Chinchillas love to chew, but you don’t want them chewing your furniture, books and carpets. So can you use anti-chew spray to make them stop?
Does chinchilla chew deterrent work? It doesn’t, because chinchillas have an instinct to chew that can’t be easily overcome by sprays. Chinchillas chew because their teeth grow continually, not because of behavioral problems or teething like other animals. So no chew deterrent (bitter apple, lime, ginger, bleach or anything else) will work. If chewing baseboards or furniture is a problem, buy your chinchilla more chew toys and a play pen for it to run around in instead.
The guide below first explores what chew deterrent is, and why people think it works. It will also cover the precise reasons why chinchillas are so fond of chewing, and how to stop chinchillas chewing on things if chew deterrent doesn’t work.
What Is Chinchilla Chew Deterrent?
Chew deterrent is a kind of spray that people use, the point of which is to stop their pets chewing on things. It’s commonly used by dog owners, but some people use it for their chinchillas as well. The idea is to use a spray that would deter, but not poison, your pet; so something like bleach isn’t used because it’s not safe to ingest. Something bitter, but that won’t hurt your pet at all, is ideal.
There are sprays available from pet shops that are ready-made. These often contain some kind of strong-tasting natural ingredient, such as lime. It is also possible to make your own anti-chew spray, although these may not be as effective as those you buy. Sprays come in spray bottles, the same that cleaning products come in, and you spray them wherever you don’t want your pet to chew.
All that being said, we don’t recommend the use of anti-chew sprays. We don’t believe them to be an effective solution to stop chinchillas from chewing on things.
- Does Ginger Stop Chinchillas Chewing on Things? Ginger is a complex, fiery taste, but it won’t stop chinchillas chewing.
- Does Citrus Stop Chinchillas Chewing on Things? Citrus is a sharp taste, and is poisonous to some animals. But it won’t stop chinchillas chewing.
- Does Bitter Apple Stop Chinchillas Chewing on Things? Bitter apple is one of the most bitter tastes there is, which is why it’s a key ingredient in many anti-chew sprays. But that won’t stop chinchillas chewing on things either.
- Does Bleach Stop Chinchillas Chewing on Things? Bleach won’t stop a chinchilla chewing things, unless it ingests enough to cause itself significant harm. But that’s not the idea here!
All that isn’t to say that anti-chew sprays are a rip-off or a myth. They definitely work with other animals… Just not chinchillas.
Why Doesn’t Anti-Chew Spray Work for Chinchillas?
Based on both owner experience, and an understanding of why chinchillas chew, it’s safe to say that these sprays don’t work.
Some animals chew because they go through a teething process, like we do. Other animals chew because they have behavioral problems like hyperactivity. Chinchillas don’t chew for either of these reasons; instead, they chew because all rodents have a firmly entrenched chewing instinct. That’s because the one thing that all rodents share is the unique anatomy of their teeth.
A chinchilla’s teeth grow continually throughout its lifetime. This is a major advantage in the wild, as it means that if a chinchilla breaks one of its teeth, it will grow back. This is the case for all rodents. Unfortunately, this also means that the teeth can grow overlong. The only way to prevent that, at least in the wild, is to gnaw on things to slowly grind the teeth down. This is the root of your chinchilla’s chewing behavior. It can’t be trained away, and bitter tastes aren’t enough to make a chinchilla stop chewing.
This is backed up by what experienced owners say. Take this forum thread, or this one, or this one as examples; no owner that has looked after chinchillas for a long time would recommend anti-chew sprays. Instead, you should try one of several alternatives.
Where to Spray & Where Not to Spray
Another problem you’ll face is that there will be far, far too much you have to spray. Chinchillas will chew anything and everything, including:
- Dry wall
- Clothing, esp. made of cotton
Now, picture everywhere you would have to spray in the room you’re letting your chinchilla out in. You would likely have to spray the whole room. You would have to spray all the corners and edges of the carpets (which chins like to dig up and chew); all the baseboards, all the way around the room, and any wall corners too. You’d probably use a whole bottle just to let your chinchilla out once, and that’s beside the point that these sprays don’t work as well as they should.
Alternatives to Anti-Chew Spray
By far the best way to exercise a chinchilla is with a play pen. A play pen is a large fence that can be used to create an open space with a wall around it. This stops your chinchilla from accessing the room around it, while at the same time, giving it a large space it can run around in. A play pen can keep your chinchilla away from cables, baseboards and walls making it physically impossible for it to chew them. While chins can jump out of and escape play pens relatively easily, the idea is for you to be on hand to put your pet back in if it does.
Play pens can be expensive, however, at several hundred dollars. This is beyond the budget of many owners, at least for buying one on a whim. As such, many make do by setting up cardboard play pens instead. These are like regular play pens, but homemade from cardboard, either that the owner bought from a store or repurposed from boxes. Set up correctly, these provide a large space that’s fairly easy to escape from, but sits directly in front of the walls/baseboard/etc. and so blocks access.
Besides that, you still have a few options for either reducing inappropriate chewing or stopping it completely.
Provide Suitable Chew Toys
Chinchillas enjoy chewing; there’s no way around that. But if you give your chinchilla lots of suitable toys for it to chew in its cage, it won’t chew unsuitable things as much.
Another common related problem is where chinchillas chew the bars of their cages. This pushes the teeth out of their normal alignment and causes malocclusion, and it happens when chinchillas don’t have chew toys like apple wood sticks. While malocclusion won’t occur if your chinchilla chews baseboards or furniture—because, ironically, these are perfectly ‘suitable’ things for it to chew even if you’d rather it didn’t—this can similarly be a sign that your pet isn’t getting the chew toys it needs.
As such, ensure that your pet has chew toys in its cage at all times. Toys like apple wood sticks are perfect, as these are safe both for your chinchilla’s teeth and to ingest (as accidentally happens when chinchillas gnaw). Pumice is another potential choice, and some owners use rope.
You can even go one step further, and provide a chew toy for your chinchilla when it’s outside of its cage. This could distract your chinchilla from chewing on the things around it in the room.
Pick a ‘Non-Chewable’ Room
By far the best room to let your chinchilla loose in is the bathroom. That’s partly because there’s little in there that your pet can chew.
There isn’t typically much furniture in the bathroom that your chinchilla can gnaw on. There’s the bathtub, sink and toilet, but these are made from porcelain, which your chinchilla won’t try to chew. There may even be no baseboards, as the walls might be tiled, and there’s also likely no carpet. That’s a lot of worry saved on your part straight off the bat.
On top of that, the bathroom makes a good room to let your chinchilla out in because:
- It doesn’t have many exits and entrances, and probably has a lockable door
- It’s small, so your chinchilla can’t get away from you
- There aren’t too many hiding places
The only problem is that your chinchilla might try to jump into the toilet! More accurately, your chin doesn’t understand that when the toilet seat is up, there’s a pool of water it can fall into. So, keep the toilet lid closed to avoid your chinchilla getting soaked.
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