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Chinchilla dust baths: Why they take them and how to set one up

Chinchilla sitting next to pile of sand with white background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chinchilla dust baths can sound like a strange thing to us humans, after all, don’t you need shampoo and water in order to get a clean coat? While your pocket pet cleaning themselves in dust may sound counterintuitive, believe it or not, that and a decent bath container are exactly what your fur friend needs to stay clean and healthy.

If you’ve just adopted a Chinchilla, alongside investing in a good quality cage, food and toys, you’ll want to make sure you know how to set up a dust bath, which products to use and how often they need to take a bath to keep their fur in tip-top condition.

Although cleaning yourself by rolling around in dust may sound strange, it’s important that you never use water to try to clean your Chinchilla. That’s because they have very dense fur that takes a long time to dry, during which time their damp fur is susceptible to mold and infections. 

Below, we talk you through everything you need to know about Chinchilla dust baths, including why your pocket pet uses this method to keep clean, what to consider when selecting a Chinchilla bath and step-by-step instructions for setting one up. 

Why do Chinchillas take dust baths?

There’s something incredibly adorable about watching a Chinchilla happily frolicking about in a dust bath, but alongside being a very sweet thing to witness, it also serves an important purpose.

Chinchillas have some of the softest fur of any animal or rodent and that’s because they have an abundance of very fine hair follicles. Each follicle contains around 80 hairs, so you can imagine how long such a dense coat takes to dry.

Because of this, a Chinchilla was born with fur that doesn’t require water to keep it clean. In the wild they roll around in volcanic ash which keeps their coat clean by removing excess oil and moisture.

As well as serving the specific purpose of keeping their fur clean and healthy, Chinchillas also love taking dust baths with all that flipping and flopping about being great for their mental health.

How often should your Chinchilla have a dust bath?

Your Chinchilla will want to take a dust bath around two to three times a week and usually like to bathe themselves for 5 to 10 minutes per session. We recommend that you offer the dust bath to your fur friend in the evening as this is when they’re most active and likely to use it.

Although it can be tempting to leave the dust bath in their cage all the time, it’s important that you do remove it after each use. That’s because your pocket pet will be likely to use it as a litter box if it’s constantly in their cage and aside from that, bathing too frequently can dry out their skin.

If you’re worried that you may be offering your Chinchilla too many opportunities to bathe, you can regularly inspect their skin, which will offer you a good indication of whether you have the frequency right. If you notice any flakiness or you see them itching and scratching, that’s a sign of dryness that could be a result of overbathing.

You’ll also want to take your climate into account when considering how often you allow your Chinchilla to use their dust bath. More regular bathing will be required if you live in a humid climate as this will trigger their skin to produce more oil and moisture, whereas less frequent bathing is recommended in colder climates where the skin will naturally be more prone towards dryness.

Chinchilla sitting in dust bath

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Making a homemade Chinchilla dust bath

While it may seem logical to grab any old dust to create your Chinchilla's bath, it’s vital that you choose a product that’s made up of ingredients specifically designed for your fur friend. They require a high-quality, all-natural powder that mimics the properties of the volcanic pumice that they’d use if they were living in the wild.

Don’t worry though, you won’t need to go trekking along the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains to gain access to the sand and ash your pocket pet loves - both Chinchilla dust and Chinchilla bath sand are readily available online and in-store at local pet retailers.

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Kaytee Chinchilla All Natural Dusting Powder (opens in new tab)
A high-quality, all-natural 2.5 lb container of dusting powder that will remove extra oils and moisture to keep your fur friends coat healthy and clean.

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Lixit Chinchilla Dust (opens in new tab)
Sustainably mined in the United States, this 3 lb container of Chinchilla dust is free from silica and contains no added chemicals. It also comes with a scoop to make filling your fur friends bath that much easier.

Once you have your dust or sand, you’ll then want to source a bathing bowl or house for your fur friend. Here’s a few things to consider when trying to decide on the best option:

  • Size: Your Chinchilla needs room to flip, flop, and roll about, so look for a bath that’s around 12 inches in diameter.
  • Material: The bath needs a good deal of stability as your Chinchilla will be frolicking about quite vigorously. We recommend glass, ceramic or heavy plastic as these won’t be easy for your fur friend to knock over.
  • Height: To avoid a messy clean up for you every time your pocket pet takes a bath, look for a bowl that’s around four to six inches deep as this will contain the dust/sand.
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Lixit Chinchilla Dry Sand/Dust Wellness Bath (opens in new tab)
Keep your chinchilla healthy and groomed with the Lixit Chinchilla Bath. Featuring a removable transparent lid, it has a curved opening to make it easy for your fur friend to hop in and out and is made of heavy duty plastic that's a breeze to keep clean.

Once you’ve purchased your bathing bowl and Chinchilla-specific bathing dust, our step-by-step instructions below will help you to give your little rodent the best bath of their lives.

How to give a Chinchilla a bath

If you’re giving your Chinchilla a dust bath for the first time and are unsure how to go about it, these steps will help you to get started:

  1. Take your bath bowl and fill it with around one to two inches of Chinchilla bath dust and then place the bowl inside your pocket pets cage.
  2. Gently lift your Chinchilla and place them in the bowl so that they know it’s bath time. They’ll know exactly what to do but we recommend supervising them while they’re in the bath to make sure they’re ok.
  3. Let your fur friend roll about for a good 5 to 10 minutes but make sure you don’t exceed 15 minutes as too much flipping and flopping about in the dust can dry out their skin.
  4. Remove the bath from their cage once they’ve finished using it to prevent them from over-bathing or using it as a litter box.
  5. Scoop out any debris that you find in the dust and put the remaining dust in a separate container - you can reuse it a few more times before discarding it and replacing it with fresh dust.

And there you have it - everything you need to know to give your Chinchilla a dust bath. As long as you choose Chinchilla-specific products and offer your pocket pet the opportunity to bathe two to three times a week, you can rest assured that their furry coat will stay in tip-top condition. 

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.