Biting can really put a damper on the bonding process. It can be frustrating when you feel like your chinchilla isn’t accepting you. But why do chinchillas bite? Think of it as a communication strategy. And once you know why, you can understand them!
The most common reason chinchillas bite is because they’re scared. So don’t feel too defeated if your chinchilla bites. It’s likely not personal. They don’t feel comfortable and they aren’t relaxed. But all you need to do is move a little slower with the bonding process to help them build familiarity with you and learn how they like to be interacted with.
We’ll talk all about that! As well as some of the other situations where a chinchilla will bite and what you can do about it.
How A Chinchilla’s Natural Instincts Trigger Biting
Chinchillas are prey animals. Their first instinct when they feel scared or threatened is to run away. But when you’re someone’s pet, you can’t run away!
Or at least not easily. If they’re backed into their cage then they have nowhere to flee to. And fighting becomes their only option as a way of saying back off!
They would like to flee if they could. But usually, they’re left trying to communicate with their parent. And that can be difficult for both you and the chinchilla. But it’s just one bump in the road to chinchilla companionship.
Once you learn what makes your chin comfortable and you become more predictable to them, the bonding really starts!
A fearful bite can be triggered by something as simple as your chinchilla being startled. If you were resting and suddenly a giant hand came down to grab you, you would certainly panic.
Being a small pet means losing some freedom and if that comes without trust, you can get a fearful bite.
That same hand in a different scenario would likely be more welcome. This is why it’s good to get to know your chinchilla and interact with them in a way that keeps both sides of communication open.
If a stranger came into your house, you’d be scared too! Life for a chinchilla can be very unpredictable. It’s important to keep their environment and daily routine as predictable as possible.
What Can You Do About It?
Here’s an example of keeping communication open on both sides; If you reach your hand out for the chinchilla but don’t touch them, they have a chance to respond by coming towards you. They may come and smell your hand or check out a treat or toy you have.
If you are patient, you give them time to get curious and want to interact. The first time they meet someone it’s very unlikely they will feel comfortable enough to get curious. Give them time to adjust to seeing you and being around you.
Keep their needs and safety in mind. When you have guests come to the house, show off your beautiful chinchilla by letting them look, but if you let them hold your chinchilla, you’re likely setting your chin up for a stressful situation.
To make bites fewer and far between, you need to keep your chinchilla in a low-stress environment. And an environment that takes care of all of their physical and mental needs.
Aggressive biting is more painful as it's typically less of a reflex reaction. Meaning, they may bite and hold on without letting go. A chinchilla can feel aggressive toward other chinchillas when they feel like their territory is being overtaken.
Chinchillas will also feel aggressive when their environment is upsetting or they aren’t getting their needs met.
For example, a chinchilla in an enclosure that’s too small may get aggressive. If a chinchilla is hungry or in pain, they’re also more likely to get aggressive.
So again, we need to keep these chins comfortable!
What Can You Do About It?
Make sure your chinchilla has plenty of space, unlimited hay at all times, and plenty of toys to keep them busy. This will help your chinchilla feel happy and cared for. Neglect can certainly lead to aggression.
Make sure you don’t introduce new people or chinchillas too quickly into your chinchilla’s space. Any changes in your chinchilla’s life need to be taken care of slowly and patiently.
Biting For Grooming
If your chinchilla is nibbling on your finger and it doesn’t hurt, then it's likely they think they’re grooming you. Which means they like you! Quite a turn from the previous scenarios. Biting for grooming is done when your chinchilla is actually very comfortable.
They do this with each other to say hey we’re on the same team. And when they feel bonded with a human they may groom as well!
What Can You Do About It?
Grooming is something chinchillas do to take care of one another. It’s not a bad thing if this is happening, but if you don’t like it, you can always redirect your chinchilla to something else or put them down when they start to nibble.
Why Do Chinchillas Bite Other Things?
We know chinchillas love to chew so their teeth are usually hard at work chewing on different toys or their daily hay pile. This helps keep their teeth filed down, healthy, and pain-free.
It’s completely normal for your chinchilla to want to get a taste of different materials and textures around their enclosure. Give them plenty of toys to do this with! Chinchillas need to spend a lot of their day chewing their hay and toys in order to keep their teeth pain-free.
Chinchillas Bite To Tell You Something
Run through these different scenarios we’ve outlined here next time you wonder, why do chinchillas bite? With a little detective work, you’ll figure out just what your chin is trying to tell you.
If you need any other help figuring out what’s going on with your chinchilla, talk with your exotic vet! A chinchilla-savvy vet will have some great input. They also may be able to help you identify a problem that you didn’t notice (pain or other health issues stressing out your chinchilla).
Chinchillas don’t have as many ways to communicate as we do. Their body language can tell you a lot. And biting is just another way that they communicate. Especially if they feel they are in an emergency scenario!
It doesn’t mean you’re their enemy or that you’ll never be friends. It just means you have a little work to do on your communication.
Chinchilla research is continuously growing! If you have any doubts or concerns contact your exotic vet.
We are not veterinarians, and none of our information should be construed as veterinary advice.