Chinchillas can be very nervous of people. They are predated in the wild and so will naturally associate handling with being captured by a predator. It is crucial that chinchillas are familiarised with people at a young age if they are to become comfortable with human interaction.
It is in the early weeks of life that these animals most readily learn to socialise and they may take some of their cues from their mother. If the parent is comfortable with being handled and shows no fear of people then the offspring are more likely to accept contact with humans.
Getting Started with your Chinchilla
It is vital that you introduce your chinchilla to handling gently and gradually. Your pet will probably be curious about you and yet will be wary. It will help if they learn to associate your presence with positive experiences so offering them food with your hands is a great way to get your relationship started.
They will become accustomed to receiving their treats and will cease to see you as a threat. It is best to begin introducing yourself in the evening. Chinchillas are largely nocturnal animals and will be awake and more alert at this time.
Always approach your pet slowly and try to avoid making sudden movements. If they retreat from you then don't pursue them into the corners of their cage as this will make them feel like them are being hunted. If they attempt to bite you then begin the socialisation process whilst wearing leather gloves.
Once your pet shows confidence in taking food from your hand then try stroking them briefly before you give them the treats. They will quickly learn that the stroking poses no threat to them and leads to a nice treat. Keep repeating this process whilst increasing the length of time that you spend stroking your chinchilla.
You can then move on and start working towards picking up your pet. Start by placing one hand under their bottom and the other under their chest. Hold your hands there for a few seconds and then withdraw them. Give your pet a treat as a reward for staying still. Repeat this procedure until your pet appears to be totally relaxed about your actions.
Picking Up Your Chinchilla
The next stage is to gently lift your chinchilla for the first time. Hold him briefly and then gently put him down again and reward him. Take care not to hold your pet too tightly as this will probably cause them to panic and they will then struggle to escape.
Pick up your chinchilla regularly and gradually increase the length of time that you hold them. You should also begin to move them closer to your body when they are in your hands.
Some chinchillas prefer having their front paws supported rather than their chest. If your pet is resistant to being held then try this approach to see if it yields better results.
It is important to accept that it will take time to build a relationship with your chinchilla. If you rush things and try to force the issue then you will run into trouble. Patience is the route to success!