Q. My boyfriend and I are thinking about moving in together. He has a rabbit and I have a chinchilla. All the places we've seen are quite small so to save on space we're thinking about housing them together. Would that be all right? Sharon, via e-mail
A. Firstly, you should check whether you're allowed to keep pets at all in your new flat. Landlords are generally very strict about whether or not you can keep animals and they can be more stringent with smaller pets. If you enter into a contract and the landlord finds out that you are keeping pets without their permission, you may be forced to get rid of them, or even be evicted.
Getting back to your question, you should not – under any circumstances – house your chinchilla and rabbit together. They are totally different animals and need distinct care and attention. Firstly, their dietary requirements are unique. Even if they got along in the same cage they could get sick if they ate each other's food. As you are aware, your chinchilla is partial to a dust bath, which would cause irritation to the rabbit; what's more, the cages are a completely different shape from one another. Chins like to live in little "tower blocks", with multiple floors, and bunnies like "bungalows", with separate compartments.
What we could hope for is that they become friends and might tolerate being outside their cages with each other. However, you must start this process gradually and supervise it at all times.
Put the cages next to each other and observe. See how the animals react to each other. If they seem calm, then you can hold them on your laps and later put them on the floor, always giving them the option to get back into their cages. If this doesn't work, you can always let one out at a time so that they have a bit of freedom.
Don't expect miracles. This will happen over time. Be patient and do not force them into any dangerous situations.