We’ve previously written an article about cages for chinchillas and we discussed there what makes a good habitat for a chinchilla. We also thought that it’s important for you to know that if you have pets at home, you should consider using tick killers for yards as well as doing some research on how chinchillas like their home to be. One thing that people usually don’t know is that chinchillas are animals that like very low temperatures.
How cold should a chinchilla’s cage be? Probably colder than you’re used to. Chinchillas feel best at temperatures in which humans can feel cold, so if you’re living in an area where snow almost never falls, make sure to offer them the comfort needed.
Chinchillas in their natural habitat
Originating from South America, chinchillas live in the Andes, the mountains that make most of Chile. In those mountains, elevations can reach 16,400 feet, so temperatures up there are very low. These mountains have an average temperature of 23°F so it’s clear that the animals that live there need to be well-fit for that.
That is why chinchillas have that thick fur, to keep them warm in the freezing nights. Being used to those temperatures, chinchillas cannot tolerate a temperature higher than 80°F. Of course, they won’t feel good when the temperature is too low.
Although they can tolerate a temperature of 0°F in the wild, they can do that because they live in colonies and they burrow in underground tunnels and nests, so they stay away from extremely cold temperatures.
Because they are so social, they like to cuddle together and that keeps them warm. They also groom each other and if you have a single chinchilla it may look for your help for grooming and affection, but don’t expect it to cuddle with you, because the temperature in your room is probably too high for that.
Chinchillas and temperature
Because in the wild they live in places with high altitude, chinchillas are used with cold and dry climates and they try to stay away from heat. Usually, the cooler the place is, the better they do. When they live in low temperatures they tend to be more active.
If you’re looking for the perfect temperature for your chinchilla you should know that it feels best at 60°F to 70°F. Make sure you keep the humidity low as well. The ideal humidity for chinchillas is between 40% and 60%. If the temperatures exceed 80°F your chinchilla will become stressed and agitated.
Adult chinchillas that are in good health can handle temperatures as high as 88°F but only for very brief periods. It’s not recommended to have them stay in such high temperatures. Some chinchillas that are older or have a very thick fur will feel very bad when the room is too hot.
When humans get hot we sweat and that’s how we regulate our body temperature. But chinchillas can’t sweat and that’s why they are highly susceptible to heat strokes. It’s essential to keep the room where you have your chinchilla as cold as possible. Ideally, you would have a separate room for your pet or a way to keep the temperature low.
There are a lot of ways to avoid heat strokes. One of the easiest things to do is making sure you keep the cage away from direct sunlight, in a room with normal temperature. The most effective way to keep your chinchilla cool is to use an air conditioning system just for it.
People are usually scared to drop the temperatures too low, but as long as the water in the pet’s bottle doesn’t freeze, things are good. There are small exceptions, however – newborns or pregnant females prefer a slightly less chilly place, but still not a warm one. After the female gives birth and the baby chinchillas have dried, it’s safe to drop the temperature.
Humidity is important too
Tropical forests don’t feel that hot just because of the temperature. Humidity has a big influence on how the temperature is perceived. That’s also the case for chinchillas – the higher the humidity, the denser the air feels. Humidity is the amount of water in the air around us, and the higher the concentration of water, the more heat is trapped in the air.
Hot and humid air is extremely hard to breathe and it also creates high atmospheric pressure. That is why you should make a simple calculation when you want to see if your chinchilla is safe in its habitat or not. Add the temperature in Fahrenheit degrees and the humidity in percentage and the sum should not be more than 150.
Chinchillas are in serious danger if this sum goes over 150. If that happens they risk suffering from overheating or heat strokes. Animals that are not in perfect health are at greater risk. So if you are having pregnant females, young chinchillas or some of them have thicker fur, make sure to stay as far away from the dangerous 150 number as possible.
If you combine heat with humidity, the result can be a killer one for your beloved pets. Humidity on its own can be bad too as it leads to fur fungus or other similar diseases that are caused by dirty fur. When the humidity is high, there are better conditions for bacteria and diseases to appear.
Even if the sum between the temperature and the humidity is 100, things aren’t great and you need to look at how to lower this number. In order to keep the humidity low, you can choose to use a dehumidifier. It’s a relatively cheap solution, but having one in a room will raise the temperature a bit, so it’s a trade-off.
How to keep temperatures low
There are many ways to keep your chinchilla cool in the summer days when you don’t have an air conditioning unit. One first thing to know is that when temperatures are slightly higher than chinchillas like, you shouldn’t play with them or touch them too much, because this will increase their temperature even more.
Also, if you usually keep an exercise wheel in your chinchilla’s cage, remove it until the hot summer passes. The pet will probably not play on it anyway, but it’s safer if you remove it altogether. Keeping the pet’s exercises to a minimum is important when you take it outside too. Chinchillas will still run a lot, even if they overheat, so you have to avoid that.
An important trick to use at all times is to keep the curtains closed in the room where your chinchilla lives. This will limit the amount of heat that gets into the room. Don’t open the windows though, as this won’t help the chinchilla and even more, it can make things worse if the air outside is hotter than the one in the room.
As previously mentioned, it’s great if you can keep the chinchilla in its own private little room where you can keep the temperature and humidity at a constant level. But if you can’t do that, try to put the pet away from running electrical appliances. Computers, fridges or freezers give off heat when they work and they increase the room’s temperature.
When installing air cons or dehumidifiers make sure that they work well and don’t produce heat. You can install ice blocks in metal tins inside the cage. If you have a lot of ice blocks together, they will stay cooler for longer and provide a safe place for your chinchilla to chill near. You can put the ice blocks in clean socks or towels and place them safely in your pet’s cage.
Any kind of frozen items are appreciated by the chinchillas so you can use things like terracotta tiles, flower pots or marble slabs. These materials are good because they maintain the same temperature for a long time, so if you hold them in a freezer overnight they will be a great addition for the next day in your pet’s cage.
What to do if your air conditioning system breaks down?
Keeping your chinchilla inside a cool room is a good idea, especially during the summer, but what do you do if your air conditioner suddenly stops? Maybe you won’t be able to get someone to fix it right away and you don’t want your pet to get a heatstroke. So, what do you do?
Move it to a friend’s house until you repair it
One solution is to take your chinchilla somewhere cool and safe, like a friend’s house. If your family or friends are open to this idea, the best thing to do for your chinchilla is to temporarily find it another home.
You don’t have to move their whole cage along with all their stuff. It is not recommended. You should have a travel small cage that will help you, as some of them are even collapsible.
The most important thing to remember is that if you have a friend fostering your chinchilla, you have to give them all the instructions they need to take good care of it. A chinchilla is not a pet owned by everyone and some people might have misconceptions about them, like the fact that they eat raisins, which is actually the opposite.
If none of your friends and family are opened to the idea of taking care of your pet friend for a few days, a good idea is to take it to a veterinary facility that deals with this kind of situation. They will make sure to keep your chinchilla safe until you fix the problem.
Keeping it cool
Another way to go is to keep your chinchilla at home but to keep it cool at the same time until you can manage to fix your air conditioning. You can try moving it to the basement, but you have to make sure that you have the right temperature and the right humidity, as well.
One thing to remember is that basements have high humidity levels so you can provide the room with a dehumidifier as well. You can also try to keep it cool in other ways, like with a cooled marble piece, but you should always remember that these are only temporary measures and, if you do not fix the problem soon, your chinchilla might be in danger.
How do you know if you should lower the temperature?
Chinchillas are creatures that are very sensitive to heat. Even if you do not feel it, temperatures that might seem all right for your body could be fatal to your little friend. To know when to lower the temperature, it’s essential to be able to read the sign your chinchilla is sending you.
The first sign that your friend is too hot is that its ears become red. Bright red ears can be a normal reaction after your chinchilla has had intense physical activity, but if the redness doesn’t go away after 10 minutes, you should inspect their blood vessels. If they are swollen, it means that the chinchilla might be having a heatstroke.
Chinchillas are more active during the night, so, during the day, they can sleep or be less active. But if you notice that your little friend is not as active as usual, you should worry. You should also check if its body is very warm.
If it is drooling a lot and it breathes heavily, you should take it to the vet because it might be having a heatstroke that can end up to be fatal.
What to do in case of heatstroke?
In case you notice that your chinchilla is too hot, you should take it to the vet asap. If that is not possible, there are a few things you can do. Ice pads can be a solution, as they help your little friend cool down. You can use an actual ice pad or you can use frozen peas or anything that you can find inside the freezer.
If you think this is too extreme, you can put it inside a bowl and get it inside the refrigerator until it cools down.
Providing your little friend with enough fluids is essential because your chinchilla can dehydrate due to the heat. You can use cold water on its body as well, but you should know that if the water is too cold and the chinchilla’s body is too hot, it can enter a shock that might be very dangerous.
If you think of using a fan, you should know that this does not work. Contrary to an air conditioning device, a fan doesn’t produce cold air, it only moves the already hot air through the room and that won’t cool down your chinchilla.
Are chinchillas known to enter hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when the body of a human or an animal is too low and their nervous system is affected. The usual healthy temperature of a chinchilla is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That is similar to human temperature. The difference is that they are very very small compared to humans and their temperature regulation is different.
Hypothermia can have serious effects on your little friend and can lead to organ damage. They can even enter a coma and, eventually, die. This is why you have to be careful and not make a mistake that can lead you to lose your favorite pet-friend.
Even though a chinchilla, while in the wild, can survive at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, that does not mean that you should leave it on your balcony or yard during cold winters. In the wild, because they live in colonies, they can regulate their temperature by keeping themselves warm with their friends’ body heat, just like cats do.
But as long as your chinchilla is living alone in its cage, it will get very cold and possibly enter hypothermia. Such cases are rare but were encountered in chinchillas that were being raised for their fur and weren’t well taken care of.