At my local pet store, I saw something in one of the cages that looked just like a bunny.
I called the shop owner over to ask about this strange “bunny breed” and learned it was a chinchilla.
Could the cute chinchilla and my rabbit live together?
And what exactly is “living together”? In the same cage? In two separate cages but close together?
Can Chinchillas and Rabbits Live Together?
Rabbits and chinchillas can be friends and play together – if you supervise! – but ideally, these two animals should not share a cage despite their many similarities.
Chinchillas have different housing and dietary requirements from rabbits.
Chinchillas also need to take dust baths to stay clean, which can make a rabbit severely ill because of their weak respiratory systems.
Fundamentally, rabbits and chinchillas are different animals who communicate differently, and if a fight breaks out, both animals can get hurt, but the tiny chinchilla is more likely to sustain serious injuries and die.
There’s a lot of debate about whether chinchillas and rabbits should live together.
Everyone seems to have their own opinions, but I believe that science speaks true, and so does experience.
Making the Case for Chinchillas and Rabbits Living Together
To examine whether rabbits and chinchillas can live together in the same cage, for example, let’s look at their similarities.
Similar in Looks
So I may have missed the bus thinking the chinchilla was a kind of rabbit breed, but rabbits and chinchillas look similar at first glance.
Plus, there are the Chinchilla rabbit breeds whose coat resembles that of a chinchilla.
Both buns (rabbits) and chins (chinchillas) are burrowing animals. They are also both active and fast.
Rabbits can easily run at speeds of 25 miles per hour and even as fast as 45 miles per hour, while chinchillas can run at speeds of 15 miles per hour.
But chinchillas are rodents that are more mouse-like than rabbit-like if you look up close.
They grow to be 4-7 inches in height, weigh between 1-3 pounds, and live on average 10-20 years.
Rabbits are more traditional as far as pets go. Overall, rabbits grow to a height of 5-18 inches and a weight of 5-15 pounds depending on the breed.
They have an average lifespan of 8-12 years.
Social and Curious Animals
Rabbits and chinchillas are both highly sociable animals.
They have social needs that need to be met as pets; otherwise, they will feel lonely, get bored, become depressed, and/or engage in destructive behavior.
If you can’t give your bun or chin enough attention, your rabbit needs to be bonded with another rabbit so they have a friendly face around.
The same can be said for the chinchilla.
Chinchillas and rabbits are curious and like to explore their environment. Both animals can be shy, but this depends on the pet you have.
In general, chinchillas are shyer, and just like with a new rabbit, it will take time before they warm up to you.
Live in Groups in the Wild
In the wild, chinchillas and rabbits live with their families.
Rabbits live with 20 or more bunnies in a warren, while chinchillas live in groups of 100.
Rabbit and chinchilla teeth never stop growing.
If these animals’ teeth grow too long, they can’t chew their food, leading to other serious health complications.
So to help your bun and chin file down their teeth, they need a constant supply of high-quality hay and chew toys.
Access to Toys
Chinchillas and rabbits need access to a variety of toys to keep them entertained.
They are intelligent animals, so with puzzles, mazes, hidey-spots, activity tables, and more, your rabbit and chinchilla can get the exercise they need and stay mentally stimulated.
Both rabbits and chinchillas are crepuscular, so they are most active at dusk and dawn.
You may find that your chinchillas and rabbits sleep for periods during the day and at night.
In the early morning and in the evening, they are awake and active. Dusk and dawn are feeding time and exercise time.
Making the Case Against Chinchillas and Rabbits Living Together
There are a few important differences between chinchillas and rabbits.
This makes the case that they should not live together in the same cage an important one.
The housing requirements for rabbits and chinchillas are not the same. Yes, I know both pets can be kept in cages, but where you keep these cages are different.
Rabbits can live indoors and outdoors. The outdoor hutch needs to be predator-proof and weatherproof to ensure your bunny is safe.
Plus, rabbits are quite cold-hardy, so they can withstand cold temperatures down to 15° F provided their coat is dry and they are out of the wind.
On the other hand, chinchillas are rather heat-sensitive. They need to live indoors.
Temperatures exceeding 80° F mean your chin may dehydrate and overheat, which can be fatal if not spotted and treated immediately.
The other housing requirement that’s different is that chinchillas need to be able to climb.
Rabbits do climb in the wild, and you can get your rabbit a cat tower or cat castle, but in general, rabbits don’t have a climbing addiction as chins have.
So your rabbit enclosure just needs to be tall enough for your rabbit to stand up safely (their ears mustn’t touch the top of the cage).
The rest of the enclosure can be spread out wide so your rabbit can run and hop and play.
The chinchilla’s enclosure should have the height for your “climbing monkey” to get their highs in.
Chinchillas and rabbits are both clean animals. However, their grooming methods are quite different.
Rabbits are like cats who lick their fur to clean themselves.
You can’t ever bathe your rabbit in water because rabbits scare easily. If your rabbit is submerged in water, it can have a heart attack.
To help clean your rabbit when their coat is dirty, you can give them a butt bath, wipe them with hypoallergenic baby wipes, or use cornstarch powder to clean their coats.
Also read: What Shampoo is Safe for Rabbits?
To help your chinchilla stay clean, give them regular dust baths.
A dust bath, also called a sand bath, is made by placing at least 2-inches deep of silver sand or natural volcanic mountain pumice in a container.
Your chin rolls around in the container for 10-15 minutes. The “sand” removes any excess moisture and oils from their fur coat and skin, thus cleaning your chinchilla.
Unfortunately, the dust from the dust bath and that which stays on the chin’s coat spells disaster for your rabbit.
Rabbits have very sensitive respiratory systems, and the dust agitates the bun’s lungs. Your rabbit may have breathing problems, which can turn into serious respiratory illnesses and even death.
Difference in Personality
While rabbits and chinchillas are both shy and curious, they do have personality differences that make living in a cage together quite dangerous.
The high-strung chin can easily annoy a rabbit, and getting these two pets to get along may be a tall order if their personalities don’t gel.
Plus, rabbits – besides the dwarf and small breeds – are much larger than a chinchilla.
For example, a medium-sized rabbit breed like the American Sable can easily weigh 9 pounds, a large-sized rabbit breed like the American Chinchilla rabbit can weigh 12 pounds, and a giant rabbit breed like the Flemish Giant rabbit weighs in at 20 pounds.
Compare these rabbits’ weights of 9, 12, and 20 pounds to the 1-3 pound chinchilla and you’ll see the problem.
If there’s a disagreement, and the rabbit lashes out, one powerful kick with a hind leg means serious injuries, if not death, for the chinchilla.
Even a fight between a dwarf or small-sized rabbit would be in favor of the rabbit.
While a chinchilla can defend themselves with their sharp teeth and sharp nails, a rabbit also has sharp teeth and sharp nails.
The only similarity between the diet of a chinchilla and the diet of a rabbit is the hay they need to eat to help keep their teeth short.
Chinchillas need special pellets that are made for them.
Rabbits can’t eat a chinchilla’s pellets because the protein content is too low, which could lead to your rabbit not eating a balanced diet to ensure they stay healthy.
Thus, the pellets a rabbit eats are higher in protein, and the quantity your rabbit eats needs to be limited according to their age.
Plus, rabbits also need to eat vegetables every day and treats every now and again.
If the chinchilla has access to all this food, they’ll overeat, and this isn’t healthy for them.
Imagine the rabbit and the chinchilla sharing a cage.
How are you going to keep them separated during meal times to ensure your:
- Rabbit doesn’t eat the chin’s pellets?
- Chinchilla doesn’t eat the rabbit’s pellets, vegetables, fruits, and other treats?
Another concern is food territoriality and aggression.
It is quite possible that one of the pets will become quite territorial over food (it may be their food or not).
This could lead to a fight or one animal becoming malnourished as they may not get access to food.
Can My Chinchilla and Rabbit Be Friends?
There are many tales on the online forums and even a few of my friends who proudly tell me that their chinchillas and rabbits are friends.
Is this true or an urban legend?
It is, in fact, true that rabbits and chinchillas can get along.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee.
Follow these top tips for the best chances of your chin and bun being roomies (eventually):
- Slowly introduce your chinchilla and rabbit to each other. Start with having your chinchilla in their individual cage and your bunny in their cage. Place the two cages close to each other so the chin and bun can see each other.
- The two animals may start to get curious about each other or simply used to each other, so you can move the cages closer together.
- See how the chinchilla and rabbit interact. If they seem content to lie next to each other on either side of their cage, then you can move ahead and introduce them to each other face to face.
- Set up a rabbit and chinchilla-proofed and neutral space. Let your rabbit and chinchilla meet. Sit on the floor and let the chin come up to explore the bunny in your lap. If the results are good after a few interactions, you can let them play – under supervision.
If the results aren’t good, be patient and just take it slow.
- Always let your rabbit and chinchilla play when you are around. Let them live in their separate cages so you can ensure they eat separately and the dust baths don’t negatively affect your rabbit’s health.
Sometimes, a chin and a bun just aren’t meant to be besties. In this case, keep your pets separated with separate cages and playtimes.
The Final Verdict: Should You Let Your Chinchilla Live With Your Rabbit?
It’s a tricky question, isn’t it? It seems that there are more similarities between a chinchilla and a rabbit than there are differences.
But the differences are the deciding factor.
After all, you don’t want the two pets to get into a fight and either to get seriously hurt. Plus, the risk of the residual dust from the dust bath on your chinchilla isn’t healthy for a bunny.
Only you can decide whether your chinchilla and rabbit have personalities that will mesh well and allow them to become friends.
If you do choose the road to friendship, take it slow and be patient, but supervise playtime at all times and let your chin and rabbit live separately for safety’s sake.
Other articles you may also like:
- 10 Calmest/Friendliest Breeds of Rabbit (with Images)
- How to Tame Rabbits and Hamsters Together?
- How to Introduce a Cat to a Rabbit?
- Can Rabbits Eat Guinea Pig Food?
- Can You Put a New Rabbit With an Old One?
- Can You Keep Rabbits With Chickens?
- Can Two Unneutered Male Rabbits Live Together?
- Can Rabbits and Ducks Live Together?