Chinchillas are active curious creatures who need to chew on things in order to keep their teeth in good condition. By providing them with a variety of toys you can help keep them active and healthy.
The Need to Chew
Like other rodents, chinchillas have teeth that grow continuously over the whole life span.
The teeth are kept trim and in good condition by gnawing and chewing on things, so this is a natural and necessary activity for pet chinchillas. Chinchillas often favor a variety of branches for chewing, such as willow, apple, poplar, and aspen tree branches. Avoid branches from cherry, citrus fruit trees, redwood, cedar, and other evergreen trees (see more information about safe and toxic wood). You can also provide a variety of wooden toys (should be of untreated wood) such as the wooden chew toys often sold in the rodent sections of pet stores, or rope and wood toys found in the parrot section. Manzanita branches (check the bird section of the store as these are sold as perches) are also good for chewing, and some chinchillas will chew on pumice stones or mineral blocks too.
Chinchillas are very agile and love to climb, so be creative with their cage providing lots of sitting platforms of different heights in the cage, as well as ladders, blocks, and platforms for climbing.
Also, sturdy branches make a good addition to the cage for climbing (as well as chewing). Arrange the cage furnishings so that they are sturdy and won't shift or fall when the chinchilla climbs on them.
Many chinchillas will use exercise wheels. They should be large (e.g. 15-inch) and have a solid surface with no spokes (e.g. the solid sided type that attaches to a cage wall - unlike the one shown in the picture on the right), such as the Leo Braun Exercise Wheel.
Another excellent option is the unique Flying Saucer style.
The large enclosed balls for running about outside the cage should be used with caution, as they are a bit low on ventilation and chinchillas could overheat. If you choose one of these, only allow your chinchilla to spend short periods in it at a time, and avoid its use if your house is warmer than usual in summer.
Chinchillas appreciate a secure place to hide. Commercial rodent (e.g. guinea pig) houses can be used, as can such things as PVC pipes, clay pipes, clay pots etc. Even cardboard boxes can be used, although they will likely be chewed up and need to be replaced. PVC pipe can also be used in longer lengths as a combination hide and tunnel for play.
Outside the Cage
Perhaps the favorite activity of chinchillas is simply exploring the environment outside the cage. This provides a wonderful opportunity for exercise and stimulation, although you will want your chinchilla to be fairly tame and used to being handled before attempting this (See "How to Tame a Chinchilla"). The last thing you want is to stress your chinchilla by chasing it when it is time to go back to the cage!
Remember, though, that playtime outside the cage is also a potentially dangerous time for your pet.
Chinchillas are curious, and many things are investigated by biting into them to see if they are edible. The natural curiosity of chinchillas means that you should have a room that is thoroughly chinchilla-proofed before allowing time outside the cage, and close supervision is necessary. Find more information on chinchilla-proofing your home.