Chinchillas are so skittish that travelling with them is difficult. But it can be done if you know what carrier to use, and what mode of transport to take.
How do you travel with a chinchilla? Chinchillas are transported in wire travel carriers. In the carrier, they need fleece lining for the floor/a pillow, hay, and something to keep them distracted like a chew toy. On long journeys offer your chinchilla a water bottle by hand. Avoid flying with chinchillas as they have to fly cargo, which is cruel and can kill.
Our guide below covers each of these subjects in detail. First, we’ll look at what form of transport is best for travelling with chinchillas: cars, planes, buses or trains? Then, we’ll look at how to set up your chinchilla’s travel cage to a) stop it getting stressed, and b) keep your chinchilla safe on the long journey ahead. So, let’s find out how to travel with a chinchilla!
How to Correctly Transport a Chinchilla
There are ways you can travel with a chinchilla safely; there are also ways you can travel that will kill your pet. As such, you have to do thorough research before transporting your chinchilla anywhere.
The best way to travel with a chinchilla is in a car, in a wire chinchilla pet carrier. In a car, you can keep an eye on your pet to make sure it isn’t getting too stressed or isn’t exposed to sunlight. You can refill its hay or offer it water when you want. This is better than travelling other ways, like flying your chinchilla cargo, where you can’t keep it safe and happy.
Do Chinchillas Travel Well?
Chinchillas are highly senstive to stress. There are lots of things that will stress your pet while you’re travelling, including:
- Being in a new and unfamiliar place
- Being in a small cage that it can’t move around easily
- Lots of movement that it can see and feel
- Lots of bright lights and loud noises
This stress alone can exacerbate health conditions and damage your chinchilla’s trust in you.
But aside from that, there are things that could even kill your pet. Bright sunshine is one of them. Chinchillas should never sit in bright direct sunlight as they quickly overheat; if your pet is in the backseat, it could be overheating without you even realizing. Your chinchilla can also get hurt by rough handling, stress-related gnawing, bumps in the road… The list goes on.
All this means that you have to be very careful.
Can Chinchillas Travel on Planes?
Chinchillas can travel on planes, although there are lots of rules and regulations you have to be aware of. The first: you have to check whether it’s legal to take your chinchilal wherever you’re going. Some countries and some U.S. states have regulations against bringing any pets with you.
Most don’t, but instead have hefty import fees and quarantine regulations. Some countries require six months of quarantine, and not in a specially-built chinchilla quarantine center, but one for any animal that’s brought to the country. This is obviously entirely unsuitable for a chinchilla. So, do your research before you fly.
Also, most airlines require that your chinchilla flies in the cargo hold. But again, this is something you’ll have to clear with your specific airline before you fly, as they all have different rules. Many breeders and house-moving owners fly their chinchillas in cargo, although we don’t recommend this because:
- Your chinchilla will be left alone for long periods
- Your chinchilla will be stressed by the unfamiliar environment far away from you
- Your chinchilla’s crate could be mishandled by baggage staff, or damaged in the hold
Many pets die travelling this way each year. If you can travel with your pet with you in the cabin, that’s not so bad.
Can Chinchillas Travel in Cars?
Travelling by car is the best compromise solution for transporting a chinchilla. It’s not ideal but you have much more control over the safety and comfort of your pet than you would on a plane.
If you’re driving, you can keep your chinchilla in the seat beside you. This will let you see the moment your pet is uncomfortable or gets too stressed.
Can Chinchillas Travel on Public Transport?
This is an idea that precious few people have tried, but that might work. You can take your chinchilla on the bus provided that you keep your pet on your lap and don’t jostle its cage around. It’s best to sit in a seat on your own if you do this, and the cage should be covered or your chinchilla should have a hide so it doesn’t get frightened.
Trains are better for travelling long distance. The journey is normally quite smooth and you could potentially put your pet on a table while you travel. The main problem is that in a train or bus, you can’t control the temperature. It could also get crowded. This means that public transport is most suitable for short journeys, e.g. to the vet, rather than cross country.
That being said, you’ll have to talk to the bus or train company first anyway. They may have rules against bringing any animals on board, or particular animals. You don’t want your journey ruined because you didn’t read the rules.
Travel Cages for Chinchillas
Having your chinchilla travel with you isn’t possible without a travel cage. You ought to have a chinchilla carrier available whether or not you need to move house or travel long distances. That’s because you should take your pet to the vet for semi-regular checkups, and having a purpose-built carrier makes that much easier.
You may already have a travel carrier for your other pets or previous pets. However, this may not be suitable for a chinchilla. For example, the ideal chinchilla carrier isn’t made of plastic. That’s because chinchillas chew through plastic. If you’ve ever put plastic cage accessories in your chinchilla’s cage, you’ll know that. You should avoid this wherever possible as the plastic gets stuck in your chinchilla’s gut. There’s also a chance of escape if you don’t stop your pet gnawing at its carrier.
You can get wire chinchilla carriers instead. Your chinchilla can’t gnaw on these and ingest the wire by accident. They also allow for better ventilation, which is important as chinchillas can overheat very quickly. If you don’t have a choice, it is possible to transport a chinchilla in a plastic case. But if you do, ensure that your pet has chew sticks to distract it from gnawing the carrier.
You also shouldn’t use any kind of travel carrier made of fabric. There are lots of these available, made for other small pets. But they aren’t suitable for chinchillas, because again, they’ll gnaw right through them.
As for the kind of cage, there are many options. Some have handles you can hold from above, others handles on the sides. Some have doors at the front or in the top. Which kind you get doesn’t matter so long as it’s chinchilla safe.
Chinchilla Travel Carrier Setup
You can’t put your chinchilla in the cage without anything else in there. It will need something to keep it comfortable, and something to keep it occupied. It will also obviously need everything it needs to survive: food, water and so on. Here’s a basic setup:
- A chinchilla-safe carrier
- A fleece lining for the bottom of the cage. If you don’t have one of these, your chinchilla will hurt its feet in the bars or wire mesh of the cage. The chinchilla may also hide under the blanket if it feels insecure. You can also add in a small amount of bedding from your chinchilla’s cage (e.g. kiln dried pine, if you use that) so that the carrier smells familiar to your pet. This helps calm it down.
- A thin pillow. Not strictly necessary, but does the same thing as fleece lining. Don’t use anything made of towel material.
- Hay. Chinchillas need to eat throughout the day, and will be hungry during the journey.
- Water. Most chinchillas don’t drink when travelling, but it’s better to offer water for long journeys than to not. Don’t attach this to the cage, but do offer it periodically. Because it would jiggle and jostle when attached to the cage, it would leak everywhere.
- A hide. This gives your chinchilla somewhere to feel secure. You could use a cage cover, although if you do, you’ll have to be very careful not to let the temperature rise.
- Chew toys. Chinchillas need to chew. These are especially important now, as otherwise the chinchilla will try to chew other things (e.g. if the carrier is plastic).
Other than this, your chinchilla doesn’t need anything. There would be precious little room to put anything else, anyway.
Travelling With Chinchillas: Tips & Tricks
Whether you’re moving house with chinchillas or only taking yours to the vet, there are guidelines you can follow that will help. These will stop the situation from getting any more stressful or dangerous for your pet. They’ll also stop you from stressing out too much on what’s likely already a stressful day!
1) Don’t Let Your Chinchilla Out
If your chinchilla is very stressed during its journey, you may be tempted to let it out. If you did, you could hold it and comfort it or even offer it a treat. But this may not be a good idea.
That’s because chinchillas are unpredictable when they’re stressed. Taking your chinchilla out will likely make it want to hide, and that’s bad if you’re in a car heavy with boxes that could fall. Even if the rest of the car is empty, your chinchilla could hide under the seats or in other places that are hard to reach. Then you get stressed out, and you’ve done nothing to help your pet.
Instead, try to comfort your chinchilla as well as you can through the metal wire mesh or bars of its carrier. Offer it treats and water to see if that helps.
2) Don’t Leave Your Chinchilla in The Sun
The easiest mistake to make is to leave your chinchilla in direct sunlight while travelling. If it’s in the seat next to you, it may be in the shade when you set off. But as you drive, taking this turn, then that, your chinchilla will be in the sun.
If this happens, your chinchilla will overheat, unless it’s winter and the sun’s rays aren’t so warm. Think of how warm you can get in your car; then imagine wearing a thick fur coat, too—one that you can’t take off. You would quickly overheat, too. If your chinchilla overheats and you don’t help, it will suffer heat stroke and pass away.
The point at which chinchillas can start dying of heat stroke is 75 degrees Fahrenheit/23.8 degrees centigrade. You should keep a thermometer
You can keep your chinchilla out of the sun by:
- Placing a thin sheet over its cage. This will keep the sun out, but leave a gap somewhere, as otherwise the heat won’t have anywhere to escape to.
- Putting a shade over the window it’s next to. These stick to the window with tiny suction cups and block out the worst of the light.
For this reason, you shouldn’t leave your chinchilla alone in your car. If you have to go into a store, you’ll have to bring it with you. If you’re travelling with somebody then they can watch over it.
3) Use the A/C: Cold Is Better than Hot
Travelling in a car, you control how warm it is in there with your A/C or heating. It’s far better to let your chinchilla get cold than it is to leave it too hot.
Chinchillas are used to extended cold periods. In their natural habitat, the temperature frequently dips below freezing, and they survive by hiding and huddling. While you shouldn’t let your car get that cold, keeping things cool is far better than letting them get too warm.
This is especially useful if you can set your A/C to a specific temperature, not just a specific setting. If that’s possible, keep the temperature at something suitable for chinchillas (between 50 and 70 degrees). 65 would be a good setting as that leaves wiggle-room just in case parts of the car are warmer than others, or you have to open the door.
4) Take Regular Pit Stops
If you’ve ever travelled long-distance before, you’ll know how important it is to schedule frequent breaks. If anything, that’s more important when you’re travelling with your pet chinchilla. Taking frequent breaks will allow you to:
- Check that your pet has food and doesn’t need water
- Adjust the sheet covering your chinchilla’s cage if necessary
- Tidy your pet’s cage if it’s completely disorganized
If you do need to do any of these things, pull over. You can easily get distracted while driving, but also, you could make things worse than they already are (e.g. spilling your chinchilla’s food everywhere!)
5) Take Several Trips
If you’re moving house and you have too much to take in one car journey, don’t try to cram everything in at once. Instead, consider taking multiple journeys. While this will add stress and lots of time to your itinerary, the alternative could damage your belongings and hurt your pet. To get around this, you could consider:
- Moving all the boxes in your moving van, and only your chinchilla in your car
- Reserving a specific place in the car for your chinchilla, e.g. the front seat, where no boxes could fall on it
6) Keep Your Chinchilla on Top
If you need to take your chinchilla on the same trip as lots of boxes, don’t put boxes on top of your chinchilla’s cage. They could damage the cage and hurt your pet. For the same reason, you shouldn’t stack lots of boxes next to your chinchilla’s cage as they may fall. They will also trap the heat in your chinchilla’s cage and make it overheat.
Instead, your chinchilla shouldn’t be under boxes; it also ideally shouldn’t be on top of them, as it could fall. You should transport your chinchilla in such a way that it can have a seat to itself. This is always possible so long as you can set aside the time to do it (taking multiple trips).
7) Travel During the Day
This is likely something you were going to do anyway, but it’s worth mentioning just in case. It’s best to travel with a chinchilla during the day. That’s because chinchillas are more active at night and sleep slightly more during the day. As such, there’s a chance that your pet will spend more of its time resting while travelling.
If you’re fortunate enough for your chinchilla to get some rest, try not to disturb it. Keep the car as quiet as possible so as not to wake it up.
Something else that you should know is that not all chinchillas get stressed when travelling. Most do, but some rare exceptions seem not to mind. They won’t be frightened by being in a new place or in a carrier. If that’s true of your chinchilla, consider yourself lucky!