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Can Chinchillas Get Wet? (The Answer Might Surprise You!)

Hallie Roddy

Exotic animals are a bit trickier to care for because they have a very specific set of demands that must be met. Chinchilla owners especially need to know more than just how much to feed and water them. One concern that often arises is how they should bathe their chinchillas. Can chinchillas get wet with all that thick fur? While it is certainly possible for them to get wet, you should avoid getting them wet at all.

Chinchillas are a type of rodent that comes from the Andes Mountains located in South America. These animals tolerate cooler temperatures, and they are highly sensitive to heat. Most animals prefer to cool down by sitting in a body of water but not chinchillas. Instead, these animals take dust baths to stay cool and clean.

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Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths?

These fluffy rodents secrete a lot of oils from their skin. They often roll around in the dust to keep their dense fur from becoming too oily and matting.  The coat of a chinchilla is both fine and dense, making it the perfect place for excess moisture to get trapped. The dust absorbs most of the moisture to keep their skin from getting infected.

chinchilla taking a dust bath
Image Credit: Only_NewPhoto, Shutterstock

Why Can’t Chinchillas Get Wet?

Why are chinchillas instinctively rolling around in dust all the time? Giving chinchillas a water bath is not a good idea. The fur is so dense that the water gets trapped for a long time without ever drying out. Over time, fungi can start to grow and multiply to the point that it causes a skin infection. If left untreated, chinchillas act out by chewing their fur out or fur-slipping and releasing many large chunks of hair.

On top of getting infections, their wet fur makes them too cold and sometimes leads to a respiratory infection. It can also cause hair loss, itching, and crusty skin. In some of the scenarios, they can even pass on infections to other animals and people.

Do Chinchillas Like Water?

It’s not that chinchillas don’t like water; it’s that water doesn’t help them to survive in the wild aside from drinking it. Living in the Andes mountains means they are in a rocky, arid climate. Too much heat or moisture is only going to create problems for these animals.

Because chinchillas cannot sweat or pant, they rely only on their ears to remove most of the excess heat from their bodies. Plus, there isn’t a lot of water around even if they did want to get wet. These rodents get most of their water supply from cacti and other plants in the area. Therefore, chinchilla owners have to keep a supply of fresh water in a bottle for them at all times.

fluffy chinchilla
Image Credit: Luniaka Maria, Shutterstock

What To Do if You Get a Chinchilla Wet

A few drops of water aren’t going to do much damage to your chinchilla’s fur or skin. Still, you should avoid soaking their fur whenever possible. The only time it is acceptable to bathe a chinchilla is in emergency situations where they are covered in cleaners, oils, urine, or other harmful products that require you to rinse them.

If your pet chinchilla gets wet on accident, do your best to gently towel dry them. Once you’ve removed most of the moisture, place them on a new dry towel and use a fan or hairdryer to allow the fur to dry. Make sure you are using constant and cool airflow. Drying your chinchilla could take a long time. After you believe you have removed almost all the water, allow them to take a dust bath and remove as much of the extra moisture on their skin as possible.

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Conclusion

We often buy chinchillas because of their amazingly soft fur, but those who already or plan to own one should take their grooming care as seriously as they take anything else. Bathing your chinchillas in water could lead to serious health problems and potentially make others around you sick. Try to keep these little critters dry and their skin and fur will be as healthy as possible.


Featured Image Credit: MirasWonderland, Shutterstock

Hallie Roddy

Hallie has been a proud nature and animal enthusiast for as long as she can remember. She attributes her passion for the environment and all its creatures to her childhood when she was showing horses on weekends and spending her weeknights devoting her attention to her pets. She enjoys spending most of her time in Michigan playing with her two rescue cats, Chewbacca and Lena, and her dog, Clayton. When Hallie isn’t using her degree in English with a writing specialization to spread informative knowledge on pet care, you can find her snuggled up on the couch reading books or watching nature documentaries.