Grooming your chinchilla would be fun, but if you’re like most owners, you can’t get the thing to sit still long enough to brush it. But is grooming a chinchilla necessary? And if so, how do you do it?
How do you take care of chinchilla fur? Chinchillas groom themselves, and dust baths keep their fur clean. As such, you shouldn’t need to brush a pet chinchilla. Breeders and chinchilla show entrants brush their animal with specially made brushes, although some use flea combs or greyhound combs for rough grooming. They pick their chinchillas up by the bases of their tails to do so.
There are several chinchilla grooming tips below—everything you need to know to keep your pet’s coat fresh and clean, plus details on a controversial point in chinchilla rearing. Read on if you want to find out what it is!
Do You Need to Groom Chinchillas?
You ideally shouldn’t need to groom your chinchillas. Between your chins grooming each other and themselves, and their regular dust baths, their fur should stay clean and knot-free on its own.
But what’s true in theory isn’t always true in practise. Semi-regular basic grooming can prevent knots and matted fur, and assist with shedding. The only issue is that some chinchillas won’t sit still long enough for you to groom them.
Most brushes and combs don’t work on chinchillas. But what many owners do is get their hands damp (not wet) and run them over their pets. This picks up dirt and loose hairs.
Should You Brush a Chinchilla (Or Comb It?)
You don’t need to brush or comb a chinchilla’s fur. Your chinchilla will take care of most of the work for you.
What’s more, most brushes and combs don’t work on a chinchilla’s fur. It’s too dense. People have one or two hairs in each follicle, while chinchillas have up to eighty.
To understand why this is an issue, imagine combing your hair. Your comb has teeth which are a fraction of an inch apart, which can get between the hairs and separate them. Now imagine trying to comb your hair with a comb that had teeth an inch apart—it would be useless. It wouldn’t get rid of any knots in your hair, or style it in a particular direction. This is what using a regular comb is like in chinchilla fur.
You can get special brushes and combs designed just for chinchillas. These have teeth which are very close together and can tease out loose hair without pulling out live hairs. Some owners think that flea combs are a good option while others don’t, but they’re definitely better than regular combs.
Is Grooming a Chinchilla Necessary?
Most owners will say that grooming a chinchilla at all isn’t necessary. They also keep their fur clean by:
- Grooming themselves
- Grooming each other
- Freshining their coats with dust baths
- Avoiding getting wet
- Picking one corner of the cage to wee in, so it doesn’t get their fur dirty
This is far more than other animals do. Also, chinchillas are indoor pets, which means they’ll never get muddy or dirty outside. You can also keep your chinchilla’s cage clean which will stop bacterial and fungal infections. This means that you will only very rarely have to groom a chinchilla.
The main exception to this rule is when a chinchilla is neglected. If you neglect your chinchilla, it has to sit in dirty bedding in a dirty cage. Its fur will get damp from water or urine and it will get matted. Unfortunately, this is the condition that many chinchillas are in when they are given to rescue centers. These chinchillas have to be groomed because the condition of their fur can make them ill.
How to Groom a Chinchilla
Most owners suggest not using brushes. That’s because most brushes aren’t capable of grooming chinchilla hair—it’s too dense. The tines of the brush (the sticks that stick up) aren’t close enough together on typical brushes to be much use on a chinchilla.
Instead, owners suggest using your hands. Here’s what you do:
- Wash your hands under running water. You don’t need to use soap unless they’re dirtier than your chinchilla’s fur!
- Wipe your hands until they’re almost dry. They shouldn’t be soaking wet, but still damp.
- Pick up your chinchilla as you normally would.
- Stroke your chinchilla along its back.
The residual moisture on your hands will pick up stray hairs like a brush will.
It’s a myth that chinchillas can’t get even a drop of water on their fur, so your chinchilla will be fine. If you do accidentally get it too wet, pat it dry with a towel, and if it still won’t dry then blow dry it on a cool setting.
This is an effective way of getting rid of loose hairs. But it won’t get rid of knots or clumps. For that, you’ll need a brush.
How to Dust Bath a Chinchilla
Another way of keeping your chinchilla’s coat fresh is to give it frequent dust baths. Chinchillas love dust baths, and most would bathe every day if you let them. Owners recommend twice weekly dust baths, and this is more than enough to keep your pet’s coat clean.
To dust bathe a chinchilla, take a small bowl e.g. for doing the dishes. Place a small amount of chinchilla dust in the bowl—most owners put around 1in. Then leave the bowl somewhere that it won’t cause too much of a mess, e.g. in the bathtub. Leave your chinchilla with it for a minute or two and it will start rolling around in the dust.
If you like, you can couple this with the grooming method described above. To do so, use the method above before the dust bath as the moisture will cause the dust to clump up.
How to Brush a Chinchilla (Expert Level!)
Most owners don’t bother brushing their chinchillas, and their pets don’t suffer for it. But one context in which brushing is essential is for show chinchillas.
Show chinchillas are specially bred chinchillas entered into shows by breeders and experienced owners. These chinchillas are larger and have nicer fur than average pet chinchillas—breeders call this a distinction between pet quality and show quality chinchillas. Considering that many chinchillas aren’t even considered pet quality, that means show quality chinchillas must be very well taken care of!
How show entrants brush their chinchillas is a point of contention for some owners. Breeders and experts are more comfortable holding their chinchillas than most owners, many of whom won’t even handle their chinchillas at all. What breeders and experts do is hold the chinchilla by its tail to brush it. Some show entrants report that their videos on YouTube are bombarded by hostile owners who think they’re hurting their pets!
Holding a chinchilla by the base of its tail is perfectly safe, so long as the owner knows what they’re doing. It doesn’t hurt the chinchilla if it’s done right. The owner will then brush the chinchilla’s fur while holding it.
However, we don’t recommend doing this unless you’re very experienced with chinchillas. There is something else you could try, which is to take a tile and place it in your lap, and hold your chinchilla there. The chinchilla will have less purchase to squirm around than it would directly on your lap, so it should settle down. If this doesn’t work, you will find it difficult to get your chinchilla still enough to brush it—but this shouldn’t be a major problem as it will take care of its own fur.
How Do You Get Knots Out of Chinchilla Fur?
With other kinds of hair or fur, you can gradually unpick a knot. If you have long enough hair, you’ll have experienced exactly this problem after you blow dry it. If you’re careful, you can tease out small knots in your pet’s fur with a fine-toothed chinchilla comb. Do this in the way described above.
Matted hair is another issue entirely. Matted hair can’t be teased out, even with a fine-toothed comb. That’s because a chinchilla’s fur is too dense. Owners have tried and it simply doesn’t work.
What you can do is tug the matted hair out. Slide the comb underneath it and tug firmly. This will cause fur slip—but that’s what you’re aiming for. This is the only way to get the matted hair out without cutting it.
This will cause your pet momentary discomfort. It will likely be annoyed at you for a while. But this is necessary to prevent bacterial and fungal buildup in your pet’s fur.
Can You Cut a Chinchilla’s Hair?
You can cut a chinchilla’s hair, but it’s unnecessary in almost all cases. When your pet has small knots in its fur, a chinchilla brush will do nicely, plus dust bathing and basic grooming.
As mentioned above, some chinchillas are neglected and taken up by rescue organizations. Some of these chinchillas have fungal infections in their fur, plus lots of knots and matted parts. For these chinchillas, cutting the fur out is better than grooming out every single matted piece of hair with a comb. This will cause the chinchilla less pain and stress.
What you shouldn’t do is cut your chinchilla’s fur to try and style it. Your chinchilla needs its fur to properly maintain its body temperature. You could also hurt your pet.