4 Things Chinchilla Owners Need to Know About Fur Chewing
Fur chewing, also known as barbering, is an abnormal behavior seen among pet chinchillas. Affected animals overgroom either their own fur or a cagemate's fur, which destroys the appearance of the fur. Here are four things chinchilla owners need to know about fur chewing.
What are the signs of fur chewing?
If your chinchilla is engaging in this abnormal behaviour, you'll notice that their fur looks patchy. The patchy areas tend to look darker than the rest of the coat because the chewing exposes the darker underfur that isn't usually visible. These patchy areas are seen on the paws, the shoulders, and the sides of the body.
What causes this behavior?
The exact cause of this abnormal behavior still isn't known, but many causes have been suggested. Boredom has been suggested as a possible cause, so ensure that your chinchilla gets lots of stimulation through daily out-of-cage time. They should be allowed out of their cage every day for at least an hour to allow them time to exercise and play. If your chinchilla is alone, buy a second chinchilla to keep them company if your budget allows for it; chinchillas are herd animals and can get bored if they're by themselves.
Stress has also been suggested as a possible cause. Things like temperature changes and loud noises can stress your pet, as can the introduction of new household pets like dogs or cats. Illnesses and pain are another source of stress for your pet. Try to keep your chinchilla's environment as stable as possible to avoid making them stressed.
Poor diets may also lead to fur chewing, so take a closer look at what you're feeding your chinchilla. Most of your pet's diet should be comprised of high-quality hay. This hay should be supplemented with a small amount of chinchilla pellets each day, as well as occasional treats like root vegetables and dried fruit.
Can fur chewing harm chinchillas?
Fur chewing on its own isn't a problem, since chinchillas only chew the fur, not their skin. In some cases, they may swallow the fur and develop hairballs or blockages in their intestines.
How do vets treat fur chewing?
Your vet can help you determine why your pet is chewing their fur. The vet will examine your pet and ask you questions about their living situation to try to determine a cause. Once a possible cause has been identified, your vet will tell you what changes you need to make. This is a trial-and-error process, so you may need to address more than one possible cause before you find a solution.
In addition, your vet may give you either papaya cubes or tablets. These are used to keep your chinchilla from developing a hairball from their behavior.
If your chinchilla's fur is patchy, they may be chewing their fur and should be seen by a vet or a local pet hospital, such as Northside Emergency Pet Clinic.