It isn’t uncommon to hear an owner asking whether their Chinchilla is likely to bite them. This is a very valid question, after all, who wants to be at the other end of a rodent bite?
In this post, we will find out if chinchillas actually do bite, how likely they are to bite and much more.
So, do Chinchillas bite? Chinchillas do actually bite in certain circumstances. They have sharp front teeth that can break human skin and sometimes cause a painful but minor wound. Chinchillas, however, do not bite unnecessarily and will usually only exhibit this type of behaviour if frightened or under threat.
Do Chinchillas Bite? (more info)
The fact that chinchillas can bite isn’t something that should put you off owning a chinchilla.
Most animals are capable of biting or protecting themselves in some way or another if they feel they need to.
Chinchillas aren’t aggressive pets and don’t bite just for the sake of it. There is usually a valid reason why they may choose to carry out this type of behaviour.
Particularly towards us humans. Chins have a fun, lively, larger than life personality, and although they often have more energy than the energizer bunny they are generally quite chilled characters.
Biting will usually occur when your Chin is feeling under threat. If they feel like their territory is getting invaded or you are getting too close for comfort when they are not in the mood then they may decide to lash out with a bite.
The warning is usually there, but often as owners, we are too preoccupied to notice those signs. Effectively you could say that we are likely to bring this behaviour on ourselves, by the way, we act around our Chin’s.
Are Male or Female Chinchillas More Likely to Bite?
In theory, both males and females can bite. If cornered or put under threat neither will be shy to pull out those sharp gnashers and give you a nip!
Generally, Chinchillas will not use their nails (claws) as a defense weapon, but choose to use their teeth instead to warn off any potential threatening behaviour towards them.
You can also find out if you should ever consider cutting your chinchillas nails or if this is something you should never do by checking out our post that explains everything you need to know…
Female Chinchillas are known to be very territorial. This behaviour is seen much more in female Chinchillas than it is with their male counterparts.
For this reason, you should expect a bit more of this behaviour from female Chin’s than males.
Female Chinchillas can become quite aggressive towards one another at times. They can be aggressive towards other females and also their baby kits at times.
That being said, if there is any conflict in the family home you can be sure that your female Chin will be directing their aggression towards the male Chin.
He is always in the wrong in her eyes. Sounds pretty similar to human life don’t you think?
Are kits More Likely to Bite Than Adult Chinchillas?
Yes, Baby Chinchilla kits are much more likely to bite than adult kits. There are a few reasons for this:
- Baby kits are highly strung and full of energy. They can often be described as a bit reckless at times.
- They love to play and sometimes take playtime a bit too far i.e it was supposed to be an innocent nibble, but ended up being a full-blown bite.
- They are often not so familiar with their surroundings as the adult Chinchillas are. They may become more nervous if approached and see you as a potential threat.
- Skittish is a word that describes baby Chinchilla kits well. Any quick out of the blue movements can scare them and they may decide to lash out without warning if they are feeling intimidated.
Do not be fooled into thinking that a baby kits bite doesn’t hurt, I can assure it does! In some ways, they can cause more damage than an adult bite can.
Their teeth are smaller and less developed but this can often cause a sharper incision which feels like cut glass.
Do Chinchillas Bite Their Owners?
It doesn’t matter who you are if your Chin is feeling under threat they will quite happily bite you. Chinchillas don’t tend to bite for no reason.
This isn’t an advantage to them in any way. They are not nasty or unkind, they just can’t help feeling vulnerable at times.
In the wild Chinchillas are technically prey animals so as they have evolved they have learned to stick up for themselves and fight their way out of trouble.
This is a natural survival instinct for them and even with domesticated Chin’s this instinct is well ingrained.
As owners, we see our Chinchillas jumping and playing around a lot. They usually seem so friendly, outgoing, and full of life. We often forget that inside they may not be as confident as it would seem.
Any quick movements we make or approaches towards your Chin that make them feel trapped can seem like threatening behaviour towards them.
This often ends with you as the owner getting bitten. After all, a threat is a threat no matter who it comes from.
If you have wondered if your chinchilla actually likes you then head over to our new post that shares the 9 ‘tell tale’ signs that your chin likes you…
Do Chinchillas Bite Each Other?
Chinchillas are known to bite each other. When fights break out between Chins’s they can become quite violent towards each other.
This can often result in serious injury and it hasn’t been unheard of for Chinchillas to fight to their death! This one instance where you do not categorically want to be anywhere near your Chinchilla for your own safety.
Chinchillas that have not been handled or socialised properly can often take their aggression out on each other.
- They may just not like each other very much
- The cage could be too small and they keep getting under each other’s feet
- Male and Female combinations – Females are known to become aggressive towards males regularly
- Males tend to show dominance towards females during the mating season which can result in fighting
- A new Chinchilla pairing that may not be working out so well
These are just a few key reasons why Chinchillas may end up biting each other.
It is fair to say that there will always be to some degree a level of disagreement for any cage mates living together.
If this becomes too frequent you may want to look at splitting them up separately to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation.
We also recommend that you take a look at this post that shares if chinchillas actually have to live in pairs or not…
Do Chinchillas Bite Other Animals?
Chinchillas do not tend to socialise with other animals very often. They also don’t discriminate and therefore if you are posing as any sort of threat to them they are not afraid to let you know.
Other animals, particularly curious ones such as rabbits could be rather annoying to a Chinchilla. Since Chin’s are often not familiar with other species it is always possible they will see the other animal as a threat.
It is always best to keep cats and dogs away from your Chinchilla cage as they could be a scary experience for them. One where they feel cornered and unable to escape. This is likely to bring on aggressive behaviour by your Chin.
Chinchillas have very different needs to that of other small animals and it is never advisable to mix the two.
It may sound like a great idea for your Chin to have Peter Rabbit as their best friend, but in the long run, will cause more harm than good. Always tried to keep Chinchilla pairings together for the least amount of disruption.
Degus are commonly compared to chinchillas and many owners want to know if they can be housed together or even just live in the same family home/
For this reason, we have created a post that covers everything you need to know about chinchillas and degus living together…
How Often Are Chinchillas Likely to Bite?
How often a Chinchilla is likely to bite is quite a difficult question to answer. All Chinchillas are complete individuals.
You will find some are much more chilled out and tolerant than others. It all boils down to their individual personalities. Very similar to us humans and other species of animals.
A good example, I once had a Chinchilla called ‘Chi Chi’ who was a very placid chap. He always seemed so calm and chilled for the most part.
I don’t actually remember him ever biting me although I’m sure I must have annoyed or scared him in some small here or there.
Shortly after he passed away I rehomed two Chinchillas called ‘Snitch and Snatch’. The two of them were, well let’s say, slightly crazy in comparison.
They never seemed to stop for a minute. They had so much energy and were really cheeky characters.
It’s fair to say that if you saw them they looked pretty confident, however, they didn’t like me putting my hand into their cage very much. It made them feel trapped and become defensive.
As you can imagine, there was a regular need for my hand to enter that cage, and a few times I thought I might not have a hand left! I remember having a sore hand a lot!
I tried to be as careful and as quiet as I possibly could with those two. It got better over time, but never really ceased completely.
As you can see between these two sets of Chinchillas I owned, completely different personalities and outcomes.
With some Chinchillas you may get bitten regularly, however, with others you may never see them say boo to a goose. It all just lies with their temperament which can vary considerably.
Do Chinchilla Bites Hurt?
Yes, yes, and yes! I won’t lie to you, it hurts! When we talk about a Chinchilla bite we are not talking about a little nibble here and there we are talking about a full-blown puncture wound. Expect your hand to bleed and to be in some pain.
Chinchilla teeth are sharp and can cause some serious damage to human skin. The front teeth are particularly vicious when they want to be and they feel a bit like cut glass being jabbed into your skin.
This is why it is so important to be careful and slow around your Chin so as not to startle them or make them feel trapped.
Chin’s have 20 teeth from birth which consists of 4 incisors (front teeth) and 16 molars (back teeth).
It is fair to say that the front teeth are the ones that can do the damage. Dental issues and overgrown teeth can become a problem for Chinchillas.
Their teeth are open rooted which means they continue to grow. Front teeth can grow to a whopping 2-3 inches per year!
For this reason, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your Chinchillas gnashers to ensure they do not become overgrown which as you can imagine hurt a lot more when they choose to bite.
Here are some simple ways to take care of your Chinchillas teeth:
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Chinchilla Teeth Management
|Timothy Hay||Supply plenty of Timothy Hay for your Chin to get their teeth around. This type of hay encourages chewing and helps to wear down the growing teeth a bit over time.|
|Chew Sources||Make sure your Chin has plenty of chew sources available to them. When we say chew sources we mean items that Chins love to have a good nibble on such as wood, plastic, mineral blocks and branches. Pumice stones are also a good chewing source for Chinchillas.|
|Pellets||Chinchillas seem to love pellets and although this is ok in the right amounts, too much can cause them to completely eliminate the Timothy Hay from their diet. Make sure you don’t overfeed on pellets. What you feed Chinchillas is important for their overall health.|
|Regular check ups||Check your Chinchillas teeth regularly to ensure they haven’t grown too long (they will usually curl if they are). If you are at all worried about the state of your Chin’s teeth it is always a wise idea to pay a visit to your vet for some advice.|
Why Do Chinchillas Bite?
Chinchillas will usually bite in stressful situations. When they do, it is likely because they have been forced into the situation.
Biting is their defence mechanism. It could be that they are afraid or feel threatened. Feeling trapped with nowhere to go in a cage can be pretty daunting.
They can’t flee from the situation so the only thing they have left to do it fight it out. This usually presents itself in the form of biting.
Chinchillas very rarely bite for no reason. There is usually a cause and as a responsible owner, it is down to you to find out what those triggers are.
Once you know what causes this behaviour there are steps you can take to try and reduce and eliminate these outbursts (more on this later).
What Situations Can Cause a Chinchilla to Bite?
Many situations can cause a chinchilla to bite. You will find that if your Chinchilla bites a lot there is usually one key trigger to this behaviour. Here we will look a little closer at some of those everyday triggers.
Chin’s can often feel trapped and cornered in their cages particularly when a human hand is brought into their already small surroundings. This can prompt your Chinchillas to retaliate which usually results in a bite to the hand. They will often become defensive and lash out if they are feeling threatened by your presence in such a small space.
Lack Of Space
If you have more than one Chinchilla sharing a cage you must provide them with a cage big enough for both of them. One where they can get away from each other if they need to. Being in a too cramped environment can result in irritability and a hand coming into the cage and taking up valued space is sometimes not always welcome.
Head over to our guide and see our 2 hand picked cages that we recommend you house your chinchilla in…
We have picked 2 awesome cages that your chinchilla will love that gives them tons of space without it costing you an absolute fortune in the process!
Chinchillas sleep for most of the daylight hours and do not take too kindly to being disturbed during this time. They like to sleep and chill out after a heavy night out (in their cage obviously).
We often forget that our Chins need peace and quiet throughout the day when we are at our most active. If you try to interact with them too much during this time they may become aggressive towards you. A bite is not out of the question.
New surroundings can become unsettling for anyone and if you have brought a new Chinchilla into your home they may be feeling a bit on edge. If you don’t give them enough time to adjust to the new environment and push them before they are ready they could bite you out of stress or anxiety.
Some Chinchillas haven’t been socialised very well. This is usually the case where they have been living on their own a long time or are young and have not reached that level of maturity yet.
Baby kits tend to bite a lot for this reason. If you try to do too much with a Chinchilla too quickly that has not experienced much interaction with humans and other Chin’s they could bite you out of fear.
Have you ever wondered if chinchillas get lonely? You can find out the answer here…
How to Stop a Chinchilla From Biting?
If your chinchilla is biting then this is a situation that you obviously want to change as soon as possible as it’s not good for you as an owner and it’s also not good for your chin as they are likely biting through fear or uncertainty.
Let’s now take a look at the methods you should use in order to reduce and stop your chinchilla biting…
Don’t Move Away From Your Chinchilla
At first, it may not sound logical to keep your hand near your chinchilla once you have been bitten, however, this advice actually makes perfect sense.
Usually, when your chinchilla bites you it’s because they want you to move away, if you then move to the other side of the room and start nursing your bite mark then your chin will pretty quickly realise that every time they bite you they can get you to move away.
If on the other hand, you stay in close proximity to your chin then they will realise that this method doesn’t work.
This doesn’t mean that you should keep your hand right next to your chin’s mouth where you could get bitten again, none does it mean that you should be scaring your chinchilla or putting then under stress but it does mean that you should try and stay close enough for them to realise you are still here and biting doesn’t get rid of you.
Of course, there are times when you might feel there is a need to move away, for example, if your chin is displaying anxious behaviour or its a serious bite that needs tending to right away.
Similar to the last point, it’s not always a good idea to put your chinchilla back in their cage straight away after they have bitten you.
This is for the same reason that they will come to realise that biting will result in you taking this action and might prompt them to do it even more.
Don’t Shout Or Become Aggressive
It can be very natural and instinctive to shout and make sudden movements once you have been bitten.
No matter how hard it is, we would always recommend that you try your best to keep calm and don’t use this kind of behaviour.
Shouting and sudden movements will just reaffirm to your chinchilla that you might be a threat and they won’t trust you.
Spend Time Around Your Chinchilla
Most of the time when chinchillas bite, it’s because they feel uneasy and anxious around you.
One of the most obvious things you can do to gain the trust of your chinchilla and reduce or stop them biting is to simply spend more time around them.
It’s always a good idea to let them have some space and don’t make your chin feel trapped as we mentioned earlier.
The more time they spend around you and in your company, the more they will get to trust you and biting should stop.
Offer Treats to Show You Are Friendly
Offering treats to your chin is a great way for them to associate you with positive things and an easy way to gain their trust.
The best way to do this is to leave a treat close to your chin and over the next few days repeat this until you eventually allow them to take a treat from your hand.
Don’t overdo it with treats as they can be extremely harmful to chinchillas if fed in large quantities.
Another mistake that could cause bing is incorrect handling as we mentioned earlier. You need to ensure that you are holding your chinchilla in the correct way so you aren’t causing them pain or causing them to feel trapped.
Incorrect handling can be a simple way for your chin to feel anxious around you and cause them to bite in order for you to put them down.
Learning how to hold your chinchilla correctly if you suspect you might be doing it incorrectly is a must and is the only way to stop your chin biting in this situation.
We have also written a great post that covers the 10 reasons why chinchillas don’t like to be held…
What’s the Difference Between Biting and Nibbling?
Biting and nibbling are two quite different behaviours. When you get bitten you know about it! A Chinchilla bite generally pierces the skin thanks to their sharp teeth.
It will often bleed and be rather painful. It is also a behaviour that is carried out as a sign of aggression whether that be through any of the triggers mentioned above.
Nibbling is usually not painful and almost feels tickly on the skin. It is a series of small bites that won’t break the skin and aren’t usually painful.
Chinchilla nibbling is often seen as a sign of affection and positive bonding. Chin’s nibble other Chin’s, but can also carry this behaviour to their human companions too.
How to Treat a Chinchilla Bite
Chinchilla bites can sometimes be classed as a medical emergency depending on how deep the wound is.
A puncture wound from a tooth does not usually stop bleeding very easily and there is always a possibility if you do not treat it properly that it will become infected. It is important you care for wounds correctly to avoid infection.
Take these simple steps to help heal your wound more easily:
- Wash your hand under cold water immediately to help prevent infection
- Stop the bleeding by applying light pressure over the wound.
- Clean the wound again by running our hand under a cold tap for 5 mins.
- Apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream or ointment (this should be used regularly for a few days after too).
- Cover the wound with a bandage to keep it clean.
- Change the dressing daily until the wound has fully dried up.
- Watch out for signs of infection
- Seek medical attention if the bleeding does not stop by applying pressure or the wound does not heal.
In conclusion, Chinchillas should be treated as individuals. Some will bite and some will not. It all boils down to the type of personality they have and how happy they are in their surroundings.
You can’t 100% stop this behaviour, but you can try to reduce the likelihood of a bite by identifying the triggers.
If you do something that you know your Chinchilla doesn’t like, don’t continue to stress them out.
Find other ways in which you can carry out the task without making them feel fearful or aggressive. This will save your hand from a lot of unnecessary pain and your Chin will thank you for it.