With chinchillas, it is important to put safe material in their cage. You may need to look beyond your local pet store, or at least know what to look for when shopping for supplies. Not everything at the pet store is safe for a chinchilla.
Choosing bedding for chinchilla cages is essential. There are a number of companies that sell bedding made of wood shaving, but they are cedar or pine. While it has not been established as law that these are harmful to pets, there is very strong scientific evidence that connects health problems and types of wood.
So why do companies use cedar and pine? Simply, they do a great job of controlling odor. The drawback is that the chemicals in the wood that reduce odor are the same chemicals that cause health issues. Phenol is the compound that is found in these types of shavings. It is a germicide, often used in disinfectants. Cleaning products used around the house will often have these chemicals. Laboratory tests show that these odor controling hydrocarbons put your pet at risk.
Scientific test results have supported the fact that acidic phenol compounds promote respiratory problems in small animals. The tests are generally done on rats and mice, but it is safe to assume that the results would be the same if a chinchilla, or other caged pet, was the test subject. Some of the respiratory issues that have been observed are inflammation of the throat and lungs, as well as symptoms of asthma. The liver is also affected by the phenol in cedar and pine.
In these tests, animals housed in cages that contained cedar shaving show an increased level of liver enzymes. This has led scientist to conclude that the liver is having a problem processes the toxins, as this is the liver's main function. The affects have been noticed within a day of the animal being placed in a cage with cedar bedding. When the animal is than removed from this cage, the enzyme levels in the level show a dramatic decrease, and will return to normal after a few weeks.
The toxins present in cedar and pine have also been linked to immune system problems and a decrease in reproduction rates. All of these issues can lead to a stressed pet, which is a major issue with chinchillas.
Common bedding found in a pet store is kiln dried pine. When pine is kiln dried, it is much safer for your animal. The acidic phenol compounds are dramatically reduced when the wood is heating. Another way that manufacturers are reducing chemicals is soaking them in a solvent.
While there is no official statement regarding the link between wood shavings and pet health issues, the science does support it. With the options that are available, it seems like an unnecessary risk to use in chinchilla cages if you care for your pet.