside to having one. Place it somewhere your pets can’t reach it; attached to the outside is fine, as the temperature will be the same 1/2 an inch outside as it is inside the cage.
Bear in mind that temperature isn’t constant, and isn’t the same throughout a house. Parts of a room can be several degrees cooler or warmer than your thermostat tells you: windows, appliances, computers, people and residual heat can all affect the ambient temperature to make one corner of the room warmer than the other. So the only way to be sure is with a thermometer.
Your best choice is a digital thermometer. These are typically more accurate, and are easier to read the exact measurements of. Ideally you should get one that’s a two-in-one tool: a thermometer and hygrometer combo. Hygrometers measure humidity, which is something else you have to keep in check for your chinchilla’s health. High humidity and heat contribute to health issues like respiratory infection.
You can also use your new thermometer to identify the coolest and warmest parts of your house. Place it in each room, and each part of each room, to see where is most suitable. This will help you save on heating or A/C bills. Bear in mind that you should also pick a location that’s outside of direct sunlight, won’t get too humid, and won’t get too loud.
How to Cool a Chinchilla Cage Down
How do I keep my chinchilla cool in hot weather? There are a few ways to do this. This section explores these, plus some things you shouldn’t do.
1) Air Conditioning
By far the best way to maintain a steady cool temperature is with air conditioning. If you live somewhere warm, you likely already have some installed anyway. Keep your chinchilla in an air conditioned room with the temperature set to something suitable for them.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to keep the temperature within that range at all times. It may mean you have to keep your A/C on 24/7, which while optimal, isn’t a realistic solution. If that’s the case, consider moving the chinchilla cage to the most suitable part of your home. So for example, if you live in Arizona, keeping your chinchillas in a cool basement would be more economical than running your A/C at full blast all day and night. Other cool places include:
- Against outside walls. Walls where the opposite side is outside are cooler.
- Somewhere next to a window. Windows let out more heat than wall (although you shouldn’t put your chinchilla there if it’s a sunny room).
- A room that never gets any sun, basement or not. Sunlight warms a room up gradually, and can even make it warmer than outside.
Put your chinchilla’s cage somewhere like this.
2) Chinchilla Cool Mat/Chiller Stone
Keeping chinchillas cool without A/C is easy. You just need the right tools and know-how.
On hot days, you can keep your chinchilla cool with a marble or granite slab. You put these in the freezer overnight to chill them down, and take them out whenever your chinchilla’s room is too hot. You put them on the floor of your pet’s cage and it can stand on it or sit on it if it feels the need to. The most common is the fantastically-named ‘Chin-Chiller’.
Because it’s made of stone, you can easily wipe one of these slabs clean after it’s used. It also doesn’t cool down the whole of your pet’s cage, which means your chinchilla can regulate its own temperature. That’s good because it’s possible to cool your pet down too much.
In warm conditions (higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit/21 degrees centigrade) some owners describe their chinchillas refusing to move off their chiller mats. If your chinchilla does the same, consider moving its cage to somewhere cooler. The chiller mat should only be used in times of need, not as a regular tool.
3) Can You Cool a Chinchilla Down With a Fan?
Your first reaction if your chinchilla overheats is probably to cool it down with a fan. But that’s actually a bad idea.
The problem is the way that fans work. The air that a fan blows on you isn’t any cooler than the rest of the air in the room. The reason it feels so cold is that the movement of the air makes your sweat evaporate.
So, what’s the problem with fans for chinchillas? Chinchillas don’t sweat. They evolved not to because a) they need to conserve water in their dry habitat, and b) it would make their dense fur damp. If you pointed a fan at a chinchilla you would make it uncomfortable and do nothing to cool it.
4) Can You Put a Chinchilla in The Fridge to Cool It Down?
You can, but this shouldn’t be standard practise. If your chinchilla is getting overheated because of a warm cage or overexertion, you should adjust its environment, not come up with quick ‘hacks’ to cool it down.
The only instance in which this is suitable is if the chinchilla is completely overheated, and you can’t get it to the vet soon enough. If that’s the case, you can put it on one of the shelves in your fridge and leave it at sat there. You can also hold your chinchilla in front of the fridge or freezer to cool it down.
Putting it in the freezer could hurt your pet as its feet might stick to the floor. Needless to say, don’t shut the fridge door on your pet no matter what. You should also clear out a space in the fridge so it doesn’t sit on or pee on your food, and you should clean your fridge afterwards.
5) Cool Water Refills
Chinchillas don’t drink often, but will need more water on warm days. You can double the effect by replacing the room temperature water with some that’s cooler. This is especially useful because it’s allowing your chinchilla to cool down internally, which is more important. Your chinchilla can then regulate its own temperature like it can with a cooling mat.
For best results, replace the water frequently. Do so whenever you notice it’s warmed up to room temperature. If you think the water might be too cold, you can always test it. Attach two bottles, one with cool water, one with regular water. Your pets can then pick which one they want to drink from.
You can also use cool water in another way: placing drops of it on your chinchilla’s ears. Your chinchilla uses its ears to cool down by pumping more blood to them. Cooling down the surface of your pet’s ears with cool water would help it lower its overall body temperature. So long as you don’t leave its ears sopping wet, that’s not a problem.
6) Ice Shards
Tiny pieces of ice are a cooling treat. Smash up a piece of ice and put it in your chinchilla’s cage. Your pets will pick it up and gnaw on it like a snack. This will cool them down internally even more than cool water would. Even if they don’t eat the ice, it will cool down the chinchilla cage quite a lot.
Plain ice is best, not flavored with anything, even sugar.
7) Quick Water Bath
If your chinchilla is overheated to the point it may develop heat stroke, you can bathe it in cool water. This should only be done if the situation is an emergency, and only if you know what you’re doing, otherwise you could make things worse by cooling your chinchilla down too much.
You don’t want the water to be too cold. It doesn’t need to be, so you don’t need to add ice or anything like that. It just has to get your chinchilla’s temperature down to a more suitable level. A chinchilla’s core body temperature needs to be 100 degrees, but it also shouldn’t go too low. A bath of 60-70 degrees for a few minutes would cool it down enough.
Once your chinchilla is cooled down, you must dry it as soon as possible. Otherwise it would cool down too much and die from the cold, even if it’s a hot day. You should towel dry your chinchilla gently until it’s mostly dry, then blow dry it on a cool setting. Finish off by giving it a dust bath to completely wick any remaining moisture from its fur.
How to Keep a Chinchilla Cage Warm
It’s unlikely, but a chinchilla’s cage could be too cold. If it does, there are ways to warm them up. But some of them are more trouble than they’re worth…
Do You Need a Heat Lamp for a Chinchilla Cage?
A heat lamp is like a light bulb, but which is designed to give off more heat than light. Some are ceramic while others look like normal bulbs. Either way, they give off heat over a large area. Chinchillas don’t need these unless you have a very specific breeding setup.
Do You Need Heat Mats for a Chinchilla Cage?
Heat mats plug into mains electricity and sit underneath pet cages/enclosures. They provide a heat source for animal that need belly heat. These would be better than a heat lamp as the heat is local to one area, but still, your chinchilla shouldn’t need one.
How DO You Keep a Chinchilla Cage Warm?
You don’t need to keep a chinchilla cage warm. If your chinchilla’s cage is somewhere that needs to be warmed up, move it somewhere else. Any room inside a house should be fine, so long as the cage isn’t in direct sunlight or a cold draft. Basements, attics and bedrooms are all fine if the conditions are right.
Many chinchilla ranches operate in barns that aren’t connected to a house. These have dedicated systems (A/C or heating) to maintain a steady room temperature. The precise setup may vary as breeders aren’t big companies—just people who like chinchillas. You could have a thermostat that has heat lamps or heating that kicks in when temperatures are low, and A/C when it’s high. But if you’re planning on running your own ranch, we recommend talking to expert breeders first to learn everything you need to know.
Other than all that, there isn’t much you need to know. Stick to good care guidelines and monitor your pets’ health constantly to pick up on any issues before they get bad. It’s as easy as that.
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