Even though each chinchilla is an individual, the majority do share some general behaviors. People who spend time with their chinchillas will discover that these amazing little animals are quite intelligent and perceptive. By being observant and using what abilities they have, chinchillas can learn routines, ask for attention, express affection, happiness, or delight, communicate a desire to mate, ask to be put down or left alone, and show fear or anger.
When a chinchilla owner repeatedly performs the same task; cleaning the cage, feeding the chinchilla, giving treats, and supplying playtime, the chinchilla will learn a routine and expect these things at their usual times. Additionally, certain sounds, such as the rustling of the food bag or opening a container, and footsteps are signals to the chinchilla that something is going to happen and they will respond accordingly.
If the owner is late in supplying something, or if it wants attention, the chinchilla will stand on its hind legs in an area of the cage that is close to the owner to get attention. If this tactic does not work, the chinchilla may begin barking, biting or rattling the cage bars, or even climbing the walls of the cage to get what they want.
When a chinchilla would like to be put down because they need to urinate, eat, want to play, or have had enough of being held for the moment, they may nibble on their owner’s hand. This is not the same as a bite. Nibbling is a way of communicating and showing affection. Another type of nibbling that a chinchilla will do is grooming. Chinchilla grooming consists of a series of light nibbles and is done as a sign of affection.
Frightened chinchillas often display a head or whole body shake. The shaking is usually quite mild and should not be confused with a seizure. When chinchillas shake, the owner should talk quietly and calmly to reassure them. Chinchillas can also show their disapproval with a person. This is done by swiping the nose with one front paw while looking straight at the owner. It is quite comical to see and there is no mistaking the intent.
Lastly, blowing in a chinchilla’s face is something that should be avoided. Blowing on them can cause the chinchilla’s instincts to react as if they are being bombarded by another animal’s defence mechanisms. Even if they do not panic, it usually has the affect of making the chinchilla angry.