Yellow fur on a white chinchilla doesn’t look good. But beyond cosmetics, it can also signify an underlying health condition.
Why does my chinchilla have yellow fur? Yellow fur occurs after urine staining. Urine staining happens because of incontinence, unhygienic cage conditions and spraying. It can cause infections. It’s seen around the groin and bottom, but can rarely affect the back and belly. It can be cleaned off with dust baths, a damp cloth, or in the worst cases through soap and water.
To learn everything you need to know about why fur staining happens, and lots of tips on how to get rid of it if it does, read our guide below…
Why Does My Chinchilla Have Yellow Fur?
Chinchillas shouldn’t have yellow fur. The precise color of your pet’s fur depends on the variation you bought. There are currently perhaps 30 different colors that chinchillas come in, some rare and some more common. Examples include standard gray, ebony, white, mutliple types of beige, violet, sapphire, black velvet and more.
What isn’t normal is for a chinchilla to develop yellow staining in its fur. If yours does, it is because of urine staining.
When urine stains chinchilla fur, it turns the area yellow-orange. Chinchilla urine is a deeper shade because chinchillas are good at conserving water in the wild. This means when they go to the toilet, they don’t get rid of as much water as other animals or as we do. Water is what dilutes urine and stops it being orange or brown.
This stain will typically affect your pet around its groin or bottom. It’s immediately obvious and may be wet. In minor cases, the slight yellow staining will only occur around the urethra. In worse cases, it’s evident all around the urethra and bottom, and perhaps even on the belly and back.
Causes of Urine Staining in Chinchilla Fur
Urine staining occurs because your chinchilla got urine in its fur somehow. There’s more than one way this can happen.
The first is that the chinchilla sat in its own urine. Most chinchillas will pick a corner of the cage to urinate in, and then won’t sit there or spend time there. But some urinate where they like, and so can sit in their mess. If they do this repeatedly or for a long time, it stains the fur.
Alternatively, your chinchilla may have an incontinence problem. This can make it so that the bedding or fleece of the cage is permanently damp, so your chinchilla sits in its urine even if it’s normally clean and hygienic.
Sometimes female chinchillas spray urine, too. They do this at males who want to mate when the female isn’t in heat. The female will spray a jet of urine directly at the male, which is so unpleasant it will get him to leave her alone. If this is what’s happening, you’ll notice the staining in unusual places rather than on the bottom, e.g. around the neck and face.
How to Stop Fur Staining in Chinchillas
The first step is to understand what’s causing the staining. Is it incontinence? Is it a female spraying at another chinchilla? Possible ways of preventing further staining include:
- Separating your chinchillas. If they’re constantly fighting and spraying at each other, it’s best for their welfare if they’re put into separate cages.
- Providing a litter tray. Chinchillas pick a corner of the cage to wee in, and you can litter train them by putting a tray there. Line the tray with fleece and change it periodically. This will stop urine build-up.
- Providing regular dust baths. Dust bathing picks up some of the staining before it sets in. It otherwise keeps your pet’s coat in top condition.
- Line the floor and platforms with fleece. This helps absorb urine. Platforms should also be an absorbent material like wood rather than plastic.
Fur staining can also be related to neglect. Unhygienic cage conditions cause fur staining because urine can pool at the bottom of the chinchilla’s cage, and the chinchilla sits in it. With regular spot cleaning this isn’t an issue, but some owners don’t do this. You should.
Fur staining isn’t something to worry about unless your chinchilla has an underlying health condition, or some of its fur stays wet. You should check for signs of infection like redness and swelling particularly around the groin, as these signify infection. Infection can happen because urine is unhygienic, and wet fur helps bacteria flourish.
But otherwise the issue is purely cosmetic. Nevertheless, there are ways to get rid of it.
How to Clean Urine Stains in Chinchilla Fur
Regular bathing and cleaning should be enough to prevent bad staining, and to correct minor existing stains.
Also, while chinchillas shouldn’t typically bathe in water, this is one instance in which it may be necessary. There are steps you can take so that this is possible. The guide below explains how and when you should do this.
Try Damp Cloths & Baby Wipes
Before resorting to fully bathing your chinchilla, you can try wiping it down with either a cloth or an unscented baby wipe. Neither of these is wet enough to leave your chinchilla’s fur wet, so that’s not a problem.
Take your chinchilla in your hands as you normally would, and see if you can wipe the affected area. This will get rid of any urine that’s still there, and have a slight anti-staining effect.
Try Dust Baths with Corn Starch
Dust baths do have some effect, too. They clean away dirt and oils at the microscopic level, and corn starch is particularly effective at this. So, add a tablespoon into each dust bath.
This won’t fix the staining straight away. But repeated dust baths over the course of weeks will eventually get your chinchilla’s fur back to its normal shade. Needless to say, you will also have to prevent further staining in the mean time.
Hand Washing a Chinchilla
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to bathe a chinchilla with water. The problem is that it’s a) needlessly inconvenient when a dust bath is almost always sufficient, and b) dangerous for the chinchilla if not done properly. That’s why the advice to new owners is to never get your chinchilla wet.
In certain cases, though, washing with water is necessary. If the chinchilla is a rescue that has been badly neglected, for example, washing with water can help get it back in proper condition. Some neglected chinchillas have badly matted fur, fungal infections and worse which washing can help with.
The washing part is the easy part. You can use unscented gentle soap on a chinchilla’s fur with no issue. You get the fur wet, rub the soap in, and rinse it out. You can either wash the whole of your chinchilla’s body, or only the part that’s affected, depending on how serious the staining is.
It’s the drying that’s the problem. Chinchilla fur is thick and holds onto water, which is why they don’t like getting wet. You can dry a chinchilla by:
- Rubbing it gently with a towel for a long time
- Using a blow dryer on a cool setting (never use one on a hot setting even if it would dry your chinchilla better, as your pet will overheat and can die)
- Making sure its room is on the warmer end of the chinchilla’s preferred temperature scale, at 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit
Bear in mind, this isn’t guaranteed to get rid of the yellow staining. It will likely help more than dust bathing alone but isn’t a magic bullet. As such, we don’t recommend doing this unless absolutely necessary (as in the scenarios described above).
Does My Chinchilla Need to Go to The Vet?
In the absence of inflammation and infection, slight yellow staining isn’t a serious issue. If the area is dry and otherwise clean, don’t worry.
It can become a serious issue if the area becomes infected. Infections lead to swelling and painful sores. In the worst case scenario, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause sepsis. Sepsis is a silent killer.
If you aren’t sure what’s causing the staining, or whether there’s an infection or not, you must take your pet to the vet as sepsis can have sudden onset.