We've had many people write to us worried about their chin being "lonely" when their mate passes or because they no longer have as much free time to spend with their single chin. This page was created to give guidelines regarding these worries and to offer our suggestions.
Many people seem to believe that chinchillas must have constant companionship in order to be happy. As long as they have social interaction from their human companions, they are often very happy and well-adjusted. Many people have written to us looking for a companion for their "lonely" chinchilla. One of the first things we ask them, is "what makes you think your chinchilla is lonely?" Even if a chinchilla has a friend of their own kind, they still need the interaction with their human companions as well. Some people are concerned that their chinchilla is lonely when they are away from home at work during the day. Chinchillas are sleeping during the day, and probably couldn't care less. They are likely glad for the quiet time to sleep peacefully! If you are thinking of a second chinchilla as a companion for your chinchilla, in lieu of you being able to give the first chinchilla the attention, this is NOT the answer. You will then have two chinchillas instead of one that need your attention.
There's no guarantee that a chinchilla would accept another chin, especially into a cage that they've already learned is their territory. This mostly has to do with their personalities. In most cases, you can't just stick two chins together and let it be at that. This would be like a human going out on the street and just grabbing the first passer-by and saying "let's live together". You'll be very lucky if you will like or even manage to get along with this stranger. If chinchillas don't get along, it's not fair to force them to live together, and it could have deadly consequences as well, especially with females who can be quite territorial.
Chins will do quite well on their own, provided you treat them properly when their mate passes or is separated from them. We've had to separate several chins and we've had some that have lost their mates (same gender and otherwise) and we've never had an issue with someone being "lonely". The key is to make sure that the chin has plenty to occupy themselves, extra chew items (something new perhaps), extra out of cage playtime and interaction from their humans. Also, it is very important for their human not to be "mopey" or depressed around the chin, because they do pick up easily on those emotions from their human family. In other words, try to leave your grieving at the door. If you're cheerful and upbeat as possible, then they should adjust very well to being a single chinchilla. They may even be happier! We would not recommend changing their environment right before or right after the chin becomes single. Environment in this case means where their cage is located, the cage itself and the layout of shelving or changing of items within it. Keep everything the same as much as possible, except adding things for their enjoyment. Keep the care routine, out of cage playtime and your daily routine in the household as normal as possible. It's the changes that can stress them out. The fewer changes for the first couple weeks, the better.
At the time of the writing of this page, a good friend of ours, who also has done rescue and has had countless chinchillas in her care, was faced with this very situation. One of her chinchillas was suddenly alone, due to the unexpected passing of his cage mate. She was very worried about how her remaining chinchilla would be now that he was alone. We gave her the advice on this page, and a couple weeks later, she reported that her chin actually seemed to be happier than he was before! She also noted to us that you need to be careful to not "over-smother" them with affection.
If you are struggling with a "suddenly single" chinchilla, and need some tips or advice, we always welcome questions by email. Feel free to write to us with any questions you may have on this or any other topic.