As much as your chinchillas appreciate playtime outside of their cages, it is important to remember that the natural curiosity of chinchillas can get them into danger. To keep your chinchilla safe at playtime, you will likely find it easiest to designate one room in the house the chinchilla playroom, and make sure that room is as safe as possible.
Keeping Curious Chinchillas Safe
Curious chinchillas are apt to investigate things by biting them. This means that you need to protect your chinchilla from dangerous electrical cords, toxic plants, household chemicals and cleaners, and other things that could harm your chinchilla if bitten or swallowed. You will probably also want to protect your favorite belongings, books, and furniture from your chinchilla!
Chinchillas are also very agile and good jumpers -- make sure there is nothing they can jump or climb into that is potentially dangerous. Make sure dangerous items are truly out of reach, and not somewhere that a chinchilla could reach by jumping and climbing.
Make sure there are no dangerous hiding spots (behind heavy furniture, under appliances, the underside of couches or beds, gaps in the wall or uncovered heat vents). Keep in mind that under all that soft fur is a small flexible body that can fit into surprisingly small gaps.
Another hazard to watch for is standing water, such as open toilets (always keep the lid down!) or full bathtubs, as this is a drowning hazard.
Get a Chinchilla's Eye View
One of the most efficient ways of making a room safe is to get down on the floor and have a look at the room from your chinchilla's perspective. Check for little things that you might have missed, such as items on the floor or in reach that might be interesting to a curious chinchilla, electrical cords, or small spaces to crawl into. Do a quick scan of the room this way before every time your chinchilla comes out to play, to make sure the room is cleared for chinchilla fun!
Chinchilla Safety Checklist
- no electrical cords, cable or stereo cords, phone cords, etc. accessible (more advice on protecting cords can be found below).
- cover electrical outlets.
- cleaners, chemicals, and medicines should safely out of reach.
- no open toilets, filled bathtubs or sinks, or buckets of water.
- no houseplants in reach (or fallen leaves to chew on).
- recliners and rocking chairs can trap or crush a chinchilla - it's best to remove them from the room or at least make sure they are not used when the chinchillas are out to play (be cautious with pull-out couches, too).
- turn off space heaters (keep in mind that chinchillas overheat easily).
- no plastic bags in reach.
- keep doors and windows closed .
- remove items that could be chewed and swallowed.
- watch for fraying fabrics or threads / strings which could be ingested.
- remove other pets from room (unless absolutely certain interactions will be friendly).
- no objects painted with lead paint in the room. Also make sure any lead drapery weights are removed.
- no access to garbage cans or waste baskets.
- no ash trays (risk of tobacco/nicotine poisoning).
- no small spaces for them to get into, especially gaps under or behind appliances (there's usually accessible wires in these spaces), gaps in heating vents or walls.
More Chinchilla Safety Tips: Electrical and Phone Cords It may be possible to arrange the furniture in your room to hide most electrical cords (be fire safe: don't run cords under carpets or place items directly on cords due to fire risk). Be sure, however, that your chinchilla cannot get into any spaces where the cords are hidden (you may be able to use cardboard or pieces of wood to further block access).
Any cords cannot be hidden should be covered -- you can buy plastic tubing with a slit down one side to encase wires. Alternatively, you can buy tubing at hardware and pond supply stores, which you can slit with a utility knife for the same effect. You can also get hard plastic wire channels that attach neatly to the floor or baseboard. Have a look at many options for hiding wires at CableOrganizers.com. You can treat phone cords the same way.
Once the cords are taken care of, make sure your chinchilla can't get to the outlets or the origins of your cords (e.g. on the back of your computer). Cardboard or pieces of wood can be used block these areas off too, if necessary.
Deter Chinchillas from Chewing
Chinchillas love to chew, so in addition to keeping them safe you will probably want to protect your furniture and home from their teeth. First, remember that they do need to chew, so make sure to provide your chinchilla with some things that he can chew during playtime outside of the cage: pieces of wood, safe branches, pumice stone, cardboard, grass mats, and so on. Then, chinchilla-proof your belongings:
- if possible, block access to or remove things they want to chew on (again, you can use cardboard or pieces of wood to block off areas).
- Wrap wooden furniture legs with heavy plastic or tin foil to discourage chewing.
- Make sure carpets are securely tacked down, and if your chinchilla does start chewing the carpet, cover the trouble spots with plexiglass, plastic carpet protectors, or a piece of furniture.
- Use heavy slipcovers or blankets can to protect couches and chairs.
- Make sure books, knick knacks, shoes, and other chewables are kept out of reach.