Last Modified

May 7, 2023 by Umair Shahid

It is crucial to understand the knowledge about behaviors and management before you pet a chinchilla. Sometimes, chinchillas show strange and troublesome behaviors such as fur barbering.

The term barbering refers to the fur-chewing behavior in chinchillas, either their own or their cage mate. It can be due to stress or any other pathological & genetic issues.

Your chinchilla can be easily a victim of fur barbering if proper management conditions are poor. In this respect, fur barbering will lead to excessive fur chewing, leading to bald patches on the skin.

When the chewing behavior becomes too excessive due to boredom or other issues, your chinchilla will habitually start breaking the fur off his or her skin.

As a veterinarian, I experienced cases of chinchilla owners getting panicky about this behavior and how to correct it. In my opinion, fur barbering generally occurs as a result of mismanagement and other behavioral issues going on with your furry friend. Eliminating the root cause is the only way to sort this problem out efficiently.

Chinchilla Fur Barbering

Fur Grooming Vs Fur Barbering–What’s the Difference?

Most wild & domestic animals have a natural behavior of taking care of their fur. Rodents usually do that by grooming the fur with their legs, teeth, and tongue. If you happen to have a cat at your home, you’re quite familiar with how she licks herself many times a day to keep her fur clean. Chinchillas are no different in this regard.

Natural self-grooming is a natural habit. The fur of your chinchilla is the densest among all and he may use dust baths for additional help. However, they can also start nibbling at their fur to assist in removing parasites from their fur. In the case of nibbling, there are no fur loss and bald patch formations, as it is a healthy way of keeping the fur clean.

If we talk about fur barbering, this is very damaging and leads to excessive chewing and plucking of the fur. In contrast to nibbling, which is normal, barbering is the frequent chewing of the fur until it breaks off from the skin. The chinchilla uses his or her molars and front teeth to only pluck the hair and doesn’t bite the underlying skin.

In the case of fur barbering, there will be neither blood nor any kind of skin scars. If you have a pair of chinchillas and you observe disagreement and fighting between them, there are chances of fur barbering. The causes must be identified and corrected as soon as possible while addressing this issue.

Possible Causes of Fur Barbering in Chinchillas

Most sensitive animals, such as chinchillas, show abnormal behaviors in stressful situations.

The stress can induce several behavioral changes in these rodents, leading to fur barbering behaviors. It can also happen in birds under stress leading to excessive plucking of feathers. Now the problem lies on either an individual basis or a managemental basis.

Stress-Induced Fur Barbering

The foremost cause due to which your chinchilla starts fur barbering is stress. Stress can be anything from illness.

Heat, restlessness, improper feeding, and unfavorable living conditions. The maintenance of ideal living conditions for chinchillas is very important. Certain diseases can make your chinchilla fall victim to stress.

Any introduction of a new stressor such as cage problems, loud noises, incorrect temperature, & health issues such as ringworms can lead to tremendous stress on these social cuties.

Boredom & Inactivity

Being alone or experiencing boredom is another important reason chinchillas start chewing their fur. Chinchillas are social animals and you have to spend a considerable amount of your time on their stress-free wellbeing. Having no recreational and playful activity or lack of chew toys can make your chinchilla restless and barbering his or her fur.

Unsettling Cage Mate

Having a cage mate that has an aggressive temperament can easily lead to fighting between them. Although they are quite docile rodents there are chances that your chinchilla may find the other cage mate disturbing. Frequent fighting not only led to barbering and biting of each other’s fur but induce a considerable amount of stress on them.

Dominance Issues

If you observe the fur chewing and barbering behavior in cage mates, you’ll notice one of them might be suffering from dominance issues. The dominancy of one chinchilla over the other lets the other one feel alone and separated. That can easily lead to the problem of fur barbering.

Natural habit & Genetics

Last but not least possible cause of fur barbering is the genetics of the specific chinchilla. It is not compulsory that every chinchilla can only chew his or her fur under stress. It could be a habitual problem. In that case, you may not see any other illness or stress signs but only the chinchilla keeps chewing and biting his or her fur all the time.

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How to Know If Your Chinchilla Has Fur Barbering Issue?

As I’ve already mentioned, mild grooming and nibbling have a negligible effect on the quality of the fur.

The most important sign you’ll observe is that your chinchilla is involved in consistent chewing. Additionally, the chewing pattern doesn’t spread on the whole body but rather to specific areas. 

Too much harsh chewing will pluck the fur out of the hair follicles and you’ll notice bald patches between fur at specific locations. Although there will be no significant skin damage and irritation eventually, there will be no fur left at that spot.

Another visible indication from which you can tell if a chinchilla is fur barbering is the presence of fur tufts in his or her cage. There are very few chances of fur being cut off by nibbling. That means your furry friend is chewing heavily leading to fur getting out of the skin leading to bald patches on the coat.

Chinchilla Fur Barbering & Your Role

The correction of fur barbering behavior must be done as quickly as possible. Prolonging the condition can lead to more health problems. 

Identify the Cause of Fur Barbering

The first thing you need to do is to seek the reason for this behavior. If the stress is compelling your chinchilla to do this, try to get your chinchilla in an optimum environment. You should monitor your chinchilla during his awake hours and notice he does something strange. If you are still unable to get the idea, try to take some general stress-reducing steps.

Reduce the Stressors & Cage Mate Interaction

You can try handling your chinchilla less and let him play alone. Frequently putting a chinchilla in your hand and lifting him or her can lead to excessive stress. Try to move your chinchilla to a cooler place if he is suffering from heat stress. Besides, take notes on regularly cleaning your pet’s cage and replacing the dirty bedding altogether.

If the problem is with the cage mates, you can ret separate them for some time and keep them away from each other. Monitor if they stop showing fur-chewing behavior or not.

Offer Chinchilla Toys

The provision of safe chinchilla-chewing toys is the best way to stop him from fur barbering. There are many pet stores offering chew toys specially made for rodents. Your chinchilla can display his natural behavior more effectively using chewing toys rather than damaging his fur.

Besides the chew toys, you can get the benefits of exercising equipment such as a roller wheel for chinchillas. The idea is to keep him or her busy and indulge him in playfulness. An exercise wheel is also ideal if your chinchilla likes to stay inside the cage more often.

Consult a veterinarian

Despite doing all the efforts to reduce stress, if you still observe your chinchilla doing fur barbering, it’s time to consult a veterinarian. Your chinchilla may be suffering from a health issue consequently provoking him to voracious fur chewing behavior. 

As a veterinarian, I’ve encountered some owners asking for medications to fix the issue. You must keep in mind that no medication can treat this condition. This is a behavioral problem that can be corrected only by using better managemental practices and health issue diagnosis and treatment.

Final Thoughts

Chinchillas are mighty pets to bring home. They are fluffy and docile little beings that need proper attention and care. Certain stress factors, managemental & health issues induce fur barbering behavior in them. It is advisable to carefully monitor the causes and correct them as soon as possible.

Don’t hesitate to consult an exotic animal expert if the condition is prolonged and your chinchilla can’t help biting and chewing his or her fur.


How much time is needed for chinchilla fur to grow back?

Generally speaking, chinchilla’s fur growth is faster and only takes two to three weeks to grow back to full length. However, the growth rate isn’t the same in every chinchilla and takes a little longer if your chinchilla keeps barbering his or her fur.

How to prevent my chinchilla from barbering his fur?

Reducing the stress factors and implying healthy and friendly practices can make your chinchilla stop showing fur chewing behavior. Make sure you provide them with excellent quality and chinchilla safe chew toys.

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I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and have a keen interest in animal health care. Working as a veterinary content writer, I intend to stay with professional approach in producing quality content. I like research-based reading and currently seeking my veterinary profession. My hobbies are travelling to exotic places and observing nature to the fullest.

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