Planning on Having a Bond Mate for your Chinchilla? …Make Doubly Sure They’re the Same Sex

Chinchilla Bond Mates, if you don't double check, can lead to unwanted pregnancy when adopting
I recently heard a story about a chin owner that I think we need to talk more about, dealing with chinchilla unexpected pregnancy. I’m going to call the hooman Chris (it’s not his real name, but it’s my husband’s… so I’ll remember what I named him throughout his story. Hopefully.)

Chris’s Story

Chris had adopted a bonded pair years earlier, and because of his love for them (who doesn’t love those adorable fuzzy fur babies?), wanted to add more to his family. He decided to purchase two… a now happy family of five. The first, Chris adopted from Craigslist and the other he bought from a pet store. This was last year.
 
After spending countless hours bonding the pair, they seemed to really get along. Two cages, two pairs of chins.
 
Chris had made a recent move, and he had some clutter and storage boxes still laying around, so visibility was a little lacking in the designated chinchilla room. The next day, he went in to clean cages, continue organizing his new pad, and install a second air condition for his beloved little pets (what a good chin parent!). He lifted a box off of the floor and saw a dead ebony kit. Seriously, this happened.
 
His love for these small pets is just over the moon. He was devastated. Confused. Angry. He instantly started rechecking genitals, and what do you know… one of his female chins, well… wasn’t a female.
 
While this story isn’t happy-go-lucky by any means, it’s important that we talk about what happened. Chris took what the breeder said at face value: “here’s a female chinchilla available for adoption.” While he did do a quick glance at the genitals before adoption, he wasn’t experienced enough to know the difference. He said that he’d thought the genitals looked a little different, but he’d figured it was because “she” was just a bigger chinchilla. Not so.
 
But, the good news? This is 100 million billion percent preventable. If you’re not 100% sure about the sex of the chinchilla you’re adopting, especially if you’re planning to bond with another, consult with your exotic vet. Find an expert to take with you and guide you through the process. Do anything and everything necessary to make sure you’re protecting your small pets and providing them a safe environment to live in.
 
Chinchillas breed very quickly, so if you find yourself in this situation, number 1: separate them. Number 2: take your pet to your vet and get them checked out to make sure there are no other kits on the way.
 
Be alert. Don’t take anyone’s word for it that a girl is a girl and a boy is a boy. Do your research. Know what you’re looking for. Talk to an expert. Heck, invite your exotic vet over for dinner and have a little chat (okay… would that be awkward?).
 
Either way, chinchillas deserve for us, as their hoomans, to take care of them and to keep them safe and sound. And snuggled if they’ll allow it.
 
I really wanted to share Chris’s story so that others realize this happens. More often then I’d probably care to know. And now, like chinchillas rely on us as their owners, I’m relying on you to help spread the word and prevent these situations. Hopefully for good.

Should Chinchillas be Spayed or Neutered?

chinchilla spay neuter

Fixing your chinchilla… is it a good idea? Or is it not?

Guys and gals are different. I mean, I’m way cooler than my husband.

But the same goes for chins: genders are so different, and especially when it comes to spaying and neutering. Fixing your chinchilla is not something to be taken lightly.
 
Female chinchillas should never be spayed; the procedure can kill her. However, both female and male chinchilla fixing comes at a big risk. Anesthesia is dangerous; chins oftentimes have a negative reaction to the meds. And if you don’t have an experienced exotic veterinarian, if you’re thinking to fix, FIND ONE. But even with an exotic expert, there’s a risk of shock and infection. Chins are very delicate creatures.
 
Neutering a chinchilla is not common. But, if it must be done, there are lots of things you need to know.
 
FIND AN EXPERIENCED EXOTIC VET
 
This is so important. Ask questions to make sure you feel comfortable with the procedure. Quiz them (politely). The more details they can give, the better. If you feel, in any way, hesitant that you’re not getting the answers you’re looking for, for the sake and safety of your pet, continue to interview until you find a good fit.
 
You’ll definitely want to understand timing of the surgery. If you must resort to fixing your chinchilla, when should you drop off and pick up? Chinchillas should not be exposed to the potential scary sounds in a busy veterinarian office, as this is extremely stressful, especially after going under the knife. And this added stress will wear down the immune system, increasing the chance of a secondary infection. Additional stress can also cause GI upset, which can lead to stasis, enteritis, and other problems, which can be fatal to your beloved pet. Have a tight, well thought out schedule and stick to it. The best recovery environments are quiet and dark. Less stress = better chance of recovery.
 
An experienced vet will understand the above, so ask them about it. If they don’t, move on.
 
Ask about sedation. What drugs will be used? Will they be given via mask or intravenous? (Intravenous drugs are not recommended for small exotic animals.) Understand that sedation causes the body temperature to drop, so ask if there will be a heat source to help regulate.
 
Ask about how the procedure will be performed. Closed castration or open castration? There are differing opinions on which method is preferred. While closed castration is less invasive, open castration, to some, is more accurate. Have a detailed conversation about this, and don’t stop asking questions until you feel 100% comfortable with the route you decide upon.
 
Ask about pain medication. Will it be used? In their book, Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents – Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Elizabeth Hillyer and Katherine Quesenberry, both DVMs say the following:
 
“In pet practice as in research, the outcomes of procedures can be markedly  affected by the level of stress in a particular animal, and there is ample evidence indicating that pain is a very important contributor to level of stress. For this  reason, do not hesitate to provide analgesia for surgery or after trauma in these  small  species, just as you would in dogs and cats in the same situations.”
 
Again, we want to provide the most de-stressed environment during recovery, so understand that pain medication is an option. Even if it’s not needed, it’s best to have on-hand incase of an emergency. Always discuss side effects with your veterinarian, and know what to watch for if you need to administer.
 
Ask about antibiotics. Do we use them before infection to help prevent, or after an infection presents itself in order to treat? Antibiotics can effect a chin’s GI tract by disturbing natural flora. Discuss the pros and cons.
 
I DECIDED ON MY EXOTIC VET AND SURGERY IS COMPLETE, NOW WHAT?
 
Post-operative care is as important as the actual surgery. I would recommend switching up your chin’s living arrangement for a while: a one-level cage to prevent jumping, white t-shirts or towels as bedding which allow you to monitor any discharge and urine color. Again, a quiet, dimly lit environment is a must at this time.
 
Like humans, an animal’s demeanor will likely change post-op: quiet, less active and sluggish. Appetites may decrease, also. Always have pellets and hay on hand, but if needed, be prepared to hand feed… constant GI function is necessary.
 
Hydrate. Monitor your chinchilla’s drinking, and if you notice they’re turning their head to H2O, offer water via syringe. While water feeding via syringe will typically not be enough, it may prompt them to start drinking on their own. If you’re still having issues,  get that chin back to the vet to discuss options.
 
Keep an eye on incisions. Swelling, heat, discharge, discoloration? If you see any of these, immediately contact your vet, as these symptoms can indicate infection.
 
Fixing your chinchilla should only be considered in life and death situations and is not to be taken lightly. As a pet owner, if this procedure is necessary, it’s our responsibility to pay attention to what’s going on with their recovery, both physically and mentally. Discuss all possible complications with your exotic veterinarian pre-surgery. This gives your chinchilla the best chance of recovery and the best chance to live a full, happy life.

Blueberry Lane: Good Will Ambassadors

blueberry lane rabbit chinchilla guinea pig and bird

(Don’t miss coloring page downloads at the end of chapter two!)

Chapter One

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock sweeps the minute hand on the clock.

Rasmus rabbit nibbles the paper corner off his writing assignment.

Guinevere twirls a pencil in her long white fur.  She dreams about being a shorthaired guinea pig.  She would spend less time fixing her fur and more time playing.

Pedro taps his paw.  He is anxiously waiting to get his English report card.  He sneaks a snack of Small Pet Select Timothy hay to calm his nerves.   It tastes like the hay he had when he was a baby chinchilla in Peru.

The teacher said, “Rasmus, please read your last poetry assignment to the class.”   Rasmus lifted his head up.  He turned one tall ear to the side then quickly obeyed the teacher.   With a hop to the front of the classroom he proudly read:

One, two, three, four

 The number of bags we pack 

Small enough to fit on our back

Five, six, seven, eight, 

Steps to the train on the iron track 

See the coal smoke from the stack

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve

Ambassadors for pets who have no home

Everyone please adopt so they are not alone.

Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong rings the dismissal bell.  Cheers roar!!  All students, small to tall, rush to wish their friends a happy summer vacation!

Tilly parrot flutters around Blueberry Lane Farm.  She is waiting for Guinevere, Pedro, and Rasmus to arrive home with report cards.   Coral Bell waits by the garden gate to greet them.  She has a surprise for them.  It is a basket of fresh picked parsley and romaine.  Rasmus hops down the lane with Pedro right beside him.  They race to the door excited to eat their afterschool snack.  Meanwhile, Guinevere dilly dallies along picking wild blueberries.   Then she dilly dallies stuffing blueberries in her pack.  Then she dilly dallies to untangle her fur from off the brambles.  Then she gets home late.  She’s always late!

Using her beak, Tilly snatches everyone’s report cards from their back packs.  She flutters upstairs to the library.  Proudly she pins them on Coral Bell’s bulletin board.  Coral Bell has lots of interesting things on her bulletin board.  Tilly sees seed packets, garden notes, and pictures of herbs.

Tilly saw gold star stickers on Rasmus’s report card.  Then she saw the grades on Guinevere’s report card were scribbled out.   The scribbled ink was a different color than the teacher’s ink.   Hmm, Tilly wondered, this was odd.  Why was there scribbling?

Tilly perched on her favorite desk chair.  It has wheels on it.  When she flaps her wings, the chair spins around.  Tilly likes to wonder and think about things while the chair spins.  She remembered Rasmus won a geography contest in school.   That would explain the gold stars, she thought.   Then she remembered Guinevere got in trouble for fussing with her long fur in school.   Her fur always distracts her. Maybe she turns her work in late. Coral Bell always said “Guinevere, stop playing with your fur, you will make us late again!”   Then Tilly would sing “we’re late, we’re late, we’re late for a very important date.”

Now that it’s summer vacation, Tilly wondered if they were going on a trip.  She flapped her wings and flew from one end of the bulletin board to the other.  Yes!  There were travel plans.  Four train tickets, a list of addresses, and a schedule were pinned to the board.  Coral Bell scheduled the group to visit shelters and be ambassadors for pet adoption.   After all, Rasmus, Pedro, Guinevere, and Tilly knew what it was like to be abandoned or lost.  They all remembered a lonely life in a shelter.   They wanted to give back to the community.

Rasmus is an organized bunny.  He planned the first ambassador trip.  They had train tickets to go from Peapack to Philadelphia.  Rasmus told the others they could travel by boat or hot air balloon on the next trip.  It would be more fun that way.  And besides, there would be less traffic.

Thump.  Thump, thump.  Thump, thump, thump.  Rasmus called a group meeting.  He demanded everyone pay attention.  Everyone needs to know the important details.  Everyone needs to have their assignments.   Rasmus reminded the group he got an “A” in geography, so he assigned himself to handle maps and directions.

“Pedro, you are in charge of packing snacks and hay.  Take your time packing.  Don’t get nervous.  When you get nervous you eat too much.   Make sure you pack extra for nervous days.”

“Tilly, you are in charge of our paper stuff:  tickets and travel schedules.  You are the only one who won’t be tempted to shred them.  Don’t worry, I folded the paper stuff very small so it will fit neatly in your little pack.”   Tilly flapped in excitement.  She loved to have a purpose because it gave her confidence.

Tilly could see further than Rasmus, and she secretly wanted to fight him for the map keeper job.   After thinking it over, she decided it was more important to be a team player.

Snoring sounds came from the corner.  Oh dear, Guinevere!  She fell asleep during the important meeting!  Rasmus loudly THUMPED his foot with force.  Guinevere awoke in a startle.  Sleepy and yawning, she rubbed her dark little eyes and rolled over.  She had bed head fur.  That’s when chaos broke out.

Tilly cackled in laughter.  She flapped her green wings, and flew to her perch to get a better view.

Pedro exclaimed, “oh, señorita, your fur is el messo!  eres azul!”

Rasmus ran the bunny-500 around the library then stopped with a quick halt.   “Guinevere, your fur is blue.  There is a blueberry in your ear!   You cannot go on the train with blue fur!  Now you will have to stay home.   Instead, you can weed the garden for Coral Bell when we go to Philadelphia.”

Tears rolled down Guinevere’s cheeks.  She saw her reflection in the window glass.  Her long white fur really was blue.  There really was a plump blueberry in her ear.   Pedro was so nervous, he plucked the blueberry from Guinevere’s ear and ate it.

Tilly flew to the desk chair.  She flapped extra hard so the chair would spin for an extra-long time.  She needed extra thinking time.   All this flapping was hard work for a parrot.  Tilly was in a tizzy.

Rasmus thumped again.   “Calm down everyone.  No need for all the fuss.  It’s settled.  Guinevere can stay home.  Or maybe she can get a wig.   Never mind all that, now it’s time for a nap.”

Chapter Two

Tilly knew she must help Guinevere.  It was too hot to wear a wig.  Besides, where would they get a wig for a guinea pig?  And who would carry Guinevere’s pack?

While the boys napped, Tilly got busy.  She collected a towel, lavender soap, a tea cup of warm water, and a comb.   Then she went to work on Guinevere.   Tilly used her beak to gently scrub away the blueberry stains.  Soap bubbles floated through the air until the blue faded to gray.  Guinevere’s fur smelled fresh and clean, but it had to be combed.  This was the real work.  Tilly used her beak to untangle the knots and pick out some brambles.   Her wet, messy fur looked like a spaghetti factory.  Tilly combed until they both fell asleep for the night.

Thump.  Thump, thump.  Rasmus called an early morning meeting.  This one was urgent.  No time to prepare.  Guinevere stumbled in with her fur still a mess.  Tilly explained it was work in progress.  She stood up for Guinevere and said, “We were up all night washing and grooming her fur.  We’re almost done.   If she can’t go on the trip, then I won’t go either.”

Rasmus turned his tall ears left and right, then toward each other.   His nose twitched.   Tilly hollered, “Rasmus, stop turning your ears.  You are not getting any radio signals doing that.”   Rasmus thumped in denial.

Pedro was feeling nervous.  He ate some basil.  Pedro wanted to speak up. Then he ate some thyme.  He had to be brave.  “Señor, the guinea pig should come.  Her fur es mucho better.”

With all this pressure, Rasmus decided Guinevere could go.  He made her promise to be on time.  He made her promise not to cause a fuss.  He made her promise to have her fur ready early.   Otherwise, Tilly would sing, “we’re late, we’re late, we’re late for a very important date.”

Pedro wanted to help the petite guinea pig.  He gave her wise advice.  “Guinevere, it’s time to put others first.  You cannot just think about your fur and how pretty you look.   It is best not to worry about what others think.   Look at me Senorita.  My English and Spanish get mixed up all the time.  I make mucho grande mistakes, but what matters is that I try.  I don’t worry about what others say about my English.”

Guinevere tried to understand Pedro.  Her fur is too beautiful not to fuss over she thought.  She wondered if it would be better to concentrate on her eyelashes instead.  After all, they were much easier to take care of.

The next day when the group met, Guinevere kept her promise.  She arrived on time.   a pink bow hid her gray fur.   Rasmus took attendance and checked back packs.  Then they waved good bye to Coral Bell.   From Blueberry Lane, they scurried with excitement to the Peapack train station.

Toot.  Toot, toot.  “All aboard,” the conductor bellowed.   The boys hopped up into the train.   Guinevere was next.  Her little legs were short.  She took a running leap on the step.  Oops.  Ouch.  Ow.  Her pink bow unfurled and got caught on the train track.   “Tilly, Tilly please help me.  I cannot get on to the train, and Rasmus will be so mad.”

Toot.  Toot, toot.  The train signaled for departure.  It started to chug forward.

Rasmus thumped, “Guinevere, what are you doing?  Where are you?  What’s taking so long?”

Guinevere was in a panic.  Tilly quickly untied the tangled ribbon with her beak and helped little Guinevere up into the train.   “Oh Tilly, how does my fur look?   Is there dust on my eyelashes?”   Tilly does not like to tell a lie, but it was a mess again.   She promised to comb her fur on the long train ride to Philadelphia.   There would be plenty of time to fix a pretty pink bow too.

The ambassadors enjoyed a scenic train ride from Peapack.  The train rolled over hill and dale until they reached Philadelphia.   It was a busy city.  No sign of wild blueberries or fresh hay here.   Since they were guests of honor, they stayed overnight at each shelter they visited.  They had plenty to eat, and shared their Small Pet Select snacks with new friends.

They met bunnies, chinchillas, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs, and other pocket pets in need of homes.   They worked hard to promote adoption from shelters. They talked of the importance of adopting old and sick animals.  They championed for all who needed a home, a warm bed or bird cage to call their own.  They told stories of how it makes a difference to be loved and feel secure.  Guinevere even gave lessons on grooming and fur styling.

When they returned to Blueberry Lane Farm, Coral Bell was eager to hear about their trip.   As they shared their stories with Coral Bell, they realized they learned new lessons in Philadelphia.

Pedro learned confidence.  He could speak in front of strangers and not be nervous.

Rasmus learned to appreciate passion for being brave and speaking up for what is right.

Tilly learned the importance of helping a friend in need and how it made her feel good about herself.

Guinevere learned she is loved for who she is, even if her fur is a mess or her eyelashes are dusty.

They all learned that together they made a difference.  They learned that their messages made a difference, and many animals in need will receive the gift of a home to call their own.

The foursome agreed they will have the best summer vacation stories to tell when they return to school.

They were happy to be back home at Blueberry Lane Herb Farm, a place they could call home, happy to be a family, and grateful to enjoy their Small Pet Select meals together.

The end.

 

Be on the lookout for our next quarterly installment… coming this fall!

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Traveling with Small Pets

how to travel with small animals

Guinea pigs and rabbits aren’t known for their adventurous spirits. Small animals are easily stressed by a change in scenery. If you’re taking a brief vacation, they’d probably prefer to sit this one out. If possible, let them enjoy a staycation with a trusted friend, family member, or pet sitter. There are times, however, when traveling with small pets is unavoidable. Short trips, such as a journey to the vet, are manageable for most small animals. This is even good practice for longer car rides. Major travel, like a cross country move, requires extra precautions to make for a smooth transition.

Practice makes perfect

Small animals can find changes to their surroundings upsetting. Car rides can be scary, especially if they aren’t used to traveling. Start with short trips, even just 10 minutes, to help train your pet for the big event. If the cage or carrier is going directly on the floor of the vehicle, putting down some towels underneath can help to minimize vibrations. Making the adventure enjoyable, perhaps with some treats, certainly won’t hurt.

Safety first

For shorter trips, a few hours or less, the safest transportation option is a hard-sided pet carrier. This is one of the only times when smaller is better! You want your rabbit to be able to comfortably stand and turn around, of course, but the less room there is to slide about in the event of a sudden stop or accident will minimize the chances of injury. Bonus points if you can strap it down for extra security. For longer trips, a cage may be a better choice to accommodate a litter pan. This can also give your rabbit a comfortable place to call her own if stopping overnight at a hotel with unfamiliar smells and sounds.

Not too hot, not too cold

Goldihops is especially sensitive to changes in temperature, including drafts. Keeping the travel cage or carrier as close to you as possible will allow you to monitor the temperature best. You don’t want to expose them to too much direct sunlight or put them right in the blast from the cold air conditioning. Covering some of the cage with a blanket or towel will keep out drafts, as well as potentially spooky lights from oncoming traffic. Never, no matter what the temperature outside, leave your rabbit unattended in a vehicle. Traveling with small pets and sit-down meals just don’t mix.

Water woes

There is no way around this one. All water bottles WILL leak and all bowls WILL spill in the car. Traditional water containers are a no-go for traveling with small pets. Instead, offer water at every pit stop and keep unflavored Pedialyte® and syringes on hand in case of suspected dehydration. Guinea pigs that are too frightened to drink during potty breaks may be enticed into munching on some hydrating melon, celery, or cucumber slices. Keeping a small cooler full of water-rich veggies can keep your pet both hydrated and distracted during travel.

Take it slow

Your guinea pigs and rabbits probably won’t be game for an all-nighter. Stopping overnight will allow them to decompress a bit as well as eat and drink regularly – super important – to get ready for round two. Hay should be available 24/7 in the travel cage, but it isn’t unusual if they don’t eat much on the road. Small animals may refuse to chow down in the car, and going too long without high-fiber food moving through can be dangerous. Adding a few extra hours, or even days, to the journey is worthwhile to make sure your pet is given enough opportunity to eat as normally as possible.

bunny with suitcase
rabbit with suitcase

Bentley NEVER forgets his hay when he travels.

Does My Chinchilla Need a Bond Mate?

do chinchillas need bond mates?
The simple answer? No, a chinchilla bond mate isn’t needed for your pet to be happy.
 
Chinchillas are, by nature, social. In the wild, they live in colonies because they’re prey animals, and it’s much safer to have lots of eyes looking to protect. However, not every chinchilla is social. In a domestic situation, your chinchilla should be kept safely in their cage; they won’t have as strong an urge to have so many other eyes watching out for them.
 
Regardless of this, is not necessarily to be a multi-chin owner… as long as you spend time with your pet. Chinchillas can be perfectly happy little animals when they get plenty of socialization and interaction from you, the owner.
 
What if I want to add another chinchilla?
 
If you’re thinking of adding a new chin to the family, it’s important that you go about it the right way.
 
Make sure you have enough space to quarantine the new pet for a 30 day period to ensure that they’re in good health. Even when you find an exotic vet and they go for their first check up, the vet can only diagnose what they see. And we all know how talented chins are with hiding illnesses.
 
Ask yourself if you’re prepared to have two chinchilla setups for the duration of their lives. Even with the best efforts, it’s possible that you may not ever be able to bond your chinchillas, and you will have to keep them housed separately. And then there’s the possibility that if you do successfully bond your pets, their bond could break in the future, and they may start fighting and attacking each other. Think long and hard… double work is a huge commitment (time for cage cleaning, expenses, etc.), so be sure you’re 100% about the decision to add a mate.
 
Okay, so you’ve decided that you want to add a mate. What next? 
 
  • You’ll need a neutral, empty, recently cleaned cage for introduction. No odors or items are recommended that belong to either chinchilla (this decreases chance of fighting over territory). The last thing we want is territorial fighting.
  • Do not hold one chinchilla to the other. The less dominant chin should always have the option to back down and away from the dominate animal.
  • If your chinchilla draws blood and/or causes physical harm, separate them, and do not attempt to house. They are not compatible and our number one concern for our pets is always safety.
  • Supply a dust bath to calm the nerves of your animals; they’re going through a serious environmental change and this is a stressful time.
  • If you notice fur slip, separate the chins and re-try bonding in a week or so.
  • Do not introduce in an open area. They will likely avoid contact with each other, and could possibly feel more defensive in a large area because they are prey animals.
  • Introduce during the day; chinchillas are crepuscular creatures, so they’ll be resting and less likely to fight.
Chinchillas do not need a bond mate when they have responsible owners who treat them as family and socialize with them on a daily basis… it’s important for every person and pet to have daily interaction with someone or something.
 
If you do want to add a bond mate for your chinchilla, make sure that you realize there’s the potential for the bonding not to work. But there’s also a possibility that your chins may develop a BFF friendship like none other. Be confident in your decision and confident that regardless of the outcome, you’ll love your chins just the same.