Chinchilla Tail

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Everybody poops (including your chinchilla). But how much do chinchillas poop? Do they poop on you, and is it disgusting like that of other pets?

Do chinchillas poop a lot? They do: several hundred times per day. But their poop isn’t too disgusting or inconvenient because it’s small, hard and dry. It’s healthy and normal for them to poop so much because they need to eat a lot of food. You can’t stop your chinchilla pooping on you when you handle it, or all over its cage, so you should clean up after it by sweeping it up.

The guide below answers everything you ever wanted to know about chinchilla poop… And then a little bit more besides! It covers how much chinchillas poop, why they poop so much, what chinchilla poop looks like, and how best to clean it up. Consider the guide below your one-stop-shop for all your chinchilla poop related guidance and advice!


Do Chinchillas Poop a Lot?

chinchilla poop
The tiny dollops on this platform are chinchilla poop. It’s small and well-formed, which is what it’s supposed to look like.

Chinchillas do poop an awful lot. But whereas this is a major issue with other pets, it’s not a major issue, since a chinchilla’s poop is so hard, dry and small.

If it’s healthy, your chinchilla should be pooping hundreds of times per day—and no, that’s not an exaggeration. In fact, chinchillas poop so much that owners refer to them as poop machines! Others say they poop with practically every step they take, or that if they’re breathing… They’re pooping too. The only time it stops is if it’s very sick, or very dead.

It doesn’t matter where your chinchilla is or what it’s doing, it will be pooping as it goes about its business. That includes on you, on the floor, on the floor of its cage, on the platforms in its cage… Anywhere it goes.

  • Do Chinchillas Poop as Much as Guinea Pigs? Guinea pigs and other rodents have a reputation for pooping an awful lot. Well, guess what? Chinchillas poop more than guinea pigs overall.
  • Do Chinchillas Poop More Than Rabbits? They do, but a bunny’s poop is far more inconvenient than a chinchilla’s poop. It’s not as hard, dry and compacted, which means it smells more and is more of a pain to clean up.

And of course, chinchillas poop more than other household pets like cats and dogs.

How Many Times Do Chinchillas Poop a Day?

There obviously isn’t an exact answer to this question. That’s because your chinchilla may poop slightly more or less than others, or because of slight variations in how much your pet eats. It’s also because nobody has been bothered to count! But owners think it’s somewhere around 200-300 times per day, and that’s certainly backed up by experienced owners’ anecdotal evidence.

You can see roughly how much your chinchilla is pooping by checking its cage at the end of the day.

When Do Chinchillas Poop?

chinchilla
“I’ll poop when I want!

Chinchillas poop constantly. They poop early in the day, and late at night (since they’re crepuscular, meaning they aren’t strictly nocturnal or diurnal). They poop when they’re eating, and they poop when they’re not. Yours will poop when it’s in its cage, and when you let it out. It will poop when you handle it and when you don’t.

What we’re getting at is that there isn’t a time when your chinchilla isn’t pooping. You can’t, say, handle it between the hours of 9 and 10am because that’s when it poops less—as that’s not true.

Do Chinchillas Poop on You When You’re Handling Them?

Your chinchilla may poop on you occasionally. But that’s not as big a deal as it sounds. Chinchilla poop is tiny, hard and dry, so you’ll hardly notice if you get some on you.

The reason your chinchilla might poop on you is that they poop regularly as they go about their day. They do so more freely than they pee, because they have to be careful not to get pee in their fur. Otherwise, it gets damp, and can’t get dry easily. But poop is already dry, so it won’t get stuck in the fur or make it dirty.

If your chinchilla poops on you, don’t worry. It’s not toxic, and it won’t burn through your clothes or skin like acid! Just wash your hands, as you would any time you touch anything like pet poop.

What Does Chinchilla Poop Look Like?

There are two kinds of chinchilla poop: regular poop and cecotropes. They look completely different, although you may never see your chinchilla produce cecotropes. Both kinds of poop are instantly recognizable, so there should be no difficulty assessing how much your chinchilla is pooping.

Regular Poop vs. Cecotropes

cecotropes
Image courtesy of J.F. Rabbits.

Regular poop is just poop. It’s the leftovers that your chinchilla didn’t or couldn’t digest from its food. Chinchilla poop looks like small brown grains of rice: tiny, hard, and without an obvious scent. It doesn’t smell because it’s dry.

Cecotropes, on the other hand, are a special kind of poop. They’re produced by the cecum, which is a small pouch in the intestines. They are larger than regular poop because they have more water in them, and their texture makes them stick together. They look like small bunches of grapes.

This might come as a shock to you, but chinchillas eat their cecotropes as soon as they ‘produce’ them. The point is that the cecum is great at breaking down fiber in food. But because of the location of the cecum, the majority of the energy from this process can’t be absorbed. It’s the small intestine that ingests the majority of nutrients, and the cecum is placed in the large intestine, which comes after. So rather than pushing the food back up the large intestine and into the small intestine—which isn’t physically possible—the chinchilla eats its poop so that it can absorb the nutrients that way instead.

Why Do Chinchillas Poop So Much?

Chinchillas poop so much because they eat so much. It’s as simple as that.

The chinchilla diet is almost exclusively low-energy plant matter. Similar to other grass-eating animals like cows, wild chinchillas have to spend much of their time foraging for food and eating it. The same applies to your pet, which you no doubt will have noticed spends most of the day eating or sleeping.

Because your chinchilla eats a large mass of food to get the energy it needs, it has to get rid of a comparatively large mass of food at the ‘other end’. It does this by pooping all the time.

It is possible to feed chinchillas foods that are more densely packed with energy, like nuts or seeds. But if you do, your pet won’t know that it doesn’t need to eat its hay; it will subsequently gain lots of weight.

Do Chinchillas Poop When Scared?

Chinchillas don’t poop any more or less when they’re scared.

It’s not exactly clear where this myth came from. It may be from owners who notice that their chinchilla poops more when they handle their pet, and assume that it’s because the chinchilla is overexcited, stressed or scared. But that’s not true. Chinchillas poop frequently because their guts have to handle such a large mass of food, which means that they poop when handled… And when not handled too!

Do Chinchillas Poop More When They’re Sick?

Chinchillas don’t poop more when they’re sick, either, although the consistency and size of the poop may change.

Chins can get diarrhea just like we can (although it’s rare). When this happens, your pet may poop quite a lot for a short time. The texture of the poop will also have changed, and it will be looser and smellier. But your pet won’t continue pooping more than usual for a long time.

What’s more likely, though, is that your chinchilla will poop less than it usually does when it’s sick.

Do Chinchillas Poop to Mark Territory?

Chinchillas don’t poop for any purpose other than to make room in their insides for more food!

It sort of makes sense, the idea that a chinchilla would poop to mark its territory. That’s because:

  • Chinchillas, especially females, are territorial animals. They can’t defend their territory as well as a big predator can, but they still try!
  • Chinchillas poop wherever they go, as if they’re saying ‘I was here!’ in the same way as dogs do when they pee.
  • Animals use other waste products (pee and sweat) to mark territory, so why wouldn’t they use poop?

But there are a couple of reasons why this can’t be true. The first is that wild chinchillas would be unwise to mark their territory so heavily. That’s because they’re prey animals, and predators will take any help they can get in locating their prey. If a chinchilla’s poop were any smellier, and alerted predators to their presence, that would be a bad thing indeed.

The second reason is that chinchilla poop isn’t really that smelly. When a substance is wet or damp, it allows volatile molecules to escape into the air—in other words, smells. When something is dry, fewer or none of these molecules are released, meaning it doesn’t smell as much. So, if a chinchilla wanted to mark its territory with poop, it wouldn’t make it so dry.

The third is that marking territory works because of pheromones. Pheromones are released in pee, but not in poop.

Why Is My Chinchilla Pooping Less Than It Used To?

Certain health conditions make chinchillas poop less.

Chief among these issues is gastrointestinal stasis. This is like a form of very bad constipation. If it keeps getting worse (as it will without correcting your chinchilla’s enclosure and getting it medical care), it will eventually stop your chinchilla from eating and pooping at all.

What Is Gastrointestinal Stasis?

chinchilla
GI stasis will stop your chinchilla from pooping.

Gastrointestinal stasis occurs when there’s a blockage in your chinchilla’s gut. This blockage is typically formed of something that it has gnawed on, which it shouldn’t have gnawed on—something like plastic, paper or cardboard. Your chinchilla can’t easily pass these materials, so if it continually chews on, say, cardboard that’s kept in its cage then it will eventually form a blockage.

This is a big, big problem. It means that your chinchilla can’t eat, and it can’t go to the toilet. The term ‘stasis’ means that the gut stops doing anything, either processing food or getting rid of waste. This can cause dangerous bloating, starvation and infection in the gut. It requires immediate medical assistance.

One of the symptoms of GI stasis is that your chinchilla stops pooping. If the condition is in its early stages, then your chinchilla will have to strain harder to poop, will poop less, and its poops may be a longer and smaller shape.

Other Reasons Why Chinchillas Stop Pooping

Your chinchilla may be eating less than it normally does. This will consequently mean that it poops less, too, since there’s less matter in its gut.

Chinchillas may stop eating when they have malocclusion. Malocclusion is when your chinchilla’s teeth grow too long, and don’t meet properly in the middle. Like all rodents, chinchillas have teeth that grow continually. This is an adaptation they developed to replace lost teeth, since a rodent’s teeth are so important. The sharp sides and edges of the teeth can cut into the gums, causing painful abscesses. This makes your chinchilla not want to eat.

Anorexia, a general term for not eating as much or not eating at all, is also a symptom of many other health issues. One of its consequences is that your chinchilla goes to the toilet less. If your chinchilla has malocclusion, displays anorexia or any other symptom of ill health, you should take it to the vet as soon as possible.

How to Deal With Chinchilla Poop

Since your chinchilla is supposed to poop a lot, that’s a fact you simply have to live with. There’s no dietary supplement that you can, or even should give it to make it poop less. Rather, you have to deal with the effects. There’s only one way to do that!

Spot Cleaning a Chinchilla’s Cage

chinchilla cage
Spot cleaning is as simple as sweeping up whatever’s on the cage floor, and replacing any dirty substrate.

If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen, or if you do a lot of cooking, you’ll be familiar with the idea of ‘spot cleaning’. This means cleaning as you go. So, rather than letting all the pots and pans pile up as you cook, you clean them one by one as you stop using them. This makes washing up feel like less work, because you won’t have one big pile to clean at the end.

The exact same applies to keeping your chinchilla’s cage clean. You should clean your pet’s cage every day.

But that doesn’t mean big, deep cleans. It doesn’t mean donning rubber gloves, spraying bleach everywhere, and scrubbing until you can’t feel your fingers. All it means is a quick five-minute check each day, a little sweep, and wiping up anything that needs to be wiped up.

To do this, most owners use a dustpan and brush. All you do is lean into your chinchilla’s cage, sweep up any poop or discarded hay and pellets, and dispose of them in the bin. You don’t even need to wear rubber gloves. If there’s anything else that needs tidying, like if your chinchilla’s food bowl tipped over, then you can fix that too. But there’s unlikely to be much you need to do. You could also use a dust buster (small vacuum cleaner) if your chinchilla isn’t too scared of the noise, or if you don’t have any cleaning kit, manually sweep them up with your hand!

Deep Cleaning a Chinchilla’s Cage

You can also undertake less frequent deep cleans, if you want. Deep cleaning is where you take everything out of the cage, wash them thoroughly, wash the cage thoroughly, then put everything back together. This is essential as it stops bacteria from building up in your pet’s cage. It also cleans up any poop you may have missed, e.g. that somehow got under the felt lining of the floor of the cage.

Can Chinchillas Be Trained to Poop in a Litter Tray?

Chinchillas can be trained to use a litter tray, but cannot be trained to poop in one. You can put one in your pet’s cage, but all it will use it for is peeing… Not pooping.

This stems from the chinchilla’s adaptations to the wild. The chinchilla has very thick fur, which helps it survive in the freezing Andes Mountain nights and winters. But this thick fur has a drawback: it stays wet for a long time if it comes into contact with water (or pee). This can cause hypothermia or bacterial and fungal growth.

As such, the chinchilla developed another adaptation. It learned to pee in just one corner of its burrow.


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Do chinchillas have floating ribs?

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How often should you feed your chinchilla pellets?

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

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