Understanding Your

Hmm. You look like you belong in a circus. No offense. But a chair and a whip and that suit. What are you a lion tamer . . . oh. When I mentioned taming your chinchilla, you thought that . . . Oh no. Heavens no. That's not at all how you tame a chinchilla. In fact, "taming "is a bit of a misnomer. Think socialization.


But wait. Don't bring out the tea service thinking I mean he should be taught proper etiquette when invited to tea. In fact, let's just get right down to the nitty gritty of this chapter. Otherwise, it looks like you'll be even more confused!


Handling. Taming. No wonder our friend is confused. These words can have different meanings depending on what type of animals you're discussing. Thankfully, we're discussing a small cute chinchilla.


An animal, by the way, who has many cute mannerisms he calls his own. And I have named this set of habits and instincts "chinchilla-isms."


Let's face it, we all have some type of mannerism which people have come to think of as our own personal signature. (I'd prefer not to go into mine, thank you.) the chinchilla, with its literally hundreds of years of living at the bottom of the food chain is no different. Just a little bit more pronounced and a whole lot darn cuter.


Part of the process of getting to know your chinchilla's mannerisms is to learn how to handle him as well as taming him.


Let's start with the taming process, shall we. While the term seems imposing -- and filled with drudgery -- you'll see it's anything but that.


Taming does ask that you have at least a little bit of patience though. I will warn you now of that. The first thing you'll learn is that you can't make any sudden moves around your nervous little chin.


You will also notice that sudden noised anywhere in the house -- yes, even something as simple as a door slamming -- can send Chilli scurrying for cover. That's all well and good if he's snug in his cage. But if he happens to be roaming the living room at the time . . . he'll probably head for the closest piece of furniture for protection.


"Taming" The Young


If you adopted a young chinchilla, then the taming process -- gaining the confidence of this little guy, in other words -- is relatively easy to do. Just don't expect it to happen overnight.


Taming -- what many animal experts call socializing -- your chinchilla is truly a process. And it can be accomplished by following a very simple routine.


Sit by your chinchilla's cage. Talk to him. Now, the chances are that he is even out of his tunnels or nesting box is slim. But talk to him anyway, he'll listen to you. Use a gentle voice, it's much more inviting and relaxing.


Next, you'll want to offer him a treat after a little bit of this talking. Your chin loves carrots. This would be temptation enough for him to stick his head out to at least investigate this carrot.


Remember, you new pet is not a dog or a cat. So whatever you do, be sure not to wave the carrot around like you're directing the landing of an aircraft carrier. This just scares the living daylights out of the poor little guy.



Chilli Emerges From Her Nest!


If you're lucky, Chilli comes out to visit with you on this encounter. Well, okay, he comes out to see what's up with the carrot. You just happen to be sitting with the carrot. He may even sniff the carrot. But the odds he won't take it. Not on his first socialization session. And maybe not even on his second. But he will be patient.


When you end this first session, don't take the carrot with you (boy would that be mean!) No, leave it in the same place in which you offered it. When the little guy is confident no one is looking, he'll come out to get it. And he'll head straight to where you offered it to him.


Chinchilla Socialization Session #2:

Much Like the First!


When you return for socialization session Number 2, the carrot from the day before, without a doubt, will be gone. So make sure you're armed with another carrot.


This second session is just about identical to the first one. Sit next to the cage. Talk to Chilli. Offer him a treat. Then you hope he'll come out to take it from you. Chances are he won't. But he's beginning to associate you with that tasty carrot. And that's a good thing.


In fact, he will even begin to anticipate your visits indeed. And so will you. Guaranteed. Eventually, Chilli will be brave enough to poke his head out, sniff the yummy carrot and take it from your hand. So it's best that you know what to do to make this experience less frightening -- and even pleasant -- for your new furry friend.


Handfeeding Chilli

A Treat


Once again, the best advice is "slow movement." Allow the chinchilla to take the treat Don't get impatient and try to catch him at this point. By doing this you'll pretty much undo everything you've already done in the way of socialization.


Just allow him to take the treat. Realize that this in and of itself is overcoming a great hurdle on his part.


Once your friend has taken the food from your hand, don't move your fingers. Allow him to slide it out of your hand. Moving your hand or wiggling your fingers right now would only make him run for the mountains (the Andes mountains to be precise!).


When he's taken the food and backed away some, then you can very slowly take your hand out of the cage. If you have any doubts, keep your hand in for a while longer, just don't move it around.


Basically, then, you would be starting the socialization process all over again. And this time around it may be even more difficult to gain Chilli's confidence.