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Why Do Chinchillas Bathe In Dust?

by Lucy

Owning a chinchilla is very different from owning other types of pets. They could, in some eyes, be considered a higher maintenance species since they require a certain type of care that may seem unusual.

Taking a dust bath is one of those care requirements which may seem a bit odd but is vital for their overall health and wellbeing. We often hear pet lovers ask the question, “Why do chinchillas bathe in dust?” and here we will discuss why chinchillas need to do this. We’ll also talk about what can happen if a chinchilla doesn’t have access to the dust bath they need to keep clean, as counter-intuitive as that may seem.

So, why do chinchillas bathe in dust? A dust bath is delicate on their fur and skin and can easily remove dirt, debris, and grease from their coat. Dust baths replicate their natural bathing habits in the wild.

Dust baths are a great way for chinchillas to have a good cleaning session. Chinchilla coats are renowned for becoming very greasy, and despite being in the cage the majority of the day can surprisingly get quite a bit of dirt and debris engrained into the fur.

Sand baths are the ideal way for chinchillas to keep their fur and skin nice and clean daily. Sand is soft and gentle on their skin and will ensure their fur stays grease and dirt free. Sand is a wonderful tool for keeping your chinchilla’s fur silky soft.

Chinchillas, in general, are animals that like to stay clean and they love nothing more than to roll around in the sand to keep themselves clean and fresh.

You will also find that providing a sand bath doubles up as a great fun activity too. Chinchillas love to just have a roll around for fun and will happily utilize the sand bath all day long given the chance (more on this later).

It should be noted that regular sand is not sufficient and you will need to ensure you are buying fine sand that has been specifically produced for chinchilla or rodent use. This type of sand is often referred to as ‘dust’ since it is much finer than regular sand and works hard to remove grease in particular.

Regular sand is too rough to use on chinchillas and will not have the desired cleaning effects required.

How do chinchillas bathe in the wild?

By providing your chinchilla with a dust bath, you are essentially replicating their cleaning routine in the wild. For domesticated pets, it is always best to try and stick as closely as you can to their behavior in the wild.

Chinchillas originate from Chile and are native to the Andes Mountains. This region is known for its cool, dry climate which works well for chinchillas since they do not like the heat or wet and rainy weather.

In the wild, chinchillas will bath themselves in the volcanic ash from the mountains or Andean clay. They will roll around in the ash or clay, which is ideal for keeping their fur and skin clean and soft. A domesticated chinchilla will roll around in a dust bath in the same way it would in the wild (minus the actual bath).

How often do chinchillas need a dust bath?

It can be great fun watching your chinchilla rolling around in the sand bath. It’s a great tool for cleaning their coat and you can tell they have lots of fun using it too.

It is, however not a good idea to leave the sand bath in your chinchilla’s cage as a permanent fixture. Free access to the sand bath can have an adverse effect and cause health issues.

The dust used specifically in sand baths is great for cleaning purposes, but prolonged use can cause skin soreness and irritations since the sand itself is so dry. One of the main problems with leaving the sand bath in with your chinchilla consistently is the fact they just don’t understand when enough is enough.

Chinchillas see using a sand bath as a fun activity and this can result in excessive use. Sometimes sand baths can be overused through boredom and can encourage repetitive behavior which is not ideal.

It is always advisable to provide your chinchilla with access to a sand bath a couple of times a week. This gives them plenty of opportunities to clean themselves thoroughly without the risk of contracting skin conditions associated with overuse.

10-20 minute bathing sessions a few times a week is usually sufficient.

Never provide a sand bath for more than half an hour at a time. Although sand baths are vital for the daily care of your chinchilla, restrictive usage is important for their health and general welfare.

How long can a chinchilla go without a dust bath?

Chinchilla’s need regular dust baths to stay clean, happy, and healthy. Providing one is an important part of their care and as an owner, it is your responsibility to ensure they are taken care of and have everything they need.

If a chinchilla goes without a dust bath for a week you will be sure to notice a difference. Their fur will become greasy and oily. You will be able to feel the difference when you pick up your chin, their fur will not feel as soft or fluffy and you may get residue on your hands.

Aside from the physical, you will likely notice that your chinchilla is unhappy. They love to keep themselves pristine clean and if they have not had access to a dust bath, will not be able to do so sufficiently.

Your chinchilla may feel uncomfortable and uneasy. You may notice that your usually quite social able chin is withdrawn and hiding away. They are likely to not want to be handled and may even become aggressive towards you.

The bottom line is, that your chinchilla will not necessarily be seriously ill if they do not have access to a sand bath, however, they most certainly will be unhappy and dirty. Always provide your chinchilla with a sand bath at the very least once a week to keep them happy, clean, and healthy.

What is the best type of sand to buy for a chinchilla bath?

You must buy the correct type of sand for your chin to bathe in. Regular sand will not keep your chinchilla clean. It is way too harsh on their skin and is likely to cause skin irritation. Chinchillas instinctively know the difference and are also unlikely to want to roll around in regular sand.

There are many types of sand (often referred to as dust) on the market that have been specifically designed for chinchillas and small rodents. This type of sand is much finer and can remove grease and grime from even the tiniest strands of fur.

Always make sure you are buying species-specific sand that will be guaranteed to do the job well and keep your chinchilla happy.

Why can’t chinchillas bathe in water?

Water, unfortunately, does not work well for chinchillas which is why it is vitally important you keep them as dry as possible and refrain from giving them a bath in water. There are several reasons why chinchillas cannot bath in water:

  • Water does not clean chinchilla fur well enough
  • Health issues related to chinchillas becoming wet
  • Chinchillas do not like water


As humans, we rely on water and soap to keep our bodies clean and germ-free. Unfortunately, water does not work in the same way for our furry friends and does very little in removing dirt and grease from their coats. Water does not cover each hair well enough to clean a chinchilla’s fur successfully and grease cannot dissolve with water alone.

Chinchillas have very thick, dense fur, with more than 20,000 hairs per square centimeter. You will never have to worry about your chinchilla catching fleas since the fur is so dense parasites cannot live in these conditions and are likely to suffocate.

Health Issues

Bathing your chinchilla in water can be very risky. Water can become cold very quickly and give your chinchilla a chill thus making them ill.

When a chinchilla gets cold it is often the case that its body cannot replace the heat lost quickly enough. This can result in your chinchilla becoming very sick in a short space of time and could even lead to hypothermia if not attended to swiftly.

If your chinchilla does happen to get wet for any reason you must dry them off with a towel as quickly as possible. Fungal infections are also very common in chinchillas that become wet.

Personal Preference                                                                                                     

Chinchillas do not like water! When a chinchilla becomes wet it leaves them feeling cold and uncomfortable. They do not come across water very often in their natural habitat and have the option to get away from the likes of rain by hiding away.

Since their fur is so dense, water can make the coat become tangled and matted which can become very uncomfortable for them. It can be extremely difficult to detangle the fur and grooming a chinchilla can often be tricky.

What do chinchillas bathing in dust look like?

If you want to see one of the cutest things you’ll ever view in your lifetime, here’s a great example of a chinchilla bathing in dust from the ChinTubeHD channel on YouTube!

Epic Chinchilla Dust Bath

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