Should You Trim a Chinchilla’s Nails? (Read First)

Many owners want to know if it is necessary to cut or trim their Chinchillas nails.

But is this something that you should be doing as an owner or is there a better way to keep them trim?

In this post, we will take a detailed look and see if you should trim your chinchilla’s nails as well as other important elements of chinchilla nail care so you can be sure you are caring for your chinchilla’s nails in the best way possible.

So, should you trim a Chinchilla’s Nails? Chinchillas do not need to have their nails cut or trimmed as part of the grooming process. Chinchillas are a species that tend to keep their nails short on their own and do not require any intervention. Trying to trim your chinchilla’s nails could actually cause more harm than good.

Read On to Discover…

Should You Trim A Chinchilla’s Nails? (More Info)

Chinchillas have many wants and needs to keep them healthy and happy, but cutting their nails is not one of them. 

It can be tempting as an owner to want to trim your chins nails but this can actually do more harm than good.

I suppose you could say they are pretty self-sufficient in that department and as owners, we should leave them to their own devices in that respect.

Under usual circumstances, Chinchillas will keep their nails short on their own. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep your eye on your chinchillas nails to make sure they are keeping them short and trimmed and there are lots of ways that you can help them to do this (more on exactly how to do this shortly)

But for the most part, if you provide your chin with the right cage environment and diet then they should have no problems keeping their nails nice and short.

Now let’s take a look at the ways in which your chinchilla will keep their nails short…

How Do Chinchillas Keep Their Own Nails Short & Trimmed?

Here are a few ways in which Chins will work to keep their nails short:

  • Scratching and clawing wooden surfaces which help to wear down the nail
  • Gnawing them. Chinchillas can chew their own nails to keep them short and manageable
  • Digging around i.e. in the dust bath
  • Using a solid surface exercise wheel (one specifically designed for Chinchillas)
  • Routine wear and tear such as exercise out of the cage on varying types of surfaces

Keeping your Chinchillas nails short is not something you have to worry about as an owner, but if for any reason you feel like they are not managing their nails as they should do it is always a wise idea to visit your vet rather than attempt the process yourself. You could cause more harm than good.

Do Chinchillas Have Nails or Claws?

Nails and claws seem to fall into the same category however surprisingly there are some differences between the two. Chinchillas have what we call ‘residual nails’ they do not have what we would usually refer to as ‘claws’. 

Residual nails are known to be very weak, thin, and fragile and protect the fingertips. It is fair to say though that some people do refer to them as claws rather than nails, but for the benefit of this article we will use the term ‘nails’.

We as humans do not aim to have residual nails. We want them to be strong and durable and we want them to be as protected as possible so as not to break for superficial reasons. 

This is why over time there is a need for us to cut and file them down.

Chinchillas in complete contrast have nails that break down very easily through everyday wear and tear and therefore these weak nails break down on their own accord. We don’t need to intervene.

Should You File Your Chinchillas Nails?

In a similar way to cutting, filing is also not a necessary part of the chinchilla grooming process. 

It’s true to say that sometimes Chin’s nails can become somewhat sharp, but eventually, they will work out their own way of sanding these down.

You can only imagine how difficult it would be to even try to keep a Chinchilla still for long enough to file their nails. 

They have very tiny legs and feet that often feel like they are tucked away under all that fur. It would be almost impossible to hold onto a leg and file down a nail.

Chins aren’t the most tolerable of creatures and although they can be trained to a degree, they are not like dealing with a dog and even know of owners that have huge issues trying to cut their rabbits nails. 

It’s a process that is more hassle than it is worth and for Chinchillas, is considered unnecessary.

How Long Should Chinchilla Nails Be?

Chinchilla’s nails do not grow very long at all. It’s true to say they do grow just like with most other types of nails, but your chin will not usually allow for their nails to get too long. 

It’s a good idea to regularly check the length of nails just to make sure they are taking care of them properly and since they do not have retracting nails they are usually pretty easy to take a look at.

 Most rodents require their nails to be cut regularly as they grow much thicker and longer talons that do not break down easily. 

I’m not sure if you have ever tried to walk with super long nails, but it can make it pretty difficult to manoeuvre around and can also be painful. It never usually gets to this stage with Chinchillas

Why Don’t Chinchillas Need Their Nails Trimming?

As mentioned previously, in many ways Chinchillas are quite self-sufficient creatures that manage certain life issues on their own. 

The length of their nails is one of them. They will use every item around them to keep nails short and manageable and if this fails they aren’t averse to giving them a good old chew!

Here are some good reasons why it is not a good idea for you to pull out the nail cutters:

They Keep Them Short On Their Own

Chinchillas take care of their nails very well on their own. For the most part, this is not a conscious decision and the nails can be looked after sufficiently through everyday activity. 

It’s always a great idea to provide your Chinchilla with wooden items such as shelving and blocks in their cages. This allows them to be able to scratch and claw to their heart’s content and helps break down the nails so they do not get too long.

If you need more information then we have created a great easy to follow guide that shares our favourite shelves and more that your chin will love.

Exercise wheels with solid surfaces like the ones we recommend here... can also be a great way to file down and keep nails short. 

Some Chinchillas spend a lot of time using wheels to keep them mentally stimulated and active so this can be an ideal way to keep nails well filed down.

Everyday activity such as digging around in the dust bath or being let out for exercise can also be very successful at keeping nails from growing too long.

You Can Hurt Your Chinchilla

Using clippers for cutting your Chinchillas nails is ‘in my opinion’ almost impossible. It can be hard enough catching them after you have taken them out of their cage for exercise let alone trying to get them still enough for safe cutting.

Chinchillas are lively creatures that want to be on the go all the time. They don’t do well with being restrained and it is unlikely you will be able to keep them still for long enough to carry out this procedure. 

A pair of cutters can be a dangerous tool and there is always the possibility your Chinchilla will make a sharp move to get away and you will end up cutting them unintentionally. 

This would be a very unfortunate incident, but highly possible. You may have built up trust with your Chinchilla over time which may now have been destroyed by hurting them.

You Can Scare Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas can get scared and flustered very easily. Chins temperaments are very highly strung and energised which can make handling very difficult. 

They are not like a dog or cat that can most often be picked up for cuddles and lap up the attention. Chins tend to show their love in other ways, but it most definitely is not big displays of affection.

Trying to restrain your Chinchilla for nail cutting or filing is a big ask and one they will not take too kindly to. 

They will often be scared by too much handling especially since they have nowhere to run and hide. Chins need to be handled gently and with care. You would need to handle them quite firmly to be able to even attempt nail cutting so this is strongly discouraged.

What Do Chinchillas Need Their Nails For?

If you have ever looked at a Chinchilla closely you will notice that they have four toes on each foot and the small, thin claws on each toe are surrounded by bristles.

 Chins originated from the Andes Mountains in South America and are known for their ability to climb and jump. Their nails are used to grip on to solid surfaces to give them much-needed traction. They are considered very agile jumpers and can reach heights of around 1.8m (6ft).

You will likely notice your Chinchilla spends a good portion of their time at night climbing and bounding around their cage. 

They wouldn’t be able to do this quite so successfully without the aid of nails. Their nails help them grip to surfaces and stay well balanced.

How to Care For Your Chinchillas Nails:

There are a few ways in which you can assist your Chinchilla with caring for their nails. 

Although they may be completely accustomed to taking care of the job themselves, it is down to you to provide them with the correct tools to do the job. 

Let’s look at some ways in which you can help with this process:

  • Provide plenty of rough surfaces for your chin to get their nails into. Wooden items are ideal. Take a look at our list of great cage accessories that will help to keep your chins nails short…
  • Chins love dust baths and these are great for digging nails into to help keep them short.
  • Chinchilla wheels are usually made of plastic and since Chins like to spend a significant amount of time exercising in them these can be great tools for trimming nails.
  • Give your Chinchilla plenty of time outside of their cage for exercise and playtime so their nails come in contact with a variety of surfaces. The more exercise they receive, the shorter their nails are likely to become.You can see how much time we recommend your chin spends outside of their cage in our detailed guide that covers all you need to know…
  • Provide your Chinchilla with a diet that is high in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Feeds with Omega 3 fatty acids included can be very beneficial for healthy nails, skin, and coat.
  • If you are sure your Chinchilla is not taking care of their nails, do not try to rectify this at home with a pair of clippers! Take your Chin to the vets who can advise you accordingly.

Are Chinchilla Nails Sharp?

Chinchillas generally do such a good job of taking care of their nails themselves for the most part they do not get overly sharp. 

It is fair to say that some Chins do not manage their nails as well and at times you may feel a pretty sharp nail.

Most types of nails can be pretty destructive if used in a certain way and you should not rule out that ever so often you may get scratched by your Chinchilla. This will most likely be a minor scratch and it is fair to say a cat scratch is generally much more severe.

Can You Catch Diseases From A Chinchilla Scratch?

Chinchilla scratches are rare, but as with any animal scratch, it is worth taking precautions. 

If the scratch has broken the skin it is a wise idea to give it a thorough clean and use a disinfectant such as TCP if you can. All animals are liable to transfer germs and bacteria to us through scratches which can easily become infected.

 It is not apparent that any particular diseases can be transmitted from Chinchillas to humans directly via scratches however it is possible to catch certain zoonotic diseases from your chin in general such as ringworm  passed through the stools and various types of bacterial, fungal, parasitic and viral infections.

We must remember that Chinchillas are classed as the exotic animal variety and are a higher risk to humans than for instance a cat or dog would be. 

Always ensure you practice good hygiene around your Chinchilla such as frequent hand washing and use hand sanitizer to keep yourself as safe as possible.


In conclusion, try not to get too involved directly with the care of your Chinchillas nails. A healthy, happy Chin is more than capable of ensuring their nails do not get too long or sharp if they are provided with the right tools to do the job.

Make sure you provide them with plenty of scratching tools, ideally made of wood that they can really get their nails into. 

Extra amounts of exercise can also be extremely helpful in managing nails. Give your Chinchilla at least an hour of exercise out of their cage a day, ideally much more if possible.

Never try to force or restrain your Chinchilla in order to cut their nails. They definitely will not thank you for it and it is likely to scare them, breaking the bond that you once had. 

Asking a Chinchilla to stay still for a nail cutting session is almost impossible and you are likely to hurt them during the process. Let them do their own thing and you will find there will be no reason for you to intervene.

If you are at all worried about the length or sharpness of your Chins nails, always speak to a qualified veterinary professional who will be able to provide you with the best advice. If nail cutting or trimming is required they will carry this out for you, likely under a small sedation.

Adam Woods

Hi, My name is Adam. I'm the main author of Pocket Pets Forever. I'm a pocket pet enthusiast and I love sharing my knowledge and passion for these amazing animals. Thank you for supporting us on our journey as we continue to publish content with the aim of helping owners care for their pets in the best way possible!

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