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 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.