So, you want to buy a chinchilla, and you need to buy your pet’s cage. But how big does the cage need to be? And what happens if your chinchilla’s cage is too small?
How big should a chinchilla cage be? The minimum cage size for a chinchilal we recommend is 3ft by 2ft by 2ft. It can be either 3ft tall or 3ft wide/deep—your chinchilla will be happy either way. This is much more room than other small pets require, as chinchillas live in the wide open and rocky Andes. There is no maximum size, as long as the platforms and second/third levels in the cage are installed safely. Chinchilla pairs require slightly more space, e.g. a 3ft by 3ft by 2ft cage.
The guide below first looks at whether and why chinchillas need big cages to live in. It will then make general recommendations on how tall, how deep and how wide your chinchilla enclosure should be—how big it needs to be for your pet to thrive. We’ll also address whether a chinchilla cage can be too big as well as too small, and how much more room two chinchillas need than one… In short, everything you need to know about chinchilla cage sizes!
Do Chinchillas Need Big Cages?
Chinchillas need surprisingly big cages. You may have previous experience with small pets like hamsters or other rodents, and think that you can get away with giving them small cages; but in reality, rodents thrive in large cages with lots of space.
Can Chinchillas Live in Hamster Cages?
A hamster cage is far, far too small for a chinchilla. Your chinchilla caging needs to be bigger so that your pet can hop around in a space that simulates its natural environment.
This is a common mistake that new owners make. They may have had hamsters or similar small pets in the past, and assume that care guidelines which people use for other pets will apply to chinchillas too. Well, in reality, hamster cages are too small even for hamsters, which would benefit from much bigger enclosures. It therefore stands to reason that chinchillas, which are bigger than hamsters, can’t fit in these cages either.
Besides that, hamster cages are typically made from plastic. They often have a plastic base, plastic platforms, plastic tubes and so on inside. Chins shouldn’t live in cages with plastic inside because they’ll chew it, and it can cause serious health issues (gastrointestinal stasis).
Why Do Chinchillas Need Big Cages?
Chinchillas live in the rocky Andes Mountains. These mountains stretch all the way from the southern tip of South America, up the western coast, all the way to Central America (near Mexico). They are tall, dry and cold, and your chinchilla has adapted to them in many ways. To forage for foood or access shelter, your chinchilla clambers and leaps from one rock to the next, sometimes at a steep angle. Your chinchilla is so used to living like this that if it lives in a cage with only one level, or that’s too narrow or shallow, it will be more stressed and less happy.
Besides that, people tend to underestimate how much space pets need in a general sense. Hamster cages are too small for hamsters, let alone chinchillas, and the bigger your pet’s cage is the happier it will probably be. Until now, the size of a pet’s cage has been determined less by its needs and more by the room or house it’s kept in; but that’s not the way it should be. Your pet’s needs should always come first.
How Big Should a Chinchilla Cage Be?
Your chinchilla’s cage should be bigger than you think.
People underestimate by far the required cage size of rodents like chinchillas, mice, rats, guinea pigs and hamsters. We think that just because they’re small, they’ll be happy in cages the size, to them, of small rooms. But that’s not true. These animals aren’t domesticated in the same way that other pets are, and would much rather be in wide open spaces. It’s your job to make a compromise: having a large cage for your pet, and allowing it time outside that cage on a regular basis, so that your chinchilla won’t be unhappy.
General Chinchilla Cage Size Requirements
Owners disagree on an exact minimum size for a chinchilla cage. Some owners say 2ft by 2ft by 2ft. Others afford a little more space, and say 3ft by 2ft by 2ft (whether the 3ft is width or height doesn’t matter, so long as the chinchilla has a little extra space). We recommend 3ft by 2ft by 2ft, as chinchillas thrive in environments that better simulate their natural habitat.
If you can’t picture a three-foot cage, measure it with reference to your own body. If you’re six foot tall, then it would come up to about your waist or bellybutton if it’s three foot tall. Or, if you can, take a tape measure and measure out a three foot space. You’ll have to do this anyway, so you can figure out where your chinchilla’s cage is going to go!
1) How Tall Should a Chinchilla Cage Be?
This is another point of disagreement among owners. Chinchillas clearly enjoy having tall cages, particularly if you put lots of platforms in there for them to jump on. But at the same time, the taller the cage, the more likely your pet will fall and hurt itself. As such, there’s a balance for you to strike between size and safety.
Some owners recommend a minimum of two feet tall. This is a nice compromise, as it allows you to fit a few platforms into the cage, without making it too dangerous for your pet. That being said, even a two-foot-tall cage can still be dangerous. Chinchillas can jump from five feet in the air without hurting themselves, but if they fall unexpectedly, they can hurt themselves from as little as two feet. You therefore shouldn’t assume that your pet is perfectly safe just because it has a shorter cage.
If you do opt for a taller cage—and many owners do—then you have to set it up in such a way that it minimizes the risk to your pet. Don’t have the platforms too far apart; so, for example, don’t put the first platform at three feet up the side of the cage. This would mean your chinchilla has to make a three feet jump each time it wants to access it, and it’s possible it will miss the jump sooner or later. Rather, have the platforms graduated up the side of the cage almost like stairs. A one foot gap between platforms is fine. This is much easier for your chinchilla, but still meets its needs.
There isn’t a maximum height for your chinchilla cage. So long as you set it up to minimize the risk to your pet, it can be as tall as the ceiling. If you are planning on setting up a tall cage—one that’s six foot tall, or up to the ceiling—we recommend talking to experienced owners or custom cage manufacturers about your needs. That way you can be sure that your pet is safe.
Why Do Chinchillas Need Such Tall Cages?
Chinchillas enjoy tall cages because they better simulate how chins live in the wild. Height is particularly important because chinchillas love leaping and jumping, and that’s only possible in a caged environment if you install platforms. There’s no room to install platforms in a cage that’s, say, only a foot tall.
2) How Wide Should a Chinchilla Cage Be?
Your chinchilla’s cage should ideally be between two and three feet wide.
This is the minimum cage width you should provide. There is no maximum size that applies, just like there’s no minimum height. But in this case, there’s also no risk with regard to having a very wide cage. While a twenty-foot-tall cage could be dangerous if your chinchilla fell from a height, a twenty-foot-wide cage is no more dangerous than a three-feet-wide one. If anything, it’s safer to have a wider cage if you have a chinchilla pair, because they won’t feel as hemmed in together. If they ever do fall out, they can effectively separate while living in the same cage.
But, of course, there’s likely no way you can offer your pet a twenty-foot-wide cage! As such, the effective maximum width is however wide your room is.
What’s More Important for a Chinchilla Cage: Width or Height?
We would say they’re equally important. Your chinchilla will be unhappy if its cage is too small either way.
Height is always impotant. Your chinchilla won’t thrive in a cage with just one level. It needs to hop and jump to be happy. You can’t put platforms in a short cage, so it has to be at least a couple of feet.
But at the same time, having a cage without enough floor space will make your chinchilla feel hemmed in and cramped. That effect is made even worse when there are two chinchillas in the cage together. As such, your chinchilla’s cage has to be both deep and wide to be suitable.
3) How Deep Should a Chinchilla Cage Be?
In this context, ‘deep’ means how big the cage is from front to back.
There’s no point having a cage that’s very tall and very wide, but is only, say, 1ft deep. That’s because your chinchilla’s won’t have much floor space to live in, despite the height and width of the cage. If one chinchilla had to get past another, they would get in each others’ way; the same applies to anything on the floor of the cage, which would get in the way of your chinchilla/s. That’s why your chinchilla’s cage should be about as deep as it is wide, and at least two feet. This gives a nice square area more like a room than a hallway!
4) How Much Floor Space Do Chinchillas Need?
Floor space is a product of the depth and width of the cage. So, say for example that your chinchilla’s cage is 3ft wide by 3ft deep; it therefore has 9 square foot of floorspace. That would be enough for either one or two chinchillas.
You can then add to the floor space by having more than one level in the cage. In doing so, you can almost double the floor space in the cage. This gives your pets more room for hides, toys and other cage accessories that will provide them with stimulation.
Can Chinchilla Cages Be Too Small?
Yes. Obviously. But the real question is what happens if a chinchilla’s cage is too small?
In the wild, chinchillas live in burrows and rock crevices. These are like their tiny little homes that they share with family or other groupings. So they’re used to being in small spaces.
But that doesn’t mean your pet will want to be in a small space all the time. Wild chinchillas come out of their hidey-holes to forage and play, or to find another hiding place if necessary. The hide in your chinchilla’s cage acts like one of these burrows, but if the space outside this hide is too small, your chinchilla will feel stressed. Plus, if there’s more than one chinchilla, they’ll fight if kept in cramped conditions.
Can Chinchilla Cages Be Too Big?
It’s not possible for a chinchilla cage be too big. What is possible is for a cage to be unsafe due to its size, but this problem can be prevented.
The first thing to note is that there’s no limit on the width and depth of your chinchilla’s cage other than the size of your room. A 10ft wide cage is no more dangerous than a 2ft wide cage, and your chinchilla will enjoy it significantly more. Similarly, a 10ft deep cage is just as safe as one that’s 2ft deep. But a 10ft tall may be more dangerous, since when your chinchilla is playing up high, it could fall.
That being said, a cage can be set up to be perfectly safe. For example, you could have regular platforms that are only a foot or so apart in height, and which lead to a flat second level of the cage. This second level is broad and wide, and covers much of the overall floor space of the cage; areas that the second level doesn’t cover are secured with netting. Similar platforms then lead up to a similar third level. There’s no reason that this very tall cage is dangerous in a way that a shorter cage is not.
What you may find rather than this extra large cage being unsafe, is that there’s no need for it to be so big. Your chinchilla likely wouldn’t enjoy a 10ft wide cage any more than an 8ft wide one; but it would enjoy each of these more than a 2ft wide one. This idea of diminishing returns similarly applies to the height of the cage. So long as the cage can fit all the chinchilla’s toys, platforms and cage mates then it’s essentially optimal as it is. And if your chin ever needs extra space, you can chin-proof your room instead!
How Many Chinchillas Can Share a Cage?
Most people keep their chinchillas in pairs or alone. But it is possible to have more than two chinchillas per cage.
In the wild, chinchillas live in large overall groups formed of family units (sort of like we do!) These small groups are based on family: the mother and father have a kit, or several kits, and look after them until they’re old enough to live on their own. This small family may live in the same burrow as other chinchillas, and in the same area as many more. Or, at least, that’s how it used to be—there are far fewer chinchillas than in the past, and it seems that they live in smaller groups now.
Either way, this means that many chinchillas can share a cage. Three, four or more can all live together if they are bonded and, therefore, friendly. It’s easiest to make these groups from existing family units. So, if there are four same-sex chinchillas which are siblings that know each other, you could keep them in the same cage.
The problem is that these groups fall apart easily. Two chinchillas that form a pair can fall apart even if they were once the best of friends. If you have four chinchillas in the same cage, that means there are lots more opportunities for one of them to fall out with another. When that happens, you’ll have to separate the pair that don’t like each other, or they’ll continue fighting.
As such, we recommend that new owners only keep single chinchillas or chinchilla pairs. This is far easier than keeping groups.
How Big Should a Chinchilla Cage Be for a Pair?
Chinchilla pairs need more space than solitary chinchillas. If they don’t have enough room, there’s more chance that they’ll fight, whether that’s over food, water, chew toys or something else. We recommend adding at least one square foot of floorspace per extra chinchilla.
So, take a regular 3x2x2ft cage which would be suitable for a solitary chin. If you want to add another, we would recommend getting a 3×2.5x2ft cage instead. That upgrades the floorspace from 6 sq. ft to 7.5 sq ft. This will ensure that the two chinchillas don’t feel crammed together, which will hopefully deter them from fighting.
If you don’t have enough room for a large chinchilla cage in your home, we don’t recommend taking shortcuts or making compromises. That’s because there are lots of pets which a) thrive alone, and b) can live in much smaller spaces. It’s not fair on your pet to keep it in an unsuitable cage just because it’s what you want.
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