You know what surprised me most when I began looking into getting a chinchilla?
That’s right. The dust bath.
When I first heard about this, I couldn’t even imagine how you could clean yourself using dust.
But now that I’ve owned my chinchilla for a few years, I understand how it works perfectly.
I also get why chinchillas bathe in dust and not in water.
It makes perfect sense and is one of those cool little tricks of nature.
Keep reading to learn exactly why these little rodents use dust to clean themselves, and what you need to do to make it happen safely at home.
And watch the video further down to see the pure joy my chinchilla shows when rolling around in her dust!
- 1 Why Do Chinchillas Bathe In Dust?
- 1.1 Why You Need To Provide Dust Baths
- 1.2 What Kind of Dust Do Chinchillas Bathe In?
- 1.3 Get A Good Dust Bath House To Make Your Life Easier
- 1.4 Common Mistakes To Avoid With Your Chinchilla Dust Baths
- 1.5 How Much Dust Does A Chinchilla Need in A Bath?
- 1.6 A Chinchilla’s Love For Dust Baths
- 1.7 When Should I Give My Chinchilla A Dust Bath?
- 1.8 What Is Chinchilla Dust Made Of?
- 1.9 How Much Does Chinchilla Dust Cost?
- 2 Why Chinchillas Bathe In Dust: Final Thoughts
Why Do Chinchillas Bathe In Dust?
Chinchillas take dust baths because that’s what they do in the wild. It is how they keep their dense fur healthy, clean, and oil-free.
Chinchillas need to use dust instead of water, because their dense fur makes it impossible for them to dry out adequately.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Our brilliant pets found a way to use the natural dust around them to freshen up, since they can’t use water (and there is not much water in their natural habitat anyway).
And dust baths are how we keep our pets clean, too.
Why You Need To Provide Dust Baths
I was clueless about why a chinchilla needs to take dust baths when I first adopted mine. I had questions like:
Why do chinchillas take dust baths?
What kind of dust do chinchillas bathe in?
What is the best chinchilla dust?
All three of these questions popped to mind immediately before and during the early days of my first chinchilla adoption.
Let’s start with the first question, since we already answered it above.
Chinchillas don’t know any other method for remaining clean and for removing the oils and debris from their dense fur.
In their natural habitat, precipitation is minimal and temperatures are mild, which is what allows them to survive with their dense fur and why they remain relatively dry in the wild.
Luckily, this works out perfectly, because no other method for bathing would work for a chinchilla. Dust is it.
But you can’t just use any type of dust. The dust in their natural habitat has a special composition.
Reputable brands of chinchilla dust are formulated to replicate the dust they use naturally. Good chinchilla dust is not harmful to humans either. We’ll have much more on this below.
Chinchillas specifically roll themselves in this dust in the wild to remain clean and to remove oils from their fur.
In my mind, I always pictured this as a chinchilla simply rolling around in desert-type dirt that is dry and easy for them to shake off when they are done.
Whether this is the exact scenario we would witness on National Geographic is a different story, because I have never seen a chinchilla physically take a dust bath in the wild.
However, I have witnessed my chinchilla in her dust bath getting herself clean and she absolutely loves it. And I have learned a lot about chinchillas in my 5 years of being a chinchilla parent.
Their fur is much too dense to tolerate water, except in extreme circumstances where water may be advised. But that is a topic for a different post and a different day.
In fact, water could cause illness or death for a chinchilla, if you do not know what you are doing. Their fur simply can’t dry out due to being so dense.
And that’s why you need to provide your pet regular dust baths (2 to 3 times a week), using specially formulated chinchilla dust. So let’s talk about that.
What Kind of Dust Do Chinchillas Bathe In?
I’m going to keep this as simple as possible. Don’t overthink this. You should always use store-purchased dust.
It is specifically created for chinchillas for the direct purpose of bathing. Store-purchased dust is designed to resemble the dust in which chinchillas bathe in the wild.
Chinchilla dust is usually composed of volcanic ash, among other artificial ingredients deemed safe for a chinchilla to bathe in.
I personally use the Lixit Blue Beauty dust. You can read about it in my article on the best dust options for chinchillas. It is the first dust mentioned.
You can buy it in large containers that will last a few weeks, if you afford your chinchilla the recommended 2 to 3 dust baths per week.
I typically place an order for 2 at a time and then place another order the following month. It makes life easy for me and my chinchilla, but ultimately, that’s up to you.
Keep one thing in mind: dust is dust.
It can be messy, if you allow your chinchilla to free-roll in the dust like a maniac. At first, I used a regular bowl to keep the dust somewhat contained, but found that a lot of dust still ended up on the floor.
I then got a dedicated chinchilla dust bath house. It worked great, but was a little flimsy.
I have since upgraded to the Kaytee dust bath house. It does a fantastic job and cost me very little. The model I got is the first one listed in my article reviewing the best dust houses for chinchillas.
Get A Good Dust Bath House To Make Your Life Easier
There is an important post on my site that can help immensely with chinchilla dust baths.
It explains a bit more why chinchillas need to take a dust bath and has a full tutorial breaking down how to give a chinchilla a dust bath step by step.
As mentioned, an important upgrade for me was the dust bath house. It made cleanup much easier and my chin seems to prefer it too.
You can really get just about any house, as long as it is solidly constructed. Apart from that, it really just comes down to personal preference more than anything.
One significant recommendation I can provide is to ensure it’s relatively enclosed.
For starters, your chinchilla loves the enclosure, since it helps him or her feel safe. More importantly for you, it helps contain the dust inside of the bathhouse.
This, in turn, makes clean-up very easy to complete.
Outside of that, have some fun with it.
If you have a female chinchilla, perhaps you could choose a pink chinchilla dust bathhouse, like I did with my first one.
If you have a male, have some fun and go with a male-colored dust bathhouse.
I personally use several different dust baths, although the Kaytee model I mentioned above is my primary one..
Don’t feel obligated to have several of these small bathhouses. There is no reason to do so.
I simply wanted to try a few different ones for the purpose of this blog.
As I said, my favorite chinchilla dust bathhouse is the one from Kaytee, hands down.
I like that it is slightly larger than my older one (the pink one you’ve already seen in a lot of the images, which gives my chin more freedom to roll around as crazily as she wants.
Common Mistakes To Avoid With Your Chinchilla Dust Baths
The biggest mistake I see people make is to use dust that is not specifically made for chinchillas. Other dust-like substances just don’t get the job done.
They can actually cause the fur to dry out even further, which is not good.
So don’t try using sand or other dust-like substances. It’s an easy process picking the correct dust for your chinchilla.
Any dust designed specifically for chinchillas will get the job done. And it does not cost much.
Avoid anything that is not designed for chinchillas. It’s that simple my friends.
Another common mistake is placing the dust bath container inside of the chinchilla cage. In theory, this isn’t the end of the world, but it is still best to avoid, for a few reasons.
First and most importantly, it’s going to prematurely dirty up your chinchilla cage and requires more frequent cage cleanings.
Secondly, a chinchilla dust bath is perhaps a chinchilla’s favorite activity. It’s recommended to keep this as something you can use for leverage.
For example, if my chinchilla is being non-cooperative about going back into her chinchilla cage, I can simply tap her dust bathhouse.
If you are having this issue, be sure to read my post about how to get your chinchilla and out of the cage here.
This entices her to run to me and jump in her dust bath, which I can then use to get her back in her cage.
Lastly, the dust bath is the equivalent of a human taking a shower.
Let your chinchilla come out to play and roam a bit. It’s nice to allow them to get out of their cage for a few minutes to enjoy the dust bath.
Don’t get me wrong here.
If you prefer to allow your chinchilla to bathe in dust inside of the cage, it’s not the end of the world. However, if you have the time and you have the choice, I advise against it.
How Much Dust Does A Chinchilla Need in A Bath?
This is the next logical question. At least it was the next one I had.
The answer is straightforward. Chinchillas need at least 2 inches of dust in the bottom of the dust bath container or bowl.
No matter which method or container you use for the bath, 2 inches is a good amount of dust for your chinchilla to roll in and clean itself.
Although you can use chinchilla dust again, if it remains clean after use, I recommend simply discarding it after each use.
It doesn’t cost much and if you only use 2 inches each time, a bag or box of it will last a while.
A Chinchilla’s Love For Dust Baths
Chinchillas absolutely loves their dust baths and it helps create a unique bond with your chinchilla. It’s a win-win.
You can get in some laughs and smiles while your chinchilla is getting nice and clean and ready for some cuddles.
Dust baths are also critical for proper hygiene and fur care for your chinchilla.
Don’t be mistaken.
A skipped dust bath from time to time isn’t going to cause your chinchilla to smell by any means. As long as it doesn’t get out of control.
Also, don’t replace other duties with a dust bath.
You still have to clean your chinchilla cage daily for small items such as poop, and weekly for larger items such as bedding and shelves.
Do this in addition to using my recommended best chinchilla bedding and you will take your chinchilla’s hygiene to an entirely new level.
What am I referring to here?
They help a ton with hygiene, but for the sake of staying on topic, just use the link one sentence back to read my blog post specifically dedicated to that topic. No point in rehashing it here.
I also wanted to throw in one more bonus perk.
Here’s a quick video that you can see that shows my chinchilla taking one of her dust baths.
As you can see, I use dust baths for some interaction and to hang out with my chinchilla a few times per week.
Dust baths are one of the many things that make chinchillas a great pet to own.
It’s a great time for you and your chinchilla, so make sure to keep up with it and provide your pet adequate amounts of time per week to roll around in the dust and naturally build your bond with each other.
When Should I Give My Chinchilla A Dust Bath?
I had the same question at one point. When should I give my chinchilla a dust bath or how often do chinchillas need a dust bath?
I already touched on this above, but chinchillas should be offered a dust bath a minimum of 2 times per week.
Make sure it’s during active times of the day for your chinchilla and increase the number of dust baths, if you feel the fur is oily or dirty.
Unfortunately, these are some of the most alert and awake times your chinchilla will offer for some well-deserved dust bath time.
You also want to be careful not to overdo it.
Too many dust baths can irritate your chinchilla’s fur, skin, and possibly even ears and eyes. You don’t want to dry them out.
Find a happy middle ground 2 to 3 times per week and your chinchilla should not only be happy, but squeaky clean and ready to play!
I wouldn’t exceed 3 times a week at 20 minutes per dust bath. More than this may dry out the chinchilla’s skin and fur and cause other issues.
The only time you may consider increasing is if you notice fur issues such as additional shedding.
You can also increase frequency, if you are worried about potential fleas or other issues with your chinchilla’s skin or fur.
What Is Chinchilla Dust Made Of?
I wasn’t sure what chinchilla dust was made of either. After some research, here’s what I learned.
Chinchilla dust resembles gray sand. But it does depend on which commercially purchased dust you choose.
Some chinchilla dust for baths is made of 100% pure volcanic mountain pumice. This is ideal. It strongly resembles the dust chinchillas use to clean themselves in the wild.
How Much Does Chinchilla Dust Cost?
Giving your chinchilla the care he or she needs is relatively cheap. Chinchilla dust is only about $5 to $15, depending on which dust you buy and where you buy it.
A 2.5-pound jug of chinchilla dust by Kaytee (one of my top choices for dust) ranges between about $10.50 and $15 per jug on Amazon.
That is a low price to pay for soft, silky fur and many, many minutes of pure enjoyment.
Why Chinchillas Bathe In Dust: Final Thoughts
To put it simply: chinchillas bathe in dust, because it is what they need to remain happy, healthy, and with a clean coat of fur.
It is the only way they know to clean themselves. So give them what they want and need. They love it and I’m sure that you will love it just as much as they do.
Chili and I wish you the best of luck with your new chinchilla!
Share your thoughts on chinchilla dust baths.
Do you have any soties to share related to dust baths with your chinchilla?
Any recommendations for the rest of us when it comes to providing your chinchilla dust baths?
Or further knowledge on why chinchilla’s take dust baths?
Be sure to share those thoughts, stories, and concerns by dropping a comment below.
As always, Chili and I appreciate you stopping by and reading today and we will see you again next time!