Have you ever wondered why your chinchilla doesn’t like to be held?
Where lots of pets love nothing more than to be picked up and cuddled Chinchillas do not care for this type of activity.
Chinchillas would much rather do their own thing and play with their fellow cage mates. For most, it can be a bit of a mystery as to why Chinchillas dislike being held so much.
In this post, we will share the 10 reasons why your chinchilla doesn’t like to be held as well as answering other important questions that can allow your chinchilla to finally enjoy being held.
So here are the 10 reasons why your Chinchilla doesn’t like to be held:
- New Surroundings
- Injury or Illness
- Improper Handling
- Short Attention Spans
- Late Handling
- Bad Previous Experiences
- Social Factors
- During the daytime
The 10 Reasons Why Your Chinchilla Doesn’t Like To Be Held (A Closer Look)
As you can see there are many reasons why Chinchillas do not like being held. It is probably more complex than you thought and we are here to break it all down for you.
Providing you with all the information and reasoning why being held and cuddled just does not float your Chins boat.
1. New Surroundings
Unfamiliar and new surroundings can be particularly troublesome for Chinchillas.
They love what they know and when something new is thrown into the mix such as moving house or living in a new cage this can throw them off course in a big way.
What they thought they knew they now don’t and therefore their behaviours and regular habits are likely to change.
One thing you may have noticed if your Chinchilla has suddenly been put into new surroundings is their tolerance levels.
If your Chin always tolerated being picked up (we say the word ‘tolerated for a reason, more on this later) you may find that they all of a sudden have a huge problem with you now picking them up.
This is partly due to a change they are not happy about, however, this is not likely to last too long and you can have comfort in knowing that sooner or later they will, with a bit of luck, be back to their old self.
Have you ever wondered if your chin can go outside? Here’s a post that you need to read before ever trying it…
2. Injury Or illness
A Chinchilla that is injured or unwell is not a happy Chin at all. Just think of your own mind when you are ill or are suffering from an injury, you are likely to feel very under the weather and in pain.
The last thing you are looking for is one of your friends to come along and give you a fireman’s lift!
Chinchillas feel the same when they are not themselves. They are likely to not want to be bothered and certainly do not want to be picked up. Chin’s can really dig their heels in when they want to and you may find your Chin to be very resistant to being handled when unwell.
They will turn on the defensive mode usually which can result in biting. Chinchilla bites can be pretty vicious at times so you may want to avoid that.
In regards to injuries, there is always the pain factor to consider. Chinchillas get injured quite a lot thanks to their boisterous behaviour and bone fractures are not uncommon.
If a certain part or area of their body is sore or hurting it means they are usually in pain. By handling them you will likely be escalating that pain by grabbing hold of their body with your hands.
If your Chin is unwell or injured it is best to not handle them until they are well again except for a visit to the vets.
3. Improper Handling
Believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to handle Chinchillas. It is fair to say that lots of Chin owners do not know how to correctly pick up their Chin and can be presented with resistance when doing so.
Without realising this error, the resistance doesn’t seem called for and quite often you will find the owner becomes heavy-handed when presented with this scenario.
Over a period of time, your Chinchilla will dislike being handled more and more which can often escalate from resistance to aggression very rapidly.
Chinchillas are very particular about the way they are picked up by humans and will not tolerate improper handling.
Chinchillas have delicate bodies and bones that can be injured easily. Their thick, dense fur disguises their tiny bodies giving us the illusion that they are much meatier than we think.
They have the densest fur out of all the mammals that live on land. This means their physical body is much smaller than you realise.
Proper handling is a vital tool to get your Chinchilla to love being handled (which can be challenging). More on this later.
A scared Chinchilla is one that is frightened for their life and a Chin in this type of mental state is not likely to be one that is willing to be picked up.
They have a million ‘what ifs’ running through their mind and it is the case that sometimes you are the problem. You are the reason that they are fearful. This could be completely out of character and accidental, but it does happen.
You could have made a quick move that has put your Chin on edge and frightened them.
You may have new visitors in the house that are paying your Chin too much attention and they do not feel comfortable with the situation.
There are likely a million reasons why your Chinchilla has become fearful, but one thing is for sure, they will definitely not want to be picked up when they feel this way.
Often you will find this is a temporary state that redeems itself very quickly, but it is always advisable to leave your Chinchilla alone if you believe they are fearful or scared of something.
Try to remove that ‘something’ from the equation as swiftly as possible if you can.
Be aware that if you choose to try and handle your Chinchilla when they are fearful they will try to run and if all else fails will go into attack mode where nasty bites often occur.
We have to also remember that in the wild Chinchillas are prey and when a big hand reaches into their cage to pick them up Chins can often view this as the enemy.
They can become scared, fearful and want to run away and hide. They can often not get very far so you can see how this can also be a pretty daunting experience for Chinchillas.
5. Individual Personalities
It is true to say that Chinchillas have very varying personalities. Some Chinchillas are very chilled out and do not mind being handled and pulled out their cages for the old cuddle and snuggle next to their trusty owner.
Other Chinchillas (and by other, we mean most!) do not like being picked up at all.
After a Chin has been living in a familiar surrounding for a while and has fully settled it will be very clear which type they are.
There is an element of getting to know you and once they have done this they may just think to themselves ‘meh she’s ok, but I don’t want her touching me or picking me up’. Whilst the odd few will be a lot more tolerant of being handled.
Many owners believe that their Chinchillas do not like them because they don’t want to be picked up.
This isn’t true and not something you should be taking personally. Once you have identified fully that your Chin does not like being picked up it is always wise to give them a wide berth in this respect and reserve this activity for when you really need to such as trips to the vets, or moving home.
Chins have their own unique personalities just like us and where there are things in life that we just don’t accept there are also things in your Chins life that they just will not tolerate. Many Chins do not like being picked up or handled by their owners, you are not on your own.
are interested to find out if your chin actually likes you?
Well, We have actually just written a great post that reveals the 10 ‘tell-tale’ signs that your chinchilla likes you…
6. Short Attention Spans
Chinchillas tend to have very short attention spans. They are high energy creatures with lots of get up and go. At times, particularly at night, are considered to be quite boisterous.
They zoom around their cages at what seems like the speed of light. They jump, climb and rebound off walls. Playing and causing trouble is what Chins do best (in the nicest possible way of course.
Chins are extremely fast runners…We have shared a new post that shows how fast they are when compared to other animals here…(and the results might just surprise you)
As you can imagine with all this excitement going on they don’t generally have time to be picked up, restrained or cuddled.
To them, that isn’t about fun and these guys are all about the fun factor. Chins don’t tend to stay in one spot for very long unless of course, they are sleeping which usually occurs during the daytime.
This is another time that your Chinchilla will likely not be happy with you if you try to pick them up.
You should not expect your Chinchilla to want to voluntarily be picked up, they are far too busy for all of that nonsense and prefer to be free and active.
Sitting still for cuddles is usually out of the question, however, this is completely normal behaviour for most Chinchillas and therefore you should not worry about this lack of bonding.
7. Late Handling
Chinchillas usually learn the most in the first 12 weeks of being born. This is why it is usually recommended that weaning and proper handling takes place during this period to ensure your Chin learns everything they need to know for you to be able to care for them properly.
Handling baby kits is not easy. They are small, like to wriggle their way out of anything and move pretty quickly on their feet.
They also can be pretty nervous with handling and this is why you must nip this in the bud as soon as you possibly can.
After 12 weeks Chins tend to get stuck in a groove and a regular routine. They appear not to learn as much or as quickly after this point.
Do you know when chinchillas are weaned? We have a brand new article that shares the answer as well as everything you need to know about weaning a chinchilla…
A Chinchilla that has not been handled from an early age is likely to not like handling too much. They may be nervous or fearful about you picking them up and it can be tricky to get them accustomed to being handled.
Unless your Chinchilla was born in your care it can often be hard to determine how much handling they have actually had prior to you owning them. There also is not much you can do if they haven’t apart from persevering.
Some Chinchillas can get used to things much quicker than others. It is always worth spending time trying to teach your untamed Chin to embrace being picked up, however more often than not this doesn’t work well once they are over the 12-week threshold.
8. Bad Previous Experiences
Animals in general very rarely forget bad experiences and if they do it takes a lot of work to get them comfortable and turn that situation around.
Chins are no different and if they have had a bad experience that has stemmed from being handled they are likely to not want to be picked up in case the same instance occurs again.
There are correct ways that you can handle a Chinchilla, but many inexperienced owners try their luck and dive right in.
Chins can often struggle if they don’t want to be restrained and this could result in your Chin being dropped. They may have hurt themselves when this happened and never forgot. They are worried it might happen again.
It may be that they have been handled too fiercely and have been hurt as a result of this rough behaviour.
We often forget that they only have tiny bodies that are very delicate. Chinchillas always need to be handled with care at all times.
It can often be hard to tell what has happened in the past with your Chin if you have not raised them from birth.
If they were in the wrong hands they may have been traumatised by someone picking them up in an incorrect way which has left them with emotional scars. These scars do not heal quickly and it can be difficult to get Chinchillas to trust you after going through such experiences.
9. Social Factors
Chinchillas are very social creatures and love to be in the presence of other Chins. They generally love their cage mates for the most part and want to be near them a lot of the time.
When you think about reaching into your Chins cage and pulling them out of their comfort zone you are effectively taking them away from their buddy.
The buddy that is always there for them, always protects them, always try to keep them safe.
When you pick your Chinchilla out of their cage you are taking them away from the safety of not only their cage and usual surroundings but also their best bud.
This can often be pretty traumatic for Chinchillas and they start to panic. They don’t want to leave their cage mate for love nor money.
Chinchillas will often resent being picked up for this reason and if they wish to stay with their cage mate, can be very tricky to catch when in their cage.
One of the easiest ways to handle this is to only pick them up when both Chins are out of the cage, although this isn’t always possible and two Chins out to play at the same time can be pretty chaotic.
10. During The Day
Chinchillas are crepuscular, which means that they are most active in the evenings and will often sleep through the day.
It’s safe to say that your chinchillas won’t really want to be handled if they are trying to sleep so if you are attempting to handle them during the day time hours this could be a reason why they are reluctant to be handled.
They may also be grumpy if they have just woken up and for this reason, you should try and keep most of your handling geared towards late evening and night time when your chin will be active and happy to engage you.
Here’s a great post that shares how active chinchillas are, when they are most active and much more…
Do Chinchillas Ever Like to Be Held?
It is true to say that some Chinchillas (and we’re talking quite a small minority here) don’t mind being picked up. It is rare, but some Chinchillas are so chilled out and love having a fuss made of them.
All of the Chinchillas I have owned in the past have never particularly liked being picked up or handled, however, were never nasty towards me for doing so. They just seemed to wriggle out of your hands at the speed of light.
I am, however, aware that a friend of mine owned a Chinchillas once who acted just like a lap cat! He loved to come out of his cage and be picked up.
He also used to sit quite contently on my friend’s lap and chill with her. He never seemed to be worried or stressed about anything and quite enjoyed having a snuggle with her in the late evenings.
This is quite a rare situation and I’d like to stress that she was a very lucky owner to have such a bond like that with her Chin.
He was an extremely chilled little dude though and the two of them used to fascinate me.
The straight answer is that most Chinchillas do not like to be held, however lots will tolerate it to a degree quite well, particularly when you have built up some trust and are bonding well.
On the rare occasion (in the case of my friend) you will find a Chin that will happily sit with you and feels completely ok with you picking them up.
Are There Times When Chinchillas Don’t Want to Be Held?
I’d like to say most of the time however looking at specifics, yes, there are times when you should not try to pick up your Chinchilla as you will always get a frosty response.
During the daytime is quite possibly the worst time to try and pick up your Chinchilla.
As we mentioned earlier, these guys are crepuscular and nocturnal meaning that they are most active between dawn and dusk. During the daytime, they like to chill, sleep and generally not be disturbed.
Unless you have a real need to disturb them during daylight hours such as a trip to the vets this is highly discouraged.
Chinchillas can become very grouchy in general if woken up and combine that with a chin that doesn’t like to be picked up anyway, you are playing with fire. This would be the time
when a bite is imminent and your Chinchilla is likely to attack. This does not bode well for your bonding and should be avoided in most circumstances.
The best time to try and pick up your Chinchilla is late evening when they are usually fully awake and filled with high energy and lots of get up and go.
This is the time if any when you will have the most joy with handling. Equally, very early morning could also be a great time to practice picking up your Chinchilla.
They will likely be tired out by the night’s activities, but not so tired they want to go to sleep immediately. They are often quite chilled at this time of the day and that could work in your favour.
As well as times, when Chinchillas may not want to be held there, are also times when Chinchillas should absolutely NOT be held.
When a female Chinchilla is pregnant it is not a good idea to try and hold her. Breeding Chinchillas can be tricky and females will not likely tolerate being picked up whilst they are pregnant. If you need to you must do so very carefully and very gently to avoid any upset.
How Can I Get My Chinchilla to Enjoy Being Held?
The truth of the matter is that unfortunately, you may never get your Chinchilla to like being held.
They don’t tend to ever really like this activity much and the word we would probably use is ‘tolerate’.
Many Chinchillas with proper handling and training from a young age can learn to tolerate being held although it would seem they never really enjoy it.
To give yourself the best possible chance of your Chinchilla tolerating being held try to do the following:
- Make sure they are well handled as babies (ideally within the first 12 weeks of their life)
- Handle them as much as possible without becoming overbearing
- When picking them up always handle them correctly (see more on this below)
- Always treat them with kindness and handle gently
- Prevent handling during the daytime when they are trying to sleep
- Try to handle them only when they are out of the cage if they seem nervous or anxious
How to Hold a Chinchilla Properly
Knowing how to handle a Chinchilla correctly is vital for their mental and physical wellbeing.
They have tiny bodies that are reasonably fragile and are pretty skittish so dislike quick movements.
Learning to hold your Chinchilla correctly can be the difference between them tolerating and completely refusing to be picked up.
It is so much easier to pick up a Chin that will tolerate than one that will refuse. They always seem to wriggle their way out of anything.
To pick up and hold a Chinchilla correctly try to implement the following:
- Approach your Chinchilla in a chilled, stress-free way
- Stroke your Chinchilla gently with one of your fingers for a minute to get them used to your presence
- Place one of your hands around or under the chest area
- Support and lift their hind legs with your other hand
- Always ensure you hold your Chin close to your body for security and comfort
- Make sure you always keep your Chinchilla upright to protect their delicate spine
- When placing your Chinchilla back in their cage do so gently
If you find you are in a situation where you need to pick up your Chinchilla for the sake of a trip to the vets for instance or an emergency but are having difficulties the last resort can be to wrap them in a small towel or blanket.
This can make it much easier to pick them up and much harder for them to wriggle out of your gentle grip. This is not a method we would advise to use regularly, but for certain situations, this can be a great solution to the problem.
In conclusion, Chinchillas do not like to be picked up very often and some never really get to grips with this at all. It is, however, true to say that on the odd occasion you will find a chinchilla that genuinely likes to be picked up and held. To give yourself the best
possible outcome when trying to pick up your Chin, always ensure that you are handling them correctly gently and safely. Try to get them as used to this from the earliest age as possible.
Sometimes with a bit of patience and careful handling you can encourage your Chinchilla to tolerate this behaviour.
This is highly beneficial to you since at some point you will likely need to get them to the vets. Always take care of your own well-being when handling Chinchillas.
They can have a nasty bite on them when they want to and protecting yourselves with gloves can often be a wise idea.