If your chinchilla is making a noise you don’t recognize, there are lots of things it might mean. Some are good and some are bad. So how can you tell them apart?
What sounds do chinchillas make and what do they mean? The best known sound is barking, which sounds like a squeak toy, and means the chinchilla feels threatened. Chinchillas also make quieter squeaks which are happy noises. Chinchillas also communicate through teeth chattering and spitting (annoyed), and screaming (distress). Chinchillas are so communicative because they live in large groups in the wild.
This may seem like a lot to take in, but spending lots of time with your pet chinchilla will help you learn what their noises mean. The guide below details exactly what each noise means, what it sounds like, and why your chinchilla makes it.
Chinchilla Sounds and Meanings
Chinchillas are social animals, so have developed many sounds they can use to communicate. Some of these sounds are positive and indicate happiness or contentment. Others are bad, and are used either when the chinchilla feels threatened, or scared for its life. Others are used in specific situations, e.g. between a mother and baby chinchilla (kit).
Learning the meaning of these sounds will help you care for your chinchilla better. You can better help your pet when it’s hurt or unhappy, or learn what kinds of scritches it likes best. While you can learn what each noise means through experience of owning a chinchilla, the crash course below will cut out a lot of trial and error. Here’s a table describing the most common noises in brief before they are detailed below.
|Noise||Description||Meaning||What to Do|
|Low, gentle chinchilla squeaking||An irregular, high-pitched ‘Ny… ny ny ny!’ sound.||Telling other chinchillas that everything is safe.||Nothing: your chinchilla is happy.|
|Continuous squeaking||A more urgent version of regular squeaking. Can be slightly louder. Sounds like ‘Foot-foot-foot-foot!’||Can signal either distress or excitement.||Observe your pet to see why it’s making this noise.|
|Chinchilla barking||A louder, rougher sound that sounds like a duck quacking. Very rhythmic. Sounds like ‘WAK! WAK! WAK!’ or ‘UF! UF! UF!’||An alarm call to warn other chinchillas of something dangerous, e.g. a noise or a predator.||Check your pets are safe and comfort them if necessary.|
|Hiccuping||Sounds like barking but slightly quieter. An unintentional noise.||Means nothing as it’s an unintentional noise.||Check on your pet to make sure it isn’t barking.|
|Chinchilla Teeth grinding||A similar noise to when you grind your teeth together.||The chinchilla is happy and content.||Keep doing whatever is making your chinchilla happy!|
|Mother & Baby Noises||Gentle cooing and squeaking between mother and kits. Like regular squeaks except not urgent.||The mother and kits are telling each other they are safe.||Nothing: your pets are fine.|
|Fighting||Similar to the alarm bark, but less regular. Instead of ‘WAK! WAK! WAK!’, fighting sounds more like ‘Wak…. Wak wak… WAK! Wak…’||The two chinchillas are trying to intimidate each other.||Separate your chinchillas.|
|Chinchilla Screaming||A loud noise like a baby crying. Sounds like any other noise chinchillas make.||Made when in great distress or pain.||Check your chinchilla to see what’s wrong, and perhaps take it to a vet.|
|Chinchilla Spitting Noise (Kacking)||A sudden cough or spit noise.||A warning to stay away.||Leave your pet alone; if the noise continues, make sure it isn’t sick or in pain.|
|Teeth chattering||The front teeth are clacked together.||Another warning to stay away.||Your pet may be sick or in pain. Some chins chatter when they’re happy, though.|
An experienced owner can tell these sounds apart easily. If you’re new to chinchillas, don’t worry, because soon you’ll be able to as well.
Why Does My Chinchilla Sound Like a Squeaky Toy?
Like other rodents, chinchillas make lots of squeaking sounds. They sound more or less like a squeaky toy being squeezed. Some sound like gentle and slow squeezing, while others are urgent and very loud.
Some are meaningless, like sneezing. But other squeaks can indicate either that the chinchilla is happy or sad. As such, you have to learn what each noise means and how to identify it.
Chinchilla Squeaking (Low, Gentle Squeaking)
This is perhaps the first noise you’ll hear your chinchilla make. It’s a low noise that’s difficult to describe, but sounds like ‘Ny, ny, nyt nyt nyt, ny!’ Because this is a non-urgent form of communication, there is no pattern to it, so the individual sounds may be further apart or closer together, or there may be several in a row. It’s a little like the chinchilla equivalent of ‘Marco… Polo!’
Chinchillas make this noise to communicate with each other, so you’ll frequently hear this if you have two chinchillas or more. The purpose of this noise is so that:
- Nearby chinchillas know where the chinchilla is
- Nearby chinchillas know that the chinchilla is safe, not in pain or being attacked
Because of the purpose of this noise, you’ll hear it more frequently when your chinchilla or chinchillas are outside of the cage. That’s because when in unfamiliar territitory, it’s more likely there will be a predator around. And because this noise is such a basic part of communication, and a natural instinct, chinchillas will still do it when they’re on their own.
Continuous Squeaking in Chinchillas
This is like regular squeaking, but is more urgent and repetitive. It sounds almost like the low clucking noise that a chicken makes, except quieter. It’s the equivalent of a person talking quicker or slightly louder when they’re excited. It’s a low ‘Foot-foot-foot-foot-foot!’ sound. Because it’s accompanied by increased activity and movement, you may hear your chinchilla running or jumping at the same time.
There are several scenarios in which you might hear this noise. The first is when a male chinchilla is in the mood to mate. Males can be in this mood whether or not there is a female present, especially if the chinchilla is playful and highly active.
Another scenario is when a female chinchilla is about to give birth; or alternatively, when a chinchilla is in slight distress. Once you’ve owned a chinchilla for a while, it’s easy to tell when and why a chinchilla is squeaking more urgently, just like a person might raise their voice or talk more quickly.
Barking is the chinchilla’s alarm call. If a chinchilla spots a predator, hears a loud noise, or sees something unexpected, it will bark to warn other chinchillas nearby. They can bark when:
- They see a shadow looming over them. Looming shadows remind chinchillas of birds of prey.
- They are taken to a new place.
- They feel threatened by either you or another chinchilla.
Chinchilla barking doesn’t sound like other animals barking. The term more accurately describes the intent of the sound, and the way in which the sound is produced. It is a way for your chinchilla to say ‘I’m angry!’, like barking is, and it’s produced repeatedly in the same way as other animals barking. It also describes the volume of the call, which is much louder than regular squeaking. That’s the point: it’s supposed to alert other nearby chinchillas, so the louder, the better.
Unlike other ‘barks’, a chinchilla bark sounds like a squeaky chew toy. You could also compare it to a duck’s quack. It’s best described as a nasal ‘UF! UF! UF!’, or ‘WAK! WAK! WAK!’ This noise may also be accompanied by other behaviors like running for cover. And if the chinchilla is making the noise at you because it doesn’t like you, it may stand up and it may hop up and down as it does.
The first time you hear this noise, you might think there’s something wrong with your chinchilla. It’s not like noises that other pet rodents make. It’s loud and repetitive like an alarm.
But don’t worry, as there probably isn’t a predator getting in through the window to attack your pets: the usual cause is a nearby noise like a TV, or a car driving past outside that your chinchilla heard. Shadows looming over a chinchilla are another common cause, as these remind your pet of birds of prey. And sometimes, there isn’t a clear reason at all.
If your chinchilla is making alarm noises, comfort it if possible. And if your chinchilla is barking because it doesn’t want you nearby, do as it wants, and leave it alone.
Hiccuping in chinchillas doesn’t sound like hiccuping in people. It is easily mistaken for barking, but it doesn’t have the same meaning. If barking is somebody squeezing a chew toy hard and fast, hiccuping sounds like squeezing one gently and not at such a fast pace. As a consequence, it’s slightly quieter and doesn’t sound as urgent.
This noise doesn’t indicate that the chinchilla is in distress. Rather, it seems like an involuntary noise like hiccups, hence the name. It is most commonly made by males after mating. It isn’t something to worry about.
Happy Chinchilla Noises
Some noises that chinchillas make are undeniably happy ones. These cannot be mistaken for sad or angry noises. If you hear these, you know that your chinchillas are safe and happy, both with each other and with you. As such, you want to hear these far more frequently than barking or screaming.
Chinchilla Teeth Grinding
Grinding is a different noise to chattering. This is where the chinchilla rubs its molars (its back teeth) together. It can occur in conjunction with chattering, and it can easily be mixed up with chattering.
This has the opposite meaning to chattering: rather than being threatening, grinding shows that a chinchilla is happy or content. As such, you’ll hear your chinchilla grinding its teeth when you give it a scritch or a treat. But, again, you can easily mix these noises up which leads to new owners confusing them.
Mother & Baby Chinchilla Noises
The purpose of these sounds is communication, and mother and baby chinchillas communicate with each other too. The mother will make low and gentle squeaks to let the baby know she’s there. The baby makes a small, high-pitched squeak sound. It sounds slightly like a chirrup. The meaning of these noises is that both mother and baby are safe and happy.
Babies will also make a specific noise when they feed on their mothers’ milk. It’s a low but high-pitched ‘Nyew, nyew, nyew, nyew!’ sound. This indicates that the baby is safely feeding—it’s like a contact call between mother and baby.
What Does Chinchilla Fighting Sound Like?
Fights are a natural consequence of chinchillas living in groups. Disagreements or squabbles occur frequently, while bigger fights happen occasionally, as in any group.
If your chinchilla sounds like a duck, it may be fighting. It sounds like a quieter version of the alarm call, except not so regularly repeated. So while an alarm bark sounds like ‘WAK! WAK! WAK!’, the sound of fighting sounds more like ‘Wak… Waaak, wak wak wak… WAK! WAK! Waaak…’ One of your chinchillas may be making the noise at the other, or they may both be making the noise.
When these noises continue for a long time, separate your pets. You may have to reintroduce them properly using the split cage method. You want to avoid the fighting getting worse, and if you don’t, you may hear the noises below.
Screaming is a noise that you shouldn’t ever hear your chinchilla make. That’s because they only make this noise when in great distress or pain. Some people mistake barking for screaming, but the two noises are distinct.
A screaming chinchilla sounds a lot like a crying baby. It’s a high-pitched and repetitive ‘Waa! Waa! Waa!’ cry. Like a baby crying, this noise is unpleasant to hear. It’s a very urgent noise which is repeated quickly.
Because chinchillas only make this noise when in great distress or pain, not every owner will hear it. It’s used in the wild for when the chinchilla is severely injured or has been caught by a predator. In captivity, you may hear it when:
- Your chinchilla is fighting with another chinchilla a lot larger than itself. It doesn’t want to fight back because it thinks the other chinchilla is much bigger or more powerful.
- Your chinchilla has an accident. If it breaks its leg in the wires of its cage, for example.
If you hear this noise, you must attend to your pet at once and solve whatever is the problem. Separate your pets if they live together.
Sudden Spitting Noise (Kacking or Kecking)
This is a weird noise that sounds like a small cough or a spit. It’s a sudden noise: your chinchilla will sit still, but make it if you approach too close. Its purpose is to scare away whatever is approaching (you, another chinchilla, or a predator). That’s why it’s a sudden noise, and is why it’s quite loud, although not as loud as barking. To be clear, your pet isn’t really spitting, it just sounds like it.
You shouldn’t hear this noise all the time, although it is more common than screaming. You may hear it if you have to move your pet to clean its cage, for example, and it doesn’t want to come out. To get you to leave it alone, it will try to ‘scare’ you off with this noise. Leave your pet alone and only continue doing what you’re doing if it’s necessary, e.g. cleaning the cage or administering medicine.
If your chinchilla constantly makes this noise, you may not be caring for it correctly. Consult our online guides to check whether your pet’s diet and enclosure are suitable. Talk to a vet if you aren’t sure what’s wrong.
Chinchilla Teeth Chattering
Chattering is a noise that chinchillas can make when they are in pain, or when they feel threatened/annoyed. The teeth that the chinchilla is chattering are its incisors, which are its front teeth. The noise is made when the chinchilla clicks its teeth together. The idea is to show any nearby chinchillas or predators that it’s angry (and has big teeth) so they best stay away (although some owners report them making similar chattering or grinding noises when they’re happy).
Chattering is seen in combination with other behaviors. Your chinchilla may rear up on its hind legs to make itself look bigger, the point of which is to intimidate smaller chinchillas or make big predators think twice about attacking it. A female may also spray urine at the same time.
Chinchillas may also make other unexplained noises on occasion. If you hear a noise you don’t recognize, don’t panic. Check on your pet to see what it’s doing. If it’s sitting still, seemingly happy and content, there’s likely nothing wrong. But if it shows signs of distress, observe your pet for a while and try to comfort it. If this doesn’t solve the issue, whatever it is, take your pet to the vet.