A lot of rodents have very sharp teeth that continue to grow throughout their life. The chinchilla is no exception to this. They got very large and sharp teeth and you or your children might be afraid of a chinchilla bite.
Do chinchillas bite and does it hurt? Chinchillas are friendly animals that generally won’t resort to biting unless they feel threatened and have no way out. A chinchilla might give you a little “grooming” nip but this doesn’t really hurt or break the skin. It’s only in rare cases that a chinchilla will bite hard and such a bite might hurt and cause an injury.
Chinchillas are really friendly and social animals. Although they can be aggressive towards other chinchillas, they will rarely really fight. They will make noises and bark to warn others. In rare cases, chinchillas will fight each other and bite. But it’s entirely possible for any pet that has teeth, including the chinchilla, to bite for a number of reasons. It’s really important to get to know the reasons why a chinchilla might bite and learn the warning signs.
In this article, you’ll learn the reasons for a chinchilla to bite, what the signs are that you have to back off, and more importantly what you’ll need to do when you do get bitten.
The Chinchilla Bite
Why does a chinchilla bite?
Chinchillas are prey animals that have little real defense mechanisms against their predators. In the wild, they will often just run away from a confrontation and hide in their burrow. But your chinchilla doesn’t have a lot of room to hide and run away in a caged environment. It’s not entirely surprising that a chinchilla bites when you suddenly grab him – even if your intentions are not bad.
There might be a lot of different psychological reasons why your chinchilla bites you, but the most common reasons are really straightforward:
- scared: if you reach for your chinchilla from above the chinchillas’ instinct takes over and thinks it’s a predator bird trying to catch them
- stress: a stressed chinchilla doesn’t feel well and won’t like to be handled
- unfamiliar environment: let your chinchilla adjust to a new cage and environment before you try to handle him
The chance that you get bitten by a newly bought chinchilla is higher than the chance that you get bitten by a chinchilla that’s being in the family for years. This is entirely normal because they have to adjust to the new environment, which may cause stress. They’ll also need to adjust to you as a new person and might be scared.
There are also other kinds of bites that aren’t caused by stress or fright. The “grooming” bite is used to show affection and doesn’t hurt. Another kind of bite that might hurt is the bite when your chinchilla smells something good on your finger. A chinchilla is a curious animal and might bite your finger in such a case. So always wash your hands before handling a chinchilla.
If you bond with your chinchilla and take the time to get to know your chinchilla, the chance of you getting bitten will be minimal!
How to read the warning signs?
A chinchilla bite rarely comes all of a sudden. Even when a chinchilla is aggressive there will be some form of a warning sign. Chinchillas have a wide variety of sounds they make and they use special sounds or noises to signal that they want to be left alone or feel endangered.
If you want to prevent a bite you’ll need to learn the warning signs. When you know to interpret these signs you can know what your chinchilla is feeling and when it’s best to leave your chinchilla alone.
The following sounds can be considered as warning signs:
- alarm calls (crying, squealing): a loud and high-pitched cry that may vary in length, there are short and longer alarm calls. Chinchillas make these kinds of noises when they are in pain, when they get captured or when they are extremely frightened.
- growling and snarling: a growling or snarling noise is seldom heard but is used by chinchillas to threaten other chinchillas, you or potential predators. This is also an indication to leave your chinchilla alone because it can be a sign of an impendent bite.
- teeth chattering: teeth chattering can be a sign of content but is more often an indication that your chinchilla is frightened.
You can also notice the following body language as a potential warning sign:
- frightened: a hunched up chinchilla that is in the corner of the cage and will try to find an escape route. In a caged environment, such an escape route is not available so they will find a corner so they can see the danger coming.
- threatened: the chinchilla will stand on its hind and will spray urine. This is also behavior that can be observed when older chinchillas are put together in a cage and don’t get along.
Does a chinchilla bite hurt?
You’ve taken all precautions and made sure that there are no warning signs that your chinchilla is frightened or stressed. But suddenly your chinchilla takes a bite anyway. If you’re already bitten you will know the degree of pain it causes. But if you’re lucky enough of not getting bitten, you might want to know what kind of pain you need to be expecting.
Pain is a subjective feeling and some people have a low pain threshold while others have a high threshold. It’s difficult to say if the bite will hurt in your individual case. A lot will also depend on the kind of bite.
You have to make a distinction between a loving “grooming” bite and a real bite that’s caused by a frightened, stressed or endangered chinchilla. A “grooming” bite is a way of showing affection and acceptance and rarely hurts. When your chinchilla does take a real bite it might hurt but usually isn’t a deep bite. It’s just a way to let you know that it defends itself.
Tips and Tricks to Prevent Biting
You can prevent a chinchilla from biting you by making sure that it’s happy and stressfree.
Follow these tips and tricks to prevent getting bitten:
- wash your hands before handling: chinchillas are sensitive to smells and might get stressed when you still got the smell of another pet on your hands. They can also take a nip in your hands when they smell like something good, for example, their favorite food. So, always wash your hands before you handle your chinchilla to wash away these kinds of foreign smells.
- don’t reach the chinchilla from above: chinchillas are prey animals that are the prey to predator birds. If you approach the chinchilla from above your chinchillas’ instinct takes over and in defense, it might bite.
- make sure that your chinchilla is aware of your presence: make sure that the chinchilla notices your presence and knows you’re going to come in the cage with your hand. Avoid any sudden movements as this can frighten your chinchilla.
- let the chinchilla make the first move: chinchillas are curious animals. When they’re comfortable with you they will come over and sniff your hand. When you and your chinchilla are fine with each other you can even try to pet it.
- don’t reach for your chinchilla while it’s in a hideaway: if your chinchilla is hiding in its house or hideaway it usually doesn’t have any other escape route. Don’t put your hand in the hideaway as this might frighten the chinchilla even more and cause it to bite.
- use leather gloves when you’re afraid of bites: some people recommend using thick leather gloves when first handling a new chinchilla. This can be a way to prevent injuries but a chinchilla can also see the gloves as a toy to bite in.
What to Do When You Get Bitten by Your Chinchilla?
Chinchillas are sensitive to loud sounds and can get frightened by them. When you get bitten you’ll need to make sure that your chinchilla knows that this behavior is not ok. Say “No” but not with a loud voice or it might bite more severely. Also, don’t become angry towards your chinchilla because this won’t help. The best thing to do is to stay calm and not remove your hand until the chinchilla stops biting. You don’t want to be waving your hand around with a chinchilla on it!
Bacteria can be transferred into a wound through a chinchilla bite. You should treat a chinchilla bite the same way you would treat a bite from another animal. This means that you should:
- clean the wound: wash your wound with water to remove a part of the bacteria
- use antibacterial wash: apply an antibacterial ointment or wash with antibacterial soap
- getting a bandage: apply a bandage to the wound to keep it clean
If the wound is deep and very painful, it might not heal properly and you’ll need to seek advice from a medical professional. Severe wounds may need stitches and antibiotic treatment.