Chinchillas are curious beasts, so you’re right to be worried that yours might break out of its cage! So, how can you stop them? Do you need a padlock or bolt?
Do you need a chinchilla cage lock? Cages come with prefabricated door lock latches, so you won’t need your own lock. Wire latches are easily the most common kind: these are thick metal wires firmly attached to the cage door, with hooks that can be hooked to the cage bars to close the door. If you might forget to close the door, or you have other pets in your home, consider a better lock like a padlock.
The guide below first looks at what kinds of locks you’ll find on a typical cage. Then, if you’re intent on building your own DIY chinchilla cage, we’ve also described other kinds of locks you can use. We’ve also looked at certain scenarios in which you might need to keep your pet in a more-secure-than-average cage…
Locks for Chinchilla Cages
Your chinchilla’s cage needs to be secured properly. Manufacturers aren’t stupid, so they fit their cages with locks of one kind or another. Some of these locks are more secure than others, meaning they’re suitable for certain homes but perhaps not yours, e.g. if you have other pets; and there’s greater variety in older cages and homes like hutches that may not be specifically intended for chinchillas. The guide below details each of these kinds of lock, and how secure they are.
Basic Latches (& Single Lock vs. Double Lock)
Today’s chinchilla cages typically have basic metal latches. You can see what these look like on the Quality Cage chinchilla mansion.* All the cage has is a simple latch (or pair of latches) made of medium-thickness wire. This wire is attached securely to the door, and the end of it can hook around the cage bars to the side of the door. You’ll see latches like these on most modern chinchilla cages.
These may not seem so secure, but they’re secure enough for a chinchilla cage. Chinchillas aren’t very strong, and won’t realize what the latch is anyway.
Double locks in particular are better. Chinchillas love to nibble and gnaw, so may nibble and play with the latch when you’re not around. While your pet may not know that the latch is what’s keeping it in the cage, it can do so by chance. If the chinchilla manages to break one of the latches free, the other one will still keep the door shut. This sounds silly, but it does happen!
There are tons of variations on this theme. This one from the Pets at Home store has a thicker and wider latch lock, but which points up instead of down. The thicker the latch, the better, as it’s more difficult to push open.
Twist Thumb Latch
Twist thumb latches are as basic a lock as you can get. They’re typically small pieces of wood nailed to a wooden hutch frame. You can turn the piece of wood 90 degrees and it stops the door opening from the inside. You won’t find these on modern chinchilla cages.
Padlocks/Hasp & Staple Locks
Hasp and staple locks have been common on animal cages for decades. These are the kind that have a ring on one side and a sheet of metal with a hole in it that the ring fits through. You then put a padlock through the hole in the ring to secure it.
If your cage does have a hasp and staple lock, you’ll need to use a padlock, too. That’s because it’s the padlock that keeps the door from swinging open; the hasp and staple are only there for you to fit the padlock through.
You’ll already be familiar with bolt locks. These have a ring on one side, but instead of running a hasp over it and a padlock through it, you run a bolt through it instead. The bolt has a hook at the other end that falls down over a piece of metal so it can’t be moved. These aren’t supposed to be secure; just a simple latch to keep the door from opening.
There are two kinds of bolt locks. These are brenton bolts and barrel bolts. Brenton bolts can be used in conjunction with a padlock. You can use either, but again, modern cages will be fitted with basic latches. This is therefore only really relevant if you’re building your own chinchilla cage.
Do You NEED a Lock for Your Chinchilla Cage?
Your chinchilla’s cage needs doors that shut securely. Manufacturer locks are typically more than enough to keep your pet safe, especially double latch locks. That’s why it’s rare for owners to use anything but the latches that come with the cage. However, there are certain circumstances in which more secure locks will be necessary.
Do You Need a Padlock for a Chinchilla Cage?
Padlocks aren’t necessary for chinchilla cages. Chinchillas aren’t big and strong enough to get past basic latches and bolts, so a padlock with a key seems like overkill.
The only time you might need one is if you keep your chinchilla in some kind of old-fashioned cage that was manufactured before chinchillas became common pets. Hutch-style cages might have hasp and staple locks, in which case you need to secure them with a padlock. You could also use a padlock if you built your own DIY chinchilla cage.
But as for attaching a padlock to a regular manufacturer’s chinchilla cage that already has latches, that’s hardly ever necessary.
Are You Forgetful?
Depending on their precise configuration, it can be easy to forget to shut a latch lock. Some locks, for example, engage automatically when you push the door closed. You therefore don’t have to think about them at all, so if you get distracted, you may not push the door until the lock is in place. This is especially the case with small metal locks that look just like regular cage bars.
Having a larger, more secure lock helps you remember. Take padlocks for example. When you open the cage, you have to turn the key, not just nudge the latch out of place. And when you lock the cage again, you have to put the padlock into place and physically close it with a satisfying click! If you’re forgetful, these small details help you remember.
What About If You Have Dogs?
You should definitely have a secure lock on your chinchilla’s cage if you have other pets like dogs.
While your dog might be well-behaved, all dogs are predators while all chinchillas are prey. Dogs have instincts like the prey drive, which makes them chase and kill animals that run away—and guess what a chinchilla will do if a big dog comes towards it?
Your dog won’t get through a basic latch unless it’s very vicious. The problem, rather, is what happens if you forget to fully engage the latches. If you do, then when your dog sniffs around the cage, it could poke the door open and attack your chinchillas. This can happen even if your dogs never pay your chinchillas any attention and don’t display aggressive tendencies, which is why we recommend not keeping both chinchillas and dogs.
What About If You Have Kids?
As such, if you have kids that are too young to learn how to properly care for chinchillas, you should consider a stronger lock. Basic latches on some cages are too flimsy and too easy to open to keep a toddler out. Padlocks would work better. You don’t need to fix a hasp and staple to the cage; you could just put the shackle of the padlock through the door, around the cage bars, and close it.
*Note: we do not receive commission from any manufacturer for linking to their products.