Q: I have three young, male chinchillas. Two of them are brothers, about 17 months old, that share a cage. The third chinchilla is about 10 months old and has his own cage. I’m concerned about my youngest chinchilla, because he always seems to be upset. I don’t know if he maybe feels separated from the other two, because I always see him just watching them. He isn’t interested in much except for spending time with the other two chinchillas; not even a raisin can distract him long enough for him to finish it. I know that chinchillas are social creatures, but I’ve heard warnings about allowing male chinchilla to share a cage if they aren’t from the same litter. However, I’m worried that my youngest chinchilla doesn’t have a cagemate when he has the other two chinchillas to watch and learn from. I try to allow them at least an hour to all play together a day, but I’m not able to give them much more because of my work schedule. Do you think that this could be an issue? Or do you think that there may be something else going on?
A: Your younger chinchilla may be lonely and want to be with the other two chinchillas. If the other two chinchillas respond to him favorably during playtime, you might try placing the cage of the chinchilla pair on the floor with the door open. See if all three chinchillas go inside the cage and watch the responses of all three. If they continue to play and cuddle up together without any aggressive behavior, you might try them together in the cage to see if they will get along.
You will need to monitor the threesome for a minimum of 24 hours (especially through the night when chinchillas are most active) to be sure your young male is not picked on or attacked. At the first sign of aggressive behavior, separate them immediately. An aggressive attack by one chinchilla can result in severe injury or even death to the other.
A chinchilla pairing or grouping that has been working well for weeks or months can suddenly reverse, so continued monitoring is important. Separate them if you see any signs of aggressive behavior (i.e. pulled fur, excessive chasing or a stressed chinchilla within the group). It is not worth the risk to leave them caged together.
Typically, male chinchillas do not have a high rate of success being caged together long-term. Siblings can have the same testosterone issues as nonrelated chinchillas. Any two males may fight if there is a female chinchilla in the same room.
We have had many pairs of unrelated young male chinchillas that were paired after being weaned and have remained as cagemates throughout their lives. It is usually the personality of the male chinchillas and a lack of female chinchillas in the vicinity that determines whether or not the males will get along. Male chinchillas with more mellow/docile/submissive personalities tend to co-habit better than those with more hyper/assertive/aggressive personalities. On rare occasions a more assertive chinchilla may co-habit well with a more submissive cagemate.
When we attempt to “group” chinchillas, we begin by using a clean, neutral cage to minimize territorial issues. We place new hideaway houses in the cage so the chinchillas can isolate themselves if desired. We are always pleased when pairings are successful, but we realize ongoing monitoring will always be necessary.