Every owner should know how to keep a chinchilla cage clean. Only through proper care will you stop your chinchilla’s cage smelling bad—but what does it take, and how much of a chore is it?
How do you clean a chinchilla cage? Daily spot cleaning and monthly deep cleans are best. Remove bowls and accessories to clean them when they get dirty. Check once a day for soiled bedding and replace it with fresh. This should stop smell building up over time. Most owners deep clean their chinchillas’ cages with disinfectant every 4 to 6 months.
The guide below explores everything you need to know, from how and how often to clean a chinchilla cage, to tips for making cleaning less of a chore and preventing smell buildup. So, whether you’re a clean freak or you just need to stop your chinchilla’s cage smelling, this is one post you can’t afford to miss!
Chinchilla Safe Cage Cleaner & Supplies
Cleaning your pet’s cage is an essential part of chinchilla care. Before you start cleaning, you need cage cleaner and various supplies to clean with. There are lots of different options to choose from: you can either pick something up from the store, or make one yourself. Which you choose is up to you, so long as doesn’t hurt your pet.
Here’s a brief list of chinchilla-safe sprays and cleaners, plus all the supplies you’ll need:
What do you clean a chinchilla cage with?
- Paper towels, rags and sponges. Using rags to save money is fine so long as they’re laundered and clean; otherwise, paper towels are the best choice.
- Bleach. There’s nothing better than bleach for killing germs. So long as you rinse each item you clean with bleach, it’s safe to use.
- Spray cleaner. Antibacterial sprays work well. You could also make your own at home from vinegar (more on that later!)
Pick one cleaner and stick with it. Mixing bleach with other substances can create harmful gases.
Make sure to stock up on lots of cleaning supplies—everything you need can be found on your regular grocery shop. You want to always have some to hand. Cleaning a chinchilla’s cage might be a chore, but it’s less of a chore if you don’t have to go to the shop to pick something up beforehand!
Homemade Chinchilla Cage Cleaner
You might prefer a homemade cleaner. Bleach is harsh, and the antibacterial sprays you can buy contain chemicals most people aren’t familiar with.
A good rule of thumb is that if it’s safe to use around your family, it’s safe to use around chinchillas. And in the same way that you would rinse off soap before serving food on a plate, you want to properly rinse off your chinchilla’s cage accessories before putting them back too. If you do that, regular cleaners won’t cause your pet any harm.
But if you’re the DIY type and are dead-set on making your own cleaner, you have lots of options:
- Cleaning chinchilla cage with vinegar. Vinegar is antibacterial. Mix it 50/50 with water or your home will stink of vinegar.
- Using lemon instead. Lemon has much the same effect as vinegar, with the added effect that it smells nicer.
If you do want to use a homemade spray, do your research first. Make sure you pick one that has a real and demonstrated antibacterial effect. Otherwise, your chinchilla could get eye or ear infections that can turn deadly (because of sepsis).
How Do You Clean a Chinchilla Cage?
If you like to cook, you’ll be familiar with the idea of cleaning as you go. If you aren’t, this means cleaning up bit by bit as you make a mess, rather than leaving it all to wash up in one big go. The same idea applies to cleaning a chinchilla’s cage.
If you check on your chinchilla’s cage frequently, there will likely be something you need to clean, be it a wet fleece lining, a wet platform, a dirty water bottle or some poop you have to get rid of. This is known as ‘spot cleaning’ when it relates to caring for pets.
There are also jobs you’ll have to do less frequently. This is known as deep cleaning. This involves thoroughly scrubbing the cage to get rid of bacteria, viruses and parasites that might have made their home there. It also involves taking everything out, cleaning it, and putting it back once the cage itself is clean. Deep cleans don’t have to be done that often.
How Often Should I Clean My Chinchilla’s Cage?
Checking and cleaning your chinchilla cage every day is optimal. As stated above, that doesn’t mean spending an hour thoroughly scrubbing the cage every evening. Rather, if you get a little bit of the job done every day, it should take no more than ten to fifteen minutes.
Deep cleans can be done anywhere between each month and every six months. You can do them more frequently than every month, if you like. There’s no downside to that. Just don’t leave it longer than six months.
Daily Chinchilla Cage Cleaning
You’ll only need to spend five or ten minutes a day checking and cleaning your chinchilla’s cage. That’s far better than doing a big, deep clean that takes an hour every other weekend. It’ll also mean you’ll never notice your chinchilla cage stinks—which is good both for you and your pets.
With all that in mind, here are the most common jobs you’ll have to do. You won’t have to do these every day, but these are the things you should check that need doing.
Cleaning Bowls and Bottles
Chinchillas should have a hay rack for their hay, and a separate food bowl for any snacks you give them. You can begin by taking these out and cleaning them.
The hay rack shouldn’t need to be cleaned. If it’s attached to the side of the cage, it won’t be urinated on or defecated on. Give it a wipe down with a cloth to get rid of any bits of hay. If it’s dirty, clean it with soap and water and allow it to dry. The snack bowl may be dirtier, depending on what was in it, so wsh that like a dish.
Do you need to clean a chinchilla’s water bottles? Yes, but this is something you only need to do on rare occasions. The outside of the water bottle won’t get too dirty as it’s either on the outside of the cage, or not somewhere your chinchilla can pee on. But what will get dirty over time is the spout of the bottle.
This will harbor bacteria. It’s like if you drank from the same cup for days on end without cleaning it. Even if all it had in it was water, it would get dirty eventually. Ideally, you want to prevent bacteria buildup in your pet’s cage because bacteria cause infections, and infections make small scratches or cuts worse than they need to be.
This is a small job that will only take a few minutes. Take the water bottle from the cage and wash both it and the spout with soapy water. Rinse it thoroughly and leave it to dry. Alternatively, you could wash it in the dishwasher. If you do, this will take a while, so replace it with a spare bottle for the time being.
If the rest of the cage is clean enough, replace the hay rack, bowl and bottle. If it’s still dirty, clean everything else first.
Sweeping Up Poop
Chinchillas are poop machines. They poop as they go about their business of the day, be that snacking, exercising, or playing outside of the cage.
This isn’t a major problem because chinchilla poop doesn’t smell too bad. Chinchilla poop is dry because wild chinchillas live in a place where there isn’t much water, so they conserve it instead of ‘wasting’ it. But despite this, it’s still good to keep on top of cleaning and sweep up any poop at the end of each day.
Begin by sweeping the platforms and hammocks at the top of the cage. You can sweep the poop onto the fleece liner of the cage to pick it up all at once if you want. You can use a brush, a rag, a vacuum cleaner—anything you like.
If you notice that there isn’t much poop, then you don’t need to sweep up the one or two bits that you see. The goal is to provide a suitable environment for your pets, and two small poops won’t ruin your chinchilla’s cage or make it stink.
Sweeping Up Hay
Some chinchillas have bad eating habits. They take a piece of hay from the rack, nibble on the end of it, and throw it away. Then rather than carrying on eating the same piece of hay, the next time they’re hungry, they’ll get another piece out.
This ends up getting the cage dirty. The hay stays on the floor of the cage, and gets dirty when your chinchilla goes to the toilet. Damp, dirty hay makes chinchilla cages stink, so this is an important job.
All you have to do is pick up or sweep up the hay and put it in the bin. This takes a matter of seconds, but dramatically improves the smell and appearance of the cage.
Replace Soiled Bedding
Bedding can get dirty, fast. Its purpose is to soak up what your chinchilla makes when it goes to the toilet! Spot cleaning involves checking the bedding to see any that’s been soiled and replacing it. You can wear a pair of rubber gloves, but if you aren’t squeamish and will wash your hands afterwards, it won’t kill you to touch soiled bedding.
You then replace the handful you took with a fresh handful: easy. Doing this once a day will stop the urine from soaking through too much to the rest of the clean bedding.
Keeping Your Chinchilla Clean
A quick note on chinchilla hygiene: chinchillas shouldn’t smell. They keep their own fur clean through barbering it, and you should offer them frequent dust baths. If you do, your pet shouldn’t build up a funk.
If it does, that could be a sign that a) your chinchilla needs to bathe more often, and b) that you need to spot clean more often. That’s because the leading cause of smelly chinchillas is urine and poop. If it’s left on the floor of the cage for too long, it gets into the chinchilla’s fur. Then bacteria do the work of making your pet smell.
So, if your chinchilla stinks, clean both your pet and its cage more frequently.
Weekly Chinchilla Cage Cleaning
Some things need to be done each day, while others you can do every few days or every week instead. Doing them every day is overkill, but leaving them longer than a week will make your pet’s cage smell.
Change Chinchilla Cage Fleece Liner
Whatever kind of pet you keep, its cage needs something called ‘substrate’. Substrate is what lines the cage and stops it from getting too messy. It absorbs urine and feces, and provides a level of comfort.
For chinchillas, the best substrate to use is fleece. This is a soft material that can both absorb and comfort your pet. While it doesn’t reflect the chinchilla’s natural habitat—which is ideal for substrate and any cage accessory—chinchillas like it, and it’s perfect for easy cage cleaning.
Wrap a piece of wood in fleece to make the perfect cage floor. Then, all you need to do is change out the fleece when you need to clean the cage. You can replace the fleece with another fleece that you laundered earlier. This is easier than using other materials, and saves money as the fleece can be used time and time again.
You don’t need to use any special product to launder the fleece. You can throw it in with the rest of your laundry and use regular detergent to clean it. You can also hand wash it if you want to save money. Check the fleece’s laundry instructions tag for optimal laundering. Do this when you notice the fleece is dirty and smelly, probably once or twice a week.
Monthly Chinchilla Cage Cleaning
You can’t keep a cage clean solely by spot cleaning it. Spot cleaning will take care of big, visible messes and will stop smell from building up so quickly. But eventually, you’ll have to do a bigger, deeper clean.
That’s because of bacteria buildup. Even if you get rid of the dirty things in your pet’s cage as soon as you can, there will be some bacteria. The only way to fully prevent them is through using something antibacterial on the whole cage. This helps prevent infections, which chinchillas are prone too.
Wipe Down Your Chinchilla’s Cage with Cleaner
This is the biggest job there is. You use whichever cleaner you chose above (be it a vinegar mix, bleach, soap or an antibacterial spray you bought in a store) and wipe the cage clean with it. You can either spray the spray onto a rag or sponge and wipe down the wire sides, or spray the wire sides themselves and then wipe them down. If you leave the spray for a minute or two, this increases its antibacterial effect.
Pay special attention to the floor of the cage. This is where feces or urine goes, so it gets much dirtier than the walls a few inches up off the floor.
Please note that ‘monthly’ is an estimation. If you thoroughly spot clean your chinchilla’s cage, you can take longer between thorough deep cleans. Some owners do them on a biannual basis, i.e. twice a year. You can deep clean the cage more frequently than that if you want, but don’t leave it longer, as if you do:
- The bacteria can infect your pet’s cuts and its eyes
- Any fungal spores can infect your chinchilla’s fur
- The smell will start to build up
Make a note of when you deep clean the cage, so that you know roughly how long it is until it starts smelling. Then you’ll know roughly in advance when you’ll need to do it again.
Deep Cleaning a Chinchilla Cage
Most owners deep clean their chinchillas’ cages every six months or so. The deep clean involves doing everything described above, but all at once, with special attention paid to killing bacteria. Here’s a brief rundown of how to deep clean a chinchilla cage:
- Let your chinchilla play in its play pen while you clean the cage.
- Remove any food bowls, water bottles and accessories from the cage. Empty them and clean them with something antibacterial. Allow them to dry.
- Remove the flooring of the cage. This includes any substrate, plus the wooden flooring covered in fleece. Throw away the substrate, launder the fleece, and clean the wooden floor. Keep a little bit of substrate for later, picking some that’s not soiled, but smells like your pet.
- Remove any platforms from the cage. Spray these with something antibacterial, and wash them with soap and water. Allow them to dry.
- Wipe clean the wire bars of the cage. Use your cleaning solution. Allow the cleaning solution to sit for a minute before wiping it off and rinsing it (especially important if you use bleach).
Then, replace everything bit by bit and let your chinchilla back into its home. Mix the small amount of old-but-clean substrate in with the new batch, as this will make the cage smell familiar to your pet.
Chinchilla Cage Cleaning Tips
If you follow the guide above, your chinchilla’s cage should stay clean enough. The point of the tips below is to make your life a little easier, and keep your chinchilla’s cage that little bit cleaner.
Remember Your ABCs…
Always be (spot) cleaning! Spot cleaning for only five minutes a day prevents smell from building up and gives you a chance to bond with your pet. Consider setting a schedule so that you don’t miss a day.
If you do forget or don’t have the time, your chinchilla’s cage won’t become a hovel overnight. But the more regular you are, the better.
Don’t Use Food Bowls for Hay
This is a common mistake that new owners make. You shouldn’t keep your chinchilla’s food bowl on the ground, as there’s a chance that your pet could wee inside it and ruin its food. Having the food easily accessible also means that your chinchilla is more likely to spread the food around and waste it.
It’s better to have a hay rack that’s lifted slightly off the floor of the cage. And if you do have a food bowl for your chinchilla’s snacks, attach it to the side of the cage next to a platform. This makes it much less likely that your chinchillas can make their cage messy by wasting their food.
Chinchilla Cage Urine Guard
The main issue with a chinchilla’s cage is urine. It attracts bacteria, it can spread, and it can get in your pet’s fur.
That’s why most owners use urine guards to stop the stuff from building up somewhere that it’s a problem. Urine guards sit underneath the cage and collect anything that pools up on the cage floor. This stops your chinchilla from walking or sitting in its own wee, keeping its fur nice and clean. They can also be switched out and emptied as and when you need to do so.
You can also get litter trays that sit in the corner of the cage. These are like litter trays for other pets. You can partially litter train a chinchilla, although like all pets, sometimes it will have accidents (or plain not care where it ‘goes’).
Other than that, basic care guidelines apply. Regularly get your chinchilla out of its cage so that you can take a look at it and spot clean as necessary.