Catching a chinchilla is quite an ordeal, not only for the owner but more so for the chinchilla! Inexperienced owners may feel they can easily catch a chinchilla but regularly owners will know that this is impossible!
Depending on where the chinchilla has escaped to and whether there are any evident threats to its safety will depend on how urgent it is to catch the chinchilla. If a chinchilla is outside its cage or you need to catch an escapee there are a few ways to catch a chinchilla without the chinchilla feeling threatened or scared...
Keep to a routine - If you get into a routine of feeding a chinchilla at the end of their exercise time, they will get used to you putting their food in their cage at the end of playtime. Chinchillas are sticklers for routine and with their memory they will know what you are offering and generally come running without any problem.
Get busy inside the chinchilla cage - If you start to clean and pamper inside a chinchilla's cage whilst they are out on the run, they generally are too curious to ignore what you are doing - especially in their own home, that they come and investigate - one of the best ways to catch a chinchilla without any stress!
Entice a chinchilla with a dust bath - It is a wise idea to train a chinchilla to understand the word “bath”, this way as soon as they hear the word they are generally right by your side looking for the item that gives them so much joy.
TIP - You can either place a dust bath inside the cage and give it a shake so the chinchilla can hear the familiar sound and come running or use a 'dust bath house' outside the cage environment. Once a chinchilla is inside the dust bath house, you can place one hand over the opening and move the dust bath towards the open entrance of the cage then release your hand.
Use bribery and offer a treat - As a last resort a treat can be offered to catch a chinchilla. Generally the treat bribe will not work if given when the chinchilla is outside the cage, as normally a chinchilla will just snatch the treat and run off leaving you back at square one. The best way to offer a treat is to train a chinchilla to understand the word, then place the treats inside a small box, give the box a rattle inside the cage and see if the chinchilla comes. If not, use a raisin in this instance and break it open slightly so a chinchilla can smell the sweet aroma. Hold it near to where the chinchilla is and slowly entice him towards the open cage with it but not actually letting him have it. Only let a chinchilla have a 'treat-bribe' when its actually back in the chinchilla cage.
Be patient - Chinchillas love their freedom and generally never want to return to their cage against their will but if left to their own devises will return eventually. Keep their cage door open, make sure the chinchilla has easy access in and out of the cage and sit back and wait...it wont take too long...be patient
NOTE: At all times when a chinchilla has returned to its cage you should quickly but quietly close the cage door and offer one treat to the chinchilla for returning to the cage. This treat teaches the chinchilla repeated behavior as they will learn there is something worthwhile waiting for them to go back to and is parting of training and bonding with your chinchilla. Click here to see a list of 'safe' products you can offer a chinchilla.
Things You Should NEVER Do To Catch A Chinchilla...
You will never catch a chinchilla by chasing it...
Be reassured you will never catch a chinchilla and more than anything you will frighten him/her so much the trust you have built up will be broken and remembered by the chinchilla for a long time! You will also cause 'Fur Slip'.
Never catch a chinchilla by throwing a towel over it...
This is mighty scary to a chinchilla as this huge, dark shadow descends on them, just like a predator in the wild. This method of catching a chinchilla usually never works as chinchillas are seriously fast and by the time the towel has hit the ground the chinchilla is somewhere else in the room only harder to catch because now the chinchilla is terrified of you!
Never catch a chinchilla by grabbing at its tail...
Although the base of the tail (part joining the chinchilla's body) is ok to hold, if you grab the tip of a chinchilla's tail (as they are running away) it will easily break off!
If You Need To Catch A Chinchilla In An Emergency...
Sometimes, if there is an emergency you cannot just be patient and wait for a chinchilla to make its mind up and return to the cage - maybe they are about to do something life threatening, which needs immediate interaction or there is a fire and you all need to escape....yikes...how do you catch a chinchilla?
If there is any threat to a chinchilla's safety, for example it is just about to chew into some live electrical wires that you foolishly forget to hide away then do not pounce on the chinchilla but act quickly. Very loudly clap your hands together as you walk calmly towards them. If this does not frighten them to immediately drop the wires and run, then forget all the points above and act quickly - a live chinchilla is much better than a dead chinchilla!
A fire is something no chinchilla owner ever wants to think about....lets face it, these little animals are nervous enough and times like a fire, which they will be able to smell coming, together with human hands needing to grab them as quick as possible, is a horrific, daunting fact for any chinchilla and its owner BUT a plan must be made just in case you need to catch a chinchilla under such circumstances.
A chinchilla is not like a cat, dog or hamster that you can just pick up and walk out, their cage should be big enough, which will mean it cant be carried out so you will need to be able to catch a chinchilla quickly.
Always keep a large empty shoe box with pre-punched air vents or cat carrier nearby the chinchilla's cage so it is ready to hand if ever needed (a chinchilla can always use this to play in as long as if it gets weakened from chewing it is replaced).
In case of a fire emergency, immediately close the door of the room the chinchilla is in and remain calm and move slowly. Do not open any windows unless there is smoke in the room - the reason for this is the change in noise volume coming from outside will scare a chinchilla that will become more nervous and make it much harder to catch. If there is smoke in the room, then the window will need to be opened.
Approach the chinchilla cage slowly and open the door carefully - don't be alarmed if the chinchilla is a bit feisty as they have most probably already smelt the smoke nearby. If your chinchilla is quite tame, just gently pick him/her up and place inside the large shoe box/cat carrier and immediately leave the property.
If your chinchilla is a bit more wild or nervous because of the smoke, use a dust-house and when the chinchilla jumps inside place your hand over the front, take the chinchilla together with the dust-house out of the cage and leave the property.
If a chinchilla ever runs into a object to hide which is big enough to be picked up and taken out of the cage, just pick the whole object up together with the chinchilla and securely place your hands over any openings before leaving the property.
When outside find a suitable area (smallest room) within someone's house where you can put the chinchilla temporarily until you can get a cage replacement. Make sure the chinchilla is safe and cannot escape its temporary home!
Further Reading Relating To Catching A Chinchilla:
Chinchilla Exercise, Holding a Chinchilla, Shedding Chinchilla, Taming a Chinchilla.