It seems, you just get the shelves all cleaned and/or sanded, or even worse, new shelving put in the cage. The next thing you know, you see the shelves are no longer "spotless". We've received a lot of questions about urinary indiscretions, otherwise known as peeing on shelving in the cage. This page will offer some suggestions that may or may not curb your chinchilla's fondness for this activity. If you have a suggestion that is not already mentioned on this page, please share it with us so we can all help each other with this very frustrating nuisance.
Females are territorial by nature, and may be marking their territory to ward off other chinchillas. Males will also sometimes do this if they feel compelled to secure their territory. If you have more than one chinchilla cage, try moving them across the room, or better yet, into separate rooms altogether. Thoroughly clean the areas of the cage that are marked and see if the behavior continues. Chins may also mark territory against other animals, such as cats or dogs. Try excluding the dog(s) and/or cat(s) from the area (room) where the chinchilla's cage is, thoroughly clean the area of the cage that is marked and see if the behavior continues. These suggestions by far, are the simplest to try first.
Another very simple idea is to clean the droppings from the shelves daily, if you do not already, particularly the areas the chinchilla is using as a toilet. We've tried this with one of our girls, and it does seem to be helping. It hasn't eliminated the behavior altogether, but it has reduced the frequency that the shelves are soiled.
If you have more than one cage of chinchillas, do not "cross-contaminate" scent from one cage to another. What this means, is if you are using a vacuum hose to clean the cages, wipe the end of the hose off with a solution of bleach and water or similar disinfectant before cleaning the next cage with the vacuum. If you use a brush and dustpan, consider getting an inexpensive one for each cage, or if you clean cages on alternate days, dip the brush into disinfectant and let dry after you finish with each cage. The reason for this is to keep the smell of other chins out of each cage, thereby hopefully eliminating one more reason to be marking the shelving. The same goes for any items from inside the cage, such as food dishes, wheels, houses, etc. This may not only help eliminate the problem of shelf marking, but it also is more healthful for the chins, in case someone is ill and you are not aware of it (chins hide their distress until they no longer can). Also, offer each cage of chins their own dust bath, rather than having them share. Again, this is an issue of scent.
If you have a chinchilla that pees on only one or a couple of its shelves, usually in the corner, try placing something in that corner for it to pee IN. We've successfully used what we call "potty pans" (litter boxes) with several chins and it's taken care of the problem. We use an 11 cup Pyrex storage container (ours had red plastic lids, which we discarded) filled with some CareFresh litter. It is very important if you are going to do this on a shelf, that the potty pan be secured to the shelf in some way, so that it cannot fall off the shelf and hurt the chin. We've fashioned a wooden bracket to go onto the shelf in the corner and fasten to two adjoining cage walls. It allows the pan to sit down inside, but holds it from being knocked off the shelf. If you try a potty pan, try adding some soiled litter to the CareFresh at first to give the chin the idea. A photo of one of our potty pans mounted in the cage is below (the shelf it is on is 9" wide).
Another idea that has worked for us, is putting a fleece pillow/pad in the corner of the shelf where the chin insists on peeing. They go on the fleece (or maybe not....), but the fleece is able to be pulled out and tossed into the washer. Much easier to clean than the shelving. It is very important that the pad be made of polar fleece, and be stuffed with little snips of the same. This is the only fabric that is considered to be reasonably safe for chinchillas. Monitor the use of any fleece items and remove if chewing is an issue. A photo of one of our cages with the potty pads is below.
A suggestion that was made by one of our clients may also prove useful. Try tilting the shelves slightly.