Why do chinchillas take dust baths? Discover why chinchillas need dust baths, the best dust to buy for a chinchilla dust bath, and special dust bath houses.
In this article we’ll take a look at what exactly a chinchilla dust bath is. Also why dust baths are necessary to keep your pet clean, healthy and happy.
We also guide you on the what, when, where and how of a your chin’s dust bath. This includes the dust bath house and the specialised dust you need to provide.
Just in case you haven’t seen it before, there’s also a super cute chinchilla dust bath video at the end.
First let’s have a look at why your chinchilla needs dust baths.
Why do chinchillas dust bath?
One of the things that make chinchillas so special are their extremely dense and soft fur coats. Whereas you and I have only one hair growing out of each hair follicle, chinchillas have 50-75 hairs in each follicle.
They developed these coats in their natural habitat, high up in the cold and arid Andes mountain ranges of Northern Chile. The thick fur protected them against loss of heat and moisture.
Also in their natural habitat, chinchillas had access to volcanic ash. They kept their fur clean by rolling around in this fine dust. Much as we would use dry shampoo.
So the answer to the question “Why do chinchillas take dust baths?” is that flopping around in the dust is their natural grooming process. The dust bath removes all the dirt, loose hair, moisture and oil from their coats – keeping their fur clean, soft and luxurious.
You may be wondering whether you can’t simply bath your chinchilla now that they’re kept as pets where there is enough water around.
Why can’t chinchillas just bathe in water?
Precisely because a chinchilla’s coat is so dense, it’s never a good idea to get it wet.
If you were to try and wash your chinchilla in regular water, it would be incredibly difficult to dry the coat completely right down to their skin. This could spell disaster for your pet’s health and skin.
A wet coat could lead to a bacterial or fungal infections, not to mention how it could make your chinchilla lose body temperature quickly.
What if your pet chinchilla gets something sticky in his coat? Use a slightly damp hand towel to wipe the sticky substance clean. Be sure to just clean his surface coat.
So now that you know why you need to provide a chinchilla dust bath let’s have a look at the how, where and when.
How to give your chinchilla a dust bath
Firstly you need a container that’s big enough for your pet to fit into comfortably and that won’t tip over while he does his cute spinning to-and-fro. This needs to be filled with one to two inches of specialised dust – which we’ll discuss further on.
Then all you have to do is to place your pet in their chinchilla dust bath house. Natural instinct will take over – you can just sit back and enjoy the show. Chinchillas absolutely love their dust baths!
The dust bath should not be placed permanently in your chin’s cage. They might end up sitting in it or even using it as a litter box.
Chinchillas are nocturnal animals. They’re awake and active from dusk till dawn and so the best time for their dust bath is usually in the evening. Unless, of course, you’re an early riser.
So how often does your chinchilla need a dust bath? The general recommendation is at least twice a week. This should be increased in very hot and humid weather to keep your pet’s coat dry. In cold and dry weather it can be 2-3 times per week.
When you notice that your chinchilla’s coat has become clumpy it’s a sign that they need a bath. However, if they bath too often their coat can dry out. Also if they spend too much time in their dust bath – 10-15 minutes is enough.
Getting back to the dust, why can’t you just use any fine sand?
What is chinchilla dust?
The Chinchilla dust available from pet shops or your vet is a special kind of dust which is similar to the volcanic dust in their natural habitat. It can penetrate all the way down to your chinchilla’s skin to remove excess oils and moisture.
It cannot be substituted with similar looking dust or sand. This will irritate your pet’s skin and eyes and eventually damage their fur.
Most of the commercially available dust comes from the Blue Cloud Mine in Southern California as it’s the closest dust to the volcanic ash in their natural habitat.
Kaytee Chinchilla Dust is a popular choice.
As is Oxbow Poof! Chinchilla Dust.
You’ve got to love that little face on the bottle!
Usually you can use the same dust for more than one bath – just clean out any dirt and top it up. Over time the dust gets full of oil, dirt, hair – even urine and poop – and won’t work effectively. So you need to change it once you notice that it’s becoming dirty and clumpy.
Best chinchilla dust bath house
While you can use any sturdy container for your pet’s dust bath you may find a specially designed bath house more convenient. A semi-enclosed or enclosed dust house will help to reduce the amount of dust that’s kicked around in your home.
You can get a range of different containers specially designed to help your chinchilla have a lovely dust bath.
This plastic chinchilla dust bath by Kaytee is easy to wash and keeps all of the dust inside.
This wooden chinchilla dust bath is in a similar shape with a different look.
Chinchilla dust bath video
Are you are curious to see what the whole process looks like? Then check out this fun video here:
If you watch carefully you will be able to identify the three phases of a dust bath. First they dig in the sand and pull it towards their body, then they rub their cheeks in the sand and finally, the spin, that looks like such fun.
Notice how happy the chinchilla appears when spinning about in the chinchilla bath dust. Surely it’s just as good for their mental health as for their coat.
Chinchilla dust bath – Summary
Hopefully you now have all the answers to your question “Why do chinchillas take dust baths?”. The dust bath allows your pet to groom themselves just like they would in the wild, keeping them clean and healthy.
You need to help your chinchilla have regular dust baths for 10-15 minutes at a time when they’re awake and active.
For this you need a suitable container and specialized dust – and to keep the dust-cloth handy.
Do you have a pet chinchilla that loves their dust bathing? We would love to hear your experiences in the comments section below!
This article has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.
- Axelson, R & Hess, L. Chinchillas – Problems. VCA Hospitals.
- Avian and Exotic Animal Care Hospital. Chinchillas. AEACH.
- Chin Care Group. 2017. Chinchilla dust bath guide. Chinchilla Care Group.
- Hacking, S. All you need to know about caring for chinchillas. Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.
- PetMD. How to give your chinchilla a dust bath.