Updates Archive - 2013
I just wanted to share with you a shameless announcement about my friend Jamie Glaser and his most recent creative way to spread his love of animals through media. Jamie is a singer/songwriter/animal lover/activist/and mediator at Luckys Place (the friendliest pet forum Ive ever seen http://luckychinchilla.proboards.com/index.cgi).
Not only is Jamie just a really neat guy, but he also bends over backwards to do good things. You see, Jamie really wants to spread the word when it comes to animal rescue and adoption. This personal goal aligns so much with our own that its difficult not to feel an instant bond.
This year, Jamie has chosen to bless us by sharing a portion of his earnings from his creative works. Jamies most recent release comes just in time for Christmas! The latest DVD, Doc and Friends is a charmingly sweet, wholesome video that is perfect for the entire family. And combined with Jamies Christmas CD, Dear Santa, helps us to remember our less fortunate, furry friends. If you have a soft spot for the silent less fortunate or know a die hard animal lover (and who doesn't) come check out this link for a sneak preview and ordering information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7XBgRGjSzQ&feature=youtu.be
There are several considerations one must take when designing a cage home for chinchillas. Chinchilla starter cages in pet stores are just that: starter cages. They are intended for one baby chinchilla with the expectation that as he or she grows, they will move into a more permanent home. Do not fool yourself into thinking that if the pet fits, that it is sufficient. Chinchillas are high-energy creatures that require lots of space.Size and cage shape are very important. In their native habitat, chinchillas live more like mountain goats than ground squirrels. This dictates a cage that is taller than it is wide. Height is more imperative than floor space since chinchillas feel most safe up high where they can survey their surroundings. A pet chinchilla should have a cage space that is a minimum of 2’x2’x2’ in volume, and bigger is definitely better with height being the most important factor.
When decorating a cage it is also essential to consider the chinchillas’ natural instinct to chew everything. A good, sturdy wire cage should contain ledges that are safe to chew. Remove all wire and plastic ledges and ramps. If your cage has a wire floor, remove that as well since wire is very harsh on little chinnie paws. Wooden ledges are more flexible in design and serve as a chew toy. *double win*
Ledge placement is critical! Even though a chinchilla can jump up to 5 feet, that doesn’t necessarily mean your domesticated chin is able to. When chinchillas are confined to a small cage, they do not develop proper muscle strength or coordination. Just because a chinchilla can reach a particular ledge, doesn’t mean he or she safely can. When placing ledges in your cage, it is best practice to align them in a stair step fashion so that your pet is able to reach the highest ones safely. With safety in consideration, you should place ledges in such a way that no jump is more than 8” to the next closest perch. Some chinchillas can be particularly clumsy. For this reason, we recommend a good 4” thick mass of clean aspen pine bedding over any other kinds of cage litter or liner. This provides a soft, thick cushion just in case your chin falls.
Also, keep in mind that ledges are intended to be consumable items. Every so often, it may be necessary to replace severely chewed and worn perches. We go through our 50-something cages monthly and replace ledges as needed. A good rule of thumb is to have at least five ledges per each single chin section. So if you have a double sized cage, ten ledges would be the minimum number required. And don’t forget the other fun items such as an exercise wheel, hammocks, swings, bridges, hidey tubes and houses. :D
A good cage is necessary for the well-being of your chinchilla. A great cage goes a long way to provide environmental stimulation, safety and security. A cage doesn’t have to be a sad prison. Deck it out! Make it fun! Decorating a cage for your pet can be one of the most rewarding ways to show your love. And it’s fun to watch them explore each and every new change.
The way we store chinchilla supplies is critical for our fur babies' health. Certain items require storage in a cool, dry, dark place, while others need to “breathe.” Some chinchilla products have a shelf life, while others last indefinitely. Feed pellets are one of the more common foods about which people tend to have a laissez faire attitude. Pellets are relatively cheap when purchased in bulk, but begin to lose nutritional value after 3 months. Products that claim to have a 1-year shelf life do not address the fact that the nutrients gradually dwindle over that period. These should be stored in an air-tight container.
We often receive raves about the freshness of our pellets where people claim that their chins shun pet store pellets, but love ours. This is mainly because we open and use our supplies within a very short time. This results in an ultra-fresh, bright green pellet that is nutrition dense. It is wise to only purchase as much pelleted feed as your pet can use within two months or less.
Another very important food item that requires specialized handling is dried hay. This item should be stored where it is allowed full air circulation, but is out of direct sun or bright light. This allows excess moisture to escape without causing the product to mold. If hay is stored in an airtight container, the anaerobic environment allows moisture and bacteria to accumulate and begin the process of decomposition. Sunlight and direct artificial light also leaches the chlorophyll and other vitamins from hay, resulting in a product that is no more nutritious than straw. Good hay depends on the growing season, cultivation, harvesting, and storage techniques.
Loose wood, properly prepared, is another essential food item for chinchillas. However, proper preparation is critical in knowing how to process wood safely. The most important considerations are: is the wood organic? Has it been boiled to kill off parasites and allow for excess dirt and foreign growth removal? Has it been slowly dehydrated to ensure even drying? Quick “roasting” or “baking” at high temperatures for short periods of time is not adequate for wood processing. This method cooks the outer bark while leaving the middle damp. Mold spores are deadly to your chin! These can cause loose stool and potential death.
We slowly convection dry all our hand selected woods for a minimum of 24 hours. Thicker pieces can take up to 5 days of continuous dry time to reach perfection. You can rest assured that we take care and caution when preparing our chinnie foods, treats and chew toys. Our reputation, and our chins, depend on it!
Chinchillas are naturally very clean animals. Their feces are hard, dry, and odor free. Even their urine is mild. That is, unless you let the cage go too long between cleanings. Bacteria on wet bedding will rot and spread over a fairly short time. We’ve gotten in a number of complaints recently about foul odors and chins who have started urinating out the sides of their cage walls. If this is a problem for you, there are a few things you can do to address the issue.
First, clean the cage! A chinchilla cage should be cleaned at least once per week. This includes removing all bedding and wiping down all surfaces with a vinegar and water solution or other safe cage cleaning product. If you notice a white crust forming on the bottom cage pan, you’re not cleaning thoroughly or often enough. The crust is a protein buildup, evidence of urine left to sit too long.
The scatterguards on our cages make it so that a slide-out pan is not easily accessible. We use a shop vac to remove the old bedding. It takes less than a minute and the chins are so used to the process that they usually watch from an upper ledge.
If your chinchilla has learned the nasty habit of peeing out the sides of their cage, know that this is a learned behavior that is a result of living in a chronically dirty environment. It is their attempt to keep the immediate living space as clean and dry as possible. This is a difficult habit to break! To retrain your chinchilla, first you will have to retrain yourself to be consistent in the task of providing a clean, healthy home for your pet. Cage cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore! It is a prime opportunity to interact with your chinchilla and show your care and concern for their well-being.
Next, you’ll have to redecorate your chinchilla’s cage to make it impossible (or at least difficult) to continue the wall urinating habit. The ledges should be short and spaced so that none of the sides of the ledges come close to the side of the cage. Space the ledges so that the chinnie cannot back his or her tail up against a corner. If the ledges are so long that they can pee on an edge or corner and perch a little further down, this will only serve to reinforce the bad behavior. Our 6” Leaping ledges and 8” Lookout ledges are perfect to accomplish this task.
Some chins urinate on shelves regardless. This is another reason why wiping down the surfaces of the ledges is so important. The slight amount of moisture left on the shelves with the vinegar and water solution will not harm your chin and will air dry without any additional concern. There is a mistaken assumption that dampness in any form is a hazard to chinchillas. This is simply not true. Chinchillas are not Gremlins that will suffer irreparable harm if a single drop of water touches them. While it is true that they shouldn’t receive a water bath, a good cage cleaning is harmless to the chin, and beneficial to their environment.
One dictionary resource defines a draft as an unwanted, cold, wet blast of air in an enclosed space. Drafts of winter air in leaky homes can cause upper respiratory and nasal infections in chinchillas, which can be life threatening.
On the flip side, fresh, circulating air is absolutely necessary for optimum chinchilla health. Ironically, chinchillas that are confined to stuffy living spaces also suffer from respiratory problems. Theirs is due to compromise in overall health which predisposes the weakened chin to catching transferable illnesses such as the common cold.
Lighting is also important to a chinchilla's health. Their natural circadian rhythms require a certain number of daylight and dark hours. Chins kept in a basement without natural daylight suffer. Chins kept in a room with artificial light, or a nightlight on constantly, also suffer. This can be evident by behavioral problems as well, which are a symptom of stress.
Ranchers know the importance of air and light. When a chinchilla lives in a stuffy or dark home, this affects their health often evidenced by their fur, which becomes oxidized much more quickly, giving the animal a dull, yellowish cast. Chinchillas without adequate access to fresh air and natural or full spectrum lighting become obvious in the look of their coat. These two factors play an especially important part when chinchillas are shown professionally. For people with chinchillas strictly as pets, wouldn't you too want to give them the best, most healthy, home?
Usually, owners are not allergic to the chinchillas themselves, but to some of the items associated with chinchilla ownership. Loose hay, dusty bedding, and irritating bathing dust are all suspects of an allergic reaction. Whimsy suffers from allergies and asthma, and so has found some alternatives:
- Hay cubes, though they don't provide all of the same tooth-working texture, can help combat allergens found in loose hay as a partial replacement. They are available for purchase by the pound in our store, and are also incorporated into some of our hanging chew toys.
- Fleece liners or pelleted bedding can be used in place of pine bedding. Keep in mind that fleece should be washed often for the sake of your chinchilla's health, and to combat smells that develop from old urine.
- Whimsy's Allergy-Friendly Dust is a special formula developed specifically for owners who suffer from allergies and/or asthma. It is substantially less irritating than Blue Cloud or similar dusts, and will keep your chin's fur clean. It is available exclusively from our store.
Can no longer devote the time and attention they deserve.
Most chinchillas are able to adapt somewhat to their owners' lifestyles and schedules, and although daily out of cage playtime is ideal, it is not absolutely necessary. Whimsy and crew are much less able to provide individualized attention to every one of the approximate 100 chinchillas in our care. We are able to provide the basic care required for a happy chinchilla: fresh food and water, clean cages, healthy treats and chew toys. Some rescue chins are with us for months, if not years before they are adopted to their forever homes.
Moving, don't want to upset the chinchilla(s).
Moving to a new home will be just as stressful as moving to Whimsy's. In actuality, chinchillas travel quite well (especially in the cooler fall, winter and spring months), and likely will sleep most of the way. As long as the new home you are moving to allows pets, by all means, take them with you. They'll be happier staying in a familiar cage with familiar smells and familiar people.
Got a new puppy/kitten that pesters the chin.
Whimsy has four words to address this: Train the new pet.
There are professional dog and cat trainers that can assist if you are incompetent in this matter. It is not fair to the old pet to replace it with a new one.
Child (or adult) has lost interest.
It is the parent's responsibility to oversee the commitment a child makes in keeping a pet. This includes proper care and attention. Encouraging (or threatening) a child to give up a pet because of loss of interest teaches them that pets are disposable. Treating an animal in this manner sets the stage for other disposable relationships, including divorce. It is a vicious cycle.
Rather, find new ways to enhance and enrich the pet's life. This can be achieved by decorating the pets cage with new items or rotating the living space, adding fresh chew toys, making cardboard castles for out-of-cage playtime, or taking pictures of their cutest poses. A devoted pet owner can even teach their chinchilla new behaviors such as how to step out on to your hand to come out and play. This takes lots of patience and time, which encourages more interaction. Even weekly cleaning of the cage doesn't have to be a chore. Rather, it's an opportunity to spend time with the pet. Enjoying a pet can be a family bonding experience.
We hope that this information will encourage pet owners to remain true to their promise to their pet, but if not, we are here to serve.
…and now, a word about allergies.
Owning chinchillas can be a challenge to those who suffer from allergies and/or asthma. It is not unusual for a person to develop allergies after having been exposed to a trigger. But just because a person is exhibiting an allergic reaction to their chin, does not necessarily mean the beloved pet has to go. With chinchillas, the majority of allergy triggers stem from the bathing dust, hay or cage bedding. Rarely is it a result of being allergic to the animal itself.
Whimsy is allergic to all animals, dust, pollen, molds AND has asthma. Therefore, when people contact us to surrender a chin because of allergies we are able to offer firsthand knowledge and options to those who are seeking a solution, rather than an excuse.
Normal chinchilla dust bath is highly irritating, especially for those with respiratory problems. Our allergy and asthma friendly dust is a lifesaver (literally!) Instead of the microscopically sharp, angular volcanic dust, our bathing dust is made with a mixture of microscopically flat hypoallergenic cosmetic clays and minerals. It’s soft and gentle, and much easier on the lungs. But please keep in mind, switching dust takes at least 30 days to work its way out of your home and mixing our allergy friendly dust with regular dust is totally worthless.
Timothy hay is a dietary staple for chinchillas, but the heavily pollinated seed heads are also highly irritating. There are easy options to give instead of loose timothy. Orchard grass and other quality, weed-and-seed-free hays are much less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in pet owners. In a pinch, you can provide hay cubes instead of loose hays.
Sometimes the cage bedding is the culprit. Dusty or dirty bedding is a breeding ground for bacteria, molds and spores. The cage should be cleaned at least once per week. This should include not only emptying the bedding, but wiping down all surfaces with a chin safe cleaner. A water and vinegar solution works well. Some people choose to use a fleece liner instead of dusty loose bedding. Those should be washed at least every 3 days.
There is a workable solution to owning chinchillas and having allergies and/or asthma. It all depends on how much one is willing to commit to make it happen.
Happy June everyone!
For the month of May we had an eerily quiet month for both surrenders and adoptions. One (1) chinchilla was surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. May tends to roll like that, although we have had to convince some potential surrenders that turning their chin(s) in to us will in no way guarantee that they will get the "time and attention they deserve." To be brutally honest, some chins are with us for years before they finally go to an adoptive home.
And speaking of adoptive homes....
Questions regarding food have come up quite a bit recently. Pet chinchillas with access to an adequately sized cage rarely need limits placed on the amount of food they consume. Growing chins are especially prone to low blood sugar, and chins in general are at risk of gastric stasis if they do not have food available at all times. Therefore, chinchillas need unlimited access to high quality pellets and hay.
A school of thought exists that advocates chins be given a measured amount of pellets. This is a dangerous practice and is generally used with ranch chins that are in very tiny breeding runs with little to no exercise.
A chinchilla should be naturally "blocky," not thin. If your vet tells you that your chinchilla is overweight, consider the foods you provide. Are you plying your animal with high calorie foods they should not eat in the first place? Raisins, nuts, colorful pet store mixed treats and other processed foods are perfect examples of how to "kill your pet with kindness."
Instead, consider the natural habitat of the chinchilla. Chinchillas come from a place where the vegetation is high in fiber, low in protein with no fats and very little natural sugars. Think about it. Do coconuts and bananas grow naturally in the Andes Mountains high desert biome? Of course not! Then why do people believe these foods are ok to feed chinchillas? Be smart, people.
Still not sure what foods are safe? Check out our store for more information about different treats, chews, supplements and food staples.
This is Whimsy and I approve this message.
What kind of pet owner are you?
We know all types;
- Those who purchase a baby animal and get rid of it after the maternal glow is gone.
- Those who painstakingly research before they add a non-human family member to the home.
- Those who inherit a pet from another family member or friend.
- Hardcore pet owner turned animal activist.
- The infamous collector who dives into snatching up several of the pet Du jour. (We call these the 0-60 in 30 crowd).
- The fully incorporated family pet.
- The “I'm closer to my pet than my own family” group.
- Quiet and reserved who care for their pets but don’t necessarily shove animal love in your face bunch.
The biggest question of all is: do you consider the needs of the pet before those of your own? Humans are totally autonomous, but the animals depend on us. We give them food, water, shelter, companionship and a clean, stimulating environment… or do we? How much consideration do you give your pet in those areas? We hope that when people seek to adopt a rescue chinchilla, they endeavor to give it the best possible home. Do your motives measure up?
Happy May everyone!
For the month of April, eight (8) chinchillas were surrendered, and six (6) chinchillas were adopted. One chinchilla kit was born of a surrendered female and six females just completed their pregnancy watch without babies. Whoo hoo!
We are still dealing with overflow surrenders here where our current chin count has exploded back up to triple digits. We have exactly 100 chinchillas currently, with about half of those available for adoption right now.
Rescue work is an interesting lifestyle. Sometimes people jump into the decision to "do what we do" without much forethought, but with tons of heart and spirit. To choose this route one must have unlimited patience, time, space and *cough* access to funds. Our store items-- cage accessories, chew toys, food and other chinnie products-- ensure we can continue providing for the fuzzbutts. We supply our store with handmade, hand selected and often hand harvested materials. Here's a little snippet of a day in the life: Harvesting apple wood for our chew toys. (Turn the volume waaaay up, please).
As much as we appreciate the support of store orders, there are some ways to maximize the mutual benefit. Whimsy made the following post on our Facebook page recently that summarizes this point exactly:
"Hey everyone, we've had a bunch of requests for teeny tiny orders lately. This is heartbreaking, let me explain why. The postal service charges a base price on deliveries, then the price goes up according to weight, size and distance. It's the base price that's a killer. So if someone wants to order a single chew toy it's going to cost more than the item is worth just in shipping! As a single mother of four, I've had to live on a very tight budget and recognize the power of combined shipping and stocking up. For roughly the same cost, you can fill a box with multiple items and pay very little more in additional shipping cost. Just FYI"
As a reminder, we are now offering a free chew toy with orders of $50 or more. Is that incentive enough? Hmmmm....perhaps a ticker tape announcement on the store page would help....
When people come to adopt, Whimsy has an entire spiel on chin care and handling she gives regardless if they are newbies or long time chin owners. We have found that often, there is at least one or two misconceptions that people carry regarding the fussy needs of chinchillas.
One of the most important chin care items is chew toys. No, they are not cute little decorations for them to bat around like a kitten would. Chew toys are meant to satisfy their chewing needs. Some people complain that their chins just destroy any toy placed in front of them. Um...that's the point. Chins are SUPPOSED to destroy chew toys. Think about it, they're called chew toys for a reason. If your chinnie simply nibbles on a toy and largely ignores it, this is not the right toy for him or her. Or, the placement is wrong.
Just like puppies need toys to ease them through the teething stage, chinchillas have a continuous need to work those pearly oranges. Because chinnie teeth are constantly growing, the need for attractive chew toys is a must if you want to avoid malocclusion.
Over the years we have carefully designed each of our chew toys with several things in mind. Some nervous chins prefer the softer, shreddable type of toy. Others have super hardcore chewing needs and greatly appreciate lots of pumice stone and harder woods.
Chins' teeth and preferences do, however, go through stages. So what turns a chin on one week, may elicit a snub the next. Our best suggestion is to have a wide variety of chew toys ever available for your chinchilla so that they may nibble and gnaw at will.
Because chew toys are so important, Whimsy's is now offering a free chew toy, of our choice, with any order of $50 or more (price before shipping).
Happy April everyone!
For the month of March, ten (10) chinchillas were surrendered and nine (9) chinchillas were adopted. We have an unusual number of single chins who do not get along with others. So if you or someone you know is looking to spoil just one, then we have plenty to choose from.
We've found that most of the time when people first learn about what wonderful pets chins are, they tend to want MORE. This is great, from a herd perspective, but precautions must be in order to prevent unwanted, unethical, or unnecessary breeding.
Another option would be to keep singles who don't like to share space, single. The Ferret Nation and Critter nation brand cages are our favorite choice. If you have space limitations, these dividable cages can stack three high!
Some people feel that more than one pet can be overwhelming in the amount of care needed. In actuality if you have a group of compatible animals sharing a cage, the amount of "work" is still basically the same as a single. You clean one cage, fill the food bowl, refresh the water, play, etc with a group as you would one. It's really kind of neat to see how they interact and the amount of extra time spent on multiples is negligible.
Have I convinced you yet? We have lots of pairs and mini-herds that are waiting for their new families too. *wink, hint*
Happy March everyone!
For the month of February twelve (12) chinchillas were surrendered and a whopping twenty-one (21!) chinchillas were adopted. This was a record breaking month for adoptions. Our last high adoptions number was (only) 16 ;)
Special thanks to Jennifer who stepped up to help by taking in two of our more troubled chins who would otherwise stay un-adoptable.
It looks like our chinnie population is well under control but we still have many, many fuzzbutts who are waiting for a permanent home…*cough*. Ok, some are not so permanent.
We often receive questions about the reason why people surrender their chins. Most of the reasons encompass one of 8 basic responses;
- loss of interest
- change in lifestyle
- fear for the chin’s safety with dog/cat/children
- too much mess/care
- can no longer afford
- Just plain incompatibility
All reasons for surrender are valid. We do not (typically) judge or condemn. We are here to serve the animals who need a home as well as the owners who have to make the difficult decision to give up the animal. The only time Whimsy has serious issues are when the chins come in obviously poor or neglectful condition or when a parent is attempting to “teach their child a lesson” by getting rid of a beloved pet.
As a psychology major, Whimsy recognizes this method of parenting never works. Not only will it breed contempt of the child for the parent, but neither does it guide the youngster in the responsibility of taking care of a living being. It is the parent’s duty to teach their progeny how to follow through on commitments. How can that be accomplished when the animal is disposed of like an unwanted toy? Perhaps this same dumping mindset is what has helped contribute to the rise in divorce, or vice versa.
Happy February everyone!
For the month of January, nineteen (19) chinchillas were surrendered, five (5) were born of rescues, and twelve (12) chinchillas were adopted. It's been a remarkably sad month with the unusually high number of surrenders coming in. Two of those were in hopeless condition and passed away soon after their arrival.
We've seen over and over simple chin care facts gone ignored or unknown. Chinchillas are easy to care for, but have some very specific requirements. We've had chinchillas surrendered with bags of high fat, high sugar treats, paper based bedding, plastic exercise balls and even seeded hamster food!
It is for this reason that we've come up with a handy dandy top 10 list of chinchilla care no-no's. Click the preview below to see a PDF of the whole, printable sheet.
Happy New Year everyone!
For the month of December, four (4) chinchillas were surrendered and eleven (11) chinchillas were adopted. For the year 2012 a total of 107 chinchillas were surrendered and 100 chinchillas were adopted. Since our first adoption back in the beginning of 2009, we have found homes for nearly 300 chinchillas!
Month to month our numbers are generally pretty stable with the surrendered and adopted chinnies roughly equal. However, the mass surrender that we took in back in March, plus the babies born of pregnant surrenders still leaves us with more than 40 chinchillas that are still waiting for new homes.
Since our inception at the end of 2008, the Menagerie has experienced growing pains and stretched to accommodate. Where the chinchillas once shared the office with Whimsy, they now have not one, but two rooms to themselves.
The Montgomery County mass surrender in March was one of the year’s highlights. Some other notable ones include the article on chinchillas in Critters USA magazine where Whimsy was quoted *cough* rather extensively.
Jamie Glaser singer/songwriter/musician/chinchilla web forum overseer extraordinaire surprised us with his goodwill and commitment to extending monetary support through a percentage of his CD sales and many, many people have extended support in a variety of other ways whether it be in time, donations or spreading the word.
We at the Menagerie look forward to another amazing year serving the chinchillas and their owners.