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​Silver linings

Chinchilla Sheila enjoys exploring her cage in her new home

Sheila’s been bashed and bruised – but she’s safe now. We helped nurse her back to health and found her a happy new home…

All about chinchillas

Origin: South America

Age: Can live for up to 15 years

Favourite food: Grass and bark in the wild. Pellets and hay for pets. Raisins as a tasty treat.

Home: Minimum cage size for a pair is around 1m x 1.5m floor space, by 1.3m tall, with shelves at different heights.

Favourite pastime: Dust baths. Chinchillas roll in dust every day to keep their coats clean.

Personality: These nocturnal critters love to explore and need supervised exercise every day. With time and training, they can become very tame. They like to live with other chinchillas.

Pets arrive in our care for all sorts of reasons, and it’s not uncommon for owners to part with their pets when they’re not getting on with others in the household.

Poor Sheila is one such pet. She’d been picked on by her cagemates and was in a very sorry state. In fact, we’re amazed she survived.

Chinchillas are social animals and get the best out of life when they’re together in pairs or small groups.

However, if the number of chinchillas is too large for the amount of space they have, it doesn’t take long for things to turn sour.

Four-year-old Sheila got into a few scraps with the others she lived with.

As you can see from her photo, she now sports holes in her ears, and she only has one eye.

Nutrients round the clock 

As soon as Sheila arrived at our Burford centre we knew something was wrong. She needed urgent vet help, so we rushed her in for treatment.

Hannah Bryan, Animal Welfare Supervisor, said: “Sheila’s eye was very swollen, weeping and very badly infected when she arrived.

"We needed to remove her eye as quickly as possible, but she was so weak that she stopped eating and drinking.”

Sheila was dehydrated and it wasn’t safe to operate until she was strong enough to undergo the procedure.

Chinchilla Sheila with new owner Olly
We'd usually home chinchillas in bonded pairs, but because of her ordeal we're giving Sheila her own space for a bit until we know she's confident enough to find a friend

Hannah added: “We fed her fluids and a recovery diet through a syringe every hour for four days.

"Our Centre Manager Jenna took her home with her each night so Sheila could get the vital nutrients she needed round the clock.”

Finally, the little chinchilla built up the strength she needed. The surgery was successful and she adapted quickly to life with one eye.

While we would normally place chinchillas in bonded pairs, due to her ordeal we’ve found Sheila a home on her own, but new owner Olly Baldry is monitoring her progress and may find her a friend in the future.

For now, she’s having a great time spending her days sleeping and her evenings exploring her huge multi-levelled cage, as well as playing with lots of toys.

Olly and his wife Jane make sure she’s getting the exercise and human company she needs by getting her out for an hour each night to explore and enjoy cuddles.

“She’s settled in really well,” says Olly.

“She’s part of our family now.”

Chinchilla Sheila is cuddled by Olly

— Page last updated 26/01/2016