Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths? | The Pet Savvy (2022)

If you are thinking of getting a chinchilla as part of your family, you might wonder “Why do chinchillas take dust baths?” The reason is simple, as you will soon find out.

Chinchillas take dust baths not only to promote a clean and healthy coat of fur but also to help absorb excess oils.

Your chinchilla will instinctively need to do this and this guide will explain in detail the dos and don’ts of a chinchilla’s dust bath requirements.


  • Why Do Chinchillas Need To Take Dust Baths?
  • What Exactly is a Chinchilla Dust Bath?
    • What is the Dust Made Of?
  • What Do Chinchillas Do When Taking a Dust Bath?
  • How often does a chinchilla need to have a dust bath?
  • Should my chinchilla take dust baths in his cage?
    • Where do you buy the dust bath powder?
    • Can you make your own dust powder?
    • Can you reuse chinchilla dust?
  • How long can a chinchilla go without a dust bath?
  • Do baby chinchillas need a dust bath too?
  • How do chinchillas take dust baths in the wild?
  • Why can you not get a chinchilla wet?

Why Do Chinchillas Need To Take Dust Baths?

Chinchillas have naturally oily skin because of the density of their fur. They have an incredible number of 50-70 hairs per follicle, making it harder to release oil into their fur. Through centuries of living in a dry mountainous country, they have learned that dust baths help take away excess oil.

We all know the feeling of having oily hair and it’s easy for us to wash out our hair of these excess oils. That feeling of freshness is exactly what a dust bath does for chinchillas. You will see that their playful motions are not just for happiness, but the relief of getting rid of their oily skin.

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What Exactly is a Chinchilla Dust Bath?

Since chinchillas do not take water baths due to the density of their fur, they take dust baths instead to clean themselves. This process of rolling in the dust for a few seconds is referred to as taking a “dust bath”. It is faster for chinchillas and allows their fur to remain free from dirt and oil that get on their fur.

If you have never seen them do this in person, they all follow an instinctive pattern that every chinchilla does. Since they originate from the arid mountain range of northern Chile, this is the only method they have developed to keep clean.

What is the Dust Made Of?

The dust is actually volcanic ash that is a mixture of fine pumice that is ejected from a volcano. Not every volcano produces this kind of ash, so commercial chinchilla dust is not actual dust from a volcano. Because volcanic ash is so fine, it penetrates into their thick hair and soaks up oil that’s stuck to hair follicles.

What Do Chinchillas Do When Taking a Dust Bath?

Through several thousands of years of their natural cleaning habits, your chinchilla already knows how to roll around in their dust bath. They follow a ritual that is often comical to those who have never seen it happen before. It never gets old watching them go through their motions.

  • They begin diving down headfirst into the ash and pull it toward their body with their little arm. A majority of this goes under their front neck down the centerline of their stomach. After this, they get a majority of the dusk into their stomach and tail.
  • They rub their cheeks into the dust and flip almost instantly onto their back. It happens in such a flash, they’ll do this- two or three times in a row in a whipping crack motion. Most of what you see is dust in the air before they’re doing the flip all over again.
  • Lastly, is the quick head shake and then right back to the first step once again. Sometimes they do this many times in a row depending on the season. When they are done they come out of the dust bath for a final shake and hop.

How often does a chinchilla need to have a dust bath?

Chinchillas will have a dust bath every couple of days or more, depending on if their fur is oilier or not. In the summer when it’s warmer, your chinchilla is more likely to need frequent dust baths. The limit is usually once or twice a week but not always the case for chinchillas that are extra oily.

Over a day or two, this dust will come off as they shake and move around. This is barely noticeable since this dust being shaken off will be so fine. The oil that has soaked into this dust simply falls away leaving your chinchilla soft and continually fluffy.

How often your chinchilla will have a dust bath also comes down to diet, so the food that you feed them that has higher fat does have an impact. Age can be a factor in some cases. Chinchillas process their food depending on their exact diets, so not every pet will have the same oil production. So while dust baths should be part of its care routine, you also need to limit a dust bath to 3 times a week so you don’t cause dry skin issues too.

Should my chinchilla take dust baths in his cage?

You may wonder if a dust bowl should be part of your chinchilla’s cage setup. We don’t recommend putting a dust bath inside the chinchilla cage for two main reasons.

The first has to do with keeping their hay from getting covered with dust. Some owners like to have a plastic container or a simple wooden box outside the cage. There are even special dust bath containers that are rounded so your chinchilla can flip over easier.

The second reason is that they learn that a dust bath happens outside their cage, so they will be excited to come out of their cage. It is good for exercise and you can let them scamper around. This is a also perfect reason to socialize with your chinchilla.

Where do you buy the dust bath powder?

Some brands are commercially available that are worth buying for your chinchilla. I’m not against big-name brands and I’m also not afraid to mention products that are made from quality materials. But the best chinchilla dust is from soft fine volcanic ash and can be sourced from several online sources.

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Some shops are selling high-priced dust mixtures that have all sorts of gimmicky mixes. All you really need is good quality volcanic pumice that comes from a qualified source.

Can you make your own dust powder?

You can make it yourself using a mixture of 100% volcanic ash mixed with 25% of Fuller’s Earth. You can also search for another type of dust called Silver Sand which is horticulture-grade quartz. This is also mixed with 25% of Fuller’s Earth and then you can use this as a dust bath.

In terms of cost-effective savings, you can easily buy these two materials online at a fraction of the cost of pre-made chinchilla dust. It’s really just an option if you want to provide dust that doesn’t have padded pricing. There are also plenty of DIY videos that tell you how to make the best chinchilla dust bath formula.

As far as pre-made products, you can find many of them that all promise better skin, just be sure to check the product reviews to see what it does for their pet.

Can you reuse chinchilla dust?

To an extent, you can reuse the dust that your chinchilla is rolling around in. Sooner or later, that dust is going to need cleaning, sifting, or being thrown out. There is only so much ash that absorbs effectively before it gets clumpy. If you make your own dust bath mixture, the outgoing cost is next to nothing. Being able to reuse your dust also depends on how often they are having their dust bath.

Another thing about using any dust is keeping it inside a container that can be resealed. Ash is very moisture sensitive and can soak up moisture if you leave it out. Put it inside Ziplock bags or plastic containers that have a sealing top.

How long can a chinchilla go without a dust bath?

Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths? | The Pet Savvy (1)

The longest is once a week but if you go over that, their fur can start getting oily and matted, which will require extra grooming. The problems only start when you give them dust baths more often than they actually need.

Some owners argue that a chinchilla does not need a dust bath that often, but this can be from those who have dust allergies. I suspect that their chinchillas also have vitamin supplements, so be sure to give your chinchilla a dusting once a week.

Do baby chinchillas need a dust bath too?

From the first time that you get your chinchilla at home when they’re around 10 or 12 weeks old, they will be happy to try the dust bath. They naturally understand what it is for because it is an instinctual behavior. Place them into a dust bath and they will be excited to frolic around in their dust box until they have had enough.

They won’t need to have a bath more than twice a week, so only once a week is perfect for them. Most young chinchillas will need to be removed from their dust box so they don’t dry out after 15 minutes. You have to be careful of their paws and skin getting too dry from the ash. A good general dusting is nice for a few minutes, but they won’t know this at first and want to play longer.

How do chinchillas take dust baths in the wild?

If you can travel to the mountain slopes of the Andes and northern Chile, you will have a chance to see them take dust baths. They find that the natural volcanic pumice is the best material to clean their extra-plush fur. Since these mountain ranges are covered with much of this ash, they rub around in piles of this pumice whenever they want. There is no scientific proof they do this more than a couple of times a week, yet in the wild, they do have limits.

Why can you not get a chinchilla wet?

This simple answer is their fur is so dense, that it just doesn’t dry very easily. It’s also a problem that will cause more harm to them if they do get wet. They don’t respond well to being wet and will have negative physical effects that result in emotional trauma. They are very fragile to subtle changes around them and getting wet could trigger all sorts of issues.

This can lead to fur slippage, bald spots, and excessive shedding, making your chinchilla look unhealthy. It might sound excessive, but chinchillas are better off staying away from water as much as possible. It’s just not part of the weather pattern of their natural environment.

Read Also:

  • Chinchilla behavior 101 – What is your chinchilla expressing?
  • Are chinchillas nocturnal? Chinchilla sleep pattern explained

References and further reading:


Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths? | The Pet Savvy? ›

When it comes down to it, the special dust absorbs excess oils on the chinchilla's skin to keep their fur clean. A roll in the powder also helps remove dirt, loose fur and moisture from their coat, giving it that velvety texture. Dust baths are a necessity to keep pet chinchillas healthy.

Why do chinchillas need to take dust baths? ›

In lieu of soap and water, chinchillas “bathe” in fine dust which helps evenly distribute natural oils, clears away dirt and debris, and keeps their fur silky soft. In their native, arid habitats in the mountainous regions of South America, chinchillas use volcanic ash to keep clean.

Do dust baths actually clean chinchillas? ›

Dust baths also help to remove any parasites that may be living inside their fur or feathers. Not only does a dust bath help your chinchilla's fur stay smooth and silky, but it is also thought to be a relaxing and fun activity for your pet.

Do chinchillas need a dust bath every day? ›

Giving your chinchilla access to dust baths two times a week is ideal for most chinchillas during regular climate, but when the humidity kicks in, you might need to give up to four dust baths a week.

When should I give my chinchilla a dust bath? ›

Generally, dust baths should be offered to your chin about two to three times per week, as excessive access may contribute to drying out its skin.

Can humans take dust baths? ›

Taking a Dust Bath - Experiment - YouTube

Why do chinchillas wink? ›

A happy chinchilla can also communicate its mood through behaviors such as smiling, winking, wall surfing, pop corning and tail wagging. Winking usually occurs when the chinchilla is content or acknowledging a communication from its owner.

Do chinchillas pee when they are scared? ›

A less-welcomed behavior pet chinchillas do is spray urine on perceived threats — their not-so-subtle way of saying, “Back off!” So be prepared for the possibility of being met with a spray when you approach your chin's cage or when you attempt to scoop him up in your arms, especially if your chin is not used to you ...

Why can't chinchillas use water? ›

Chinchillas and water just don't mix very successfully. The rodents are notable for their extremely thick coats. If these coats come into contact with water and become damp or fully wet, the fur can become tightly compacted together, creating a big, uncomfortable mass.

Can you reuse chinchilla dust? ›

You can reuse the dust several times until it starts to look dirty or clumps. Remove any waste from the dust bath after your chinchilla is finished.

How long can a chinchilla go without a bath? ›

In very hot, humid weather or climates, chinchillas often need access to their dust baths closer to 4 times per week. In cold weather or otherwise dry environments, they may only need to bathe twice a week. It is also important to control the duration during which your chinchilla has access to their bath.

Where do chinchillas poop? ›

Chinchillas (more formally called chinchilla rats) and other rodents deposit their waste in "middens," their own personal scrap piles full of local plants and their poop that they glue together with urine, which then crystallizes and soaks up moisture to form a seal.

Do chinchillas like to be held? ›

And, with gentle handling from a young age, most chinchillas can become quite tame and bond closely with their owners. But don't expect them to like being held and cuddled like many dogs and cats. They usually don't, though they'll often express their affection for you in other ways.

Can chinchilla get wet? ›

Additional Dry Grooming

Even though you can't get your chinchilla wet, you can lend a hand with grooming to help reduce the amount of fur that is shed into your environment, as well as the fur that your chin swallows during his own grooming sessions.

Can chinchillas bite? ›

With no escape route available, the chinchilla may bite the threat (often the owner's fingers). This type of biting is most common if the pet owner tries to reach in suddenly to grab the chinchilla. Chinchillas have long and extremely sharp front teeth. A bite can be severe, deep and painful.

What should I name my chinchilla? ›

Funny Chinchilla Names
  • Baget.
  • Ball 'O Fluff.
  • Burrow.
  • Chewie McChewerton.
  • Chilla.
  • Chinny Chin.
  • Chunky Cheeks.
  • Cutie Patootie.

What happens if you don't shower for 10 years? ›

You'd smell

After a year, he said, you'd have a build-up of skin stratum corneum, or dead skin on top of your skin. It includes a build-up of a protein our skin produces that has a funky odor to it. Bacteria also would accumulate on the skin, giving off a nasty smell when it mixes with our sweat.

What is the least washed body part? ›

5 Body Parts You Are Not Washing Enough!
  1. Behind your ears. If you do not wash your hair on a particular day you are also not cleaning the area behind your ears. ...
  2. Under your fingernails. Dirt under fingernails. ...
  3. Your belly button. Belly button or the navel is probably the most ignored part of the body. ...
  4. Scalp. ...
  5. Between your toes.
Jan 3, 2018

Does not showering age your skin? ›

Hot water showers are very refreshing after a hard day. But they are not very healthy for the skin and body. Hot water strips the body of its essential oil and nutrients, causing early wrinkling and aging. The skin is also the protective cover of the body.

Do chinchillas laugh? ›

Finally, chinchillas have a warning call that is used to alert the herd. The warning call is a series noises that almost sound like the chinchilla is either laughing or crying. Chinchillas will often make this sound when they appear to be asleep and when their surroundings are quiet.

Can chinchillas see color? ›

The results are consistent with the presence of two types of cones (red/green and blue) and of rods. This suggests that chinchillas are, in fact, animals with dichromatic vision. Red/green cones were found in a higher proportion than blue cones though their contribution to the chinchilla's vision was not determined.

Are chinchillas ticklish? ›

Be careful not to touch the whiskers, they're ticklish! Once the chinchilla has finished the treat, slowly retreat and close the door. Repeat. Start with only a single stroke of petting or two, moving onto longer petting as you progress.

Do chinchillas like the dark? ›

Chinchillas are not truly nocturnal animals, but they do have excellent vision that allows them to see well in the dark. This makes them successful at nocturnal life, although they prefer a crepuscular lifestyle.

Why does my chinchilla nibble me? ›

Chinchillas usually nibble as a way of showing affection, but there are a few other reasons for this as well, including grooming behavior and a form of exploration.

Do chinchillas smile? ›

When you get a new chinchilla, he needs affirmation of your goodwill from the start. Chins do smile and wink, and as often as we've seen it done, it's not inadvertent or blinking, it's really part of the way they communicate to people.

Do chinchillas whiskers fall? ›

Hair loss is usually one of the first signs you will notice. Your chin may also have whiskers falling out or broken whiskers. The whiskers are broken because of the itching and your chin will often rub his face to get relief, thus breaking off whiskers.

Can chinchillas eat bananas? ›

DO NOT FEED your chinchilla with the following: asparagus, avocado, peas, cabbage, corn, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, rhubarb and rhubarb leaves. Other dangerous foods are banana, sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Can chinchillas eat strawberries? ›

In a nutshell, most chinchillas can have strawberries, but only sparingly. That is, maybe once in a while as a special treat. For the most part, though, it's better to avoid giving your chinchilla strawberries or any other kind of fruit to be on the safe side.

Do chinchillas cuddle with you? ›

Despite being an exotic pet, chinchillas have friendly, sociable, and cuddly personalities around humans. Because of this fact, the average chinchilla likes to be held and cuddled. In fact, many chinchillas get sad and depressed if not given enough attention by other chinchilla friends and humans.

Can I shower chinchilla? ›

Chinchillas shouldn't be bathed in water to avoid fungal infections and other health issues. Luckily, they're generally self-cleaning machines and don't need too much help to stay fresh and soft. Just provide the dust in a safe bath hut for 10 minutes or so a few times a week.

How often should I let my chinchilla out? ›

Chinchillas are active and need toys to play with and chew upon, as well as plenty of out-of-cage time (minimum 2-4 daily hours) to hop around and explore their environments (which need to be “chinchilla proofed, see below). Many chins love to have large plastic running wheels.

What is Rex chinchilla? ›

Chinchilla fur skins are very thin and delicate and require a lot of care . Rex fur comes from a rabbit breed that originated in France in the early 20s . They have short guardhair that do not protrude and very thick underfur. They have a velvety texture and even look .

Can chinchillas get wet tail? ›

 Wet tail, or diarrhea with staining of the fur near the anus can indicate a life threatening illness. Can result from stress, overcrowding, shipping, diet change, or various diseases. Requires immediate attention from an experienced exotic mammal veterinarian.

Can chinchillas bathe in baby powder? ›

Note: ash from a fireplace or barbeque and talcum powder should never be used to bathe a chinchilla. It is possible to bathe a chinchilla too frequently. When this happens the chinchilla's skin will become dry and itchy.

Do chinchillas eat their own poop? ›

It houses the bacteria that breaks down cellulose, a large component of plants that is otherwise indigestible. The large intestine absorbs what it can but much of the nutrients now made available by fermentation are lost in feces. This is why chinchillas eat some of their poops!

Do chinchillas pee smell? ›

Unlike other rodents, chinchilla's cages will usually smell fresh and their poop and urine are odorless unless there is a health problem or you haven't cleaned the cage for a long time.

Can chinchilla poop make you sick? ›

It tells us that a large percentage of healthy chinchillas may be shedding Giardia in their stool, and that they typically shed types that can cause disease in people.

Can chinchillas learn their name? ›

Yes, chinchillas can learn their name, but the process will take time. You stand the best chance of success if you reward the chinchilla with a treat, so they associate their name with a tasty tidbit.

Are male or female chinchillas friendlier? ›

Male or Female Chinchillas

According to author and chinchilla expert Jack C. Harris, neither gender of chinchilla is notably more suited to life as a pet. Since both male and female chinchillas make pleasant pets for most, you don't have to rule out individuals of either sex.

Do chinchillas have thumbs? ›

In addition to their long lifespan, Gajda said chinchillas differ from other rodents in several ways. “While they do not have opposable thumbs, they are able to grip things in their paws. They can actually pick up food in their paws and bring the food to their mouths, and eat it that way,” she said.

Do chinchillas have periods? ›

They are seasonally polyestrous from November to May with an estrous cycle of 30-50 days.

Can chinchillas eat apples? ›

Fruits are only to be given as treats as they are high in sugars. Chinchillas can eat small amounts of fruit such as: Apples.

Can you cut a chinchillas hair? ›

Matted fur in chinchillas, how to remove mats - YouTube

Why can't chinchillas bathe in water? ›

Chinchillas and water just don't mix very successfully. The rodents are notable for their extremely thick coats. If these coats come into contact with water and become damp or fully wet, the fur can become tightly compacted together, creating a big, uncomfortable mass.

What happens when chinchillas get wet? ›

Your chinchilla has 80 hairs in each follicle -- quite a lot more than your one hair per follicle. If you were to get your chin's dense fur wet, it could clump up and mat. On top of that, if your chinchilla gets wet, he could lose body heat quickly and easily become chilled, leaving him vulnerable to getting sick.

Can you leave dust bath chinchilla cage? ›

Leave the dust bath in the cage for 10 to 15 minutes. If left longer, the chinchilla may use the dust obsessively out of boredom, and too much use could cause its skin to become too dry. In addition, when the dust is left in the cage too long the chinchilla may use it as a litter box.

Do chinchillas pee when they are scared? ›

A less-welcomed behavior pet chinchillas do is spray urine on perceived threats — their not-so-subtle way of saying, “Back off!” So be prepared for the possibility of being met with a spray when you approach your chin's cage or when you attempt to scoop him up in your arms, especially if your chin is not used to you ...

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