Whimsy's Menagerie

Rescue, adoption , chincformation  & store

2014

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Updates Archive - 2014

(12/1/14)
 
Happy December everyone!
 
For the month of November, six (6) chinchillas were surrendered and ten (10) chinchillas were adopted. It looks like the bio pages for the adoptables are working well. 
 
Of the six chinnies surrendered, two pairs were ones that were previously adopted from us. It seems that 3 years is the average span of time a newbie chin owner keeps his or her pets before deciding whether they are the right pet for them. It is unfortunate, but even with careful consideration sometimes you just don't know if a human/pet relationship is a permanent one. It is disheartening to think about...
 
*shakes melancholy feeling off depressive mind-scape*
 
Ok, so on a more positive note, we know many, many more fantastic chin moms and dads who totally spoil their fur babies. When people submit orders to our web store, it's easy to see which people truly give their pets everything they would possibly need. Funny, but it seems that those who simply provide only the bare basic necessities are the first ones to give their chinchillas up....
 
G'ah! Back you depressive thought!
 
Ok, we're going to offer some mutual support for those who support our rescue. We like to be a part of the "pamper your pet" crowd. So in honor of Cyber Monday, with every order of $50 or more, Whimsy will include a special surprise. Now wouldn't you like to know what that is? But we'll let you in on a little secret, we do this year round, not just as a silly marketing gimmick. ;) 
 
 
(11/17/14)
 
Happy November everyone!
 
For the month of October, three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and one (1) chinchilla was adopted. November is looking good though as far as a sudden upward trend in adoptions. We learned the hard way that having pictures and biographies of the adoptable chinchillas is really important.
Some months back Whimsy decided to delete all pictures and information about the available chins thinking that the extra work was worthless. Boy! Were we wrong! The adoptions plummeted. (Except for lots of local chin friends looking to add on to their personal herds). So in an effort to resurrect the bios pages, please keep in mind that we're doing our best to have the information up to date. Any available chins are shown on the website, but we usually have several others here who are either on maternity watch, still undergoing evaluation, or who represent behavior problems too drastic for the general adoptive population. Please, do not email Whimsy asking for pictures and information about unlisted chins. If we have the time to answer that email, we have the time to post them. 
 
On a more positive note, did you know this is the anniversary of the creation of Whimsy's Menagerie? Yup! We're now in our 7th year and going strong. Our humble beginnings have led to some pretty major growing pains, but has been worth it. During the past years we have devoted a special room just for the chins, expanded that room, removed and replaced some major appliances to accommodate them, expanded again with a second room, reclaimed massive amounts of storage space in the attic, planted a small orchard, and built a workshop. And still, we're forever fighting for more space. It may be time soon to think about expanding again. Because, hauling hay to a climate controlled room upstairs is just sooooo last year. 
 
 
(10/10/14)
 
Happy October everyone!
 
For the month of September, two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. The number of chins adopted has significantly decreased lately. Fortunately, so have the number of surrenders.
 
Someone asked us recently if we are a no-kill shelter. The answer: not quite. On occasion we do receive a chinchilla with severe medical issues that are not treatable. Malocclusion affecting the tooth roots is one of the more common ailments. People also bring chins to us on the verge of death. A vet visit early on could have saved those, but when an animal is lethargic and showing signs of agonal respiration, there is really nothing more that can be done to save them. But for those who are treatable, we treat.
 
As a rescue shelter we also take in chinchillas with varying degrees of behavioral issues. Sadly, many of the behavior issues are human induced. One chinchilla came in recently whose former owner clearly did not know how to handle the poor thing. It became so cage aggressive that it actually learned to strike out at the hand that was feeding it-- literally! With many of our potential adopters being families with children or first time chinchilla owners, we make it our policy to NOT rehome aggressive biters unless someone is specifically willing and able to take on a huge challenge. 
 
Like toddlers, chinchillas are natural nibblers, and we understand that an exploratory nibble is not a bite. However, there are some chins that have learned to use their teeth in a way that is more than one of curiosity. We do our best to rehabilitate and allow even the most extreme cases to stay as long as we have space for them. We have, however, expanded our chin room to two rooms and  long ago gave up our clothes washer and dryer to accommodate the rescues. Sending chinchillas over the rainbow bridge is not something we regularly do. Rather, it's an act of desperation. Ours and other rescues constantly battle for space and resources to care for waves of unwanted animals.
 
Our support store has been our primary means of operating the chinchilla rescue. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in unscrupulous, copy-cat venders making our original products for their gain. Some have even started fake "rescues" as a false pretense. Many try, but few succeed in the long term. Know who you support and support who you know. For those of you who have remained loyal customers: Thank you! For those of you who are new to our website: Welcome! How may we serve you and your fur babies?  
 
 
(9/22/14)
 
Happy September everyone!
 
For the month of August, five (5) chinchillas were surrendered and eight (8) chinchillas were adopted. We had one rescue chin here for hospice who passed over the rainbow bridge. Now her cagemate is in need of a new friend.
 
Our summer and now continuing autumn has kept us so busy that it looks like the new standard for posts is nearly a month behind. :s We've been harvesting and processing wood to carry us through the winter. Not only have we completed the scheduled trims, we also managed to cut, harvest and process a whole pear and mulberry tree! 
 
We've even had to catch up on some toy making at home since the student-crafters have been on summer vacation. Fortunately, school started back up this month and our schedule for working with the special needs students making our chinchilla chew toys is back on track. We have lots of new faces, names, skills and personalities to learn. It's always exciting to see how the students grow in their chew toy making skills from the beginning of the year to the end. We are fortunate enough to have some more seasoned students to help guide the newbies.
 
This month we also had the pleasure of having another booth at this year's Virginia Beach Pet Expo. Since this isn't our first cakewalk, we learned a few tricks to implement this time. The arm protectors went over well to protect our delicate forearms from scratchy chinnie nails. We also kept a tally count of how many times we heard people say, "It's so soft!" (385 times) or, "It's so cute!"(101 times). It certainly helped pass time. The voluntolds (AKA Whimsy's clan, not necessarily "volunteers") were all good sports about the event. Thanks kids!
 
We requested a corner booth near the Mega Adoption Area. Although we did not allow adoptions at the actual event, we did bring a couple of Critter Nation cages and 4 bonded pairs of chins for outreach. Our primary goal was to let our community know we exist, serving multiple states, and that we have countless chinchillas available for adoption (always). We did get a healthy handful of individuals who expressed interest in adopting, but time will tell. We also wrapped up the event having only made one enemy. One of hundreds, that's pretty good odds. The person in question made the mistake of telling an animal rescue worker that she lets her pets breed without restraint. That's akin to admitting to a police officer that you just committed murder. This confession doesn't go over well with Whimsy. 
 
On a more positive note, as a bonus, the people at the Pet Expo invited Whimsy to speak on stage about chinchillas! Silly Whimsy, what she thought was supposed to be a 30 second mini commercial was in actuality a 30 MINUTE allotted speech time! Piece of cake. Whimsy winged it....and nailed it. It certainly helps knowing your subject. ;)
 
All in all September has been quite eventful. With that being said, our apologies to those who have waited more than 24 hours for their online orders. 
 
(8/18/14)
 
Happy August everyone!
 
This summer is just flying by! Already it's more than half past the beginning of the month and my update is very, very late. :s
Anywho....for the month of July, nine (9) chinchillas were surrendered and eight (8) chinchillas were adopted.
 
We had one situation where the surrendering family was obviously distraught about the decision to give up their chinchillas. After a heart to heart chat, we discovered the root cause was one more of guilt than anything else. Guilt over not spending the "time and attention they deserve". The raw truth of the matter is, if a chinchilla has a cage buddy with whom to snuggle, plenty of food, water, appropriate shelter and a clean cage then spending one on one time with them is icing on the cake. Yes, interacting with your pet will serve to enrich theirs and your life, but life is not always absolutely stable. 
 
Even our human friendships suffer when going through a major (or minor) life change. Just because we have little time for our human friends does not mean we ditch them altogether. A good friendship will resume where left off. This is very similar with our relationships with our pets. Unless yours is a situation where there is abuse or damaging neglect, please do not fall victim to the mentality that you are somehow not a good chinchilla owner if you can't play with them every day.
 
This guilt inflicting mindset has been circulating around the forums for years now and has caused more damage than good. The results are people who come to resent their pets rather than cherish them. While I do agree that having a pet means having a relationship, the guilt involved in spending time with them is counterproductive. Chinchillas do not absolutely positively have to have a specified amount of out of cage time each day. It is ideal, but not a diehard rule. Unless your chin is caged in a shoe box, they should have enough space and environmental stimulation provided in their habitat (cage) to keep them secure and content. 
 
We received a promising email from the people with the change of heart. The following message sent me sailing happily through this post:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
 
Hello again! :)

First, I want to thank you again for changing my mind about surrendering my little ones: now that we are settled into the new house, my schedule really has allowed more time to spend with them and they seem much, much happier. They transitioned very well through the move, and even seem much more relaxed than before. The new cage setup has been fabulous, and I'm looking forward to being able to open the two levels now that I work with an exotics vet who is willing to neuter Cashew. They have LOVED the new diet and all of the different treats they've gotten to play with, but now I am almost out! That must mean it's time for an order! ;)
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
 
So it looks like a happy ending, or a new beginning for all.
 
 
 
(7/7/14)
 
Happy July everyone!
 
For the month of June, seven (7) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. *sigh* Surrenders are high again with people on a surrender waiting list.
 
Whimsy strongly believes that a major part of surrendering excuses revolve around simply not understanding chinchilla behavior and body language. Rarely do we meet a person who is horribly heartbroken over the decision to surrender. Most often we see relief or guilt.When a person has a less than ideal relationship with their pet, it's that much easier to give them up. Training your pet chinchilla is a mutually beneficial way to bond with your furry friend. Pet chinchillas can learn certain tricks and other trained behaviors.

The majority of trained animal actions are based on the natural tendencies of the critter involved. For example, cats naturally gravitate to defecate and urinate in a sandy spot where they can easily cover the evidence. A chinchilla that habitually urinates in one corner of their cage can be “trained” to use a litter box (assuming you put it in the same corner).

Some people don’t realize that they are training their chinchilla without even knowing it! A chinchilla who bites when he no longer wants to be held has learned this very, very bad behavior. If your chinnie struggles or nips while holding them, do NOT give in to the animal by releasing them. This causes a vicious cycle of behavior where the chinchilla learns that with some struggle or teeth, they can be released to play, or put back into the peace and security of their cage. (More on the proper way to catch and hold a chinchilla later).

Another common badly learned behavior are those well-intentioned chinchilla owners who throw open the chin’s cage door to allow them out to play. I can’t stress this enough: never allow your chin free roam out their cage doors. This teaches your chinnie to bolt, which makes cage cleaning, feeding and other simple tasks very difficult. It is frustrating when you have to fight to keep your chin in their cage when you want them there, especially if you have to leave your chin in the care of someone who may not be able to handle them safely. With a training technique referred to successive approximation, you can teach your chinnie to step politely onto your hands when it’s time to come out and play. This trained behavior works especially well if you have a chinchilla that is already friendly and inquisitive.

Chinchillas are very smart. They learn to recognize tone of voice and some can even recognize their names! Yes, we know of chinchillas that will actually come when called. There are even chinchillas who can perform simple tricks like jumping through a hoop on command, standing pretty for a treat, giving a high five, hopping onto a shoulder and other seemingly dog-like tricks. Youtube is full of videos with trained chinchilla clips. Interestingly enough, some of those video makers claim their chinchillas are not trained. In actuality, if a chinchilla performs a certain behavior as expected and on command, you can be sure it’s “trained” or learned behavior. Some people are just talented enough to not realize that is what they have inadvertently done. ;)

Training your chinchilla does take a lot of time and patience. The process, however, can be a rewarding and enriching experience for the owner and the chin as they learn to fine-tune their interactions. Chinchilla training is another creative way to enjoy your pet. And just think; if more people spent that much more time with their chinchillas, how many fewer surrenders we’d have due to loss of interest!

This is Whimsy, wishful dreaming, and I approve this message.

 
(6/23/14)
 
We've received numerous requests for package deals. So finally, we've come up with a a few very nice assortments of wholesome chinnie foods, chews and treats. The package deals do not allow for substitutions. As we've jam packed boxes with specified dimensions, the goal was to make the most use of the space allotted. The package deals are all inclusive with shipping costs, etc. These offers are for domestic orders only.
 
The $90, Happy Chinchilla Care Package contains the following: 
  • 1 gallon bag pellets (Purina, Blue Seal or mixed bag)
  • 1 gallon bag hay cubes 
  • 1lb whole rose hips
  • 1lb probiotic cookies
  • 1lb prepared wood chews (mixed variety only) 
  • pack goji berries
  • pack seagrass knots
  • 1 chinchilada
  • 1 orb-bits
  • 5 assorted toss toys

We also offer a more economical option for those who are looking for monthly staple combo in a tidy package.  The $60, Economy Care Basics includes the following:
  •  1 gallon bag pellets (Purina, Blue Seal or mixed bag)
  • 1lb prepared wood chews (mixed variety only)
  • 1lb rose hips
  • 1lb hay cubes
  • 1 chinchilada
  • 5 assorted toss toys 

 

And finally, for those who want to spoil their chinnie into oblivion with chew toys and nothing but chew toys, we offer the $125, Ultimate Chew Toy Bundle. This is our most generous package deal where you'll find some extra freebies. ;) This package is not only excellent for your chinnie's teeth and digestive system, but it also supports the cognitive and motor skills of the special needs students who help us make them. We're told the actual chew toys are much larger in real life than they look in pictures. 

  • Herbal bunny
  • Spider!
  • Natural Noms Wreath
  • Pumice & Willowball Wreath
  • Chinchilada
  • Jacob's ladder
  • Superchew Softie
  • Pinata
  • Orb-bits
  • Fruitwood kabob
  • Chinchworm
  • 5 Assorted Toss Toys
  • Hugs & Kisses Garland
  • Random vine thingies
  • Natural wood perch

So...for ordering information, see our store Food & Health and Chinchilla Chew Toys pages for details.
Happy Shopping!
 
 
(6/5/14)

Happy June everyone!

For the month of May, four (4) chinchillas were surrendered and eleven (11) chinchillas were adopted. It would have been ideal if three of those surrendered hadn’t come from a legal intervention breach of contract case.

Folks, we take our adoptions and contract very seriously. Whimsy believes that people in general are basically good, honest individuals. The contract is there to deter those who otherwise have less than stellar ideas for becoming a rescue mom or dad. To date we have won 100% of the cases involving breach of contract with our chinchilla adoptions. 

The latest legal round caused us to revamp the contract. In the words of our lawyer, “To give it more bite”. The updated version of the contract includes the usual promises to care for and not neglect the chinchillas, keep bonded pairs together unless a fight occurs, to refrain from breeding and the specification regarding keeping a single gender chinchilla home, and other no-brainer items one would find in any rescue contract. But now we have included the provision that all attorney fees, court costs and other related costs are payable entirely by the individual adopting if Whimsy has to take legal action.  It’s truly a shame that this has become necessary.

The adoption contract is a pre-screening device. It is viewable to all and we require potential adopters to review it prior to arranging an appointment. Those who do not agree with our terms are welcome to find a chinnie friend elsewhere. Those who do choose to adopt from us get the assurance of lifelong support, including expert advice, comprehensive history and behavior information for every individual chinchilla and access to wholesome, comparatively inexpensive care products.

The majority of our adoptive families are wonderful, caring people, many of whom we are happy to call our fellow chinnie friends. Some adoptions do not take root as we hope, and the individuals or families find that chinchilla ownership is just not for them. We understand. Chins aren’t the perfect pet for everyone. And not every chin is a perfect pet even for long term owners! We are obligated to accept the return of any animal adopted from us, therefore providing assurance that no one is left with an animal they may otherwise neglect. We like to think of our adoption contract as a safety net for all involved.

 

(5/7/14)
 
Happy May everyone!
 
For the month of April eight (8) chinchillas were surrendered and  five (5) chinchillas were adopted. Overall for the year we are at a plus 7 so far. Which means we have 7 more "in" than "out". We've also had a rather strong rush of potentially pregnant surrenders come in who are on maternity watch. Actually, at this time we have 9 rescue females that we're watching and waiting. Many of them will clear for adoption by the end of this month. And that's just in time for the Adoptathon!
 
 
 Every year the North Shore Animal League hosts a pet Adoptathon. 

 
Historically, this has taken place in the month of May, which is the most horrible, absolutely lowest adoption time of the year. This year, however, the event kicks off at the end of May with the main event in the month of June. In eager anticipation we'd like to make a special adoption offer for May and June (or until supplies last). 
 
We have an over-abundance of single chinchillas who do not play well with others. We also happen to have plenty of cages on hand that conveniently divide into sections while maintaining a small footprint. So...for anyone who is interested in adopting two (2) single chinchillas, we will offer $100 off towards the purchase of one of our pre-owned, Critter Nation divided double stack cages. Our modified set ups are valued at well over $300. All adoption requirements apply. Offer is for pairs of single chins only.  
 
 
 
(4/12/14)

Domesticated chinchillas are very sensitive animals. Their diet is strict, their temperature and housing requirements unyielding, and their handling unique among those of other small pets. While a chinchilla can live up to 20 years, few actually do.

One issue that can easily claim the life of your pet chinchilla is the common cold. Yes, viruses and bacteria can transfer from you to your chin, so be especially careful to keep your chinnie environment healthy and clean. It is best practice to limit handling of your pet if you or someone else has an active infection. But since the cold virus is an air borne illness, sometimes it is impossible to completely shield your pet from harm.

A strong immune system will help keep your pet robust. This includes plenty of fresh air (as opposed to a damp, cold draft) clean cage, fresh food and water, and no overcrowding. Since the cold virus is a communicable disease, your pet may transfer it to a cagemate. We do not advocate separating a sick pet from their cagemate(s). Once an illness shows symptoms, the others have already been exposed. Separation from cagemates causes increased stress, which hinders the healing process. Rather, treat the sick pet and be prepared to treat the others if symptoms appear.

This week we had our very first case of an upper respiratory infection in one of our chinchillas. We attribute it to the fact that this particular cage was temporarily situated near a door with a draft during the major overhaul of our rescue rooms. Bonnie exhibited with wetness around her nose, mouth and chest. At first, malocclusion was suspect, but since she didn’t show any other signs of overgrown teeth, a closer look revealed the moisture from her nose rather than her mouth.

This nasal discharge is a classic symptom of a respiratory infection. Colds can kill! This situation must be treated or your chinnie will most likely expire. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics to help your furbaby. Please note, certain antibiotics will destroy your chin’s appetite, which can then lead to anorexia and gastric stasis. We treated our Bonnie with Trimeth-Sulfa and really like the gentle strength of this particular drug. She was good as new within 10 day of treatment. If your baby is sneezing or has a nasal discharge, don’t wait it out. Got to the vet ASAP and let them know that Whimsy sent you. ;)

 

(4/3/14)

Happy April everyone!

For the month of March, three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and eleven (11) chinchillas were adopted. Life is good.

We’ve been doing a major overhaul of the primary and secondary rescue rooms at the Menagerie, but that is fodder for another post. We’ll have lots of before and after pictures to show later in the month.

Right now, though, we need to talk about the importance of chew toys.

Whimsy often says that chew toys are necessities, not luxury items. Because chinnie teeth grow constantly, we need to make sure that our house beavers have plenty of opportunity to wear down those choppers before they overgrow and develop into malocclusion. As mentioned before, hay is wonderful for the digestive system and for wearing down the cheek teeth. But even the incisors can grow into tusks if your chinnie doesn’t have nibbling and gnawing opportunities. 

Wooden ledges offer a safe chewing alternate to plastic shelves, but our real claim to fame is in our extensive assortment of chew toys. We’ve actually spent years trying to come up with perfect combinations of textures, flavors and densities. One thing we will not do, however, is adulterate a perfectly healthy chew toy with added flavorings or excessive dyes. While we do like the splash of color the wooden beads afford, soaking loofah and other natural items into unnatural shades is just not our thing. When we hear of people who put added flavor on their products it’s not difficult to imagine the same people putting soda pop in their infant’s bottle. This practice actually causes chins to expect stronger flavors and inhibits their natural need for bland, high fiber foods. 

Whimsy takes it as a challenge to come up with interesting chews to stimulate chinnie curiosity. Since a chinchilla explores their environment with their teeth, we want to encourage that destruction in a healthy way.

Some people go halfway on the idea of chew toys: they want a toy that will last a long time. In actuality, the best chew toys are those that are most salient. In other words, the toys that your chin demolishes the fastest are the best ones. This means your chinnie is actively engaged in their toy and is getting the most benefit from it. 

A chew toy is not supposed to be a permanent cage decoration. If your c hinnie has lost interest in their chews, you can often renew the interest by moving it to a different location. (You know how it is when cleaning a closet and things packed away are suddenly exciting again?) If moving the toy around doesn’t help, you can restring and combine old parts with some new parts to generate more attention. (Check out our selection of vine thingies, loose wood and pumice!)

Keep in mind that chinnie teeth go through growth spurts. There will be occasions when an ignored toy will suddenly get much more attention. This frequently happens with pumice toys. They sit in a cage for months and then…Bam! It’s as if the chinchilla suddenly discovers it, and all you find in the cage the next morning is a pile of rubble and dust.

With that being said, our student helpers and we work diligently to keep a steady supply of assorted chews for your furbaby. Offering a few toys in a variety of textures is a wonderful way to meet their chewing needs.  Plus, when you order our Whimsy Original chew toys you help sustain our rescue efforts and support the cognitive and motor skills of the special needs students who help assemble them. 

 
(3/1/14)
 
Happy March Everyone!
 
Fort he month of February, seven (7) chinchillas were surrendered and eight (8) chinchillas were adopted.  This month is far more typical than last month. But have you ever wanted to know what a "typical" day is like at Whimsy's? Now is your chance to be a virtual fly on our wall.  ;) Thank you Lila B for sparking this creativity in Whimsy. 
 

A Day in the Life at Whimsy's

I woke up late at 6:00 this morning to find another dozen or so emails awaiting my response. Not unusual for my day’s beginning. But one subject title caused my heart to drop into the pit of my stomach: “35 Chinchillas in Need of Rescue”. Here we go again. I opened the email to find yet another situation where a backyard breeder fell into dire straits and left the animals suffering. Supposedly, there were several in immediate need of euthanizing due to mating fights and most likely, fights over lack of food and water.

Ours, like nearly all legitimate animal rescues across the United States, is full to capacity. Over the years we have managed to expand when the influx caused growing pains and each time I thought we simply couldn’t handle any more surrenders, we’ve somehow managed to fit them in and find homes (eventually).  We have had to make some pretty radical changes to accommodate. We’ve swapped our hot water tank for an external unit And gotten rid of our clothes washer and dryer to make room for another wall of triple stack cages. On one hand, it sucks to be so popular…

Our home based rescue has consumed our lifestyle. What was once a sweet little homeschool endeavor has become a full time job. Today is Saturday. Saturday means cleaning cages, top off food and water, meet with people who want to adopt, meet with people who want to surrender, answer 50 or so emails inquiring about adoption, surrender, random chinchilla questions, orders for supplies, and…well…now that I think about it, Saturday is no different from every other day.

This weekend we’re focusing on matchmaking. This is an unpaid, often unacknowledged stressful few days of emotional manipulation where we do our best to arrange friendships with compatible (same gender) animals. It’s one way we help find homes for the unwanted animals.  Successful matches make it worth the effort. Chins who have lived in isolation often tend to forget how to chinchilla. Our job is to coax a bond between a pair or more to help them live happier, longer lives.

I step away from the computer to check on the visiting chins. All is well. It’s time to move to the next step in the process, which means I have to clear space in our living room to set up the playpen. Move boxes, move furniture, check the schedule for our first appointment of the day. Somehow I need to work in time to finish the corners of the 30 loft ledges we assembled yesterday.

Return to the computer to find half a dozen more emails. Someone asked where their package is (they ordered two weeks ago, but didn’t actually pay for the items until 3 days ago). While we’re not responsible for the mail carriers, the increase of shipping charges comes with tracking on all packages now. It was a nice trade off with the postal service. Another email asks my opinion on the best cage bedding. IGNORE. This question has been answered ad nauseam on our website. Another email  asked if we have any baby chinchillas for sale. I am so thankful people cannot see my occasional eye roll. Yes, today is a bad day. It’s what I call a “people hating day”.

I allowed the kids to sleep in until 8:30. “Time to wake up! We have lots to do today!” has become the typical morning alarm. One day my youngest muttered that every day we have lots to do and that there is nothing special about today. I didn’t mention the email about the 35 chins. That would mean they’d have to give up their bedrooms for a while (kidding).

We see so many situations and conditions where people surrender their unwanted animals. It’s strange, but I actually get excited when we see chins that are otherwise well taken care of. Most of the time they are ignored, forgotten and in deplorable cages…if they have a cage at all. Many times we tell the surrendering family that a hamster cage is not suitable for chinchillas. While we require the animals come with their belongings, 90% of the cages end up donated to the wildlife rehabbers or fixed up and sold as rat cages. And speaking of cages, it’s time to start cleaning. Ha! Who am I kidding? The kids do most of the cage cleaning. Thanks minions. ;)

Our new routine consists of cleaning two walls of cages every other day. That’s generally 18 cages each time. We have it down to a science though, so I’m thankful for our over-sized shop vac and chins who have been trained not to bolt when we open the doors. They stay in their cages while we work around them, most of the time they stay up on a lofty perch to survey the job. New chins and babies will sometimes come get a closer look. My son, who has autism, isn’t allowed to vacuum out those cages. I used to have nightmares about accidentally sucking up a chinchilla. It’s only 10:00 and I’m ready for a coca cola with lime. Caffeine carries me through the especially busy days. Today I need to focus on catching up in the workshop since tomorrow we have two people scheduled to adopt and one to surrender. Adoptions usually take about 2 hours minimum. We make sure to spend lots of unrushed time with each prospective adopter. Not only does this allow us to find just the right pet for just the right person, but it also helps us better understand their ability to care for their new chinchilla. We often find that people who have “done a lot of research” beforehand often come armed with information about dangerous care practices. One person thought raisins fed in moderation meant they could feed  a small handful of raisins to their chin.

After cage cleaning I find another half dozen emails in my inbox; political cartoon from my father, emails that require a lengthy response and more store orders. They’re rolling in today. Uh oh…someone wants to order $23 worth of cheap, heavy stuff…pellets and hay…it’s going to hurt to tell them the shipping cost is more than the actual items. I’m seriously thinking of instigating a minimum order amount just so I can avoid explaining this to our customers who are obviously trying to save money.

Here’s another email from someone looking for advice. I just don’t have time for this! Now I fully understand why the “big name breeders” get such a bad rap for ignoring individual emails asking general chinchilla questions. I used to be appalled that they would ignore an email outright. Now I’m guilty of the same.

There’s a break in the weather today. The snow has kept me from cutting wood. If I can carve out an hour or two, I’ll have to refill my bins with supplies, finish the loft ledges and start on routering slats. The van has been in the shop for the past 5 weeks. Keeping up with our stock of lumber has been a challenge. Fortunately, my daughter’s little sedan has foldable seats that open all the way to the trunk, so we just make extra trips with smaller loads of supplies. It’s not as difficult as it sounds though. I hand select each board and it’s not always easy to find pretty wood, but when I do, there’s an audible gasp of ecstasy over the beauty of good grain. Yeah, I’m a wood nerd. A friend of mine caught me stroking a particularly pretty board and told me that I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to trees. No wonder I’m still single.

I drag out my miter saw and set up my worktable. Choose my boards of lumber, assemble the bins and start cutting. Just as I begin to get into a good groove, one of the kids comes to get me. A customer is here to pick up their order. Typical Whimsy fashion, I go to greet them covered in sawdust.

I am an introvert. A friendly introvert, but an introvert nonetheless. I like (most) people, but high doses of personal interaction is more exhausting than a full day working outside. My local customer just happens to be a person I greatly admire. This is a nice break. After about half an hour of chinchat and supplies gathering, I should go back to work cutting wood. The chins in introduction are now sleeping in their divided cage. This keeps them safe when I can’t be nearby to intervene. Check email, OMG! 8 more emails in the past hour. Let’s take care of these before going outside to get dirty again.

Oh sweet! Now these are the types of emails I like. It’s right after Christmas and people have either gotten a chinchilla, or want to spoil their babies. Lots of orders for fresh, new ledges, cage accessories and chew toys. I’m so proud to see my handiwork and other’s cage designs come together. What is most frustrating though is seeing how some people have copied my creations. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Yeah, well, it just irritates me instead, especially when people take my designs and sell them. What’s funny is that another chinnie vender complains all the time that people copy her designs, but then I see her copying mine.  Hypocrite.

I call to my masterpackerdaughter that we have orders to assemble. Mandi, my oldest has a particular knack for fitting orders into just the right size and shape box. As always, her brother , who has autism, looms over her ready with the tape. Ziggy tries so hard to help. He takes the initiative to pack boxes too. Mandi’s job packing boxes also encompasses double and triple checking the contents to be sure her brother hasn’t included the TV remote or some other non-standard item. One day we received an email telling us that an old red oven mitt made it into their box. Another day someone received a measuring cup.

Pack, weigh, calculate, return email. Pack, weigh, calculate, return email. Pack, weigh, calculate, return email. Now let’s see who actually follows through with their order. About 10% of the orders end up in oblivion. People who place orders and fail to follow through are placed in the X-Files. What is particularly frustrating are kids who include me in their dreams and email orders in which they don’t have the means to complete. SpongeBob would say their email is imagination… I actually had one kid email a request for store items and made at least a half a dozen changes. Then he finally told me that some day when he gets a chinchilla, this is what he would want to order. *headdesk, facepalm*

The kids are eating again???

Oh, it’s lunch time.

Perfect time for a Coke with lime

Hey! I made a rhyme!

Stahp!

So I take a moment to stop for lunch (who am I kidding?) More emails have come in. There’s an emergency note from a complete stranger whose chin has loose stool. I have no idea who this person is, how they manage their animals or the history of their fur baby. She claims that her mother feeds a LOT of raisins to her chinchillas. Mystery solved. I shoot off a quick email to let her know that yes, the raisins are most likely the issue. My response is very short. Oh God I hope they see the seriousness through my rather flippant reply.

By now my caffeine high has kicked in. Time to restock the store. We’ve somehow run low on several of the most popular items. And the doorbell rings….D’oh! I forgot about this afternoon’s pick up order. The visit is short and sweet. The kids and I move on to getting our gear ready for our visit to the local high school. About eight times per month we pack up rolling bins full of supplies to work with the special needs students to assemble the chew toys for our support store. This means we have to have plenty of drilled pieces and wire hangers ready to go. Some of the students are more severely afflicted. Nevertheless, we always manage to find a job within the ability of each. The students get such a thrill when we come, and the pride and accomplishment of their finished product is intoxicating.

My second born daughter has a real eye for precision. She works a lot with the drill press. Off she goes to drill pieces for whirly wafers while the two youngest sort through vine thingies. My oldest and I start pumping out chinchilladas by the catering pan full. I love the sweet floral smell. Working with my hands and inhaling the aroma of sweet hay and herbs is like a soothing balm.

More emails have come in. I’m afraid to look.

I should have left well enough alone. The person with the question about loose stool is upset with the tone of my email. There’s really nothing like being the victim of a drive-by messenger shooting. I really, REALLY need to stop answering these random emails from complete strangers about their chins. Back to being a hermit. I’m going to check on the chins and try to wash the negativity away.

The chin room is clean. The cages smell fresh and the floor is spotless. Thank you, kids for being such troopers. Having a child with autism isn’t so bad. At least it means he’s focused on routine. I never get complaints from my son about chores. But then again, he really can’t complain. Aside from having autism, Ziggy was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He had to be resuscitated and the resulting brain damage happened in Brocca’s area: the portion of the brain responsible for speech.

By now, it’s late afternoon. I have just enough sunlight left to make a good dent in routering slats for suspension bridges. Those are tedious. We usually do one part of the process each day. Cut. Drill and double drill. Router. Sand. Assemble. Routering requires 4-8 passes with each slat. That’s about 1000 passes. It takes me several hours to finish and by that time my fingers are raw and my arms ache. At least we’ll be stocked up for a little while. I get about ¼ of the way through my pile and decide to stop. The chins are waking up and it’s time to work with the introductions. Also need to figure out what to make for dinner. The new introductions are going very well so they move to a neutral cage where I can watch them while I cook. We’ve all learned the artful dance of working around non stationary cages.

While I make dinner, the kids help pack orders that have paid or come in. Ziggy stuffs hay in each cage and tops off the food bowls. The chins are fully awake now and looking for treats and attention. I wander through the chin room as I’ve done at least 20 times during the day. Titus gets a scratch between the ears, Bucky and Abbott (like Tweedledee and Tweedledum) beg for the same. I pass out a special treat tonight. We have a box full of “ugly” 10 centimeter vine balls stuffed with herbal hay. Our chinnies get all the reject toys and parts, but they don’t know the difference.

It turned out to be a good day after all. I felt highly productive and managed to keep up with incoming emails. I’ve either started, or completed tasks and we’re all ready to meet with the students. The store is stocked up and we have prospective adoptions scheduled. I’m exhausted, but it’s a good exhaustion; a feeling of accomplishment. The day is nearly over which means it’s time to settle in for the night. But there’s an email from someone who wants to stop by to pick up supplies tonight. Tonight??? I respond back that if they can make it here by 6:00, then they are welcome. (Otherwise, my bra and make up are off and I’m horizontal). A twelve-hour day is reasonable, don’t you think?

 
(2/3/14)
 
Happy February Everyone! 
 
For the month of January, eleven (11) chinchillas were surrendered and zero (0) chinchillas were adopted. Ouch! We cannot recall ever having a month of no adoptions. It's not entirely surprising though considering Christmas just passed and everyone is financially wiped out after the post-holiday spending frenzy. 
 
We've gone ahead and reached out to the local pet magazine with an article proposal about owning chinchillas. We hope this will spark some interest, disspell some misconceptions, and get people thinking about adopting again. Here is our first draft. 

Exotic Pets: Is a Chinchilla Right For You?

Fluffy, cute, bouncy bundles of awwwww.  Who could resist the adorableness of a pet chinchilla? There are many things to consider when deciding if a chinchilla is a good match for you and your family. Handling, feeding, and other care requirements are chinchilla-specific and not necessarily rodent-general.

Handling a chinchilla requires some finesse. In general, a chinchilla is a hyperactive pet, not prone to cuddles. Their rib structure is especially delicate, so handling a chinchilla is more like allowing them to perch safely on a forearm rather than holding them close and tight. The best way to interact with a chinchilla is to allow them to use you as a playground, not force them into submission of snuggles. 

As much as a chinchilla looks like a rabbit, the dietary requirements are radically different. A chinchilla’s natural habitat is the Andes Mountains in South America, which is a high desert biome. A desert biome is not necessarily hot, but it is dry. This strictly limited moisture means the vegetation that grows there is naturally bland, not lush. Therefore, a chinchilla’s diet should be high in fiber, low in protein with no fats and very little natural sugars. High quality pellets offer a simple, easy method of feeding, but are considered a “soft” food. Soft foods provide calories, vitamins and minerals, but do not offer proper wear for a chinchilla’s ever-growing teeth.

Offering fresh vegetables and fruits can kill a chinchilla quickly, as these high-moisture foods cause a gassy buildup known as bloat. Since chinchillas cannot pass gas, this buildup of pressure will literally cause the intestines to explode. Even offering vegetables in moderation is a very dangerous practice.

In actuality, dried hays like timothy, orchard and alfalfa are the ideal food for chinchillas. Hays and dried grasses offer these hindgut fermenters the fiber necessary for proper digestion, as well as exercise for their teeth and jaws. Because a chinchilla’s teeth keep growing, they need ultra high fiber foods and chew toys to keep them properly worn and trim. With this in mind, chew toys are necessities, not luxury items. 

When contemplating a chinchilla’s habitat (cage) it is important to consider the size, shape and accessories. A proper cage setup should be quite large. The minimum cage size required for a pet chinchilla is 2’x2’x2’ or 8 cubic feet per animal. In their native habitat, chinchillas live in herds. For the benefit of the animal, it is best to keep them in same-gender groups. Single gender groupings discourage breeding and mating fights.  Since a male chinchilla can smell a female in heat up to a mile away, it is ideal to keep just one gender of chinchilla in a home. Littermates usually make the best companions.

Chinchillas live more like mountain goats than ground animals, so a cage taller than its footprint with plenty of staggered ledges is most natural. This allows the chinchilla to choose a safe height from which to survey their environment. Cage ledges should be made of kiln-dried pine. Wooden ledges double as a platform and a safe chewing alternative. Plastic or metal ledges, shelves and ramps run the risk of an intestinal impaction or tooth break. Wire bottom cages or platforms also pose a risk of bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis) or leg fracture.

Another housing consideration; is your home equipped with air conditioning? Chinchillas cannot stand temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If they are actively playing, even 75 degrees is dangerously hot. Chinchillas overheat quickly which can cause permanent brain damage or death. Young chinchillas cannot regulate their body temperature as well as an adult and are especially sensitive to heating and over exhaustion.

Does anyone in your home have allergies to dust or pollen? Chinchillas are NOT hypoallergenic pets! One of the top five reasons why we receive chinchilla surrenders is due to allergies of their owners, or someone else living in the home. Chinchillas keep clean by rolling in special volcanic dusty sand. This material is highly irritating to those prone to respiratory and skin issues. Additionally, chinchillas require loose hays, grasses, herbs and other foods that tend to harbor a variety of pollens. Their bedding, if not cleaned at least weekly, is a breeding ground for bacteria and molds. 

The last two care requirements are perhaps the most important; can you provide the funding for emergency vet care, and is your temperament compatible with a chinchilla’s? Chinchillas are highly sensitive animals. Being an exotic pet brings with it exorbitant vet costs. The average cost of a vet visit ranges from $75 for a wellness check, up to several thousand dollars for a leg amputation or casting, tooth trim with x-rays, or other emergency such as surgery to remove an intestinal impaction, spay for a retained placenta or dead kit, or intervention for a rectal or uterine prolapse.

The personality of the potential owner is a very big indicator of whether a chinchilla is a good choice of pet. Are you responsible? Can you keep a commitment? Are your feelings easily hurt? Do you have the dexterity to catch and handle an energetic pet? Do you have the patience to work with an animal that is typically not one that enjoys handling? Have you considered that the life span of a chinchilla is up to 20 years? Can you accommodate the needs of a live animal long term?

Chinchillas can make the most amazing pets, but they are not ideal for everyone. Pet chinchillas are at the mercy of their owners to provide them with adequate handling, nutrition, housing and attention. If you feel you are a good candidate as a chin parent, we would love to help answer your questions and match you up with the perfect new pal. This is Whimsy, and I approve this message. ;)

 

About the author:

Amie Leigh V. (AKA Whimsy) is a single mother of four children, one of whom has autism. As part of her children’s’ homeschool curriculum they began a home based shelter affiliate and website devoted strictly to chinchillas and their care. Whimsy has owned chinchillas since her teen years and, with a natural love for animals and teaching has become a worldwide resource for chinchilla owners, vet clinics, pet stores and other outreach and education opportunities. Whimsy holds several college degrees in Psychology, Speech/Language Pathology and Special Education with an emphasis in Autism Studies and Behavior Management. She and her children volunteer at Princess Anne High School with the special needs students where together they make chew toys and cage accessories to fund and support the chinchilla rescue. Visit our website at: http://whimsys-menagerie.com/

 

 
(1/21/14)
 
Happy January and Happy 2014 everyone!
 
 
For the month of December five (5) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. For the 2013 year we had a total of 111 chinchillas adopted! To date we have found homes for well over 400 furry little beings.
 
There has been a huge drive the past couple of years to not give live animals as Christmas gifts. This is due to the assumption that surprise gifts lose their appeal after a very short time. In actuality, this is the case year around and not just at Christmas time. We are saddened to see that many homeless animals are left homeless at a time when historically people tended to open their hearts and homes to rescue animals.
 
We have, however, met with some very nice families who have taken the choice to adopt seriously. We love when we hear of individuals who carefully consider the needs of the animal first and seek to gain a solid foundation and understanding of their chosen pet before they fall victim to an impulse buy. 
 
Still, much misinformation is readily available online and even in books. As much as we love to hear that people have done the research, often we hear the research gleaned is faulty, low quality, or just plain dangerous. While many hard-core chin folk hold their personal chin philosophies near and dear to their heart, some information is truly more about what is good and proper and not simply a matter of opinion.
 
Our archives offer a lot of good information and we do our best to provide a rationale. If you are seeking to adopt for the first time, or believe you are a seasoned chinchilla owner, you may be surprised to find that some practices are literally killing your pet with kindness. With this in mind, be prepared to have your belief system challenged.  We look forward to meeting you. *insert maniacal laughter here*