How to Play With a Pet Chinchilla

Chinchillas are so soft and silky, it's tempting to spend your bonding time just petting them. While tame chins will enjoy quiet quality time soaking up your affection in this way, they're actually often active and playful. Chinchillas have been known to literally bounce off the walls, once they get going. These curious little creatures are nocturnal, so your fun together will take place in the evening. Play in a safe, hazard-free environment. Don't forget to set out some snacks for refueling when your chinchilla's blood sugar starts to drop.

sequence shots of chinchilla holding ball
Be sure to bring plenty of interesting toys to your chinchilla play date.
credit: Dmitry Oshchepkov/iStock/Getty Images

Play on Chin Time

When you want to schedule a play date with your chinchilla, it will have to be during evening hours. Chinchillas sleep most of the day and are active at night. Don't try to force your schedule on your chin; instead, set aside time every evening to play with him so you won't interfere with his natural clock. An hour or more of play each day would be ideal, but even 30 minutes of playtime is better than none at all.

Safe Play Area

Playtime outside the cage is important for Chinchilla well-being, but the little rodents can get into trouble even when supervised. To take the anxiety out of playtime with your chin, SmallAnimalChannel.com recommends "chin-proofing" the room in which you play with him. Place cables, wires and electrical cords in protective sheathing such as a small-diameter PVC pipes. Completely remove anything from the room you don't want destroyed. Do a thorough search for hiding places. Chinchillas can fit themselves into impossibly small spaces, so cover holes, large cracks and gaps. Even the space between the bottom of the sofa and the floor is a potential hiding place for a mischievous chin who could easily climb up into the furniture and out of your reach.

Toys for Chins

After a few play sessions with a chinchilla, you may suspect he has an attention deficit. He'll be leaping from a chair one minute, climbing the stairs the next and, before you know it, destroying the cardboard box in the corner. Chins love to run and jump, and they enjoy playing with toys, too. Chinchilla- and parrot-specific chew toys are appropriate for chinchilla playtime. So are the cardboard cores of paper towel rolls, and empty tissue boxes. If you don't have a set of stairs in your home, regular step ladders and short ladders purchased from a hardware store are useful climbing toys for chins.

Getting in the Game

Watching your chinchilla run and bounce around is entertaining, but it's understandable for you to want to get in on the action. However, it's best not to force your way into the game your chinchilla is playing. Talk to him encouragingly as he's scurrying around the room, and be available for the occasional chin scratch or tummy rub -- but let him come to you in his own time. If you don't push interaction on to him, he'll soon be climbing all over you, leaping from your lap or shoulder, and will be back soon to inspect your pants leg or the contents of your pocket.

The Refreshment Station

In her book "Diseases of Small Domestic Rodents," veterinarian Virginia C. G. Richardson cautions that, while hypoglycemia is rare in chinchillas, extreme exercise can bring on low blood sugar, causing them to collapse. You can avoid this phenomenon during play time by making sure your chin always has access to a dish of water, his staple food and maybe some treats when the critter is bouncing off the walls.