A chinchilla’s fur is what makes it unique. To keep that fur in top condition, you’d assume that they shed. But do they shed like other animals do, or differently?
Do chinchillas shed fur? They do, and it’s known as ‘priming’. Regular shedding every three months keeps your chinchilla’s fur coat clean. You can assist shedding by grooming your chinchilla with a specially-made brush. Another phenomenon known as ‘fur slip’ results in small lost tufts, even bald patches, after rough handling. Chinchilla fur does grow back.
Our guide below covers every reason why you might see your chinchilla shedding fur, from fighting to barbering, from parasites to fur slip after handling. So, read on if you want to find out what the problem is and how to prevent it!
Do Chinchillas Shed?
Chinchillas do shed, but chinchilla fur coming out is called ‘priming’ by experienced chinchilla owners. It may also be referenced as ‘blowing’, as in My chinchilla is blowing its old coat!, or you might have heard the term ‘chinchilla fur drop’. These all refer to the same thing.
This occurs roughly every three to four months. It’s where the chinchilla grows a new coat and gradually gets rid of the old one. This isn’t done all at once, so it results in frequent small amounts of fur being shed. Priming can be triggered by temperature changes.
You can tell when a chinchilla is priming because it has a noticeable line along its back. Fur is first shed near the head, and later on near the tail.
This is especially obvious as more fur is shed. The line then runs from one side of its head, along the side of its body, towards the tail. It then curves up and runs towards the other side of the head. This looks like a horseshoe shape that’s immediately noticeable when you look at your chinchilla from behind. This is called a priming line.
Other chinchillas, particularly with thicker fur, don’t shed like this. Instead, they shed in tufts all over their body, seemingly all at once. These tufts stick out before falling out. Some chinchillas seem to combine both methods of shedding. The precise way in which your chinchilla sheds its fur isn’t an issue.
How Often Do Chinchillas Shed?
As stated above, chinchillas shed every three or four months. This cycle will continue throughout the chinchilla’s whole life. A chinchilla’s first shed will occur when it’s between five months and eight months of age.
Shedding occurs in a frequent cycle. That’s because chinchillas can take a couple of months to fully shed their coats. By the time they’re done shedding, it may not be long before they have to start again. Chinchillas do not solely shed before summer; they shed all year long.
Breeders who attend chinchilla shows refer the period in which a chinchilla’s fur is done shedding, and before the next priming process begins, as being in prime. This is the period during which the chinchilla’s fur looks the nicest, so naturally, show entrants want their chinchillas to be in prime for a show.
How Long Do Chinchillas Take to Shed?
Chinchillas can take a couple of months to shed. Typically there’s a week where shedding is the heaviest. This is preceded and followed by periods of light shedding.
Sometimes, it may seem like your chinchilla sheds all of its fur at once in tufts. However, that’s not what’s really happening. Clumps of dead fur are shed, i.e. they die and are let loose. But because a chinchilla’s fur is so thick, they can’t get out of your pet’s coat. If you don’t pay close attention, these clumps can build up, and it looks like it’s shedding all of its fur at once.
Why Is My Chinchilla Shedding?
Shedding serves several important purposes. One is to maintain the condition of the fur. In the wild, a chinchilla’s fur could easily get tangled, matted and dirty. By shedding regularly, a chinchilla prevents these issues.
Fur also gets thinner over time as hairs are lost: whether from vigorous bathing, fighting, or parasites. It’s therefore necessary to continually replenish the coat with new fur. Otherwise, a chinchilla would be entirely bald before its fifth birthday!
The coat can also be made more suitable for the season. A less dense coat suits a warmer season, while a thicker coat suits a colder season. This is reflected by the fact that priming can be triggered slightly early by temperature changes. It can also be delayed by cold weather, as this keeps more fur in your chinchilla’s coat for longer.
Either way, your chinchilla after shedding will have lovely, lustrous fur. That’s why breeders want their animals to be ‘in prime’ on time for a show!
Do Chinchillas Shed Whiskers?
Chinchillas can shed their whiskers as they might shed any hair.
Whiskers are nothing but regular hairs, except lots thicker. They’re made from keratin like normal hairs, and grow from follicles like normal hairs. They have more nerve endings at their bases, so they’re more sensitive to touch, which is the purpose of a whisker. But like any other hair they can be pulled out or fall out of their own accord.
This isn’t a major problem, as they’ll grow back eventually. It doesn’t hurt for them to fall out, and your chinchilla still has its other whiskers to use in the meantime.
Do Chinchillas Shed When They Are Scared?
In a sense, they do; but in a sense, they don’t.
A chinchilla won’t shed any fur if you make a sudden loud noise. It won’t shed if it sees something that it thinks is a predator. But what it will do is shed fur if you grab it and pick it up without any warning. This phenomenon is known as fur slip, and it’s actually a defense mechanism that chinchillas developed in the wild.
What Is Fur Slip in Chinchillas?
Fur slip refers to how chinchillas shed a small amount of fur when they’re grabbed. If you’ve ever noticed your chinchilla shedding after handling, this is why. The amount of fur that comes out can range from hardly any to a large clump that leaves a bald patch behind.
This is an adaptation that chinchillas developed to get away from predators that catch them. A predator can bite or grab hold of a chinchilla’s fur to try and catch it; but if the chinchilla’s fur comes loose, it can then get away.
How sensitive a chinchilla is to fur slip varies. Some chinchillas will shed no matter who handles them, or for how long they’re handled. Even if the chinchilla is perfectly happy and calm in your hands, it will leave you covered in fur. Other chinchillas will only fur slip if they are extremely stressed, e.g. if they’re held by someone they don’t like.
What Causes Fur Slip in Chinchillas?
Fur slip is caused by rough handling. The chinchilla might not think you’re going to eat it. But you could accidentally pick up your chinchilla in a way that makes it uncomfortable. When it tries to get away, some of its fur could come loose. Or, if you picked your chinchilla up roughly, this would have the same effect.
As for other causes of fur slip, it can be triggered by fights between chinchillas. Chinchillas that aren’t introduced properly, or suddenly fall out, can fight viciously. You may also notice blood in your chinchilla’s cage alongside small tufts of fur.
Chinchillas can also shed their fur/fur slip during regular activity. Chinchillas love to get excited and run and jump around the room when they’re let loose from their cages. Some owners report that they will leave behind fur any time they bump into something. Similarly, a chinchilla can fur slip from rubbing itself against the bars of its cage.
Why Is My Chinchilla Going Bald?
For a chinchilla excessive shedding combined with fur slip and/or health issues can cause bald spots in a chinchilla’s coat. This is commonly seen in rescue chinchillas that were neglected.
If you mishandled your chinchilla for long enough, it could lose a lot of fur through fur slip. Fur takes time to grow back, but only a moment to lose through fur slip, so this could result in small bald patches.
But if your chinchilla has large bald patches, it’s likely that there’s something else happening too. Contrary to popular belief, chinchillas can get various parasites, like mites or fleas. They are much less common than in other pets, but they can infest your chinchilla’s fur. They cause itchy bite marks which your chinchilla scratches, causing large bald spots. Other causes of bald spots include:
- Dominance issues. Dominant chinchillas will ‘barber’ their cage-mates’ fur. They chew on it and tug it out. If the dominant chinchilla keeps doing this, it causes bald patches.
- Stress and anxiety. Chinchillas can chew their fur if they get stressed. If they focus on one place, it causes a bald spot.
- Old age. Chinchilla fur gets thinner as the animal ages.
Talk to a vet to try and determine what the problem is.
How to Stop Chinchilla Fur Slip
The easiest way to stop your chinchilla shedding each time you handle it is to limit how much you handle it! Your chinchilla may find the experience stressful, so you should respect its wishes and not handle it so much.
You can also gain its trust over time and that may reduce occurrence in the future. This is done by spending non-stressful time with your pet. You can start by sitting next to its cage for brief periods for it to get used to you. You then gradually progress towards handling. But remember, some chinchillas don’t like handling, no matter how much you try to bond with them.
If the fur slip is occurring because of your chinchillas fighting, you should separate them. Chinchillas are social, but their fights can get out of hand, causing severe injuries or even death. As such, place one of the chinchillas in a cage of its own with everything it needs (hay rack, water bottle, platforms etc.)
How to Help a Chinchilla Shed
Regular dust baths will also reduce the amount of loose fur in your chinchilla’s coat. As the chinchilla rolls around in the dust, loose hairs come flying free.
You can also groom your chinchilla occasionally. This won’t stop fur slip, but it will get rid of any loose fur in your chinchilla’s fur coat. This will reduce the overall amount of fur shed through handling/fur slip.
As you groom your pet, give it a chew toy to distract it. Some owners are of the opinion that no chinchilla enjoys being groomed. We recommend that if your chinchilla seems stressed or unhappy, or it starts squealing or squeaking, you don’t attempt grooming it. But other chinchillas seem to tolerate it better and it doesn’t stress them out.
If your chinchilla doesn’t like the brush, as many don’t, you can groom your pet by hand. Wet your hand and dry it off, but leave it slightly damp. Then, run your hand over your chinchilla’s back. This will pick up lots of the loose hairs quickly and painlessly.
Use a Chinchilla Shedding Brush
Chinchilla grooming brushes are different to normal brushes. They have teeth that are very close together. This helps the brush pick apart the chinchilla’s dense fur. You can see what one looks like in the image in this section. You can also use a flea comb for this purpose; if you have a greyhound brush, these may be suitable too.
These brushes are typically used by breeders and chinchilla show participants. You can’t get them at regular pet stores. Instead, you have to buy them from specialist shops.
Does Chinchilla Fur Grow Back?
Chinchilla fur will always grow back after fur slip or shedding. Despite their fur being much denser, it grows in the same way that other animals’ does. Chinchillas have follicles that produce hairs, which start out short, but get longer. Eventually the hair drops out, is pulled out, or is damaged. It will then be replaced.
This makes sense if you think about it. A chinchilla’s coat is vital for its survival in the wild. If chinchillas couldn’t regrow their fur once they lose some, they would quickly die out.
The only exception is if your chinchilla’s skin is damaged in some way. If your chinchilla had a large burn on its skin, for example, then no fur would grow back there. But most small wounds don’t result in noticeable bald patches because the fur is so dense that it covers up the hairless area.
Chinchilla whiskers will grow back, too. It’s not uncommon to see one or two whiskers on the floor of a cage every once in a while. This can occur whether your chinchilla lives with a cage mate or on its own, so it’s not necessarily related to fighting. Your chinchilla will not be disadvantages or in pain while it waits for its whisker to grow back.
How Long Does It Take for Chinchilla Fur to Grow Back?
The chinchilla shedding process takes a couple of months. Over this time, the new fur gradually grows in. There should never be a noticeable period where the chinchilla doesn’t have any hair in the context of normal shedding.
A small bald patch caused by fur slip will take a couple of weeks to not be so obvious any more. As all hair does, it will gradually grow. It will stop being noticeable when the fur gets to about half length.