All animals need to keep clean. Pet chinchillas are no exception. But how can you wash a chinchilla if their fur can’t get wet?
How do chinchillas bathe? They need to roll around in fine dust to prevent greasy fur, and don’t need soap or water. To bathe your chinchilla, place it in a sand bath with 1 cup of chinchilla bathing dust. It will first groom its whiskers and face, before rolling around without need of help. Allow your pet to bathe once every two or three days.
Learning how to give a chinchilla a dust bath is easy. Follow our step by step guide below, and read our must-know chinchilla bathing FAQs, and you won’t go wrong.
Do Chinchillas Need Baths?
Chinchillas need to keep clean like all other animals. Good hygiene and clean fur help animals by:
- Preventing parasites, or at least stopping infestations from getting out of control
- Preventing skin infections from bacteria in the fur and on the skin
- Stopping the animal from smelling strongly, so it’s less easily sniffed out by predators or its prey
Chinchillas need to stay clean even more than other animals. They have such thick fur that it could easily get, and stay, greasy and dirty. They keep clean by taking baths and by grooming themselves and each other.
Can Chinchillas Have a Water Bath?
So, given that wild chinchillas need to bathe, you likely imagine them rolling around in puddles or shallow streams. But do chinchillas like water, and how do chinchillas clean themselves?
Few animals bathe like people do. If a chinchilla were to immerse itself in water in the wild, it would get sick. That’s because they struggle to get dry.
The problem is that a chinchilla’s fur is so thick. When it gets wet, the fur holds onto the water. It can take so long that a chinchilla’s fur can develop a fungal infection. It would also make the chinchilla colder in the subzero temperatures of the mountainous Andes, so wild chinchillas only bathe with dust. While it is possible to bathe a chinchilla in water safely at home, it’s not necessary except in extreme circumstances (e.g. if a chinchilla has been severely neglected and has poop matted into its fur).
But how do chinchillas clean themselves if they can’t bathe in water?
How Can You Wash a Chinchilla?
Rather than bathe in water, chinchillas bathe in dust. This might sound silly: if you bathed in dust, you would feel dirtier than you did to begin with. But it works for chinchillas, and lots of other animals too.
A wild chinchilla will first find a small pile of volcanic dust, or failing that, sand. It will then roll around vigorously in it. It will flip onto its back, then back onto its front. It will pause for a second before rolling again. It will kick its legs to raise up some dust, too. It will carry on until its back and sides are covered thickly in dust.
This is similar to using talc to stop yourself from sweating. The talc (or in this case, the dust) prevents moisture and catches grease. This helps your chinchilla stay clean without getting wet.
This applies if you have a pet chinchilla, too. It’s best not to let your chinchilla get wet, as it can’t dry easily. This also means you can’t use shampoo on your chinchilla’s fur, but your pet can still stay clean in other ways.
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How Do I Clean My Chinchilla’s Fur (Step by Step)
This means that if you have a pet chinchilla, you need to give it dust baths.
You can’t leave dust on the floor of its cage. Instead, you need to use a small bowl or make a pen for your chinchilla to bathe in. You must let it roll around in dust inside frequently.
Step 1: Buy a Chinchilla Sandbath
You need something to hold your chinchilla’s dust in. They roll around vigorously when they bathe, so putting the dust on newspaper will mean that it spreads onto the floor. You need something to contain it like a bowl, bucket or plastic tub.
The tub doesn’t need to be big. But it needs enough room for your chinchilla to roll onto its back. So, around twice the size of your chinchilla or bigger is fine. You don’t need a bath that’s specifically made for chinchillas, either; any tub that’s big enough is fine.
When it’s time for your chinchilla to have a bath, you set the tub up with the dust inside it. You then take the chinchilla from its enclosure and let it roll around in the bath.
If your chinchilla has a pen, place the bath in the pen. Put it somewhere that your chinchilla can hop in and out of it on its own. Place newspaper underneath the bath to collect any dust that your chinchilla spreads around.
Put the bath somewhere far away from the enclosure. If the bath is close, the dust gets into the air and settles on your chinchilla’s bedding and cage enrichments. This can cause or exacerbate eye issues.
Step 2: Buy Chinchilla Bathing Dust
Chinchillas can’t use any kind of dust to bathe in. But aside from that, there are still lots of disagreements over what kind of dust or sand to use. There are several brands of dust available, including Blue Cloud, Blue Sparkle, Oxbow, Kaytee, and Sunseed.
One thing owners argue about is how fine a dust to use. The finer the dust, the more it billows into clouds when the chinchilla rolls around. But when dust is fine, it wicks moisture and grease better. That’s why sand isn’t recommended.
Rather than rely on one particular brand, rely on your own knowledge. Here is a list of the substances known to work well, and not to harm chinchillas:
- Volcanic pumice. This is what products like Kaytee’s Chinchilla Bath Sand are made from.
- Sepiolite. Sepiolite is a kind of clay, also known as meerschaum. Like volcanic ash, it’s very fine.
Both volcanic pumice and sepiolite are fine powders. You need the powder to be fine, otherwise it won’t stick to the fur and get rid of any grease.
If your chinchilla has never dusted before, you may need to try a couple different brands until you find one it likes.
Step 3: How Much Chinchilla Bathing Dust to Use?
Your chinchilla doesn’t need much dust to bathe. All it needs is enough to cover its fur, so the dust doesn’t need to be deep.
1 cup of dust in a normal sized bathing tub is enough for your chinchilla.
Try this amount if you’re bathing two chinchillas at once. It may be slightly too little, so add another half a cup if it seems necessary. Line the bottom of the bath/tub with dust and spread it so that it’s even.
Step 4: Help Your Chinchilla Bathe
Then, take your chinchilla from its cage. If your chinchilla’s cage has a gate, open it. Otherwise, you may need to pick your chinchilla up by its tail.
When your chinchilla sees its dust bath, it will likely try to hop in on its own. Chinchillas enjoy dust baths, so you won’t need to encourage your pet to bathe.
Before it starts rolling around, your chinchilla will groom itself. It will clean its face and whiskers with its forepaws. If your chin has a cage-mate, it may barber it and be barbered back too.
Once your chinchilla is in its dust bath, leave it alone. It will roll around on its own. You won’t need to rub it, scrub it, or brush its fur. If the sides of the tub or bath are low enough, then it will get out on its own too.
Step 5: Reuse Chinchilla Dust Bath Dust
You can reuse the dust your chinchilla bathes in. Dust doesn’t get dirty like bathwater does. Some clings to your pet’s fur, and absorbs moisture. But the rest is still clean.
So, when your chinchilla is finished rolling around, you have options. If the tub has a lid you can attach, get rid of any poop your chinchilla may have left behind, then put the lid back on. Save the dust for the next time your pet has to bathe.
If the bath doesn’t have a lid, you could pour the dust into a container that does. If you don’t, the dust could spill onto the ground or blow around and settle on your things. Because it’s so fine, it can be an irritant, too.
You can use the dust until it starts to look grainy. The grainier it gets, the more moisture it has absorbed. The more moisture the dust contains, the less it can clean your pet’s fur.
(FAQs) 1: Do Chinchillas Need Dust Baths?
Chinchillas need to bathe somehow. If they don’t, they get greasy. They aren’t as pleasant to pet or handle when greasy and dirty.
But more importantly, bathing is good for your pet’s well-being. You see this all the time with exotic pets: they like to perform natural behaviors. If they don’t, they become stressed out or unhappy. That happens to chinchillas which aren’t allowed to bathe, too.
If you’re worried about your pet’s dust bath being lots of effort, don’t be. While the dust can be hard to sweep up, you can:
- Set newspaper down so that it doesn’t get on the floor
- Put the pen/bath in a room that doesn’t need to stay too clean, e.g. the garage
- Keep a lid on the bath when it’s not in use, so the dust won’t spread
If this still sounds like too much effort for you, then a chinchilla isn’t your ideal pet.
2: How Often Do You Bathe a Chinchilla?
Chinchillas need to bathe regularly. Their fur coats are important for keeping them warm in cold mountain climates. So, you need to let your pet bathe once every three days.
Any less often, and your pet’s fur would become greasy and dirty. Any more often, and your pet could develop eye problems. These occur when your pet frequently gets dust in its eyes.
This shouldn’t be an issue. If you have a tub with tall enough sides, the dust won’t fly everywhere. So, you won’t have to clean. And you should be taking your chinchilla out of its enclosure regularly for play anyway.
Because your chinchilla has to bathe regularly, you may want to leave the dust bath in its cage. But if you did that, two things would happen:
- The dust would get dirty, so you would have to change it frequently anyway
- Your chinchilla would likely get too much dust in its eyes
So, this isn’t a good idea. Only bathe your chinchilla in a separate bath or tub.
3: How Long Should You Bathe a Chinchilla For?
If a chinchilla doesn’t bathe for long enough, its fur won’t be properly cleaned. And if it bathes for too long, your pet can get too much dust in its eyes.
Breeders and experienced owners recommend 15-20 minutes of bathing time. This is more than long enough for your pet to get its fur clean. That being said, your pet may need to bathe for longer:
- If you handle your chinchilla frequently, it will need more bathing. That’s because the grease/sweat from your hands gets into your pet’s fur.
- Some chinchillas have greasier fur than others. These chinchillas need to bathe for longer.
Also, some chinchillas don’t want to bathe for that long. You may notice that your pet gets bored after a minute or two. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Your chinchilla knows how long it has to bathe to get clean.
Keep track of the amount of time your chinchilla bathes for with a clock, or an alarm on your smartphone. Then, when the time is up, gently encourage your pet out of its bath. You may need to pick it up by the base of the tail to do so.
4: Can You Bathe Several Chinchillas at Once?
Chinchillas should live in pairs, otherwise they become lonely. You can save time on bathing by allowing them to bathe together. Provided that the pair know each other and are bonded already, they won’t fight.
If you want the chinchillas to bathe together, you’ll need a larger tub. There should be space enough for both chinchillas to sit in the tub, plus extra room for them to roll over. Not having enough space would encourage the pair to fight.
5: Why Do Chinchillas Go the Toilet in Their Dust Baths?
Chinchillas urinate to scent mark. For that reason, your chinchilla may go to the toilet in its bath. They will do this when they’re finished bathing so that the urine doesn’t get in their fur coats. Your chin may also poop in its dust bath after it’s done bathing, too.
Chinchillas which don’t do this may start doing it when:
- You use a scented kind of dust for your chinchilla to bathe in
- Multiple chinchillas use the same dust
- Another chinchillas has gone to the toilet in the dust, and it has been reused
If your pet wees in its dust bath, you’ll have to throw the dust away. It won’t dry, especially if it’s fine dust. And even if it did dry, it would still smell bad. You must also wash the dust bath.
But if your chinchilla poops in its dust bath, you can still reuse it. Pick the poop out with a tissue, as well as any damp or dirty dust. Replace the small amount of disposed dust, and allow your chin to bathe in it next time it needs a bath.
6: What to Do If Your Chinchilla Doesn’t Bathe
Some chinchillas take to bathing easier than others. That’s because chinchillas learn how to bathe from their parents. It isn’t an instinct. If your chin was separated from its parents too early, it may never have learned.
The best thing to do is expose your chinchilla to a dust bath regularly anyway. If it has a cage-mate, it may see its friend rolling in the dust and do so as well. It might at least get some dust on itself from the dust in the air.
If your chinchilla still doesn’t learn how to roll, powder it with a little dust when you’re petting it. While this isn’t as good as your chinchilla bathing, it’s better than nothing.
You could also gently push your pet onto its side or its back in the dust bath. Be careful, as chinchillas have a delicate skeletal structure. But once your pet knows what it feels like to be roll in dust, it will do so itself.
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