Do Chinchillas Need to Be Neutered (Or Is It Cruel…?)

There are a surprising number of controversial topics in chinchilla ownership. Neutering/castration and spaying is one of them. While it’s not unusual for other pets to be neutered, most chinchilla owners say it’s wrong.

So what’s the reality behind the debate?

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There are a surprising number of controversial topics in chinchilla care. Neutering/castration and spaying is one of them. While it’s not unusual for other pets to be neutered, most chinchilla owners say it’s wrong.

Do you neuter chinchillas? Ideally no, as the procedure can cause severe complications. A male chinchilla’s testes are on the inside of its body, so neutering chinchillas requires an invasive surgical procedure (as does spaying chinchillas). There is also less need, so it’s frowned on by owners.

To be clear, any decision about your chinchilla should be made between you and your vet. But there’s no strong argument for neutering, and lots of arguments against it. The comprehensive guide below will help you decide.

Should Chinchillas Be Neutered?

There are arguments for and against neutering a chinchilla, although the position of this site is that it’s not recommended.*

To be clear for anybody who isn’t sure (what is neutering/what is spaying?). Neutering is the surgical process of removing a male pet’s testicles. Spaying is the equivalent term for female pets, which is where the ovaries are removed. The animal is given anesthetic so that it’s asleep during the procedure.

Arguments For Neutering Chinchillas

chinchilla pair
Image courtesy IStoleTheTV, CC by 2.0.

The idea behind neutering is that it stops a pet from having offspring. If you wanted to keep a male and a female chinchilla together, neutering the male and/or spaying the female is the only way to do so without them having kits.

This is important because while the idea of kits is a fun one, novice owners can underestimate how much work they are, and how likely it is that one might pass away before it reaches adulthood. Many owners have them breed thinking it will be cute for them to have babies, only to fail to prepare, and end up neglecting their pets.

So, in this scenario, it would be better if you had the male chinchilla neutered or the female chinchilla spayed. This is the argument generally given by owners. For other pets, it is arguably reason enough to neuter or spay your pets, as so many pets end up feral or in shelters.

Something else to consider is that neutering reduces aggression in male chinchillas. If you house two chinchillas together, they will likely fight occasionally. Unneutered males fight more than neutered males.

Difference Between Neutering and Spaying

Spaying is the female equivalent of neutering. Spaying chinchillas has a similar rationale: the removal of the female chinchilla’s ovaries mean that it can’t reproduce. You could hypothetically keep a spayed female with an unneutered male and they couldn’t reproduce

Why Shouldn’t You Neuter a Chinchilla?

Chinchillas, though, are completely different to other pets. Feral chinchillas aren’t a problem, and while many do end up in shelters, this isn’t as big a problem as it is with other pets. For this reason, and the ones below, most owners will tell you not to neuter your chinchilla.

Neutering Chinchillas Isn’t Safe

Neutering results in more deaths in chinchillas than it does in other animals. That’s because the procedure is more invasive (it’s almost like spaying). And because a chinchilla lives in an unclean environment even if you frequently clean its cage, its wound can easily get infected.

There Are Other Solutions

Isolation is a better prevention for aggression.

The problem that neutering fixes is that it stops a pet from having offspring. But if your male chinchilla is kept only with another male chinchilla, that’s not an issue.

Even if you think you’re housing two males, though, one might be a female that was mis-sexed (misidentified by the store or breeder as a male). The pair can then have offspring through no fault of yours. But learning how to sex chinchillas isn’t difficult, and is cheaper and safer than neutering.

Neutering can also prevent aggression. But if your male chinchilla is aggressive with your other pets, you can house it alone, or consider getting a bigger cage, or addressing an underlying issue (like stress or ill health) that can make it lash out.

Neutering Is… Strange

Pet owners are used to the idea of neutering. It’s highly recommended by charities and care organizations alike.

But while it has benefits, if you think about the process, it is unusual that it’s so readily accepted. Other ‘body modifications’ are heavily frowned upon by pet owners, such as:

  • Removing claws or sharp teeth
  • Docking (cutting) tails
  • Breeding animals to be a shape or size that’s not good for them (e.g. short nose dogs which have difficulty breathing)

While neutering does serve a purpose in reducing aggression and strays, it is nevertheless an odd thing to do to an animal. You’re chopping off part of it!

How to Tell If a Chinchilla Is Neutered

As the guide below will explore in further depth, male chinchillas’ testicles are on the inside rather than the outside. This means you can’t tell from a simple visual inspection that it has been neutered. We recommend taking your chinchilla for a checkup as soon as you adopt it, and whether it’s neutered or not is one of the things you can ask at that time.

But do chinchillas get neutered in a safe manner, if they have to be?

Can a Chinchilla Be Safely Neutered?

There are several dangers of neutering chinchillas. The core problem of neutering is that male chinchillas’ testicles are on the inside. It is possible to surgically remove them, but it requires an even-more invasive procedure than regular neutering. Besides that, there are also complications that can occur during or after surgery which could kill your pet.

The list below explores these problems. Once you’ve read through them, it should be obvious why most owners don’t consider neutering their pet chinchillas.

The Male Chinchilla’s Reproductive System

Male chinchillas do have scrotums but they don’t house the testes. You might find reference to this as an ‘incomplete’ scrotum.

Instead, the testes are located on each side of the penis inside the body. There is a tube called an epididymis which connects to the testicle, runs back towards the anus (one tube on either side), and runs towards something called the vas deferens. This is another tube which runs towards the penis. Each of the chinchilla’s testicles is surrounded by fat and muscle.

You may occasionally notice when your chinchilla exercises or gets too hot that its scrotum (to be blunt) hangs down more than usual. This is to help it cool down. But even then, its testicles remain inside its body.

This is completely unlike other mammals, most of which have testicles on the outside of the body, which makes them far easier to remove. What this means is that the procedure for neutering a chinchilla is difficult and dangerous compared to in other pets. It is possible, so chinchillas can be neutered, but it’s not as easy and results in frequent complications.

Open Castration vs. Closed Castration

There are two kinds of neutering, open and closed. Closed castration is where the wound left behind is stitched up to aid with healing.

Open castration is where an incision is made over the testicles, but rather than closing the wound, it is left open so that it can heal/drain freely. Vets can provide either open or closed castration, although open castration is dangerous as the wound is very easily infected.

Can Anesthesia Kill Chinchillas?

Image courtesy Glen Bowman, CC by 2.0.

Anesthesia is dangerous for pets and people alike, especially if the pet or person is sick/vulnerable. What’s worse is that the smaller the pet, the more dangerous it is. That’s because it’s easier to accidentally give the animal too much anesthetic.

Studies do show that anesthesia doesn’t kill a chinchilla provided it’s administered correctly. This study was performed in the 1980s, but it details how forty chinchillas were put under anesthetic, and all survived. While they had different responses to the anesthetic (e.g. time until they were fully ‘under’), each chinchilla was successfully rendered unconscious, and each survived.

The problem is if the anesthetic isn’t administered correctly. If too much is given and the chinchilla is under for too long, it could pass away. This could happen if you see an inexperienced vet.

Infections After Neutering

Neutering requires an invasive surgical operation because the testicles are on the inside of your chinchilla’s body. This operation will leave behind a wound in your pet’s groin that can get infected. In the case of open castration, this wound won’t even be sewn back up.

This is a particularly dangerous place to have an open wound. Your chinchilla will sit and lie on the cage floor, and the wound will touch fleece and bedding that may be soiled. If it does, an infection is quickly passed on. Infections in chinchillas are serious and can result in complications like sepsis, which can kill.

Chinchilla Hernias

A hernia is where part of the body pokes through the membrane or muscle that holds it in place. The intestines, for example, can poke through the abdominal wall. It’s possible for your chinchilla to experience hernias if it overexerts itself while it’s recovering.

How to Safely Neuter a Chinchilla

There will be a risk of your chinchilla passing away no matter which vet you pick, or how you care for your chinchilla after its procedure. But the chance of this happening can be lowered significantly if you make the right choices and care for your pet properly. That’s what the rest of this guide addresses.

Chinchilla Neutering Cost

The precise cost of neutering a chinchilla varies depending on several factors, but should be somewhere between $150 and $300.

The first variable is where you live and how many vets there are there. If you’re fortunate enough to live near a cheap vet, it will cost less. Bear in mind that you may not want to see the cheapest vet, as they may not be reliable.

The second factor is what’s included in the cost. For neutering, the vet will charge for a blood test, anesthesia, the surgery itself, any post-op pain meds, and antibiotics if necessary to prevent infection in the wound. Some clinics will ask you to pay one charge to cover all of this, while another might add these costs on bit by bit.

Chinchilla Neutering Age

It’s recommended to get chinchillas neutered between the ages of six and eight months. Any younger than this and the chinchilla will be more vulnerable to anesthetic and complications.It also won’t have fully developed yet.

You can have an older chinchilla neutered, too, for example if you adopt a rescue. So long as the chinchilla is in good health, this won’t be a problem. If the chinchilla is old enough to be experiencing old age, then the procedure would be more dangerous. But this is something that varies by chinchilla, so talk to your vet to see if it’s an appropriate choice for your pet.

Picking the Right Chinchilla Vet

Finding an experienced, recommended vet to perform the procedure makes it a lot safer. That’s because they will be more used to administering anesthetic to small animals like chinchillas, and there will be less chance that the surgery will go wrong.

To find  a good chinchilla vet, rely on the advice of experienced owners and breeders. They can recommend a chinchilla vet near you.

Pre-Neutering Care for Chinchillas

You must only get your chinchilla neutered if it’s in good health. The worse your chinchilla’s health, the less likely it will survive the procedure. So, if your chinchilla is underweight or overweight, has a respiratory infection, or is unwell for some other reason, you should fix these issues before considering neutering.

You must also prepare your chinchilla for the operation. There’s no requirement that your chinchilla doesn’t eat or drink before surgery, so that’s not a problem. Try not to over-stress or excite your chinchilla before the operation.

Post-Neutering Care for Chinchillas

Don’t handle your chinchilla immediately after its operation.

Follow the steps below to reduce the risk of complications post-surgery.

  1. Ask your vet for pain relief. The surgery is painful, even more so if there are complications. Your vet may provide a course of Metacam for 7 days.
  2. Deep clean and disinfect your chinchilla’s cage. This will prevent your chinchilla’s wound getting infected during the critical period immediately after surgery.
  3. Remove opportunities for your pet to exercise. Platforms and exercise wheels, while good for a chinchilla’s health, could encourage it to reopen its wound by jumping or running. Until the wound shuts and heals, it should stay largely inactive.
  4. Do not handle your chinchilla for at least 48 hours after surgery. If you want to check the wound, try to do so by observing your pet rather than picking it up.
  5. Spot clean your chinchilla’s cage regularly. Ensure that it never has to sit in soiled bedding (as much as that’s possible).
  6. Do not offer your chinchilla dust baths until its wound is fully healed. While this may mean its fur gets oily, it would be worse for it to get dust in its wound.

*Note: this is my personal opinion as the author of the article. Any decision regarding your chinchilla’s health should ultimately be made by you and your pet’s vet.

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

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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!