Picking out a new pet chinchilla is exciting. When you do, you may wonder whether male or female chinchillas make better pets.
Do male or female chinchillas make better pets? They are largely the same, although females can be more territorial and males friendlier/more playful. Females are also bigger than males. Males can have hair rings, a medical condition which doesn’t affect females; but females can spray urine. So, both males and females have advantages.
What matters far more than sex is the individual temperament of the chinchilla. So, you should check this by spending time around it before buying, whether it’s male or female.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas Better?
There is no one answer as to whether male or female chinchillas are better. Owners can prefer one over the other; however, this is down to personal experience.
What can happen is that an owner has a male or female chin which is highly territorial and dislikes handling. The owner will then presume that males or females are ‘better’. Other owners think that males are more playful, for example, which can be either a positive or a negative.
Below is a table outlining the differences between male and female chinchillas. Whether these points mean that you prefer males or females is up to you.
|Quality||Description||Male vs Female Chinchillas|
|Ease of Care||Males and females need the same food, water, attention, medical care etc. The only difference is that males can get ‘hair rings’, a medical issue that doesn’t affect females.||Females|
|Size||Females are larger and weigh more than males, although sex is not the only determinant of size||Depends on viewpoint|
|Handling||Both male and female chinchillas are nervous when handled||Neither|
|Territoriality||Are male chinchillas aggressive? It’s actually females which are more territorial||Males|
|Sociability||Both males and females require cage-mates as they are social animals||Neither|
|Playfulness||Males can be more playful, as they’re less territorial||Depends on viewpoint|
|Intelligence||Neither males nor females are more intelligent than the other||Neither|
|Cleanliness||Males and females are both cleaner than other pets, although females spray urine when frightened or threatened||Males|
As the table above shows. there are hardly any differences between male and female chinchillas. The fact that they’re so alike, even in appearance, is what leads novice owners and pet shop owners to mis-sex chinchillas, i.e. misidentify a chinchilla’s real sex.
But after reading the detailed guide below, you might prefer one over the other…
Are Male or Female Chinchillas Easier to Care For?
There is no difference between caring for a male chinchilla and caring for a female chinchilla. They require the same foods, the same temperature and humidity settings, the same playtime and attention as each other.
One key difference is that some people have their male chinchillas neutered. It is possible to spay a female, although this is more dangerous to the pet than neutering.
However, that isn’t necessary if you are keeping two males or two females together. In doing so, you entirely preclude the possibility of one becoming pregnant anyway. That’s why most owners don’t bother having their male chinchillas neutered.
One sex-specific issue which affects males is hair rings. This can occur after your male mates with another chinchilla. It can get a small amount of hair stuck in the foreskin of its penis which can cause serious complications, particularly inability to mate. You must check for hair rings frequently to prevent them, and they do not exclusively occur after sexual intercourse. A vet can help with this, although experienced owners remove them on their own.
Which is better? Neither, unless the idea of checking for or correcting hair rings is a major issue for you; in which case, females.
Are Male Chinchillas Bigger than Females?
In many species, the male is larger than the female. But in all chinchilla species, the female is larger than the male.
- Long-tailed chinchillas weigh between 370 and 490g
- Short-tailed chinchillas weigh between 1.1kg and 1.4kg (one kg is 1000grams, so short-tailed chinchillas are heavier)
- Females approach the heavier end of these scales, while males approach the lighter end
Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective. If you want a larger chinchilla, then a female is a good choice; while if you want a smaller chinchilla, a male is a better choice.
Weight/size also depends on diet. A full and suitable diet during development will make the chinchilla grow to its full potential. So, this issue isn’t only related to sex.
Which is better? This depends on whether you want a large or small chinchilla.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas Better for Handling?
This is because chinchillas are delicate animals. They have a flexible and weak ribcage made mostly of cartilage. Holding them around their middles can press the ribcage into the internal organs, causing pain and, potentially, severe injury. Chinchillas know this and so avoid being handled where possible.
You can teach chinchillas to permit handling if you train them over time. But whether the training will stick, and how quickly it can be done, is not related to the sex of your pet.
Which is better? Neither.
Are Male Chinchillas More Territorial than Females?
This is one area in which there is a difference between males and females. Females are more territorial than males. This is due to the social structure displayed by wild chinchillas.
Chinchillas live in ‘herds’ in the wild, often of more than a dozen animals, and sometimes up to a hundred. Females are the cores of these groups. Adult males are the ones who go from one group to another trying to find mates.
This means that it’s the females which are more territorial. Males can flit from group to group as they please, while females have to protect the territory they find food in.
This behavior can be seen to an extent in captivity, too. Females can be more territorial over food, water bottles and hides, while males are nicer. This issue is made worse because females are bigger than males. There are frequent exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally true.
But being territorial isn’t only related to sex. It’s related to these three factors as well:
- Whether there is enough room in the cage for all the chinchillas
- Whether the chinchillas have to fight over food, e.g. if there is a lack of it
- How the chinchilla was raised, e.g. if it is a rescue that was neglected when growing up
Each of these things can cause stress. Stress, in turn, makes a chinchilla more protective of itself and its things.
Which is better? Males.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas More Social?
All pet chinchillas should be kept with cage-mates, so none should be kept alone. That’s because all chinchillas are naturally sociable: as stated above, they live in herds.
This applies both to males and females, even though females are more territorial. If your female pair are having issues with being territorial, the problem is likely that the cage is too small, or they aren’t getting enough food, rather than their natural territorial instincts being too strong.
Which is better? Neither.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas More Playful?
With females being more territorial, it is also possible that males are more playful. As the females are more concerned with protecting what’s ‘theirs’, they can take playfighting more seriously. Nevertheless, both males and females playfight with each other.
Owners also report that males are more playful and excitable with them than females. Again, this isn’t a hard and fast rule; your female may be more playful than your male. But it’s generally this way round rather than the other.
Which is better? This depends on whether you want a playful chinchilla or not.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas More Intelligent?
Both male and female chinchillas are intelligent, or at least more intelligent than other rodents. Chinchillas can be taught to:
- Go to the toilet in a specific part of the cage, i.e. potty training
- Perform basic tricks like rolling over or sitting up
- Respond to particular voice commands, e.g. to return to the cage
- Come to you (heel)
Neither males nor females are more intelligent. They can both learn these tricks. Males may perhaps have the edge as they’re slightly more playful, although owners don’t report a significant difference.
Which is better? Neither.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas Cleaner?
Chinchillas are clean animals. They smell far less than other rodents for several reasons:
- Chinchillas take dust baths to keep their fur free of grease and bacteria. Good chinchilla owners allow their pets to bathe frequently.
- Chinchillas groom frequently. They barber their own fur and the fur of their cage-mates.
- Chinchilla fur is so thick that it repels parasites. Fleas, ticks and mites can’t get through the thick fur to a chinchilla’s skin, so won’t infest your pet.
- Chinchillas produce dry rather than wet poop. As it’s dry, it smells less and doesn’t get the cage messy.
The only way in which males and females are different is in spraying. Females will spray urine when threatened. This serves two purposes: it marks territory, and discourages predators. While males urinate too, females can spray a distance of several feet. The spray itself is strong, too.
This means that females can make messes of their cages more easily. They can also spray urine outside of their cages. Males trickle urine rather than spraying it, which means they’re slightly cleaner overall.
Which is better? Males.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas Better Overall?
Both males and females have their advantages, so there is no one answer that every owner will agree on. So, some owners say that the idea of treating hair rings in male chinchillas puts them off. But others will say that they would rather treat hair rings than deal with females spraying urine.
If you aren’t sure which you would rather have, talk to a pet shop owner or breeder. They can tell you about their own experiences, which may help you make your decision.
You could also ask to spend some time around both male and female chinchillas at the pet store. As chinchillas are exotic pets, it’s good to spend time getting used to them before buying one anyway.
What matters far more than the sex of your pet is it’s temperament. All chinchillas have personalities: some are much more playful, standoffish, aggressive or averse to handling than others.
This can be because of the chinchilla’s early experiences with people, but it can also be for no reason. So, spend time with the chinchilla you plan on buying before buying it to see whether it has the right personality for you, rather than only thinking of its sex.
Can Male and Female Chinchillas Be Kept Together?
Keeping a male and female chinchilla in the same cage is fine, provided that you know what to expect. A male and a female chinchilla kept together will begin mating eventually, and in so doing, produce offspring. If you want to keep an unneutered male and a female together, you must be prepared for this.
Pregnancy can be difficult to detect, so for a novice owner the first thing they may notice is when the kits are born. This leaves them entirely unprepared either to assist the mother in recuperating, or assist the kit/s in developing.
Most owners keep same-sex groups, i.e. two or more males or two or more females. This prevents the problems described above. You can also keep a neutered male with a female to prevent offspring.
As for how they get along, there is no problem with keeping a male and a female together. They get along just fine. The only issue is potential offspring.
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