Do Chinchillas Really Watch Television, Or Is That Just A Myth?


Chinchillas are such interesting little animals that regularly surprise me with their strange behaviors and quirks. One of these odd behaviors is looking like they’re watching television.

But do chinchillas really watch tv, or are they just looking in that general direction?

Chinchillas do watch television, and they also enjoy listening to music on the radio, or other sources. However, the choice of program should be carefully chosen to make sure it’s suitable.

Chinchillas have been shown to prefer some tv programs over others, and some even get scared by more intense films – this shows that they engage with what is happening on the screen, rather than just imitating human behaviour.

So, are some shows better than others? If so, what tv shows are best for chinchillas? Are they only watching because we are, or are they genuinely engaged with the programs? Does volume affect them, or is it merely the events transpiring on screen?

What about other entertainment devices, like radio or a smartphone? Let’s explore these questions, and find out more:

Do Chinchillas Really Watch TV?

Chinchillas are very social animals, so it makes sense that the presence of friendly sounds on television would engage them.

Clearly there does appear to be something about the combination of soft sounds and pleasing colors that relaxes chinchilla minds, causing them to just chill out, and lie down to watch a program. This gives the owner a relaxing break, often with the chinchilla, as they seem to especially enjoy lying down on the humans to watch their shows together.

However, it’s important to remember that like people, no two chinchillas are the same, and that what makes one chinchilla fascinated by a television show may make another cower in terror.

Shows made with children in mind are best for chins, as they often focus on calm energies, with a lack of violence.

Calm sitcoms are also a furry favorite – whether that’s because of the laughter, or the lack of loud noises and violent colors, no-one is sure.

Many owners have observed their chinchillas become caught up in the same program night after night, and will simply ignore different shows they find less captivating.

In my experience, quick, loud, fast-paced shows are usually not to their liking, as they seem to stress my chins out, rather than relaxing them – basically putting them into a prey mindset.

Children’s cartoons have a lot of clear, colorful graphics, which they like, but are often accompanied by sharp shouts and noises that startle; Disney and Pixar films, however, appear to be the home crowd favorite – with plenty of colorful graphics, music, occasional singing, and often gentle voices.

Should You Leave the TV On All the Time?

Too much TV time, just like with people, can be overstimulating, so you should probably ensure their screen time is limited to a maximum of two or three hours a day; ideally, though, you would use television-time to bond with your chinchilla, or when you’re doing something that stresses them out, such as vacuuming.

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Just like with children, personally interacting with your chinchilla is far more important than just abandoning them to screen time, and will be much better, and more rewarding (for both of you) for their socializing needs.

When Should You Leave the Television On For Chinchillas?

College/working long hours

If you have a chinchilla who is very bonded to you, and you generally spend a lot of time together, a change in circumstances (such as going to college, or you’re having to work longer hours), could be really stressful for them,

In this instance, you should consider leaving them with the tv on – this way, they get a healthy mix of social and digital interaction, and you don’t need to worry about them so much when you’re not there.

Environmental Stresses

Chinchillas will generally be asleep during the day, so probably won’t even notice you’re not there, so I suggest limiting the television to the evenings when they’d be looking for ‘playtime’.

If there are loud noises during the day, from building work etc, that are causing your chin distress, then this might be the perfect time to leave the tv on for them to help block-out the scary outside noises.

Vacation

If you go away on vacation, then chances are that your chin-sitter won’t be able to spend the time with them than you normally would – this is an ideal time for them to add a couple of hours of tv time in the evening, to give the chins extra stimulation, and social interaction.

How Do You Work Out What Kind Of Media Your Chinchilla Enjoys?

Every chinchilla has a personality all its own, so you need to figure out what content works best for them. The best way to work out what your chinchilla likes best is to just try a bunch of things – watch how your chinchilla behaves with the tv, radio, or any other forms of media.

Are they more fascinated with the TV, or with the radio? Do they like a certain type of show? Do they seem to be particularly mesmerized by one particular genre?

Basically, just watch your chin whenever you play some music or a tv program and see how they respond to it.

If your chinchilla appears calm and mainly sits in one spot while the show plays, you know they’re enjoying themselves; if they add little chirruping sounds as well, then they absolutely love it and are trying to tell you all about it.

If they are active and seem rowdy, then this could mean this program isn’t holding their attention, it may be stressing them out, or they’re just not in the mood for tv/music that night.

If they start making barking Opens in a new tab.noises, or look franticOpens in a new tab., running about the cage, (or hiding), then they are really unhappy with the situation, and you should probably find an alternative, or watch it in another room, away from your chin.

Some chinchilla owners have reported that shows featuring destruction, or large creatures send their chins searching for the best place to hide.

What About Radio, Or Other Music For Chinchillas?

So, is it the combination of moving image and sound that makes a chinchilla so fixated with the screen, or can you create the same effect with some music?

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Some chinchillas get just as much out of some gentle tones of radio as they do the flashing colors of tv, and many owners have reported that their pet actually has a band or artist they are particularly a fan of.

Classical music seems to be the most popular, but a range of genres have been reported to be popular with chinchillas, from pop to hip-hop. A few chinchilla owners have even noticed their pets “dancing” to the tunes, swaying their heads back and forth to the beat.

Do All Chinchillas Like Television Or Music?

It is worth noting that some chinchillas have no fondness for music or television at all, and it can even overwhelm certain members of the species, especially ones that already have a lot of interaction or another chinchilla in their living area.

Anecdotally, the majority of chinchillas respond well to music or television, suggesting that perhaps the ones who have been reported to find it unpleasant simply haven’t found the right genre or medium for their sensibilities.

However, it’s absolutely possible that you have a chinchilla that responds negatively to these kinds of entertainment, in which case more personal methods of engagement should be used, such as holding or playing with them, or even introducing a companion.

Are There Any Other Types of Media That Chinchillas Enjoy?

Other forms of digital content have been reported to mesmerize chinchillas as well – basically, any screen, ranging from phones to tablets, to computers have been described.

Music videos, in particular, have been reported to have the best result with chins, combining the experience of listening to music with accompanying images to engage more aspects of the chinchilla’s brain, with owners stating they look engrossed – this may be because of the background music, or the short intense period of stimulation that music videos provide.

Is Watching TV Healthy For Your Chinchilla?

Experts say that, yes, it is fine for chinchillas to watch television, and it’s actually healthy for their socialization. So, not only does this practice keep your chin mentally healthy, but it’s also been seen to eliminate unwanted, or potentially harmful behaviors (such as biting, destructive behavior, fur chewing, or urine spraying).

Digital media can also be used to help your chinchilla bond with you, by spending some time together enjoying music or television.

How Loud Should Your TV Be?

This is a big factor to consider in order to keep your chinchilla safe whilst they’re enjoying television, radio, or any other kind of content. Volume levels are definitely something to keep in mind.

Rodent ears are far more sensitive to sound than humans, which means they are easier to damage with louder sounds. Keeping your television or other devices at low volumes will ensure your chin won’t have any long-lasting damage from enjoying a little TV or music.

If you share a room with your chin and enjoy loud music, you may need to invest in a decent pair of headphones to enjoy your sounds without harming your chinchilla’s delicate ears.

Is TV Better Than Human Interaction?

Television is definitely not a substitute for human (or chinchilla) interaction. They are extremely social creatures and love interacting with the world around them. Ideally, they would interact with you or a companion, and most chinchillas look forward to playtime.

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They are incredibly sensitive at detecting moods, so if you’re happy around them, then they’ll be engaged and playful; if you’re stressed, nervous, or angry, then they’ll pick up on this too, and will try to get away from you – they are a prey animal, and those stimuli are extremely scary to a chinchilla.

If you’re new to chinchilla keeping and are a bit scared or nervous about picking them up, then they’ll feel it, and react similarly.

Turn on a nice piece of music or your favorite relaxing TV show, and that’ll help to relax you, so you can properly enjoy and bond with your new pet.

Try gently stroking your chin as they relax on you, or in a cage, whilst sharing a bit of television or music together, and it’ll help you bond, and bring you closer than ever.


In summary, chinchillas can grow very bored with little to do, which often leads to lethargy, or obsessive behaviors. If you don’t want to get a chinchilla companion, or have a busy schedule that often requires you to leave your chinchilla on its own for extended periods, then consider turning on the television to give your pet a little bit of extra social company. Just remember, there’s no substitute for human or chinchilla interaction.

Jo

I'm a Biomedical Scientist by trade, (over 22 years and counting), but my goal is to rehabilitate animals for an living. I started offering Canine Massage, and Equine Shiatsu alongside my lab work, but this has had to take a backseat to the pandemic. So I thought I'd put together a blog of (what I consider to be) helpful advice for chinchilla owners, and prospective chin parents. I hope you find something useful.

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