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  • Molly Weinfurter

Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths?

I remember when I was a kid, I saw a chinchilla in a dust bath and was extremely confused. Wouldn’t the chinchilla just get dirty doing that? But I was told that chinchillas need to take dust baths, and of course, I found it cute when they did so. However, even as an adult, I’m still rather perplexed by chinchillas and their strange baths. So, why do chinchillas take dust baths and how does it work?

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small chinchilla being pet

What is a Chinchilla Dust Bath?

A chinchilla dust bath is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a way for chinchillas to bathe in dust. Chinchillas roll around in the dust and get it all over their fluffy fur. Most chinchillas spend about 5-10 minutes in a dust bath at a time.

However, you can’t just collect random dust and throw it in a bathtub for your chinchilla. Chinchillas need special dust for their baths. The product is usually called chinchilla dust or chinchilla bath sand. According to pet product company Kaytee, it’s made from ingredients similar to volcanic ash from the Andes Mountains.

Chinchilla dust is very fine and usually produces a cloud of dust as your chinchilla rolls around. There are lots of chinchilla dust products out there, so toward the end of this article, I will list some popular options you can choose for your chinchilla. Don’t use any type of dust or sand that isn’t made specifically for chinchillas because it may not have the same cleaning properties.

Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths?

If you’ve ever pet a chinchilla, you probably know that their fur feels unlike any other pet. It’s super soft and super thick. That’s because these animals evolved to have thick coats to protect them from the cold winters of the Andes Mountains, their main natural habitat.

chinchilla leaving dust bath area

Because of the unique coats, chinchilla owners have a hard time bathing their chinchillas normally. Chinchillas' thick coats take forever to dry, and if moisture clings to their coat for too long, it could lead to health problems. So, chinchillas have learned to use dust baths as a self-cleaning process.

When chinchillas roll around in the special dust, the dust absorbs excess oils. As a result, unwanted dirt, oils, and moisture are removed from their skin and coat. After a dust bath, chinchilla fur feels velvety, and the chinchilla is healthier overall.

Keeping clean is the most important part of a chinchilla dust bath, but for many chinchillas, it’s also a fun activity. Many chinchillas enjoy rolling around their dust baths, making it a great form of exercise and mental stimulation.

Why Doesn’t a Dust Bath Make Chinchillas Dirty?

Rolling in a dust bath isn’t the same as rolling in a patch of dirt outside. The dust is made specifically for cleaning chinchilla coats, so the dust removes unwanted items from the fur. Then, chinchillas can easily shake off the bath dust when they're done, which is why their coat doesn’t feel dusty on a regular basis.

In a way, chinchilla dust is like a form of dry shampoo and conditioner for these small mammals. They can use it to clean themselves without ever having to get wet.

How Often Do Chinchillas Need Dust Baths?

Chinchillas should have access to dust baths a few times a week. One to three times a week is normal, but the environment and the individual chinchilla’s needs may affect it. 

For example, if you live somewhere humid, they may need to get a dust bath more often to remove the excess moisture from their coats. On the other hand, if the environment is cold and dry, they may not need dust baths as often.

Let your chinchilla use the dust bath for about five to ten minutes at a time. Do it at a time when your chinchilla is more active than usual, such as in the evening.

It might seem easier to leave the dust bath out all the time, but it’s not recommended. Your chinchilla will make a huge mess and they may even mistake the dust bath for a litter box.

pet chinchilla up close

How to Give a Chinchilla a Dust Bath

To get started with a dust bath, you need a container to put the dust in. You could use something you already have around the house, such as a large Tupperware container, a wooden bowl, or a litter box. Yet, you can also buy some dust bath containers made specifically for chinchillas, such as the Lixit Chinchilla Dust Bath or the Kaytee Chinchilla Bath House. Those products prevent dust from spilling everywhere.

Next, you’ll need to fill the container with about a 2-inch layer of special chinchilla dust. Here are a few popular dust products to choose from:

Once it’s all set up, give your chinchilla access to the dust bowl for about 15 minutes. Your chinchilla will likely roll around in it for 5-10 minutes and then leave the container. Remove it from their enclosure and clean out any debris, such as clumps of hair and feces from the bowl. You can set it off to the side and reuse the dust once or twice, but replace it with new dust whenever it gets overly dirty.

Lixit chinchilla dust bath

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Chinchillas Like Dust Baths?

Chinchillas like rolling in dust baths as a way to keep clean. Some chinchillas also like them because they think it’s fun to roll and jump around in the dust.

Can You Reuse a Chinchilla Dust Bath? 

You can reuse the dust in your chinchilla bath once or twice, but you shouldn’t reuse it too often. It will start to look dirty and develop clumps over time, so it’s best to change it after every two or three dust baths to ensure it’s fully effective.

Do Any Other Pets Need Dust Baths?

Many wild animals use dust baths to keep clean. Other than chinchillas, there are a few other domestic animals that can benefit from dust baths, such as degus, gerbils, and some bird species.

Do Chinchillas Still Live in the Wild?

Yes, chinchillas still live in the wild, but they’re currently endangered. They’re native to the Andes Mountains of South America. While chinchillas can be kept as pets, you should never take them from the wild. Adopt a chinchilla from a rescue or find a reputable breeder instead.

Can You Use a Chinchilla Dust Bath for Hamsters?

No, you shouldn’t use chinchilla dust to bathe your hamsters. Hamsters can benefit from sand baths, but chinchilla dust is way too fine for hamsters. Not only do hamsters have a different coat type, but they could also develop respiratory problems because of the clouds from chinchilla dust.

Chinchillas Need to Take Dust Baths

Many people wonder why chinchillas need dust baths. The simple answer is that it’s your chinchilla’s unique way of cleaning themselves. Their coats can’t easily be dried, so this is a way for them to clean themselves without getting wet.

So, if you have a chinchilla or are planning on bringing one home, make sure you give them a dust bath at least a few times a week. Your chinchilla will be happier, healthier, and cleaner as a result.


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