By Marty Hull
Where do chinchillas like to be petted?
Many chinchillas enjoy being scratched gently rather than being petted. When a chinchilla has a cage companion, they tend to groom each other by gently nibbling with their teeth. Scratching your chinchilla closely mimics this type of interaction.
Areas where chinchillas enjoy scratches are: under the chin, between the front fore paws, along their backbone, on top of the head, on the back of the neck, around/behind their ears, between their eyes down to their nose, along their jaw line and even in their whisker area. Finding where your chinchilla enjoys scratches may entail a little trial and error.
The most popular scratch spots are under the chin and between the fore paws. A chinchilla who enjoys this often spreads his paws wide apart and turns his head so you can have easy access. It is nice if you can support one side of their body with your free hand so that your chinchilla can really relax and enjoy the scratch. Some of them become so relaxed that they even fall asleep while resting on your hand.
As you scratch your chinchilla between the front paws, you can move your fingers around and scratch different areas and see how he responds. If he clicks and suddenly moves away, he may not enjoy having that area touched. If he clicks, but stays in the same position, he may be letting you know that you are not scratching gently enough. A chinchilla who likes his jaw and whiskers scratched often moves his whiskers around while you scratch so you can have better access, and he will stretch out his front paws and sometimes roll back his eyes in enjoyment. If your chinchilla enjoys a back scratch, he may stand up and rest both of his paws on your hand to give you good access. You can often feel the muscles in his back arching to meet your touch.
Chinchillas are usually quiet during scratches, but once in awhile a chinchilla may make a type of staccato purring sound. If a chinchilla really enjoys scratches, he often lets you know he is ready for a scratch when you open his cage. He might stand still and put his head near your hand, just waiting. Most of the time if you give a chinchilla a treat, he will hold it in his mouth while you scratch him thus illustrating how much a chinchilla will enjoy a good scratch. When you are finished, he will consume his treat.
Occasionally, a chinchilla will want to “groom” you in return for your scratches. He may give gentle nibbles along your hand or arm, and when he has finished he will look at you indicating it is your turn to again scratch him. This is the kind of reciprocity chinchilla cagemates share.
Scratching your chinchilla is a very nice bonding experience and enjoyable for both of you. Where and how much you scratch depends upon your chinchilla’s threshold. Some chinchillas do not like to be scratched and they will let you know by clicking and/or running away. Sometimes a female may stand up and spray urine if she believes the scratching is an intrusion. It is always good to start slowly and see how your chinchilla reacts to being touched.