For many of us pet owners, it was love at first sight from the moment we first held our chinchilla or sank our fingers into that silky fur. But how can we tell if our chinchilla likes us in return?
As intelligent and sociable creatures, “liking” is all about trust for chinchillas. Though they may start shy, they form deep bonds with their owners over time.
Bear in mind, however, that every chinchilla’s personality is unique. Many are less keen on physical affection or may express their appreciation differently.
Here are ten sure signs that your chinchilla likes you:
10 Signs Your Chinchilla Likes You
1) They don’t hide.
When introduced to a new environment, a chinchilla’s first instinct is to hide, just as it would in the wild. As a prey creature, its gut tells it to seek shelter out of sight from predators’ prying eyes.
As a chinchilla acclimates to its new environment—and to you—it will stay out in the open more. The safer it feels, the less likely it is to avoid you or run from you, whether inside or outside the cage.
2) They rush to greet you.
An even better sign is if your chinchilla rushes to its cage door to greet you. This enthusiasm shows that your chinchilla is starting to warm up to you—or even miss you!
Likewise, as a chinchilla grows more comfortable with you, it will need less coaxing to lure it from its cage.
3) They jump and climb all over you.
Chinchillas are highly active, inquisitive creatures. They love opportunities to explore spaces outside their cage.
A sure sign of affection is if your chinchilla incorporates you more readily into these play sessions.
You may quickly find yourself playing the role of a human jungle gym as your chinchilla bounds and climbs all over you.
Happy chinchillas also express their excitement by bouncing (quite literally) off the walls or “popcorning” about the room.
4) They try to “groom” you.
Don’t be alarmed if your chinchilla climbs up on your shoulders and starts to nibble at your hair. One way chinchillas show their affection is by “grooming” their owners.
They tend to fixate on hair, ear lobes, or even fingernails. Think of it as the chinchilla equivalent of sloppy wet puppy kisses.
5) They accept food from your hand.
This acceptance means that your chinchilla is comfortable with you being close (and that it now links you with food).
6) They allow cuddles and petting.
Likewise, if a chinchilla allows—or seeks out—pets and snuggles, then they feel safe around you.
However, be aware that most chinchillas are not big on cuddles, even if they are comfortable with you, so don’t be disappointed if they quickly grow restless during these holding sessions.
7) They doze off on you.
When a chinchilla sleeps, it is at its most vulnerable. If a chinchilla can sleep near you, it feels very safe around you.
8) They make squeaks and other happy noises.
Squeaks, chattering, and whispering sounds are signs of an affectionate chinchilla. Of course, chinchillas also make shrill squeaks when distressed.
To differentiate, look at your chinchilla’s body language. If it seems calm and relaxed, then these are happy noises.
9) They don’t react aggressively or spray.
When threatened, a chinchilla may bite. Female chinchillas will also spray urine when they want to be left alone.
If your chinchilla acts aggressively, particularly early on, give it space.
10) They seem generally happy, calm, and content.
Does your chinchilla generally seem upbeat? Does it have healthy eating, drinking, and chewing habits?
These signs suggest that your chinchilla loves its life—and probably you, too!
Do Chinchillas Bond with Their Owners?
Chinchillas do bond with their owners. One way we can prove this is through their reactions to strangers.
When confronted with an unfamiliar face, chinchillas often become shy or standoffish, suggesting that they differentiate these strangers from their owners.
In particular, they learn to recognize voice and smell. (Have a chat with your chinchilla during feedings or playtime to build this familiarity.)
Chinchillas are more intelligent and stubborn than other small rodents. They are also highly social.
In addition to forming bonds with their owners, chinchillas appreciate the companionship of other chinchillas. They prefer to live in pairs and can get lonely otherwise.
But chinchillas are generally not trainable.
They can learn their name and be taught to pee in a litter box, but they are not trainable in the same way as dogs.
How Long Does It Take for a Chinchilla to Trust You?
Don’t panic if your chinchilla acts shy, skittish, or even a bit hostile when you first take them home.
As with any pet, it takes time to build trust and affection—often months, but sometimes years. Timid or rescue chinchillas will be particularly sensitive.
Young chinchillas (0 to 8) weeks should mostly be left alone while they mature.
Adolescents (8 weeks to 8 months) are at the best age for bonding, though adults are also perfectly bondable (albeit a little more set in their ways).
It takes 2–4 weeks for a chinchilla to get used to its new home and its new owner.
Particularly during this first week, give your chinchilla time and space to adjust to its new environment.
The first 10–14 days are the most crucial.
Affection will be at its lowest these early days as your chinchilla acclimates.
Earn their trust step-by-step.
Introduce physical contact in stages, allowing the chinchilla to come to you first.
Daily interaction with consistent, gentle attention and a consistent routine of stimuli is the best way to bond with your chinchilla.
Be watchful for signs of distress.
As previously mentioned, female chinchillas may “spray” when they wish to be left alone. Male and female chinchillas may also stare at you, hide, or run away.
Remember, they are prey animals; it is their instinct to hunker down when anxious or overwhelmed.
Additionally, new chinchillas may bite, scratch, or otherwise react negatively to handling at first. Use slow, deliberate movements to keep an uneasy chinchilla from feeling threatened.
8 Ways to Bond with Your Chinchilla
Building trust takes time; the same is true for pets and friendships. Here are eight ways to deepen your bond with your chinchilla:
1) Don’t rush them.
Introduce affection in stages. Allow your chinchilla time to get used to your presence, and avoid sudden movements or loud noises, as these may frighten it.
Begin by slowly moving closer to your chinchilla. Offer your hand for its inspection, then advance to gentle contact.
Don’t progress to the next stage until your chinchilla is comfortable with the previous.
2) Give them space.
Be physically near so that your chinchilla can get used to your presence. But don’t loom over it; get on its level or sit on the floor to appear less threatening.
Let it initiate contact first. An excellent way to do this is through playtime.
Once you’ve released your chinchilla into a chinchilla-proofed room (more on this later), position yourself on the floor and wait for it to come to you.
Introduce contact and cuddling slowly, and don’t overdo it. We recommend getting your chinchilla a hideout house for its cage, so it has a private place to retreat to when it needs to recharge.
3) Make sure they are in a suitable environment.
A large enclosure, regular play sessions, good nutrition, and copious chewing toys will keep your chinchilla happy, healthy, and engaged.
Likewise, environmental factors like a comfortable room temperature will make your chinchilla more amenable to affection.
4) Handle them properly.
Use the “base of the tail” technique to hold your chinchilla. This hold is both friendly to beginners and comfortable for the chinchilla.
Using your dominant hand, gently grab the base of your chinchilla’s tail. Your other hand will go under its belly.
Hold your chinchilla securely against your chest, maintaining support from below. Keep your grip firm but not too tight.
5) Allow for daily activity outside the cage.
Chinchilla owners agree that daily activity outside the cage is the most critical step to building affection.
Chinchillas need time to explore and burn off some steam—plus, time outside the cage is great for interacting and strengthening the bond with your pet.
Before each play session, be sure to first chinchilla-proof your room. Block any potential exits or hiding spots, and remove other animals from the area.
Most importantly, cover any electrical outlets, cords, or wires. Chinchillas love to chew, and they have a reputation for chowing down on any exposed wires, which can be deadly.
6) Don’t disrupt their sleeping cycle.
Chinchillas are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Though not nocturnal, they are generally more active at night.
Thus, your chinchilla may prefer snuggles over playtime during the day, or it might just want to be left alone.
Time your hangouts for the early morning and late evening, when your chinchilla will be most alert and active.
7) Be the only one that feeds them.
Feeding your chinchilla is a quick way to win affection.
As you consistently provide for it, your chinchilla will associate you with both food and being a dependable caretaker, leading to a more rapid formation of trust.
8) Get to know your chinchilla’s unique personality.
Every chinchilla is unique and may express affection differently. Some chinchillas may be more territorial and won’t like being bothered in their cage. Others may not like having their tail touched.
The more time you spend with your chinchilla, the more you’ll learn about its personality, and the deeper your bond will become.