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How Do Chinchillas Bathe in the Wild? Everything You Need to Know!

two chinchillas in the grass

If you’re not already familiar with them, chinchillas are the adorable little half-mouse, half-squirrel-looking creatures from South America. They are super cute, and they are growing ever more popular in the world of pets. There are things you should know before getting one as a pet, however, and one of the most important pieces of knowledge a new chinchilla pet owner should have is knowing how to bathe a chinchilla.

You’d think you’d bathe them in water, correct? Turns out, domesticated chinchillas bathe just like their counterparts in the wild—by taking a dust bath! It sounds strange that rolling around in dust would keep an animal clean, but it works out well for these furry creatures.

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Chinchillas In the Wild

In their native habitat of South America, chinchillas seek out volcanic ash or Andean clay for bathing. The ash comes from volcanic eruptions and is typically made of rock fragments, volcanic glass, and minerals. This natural resource can strip away dirt from a chinchilla’s coat while also helping to distribute their natural oils, keeping their fur clean and healthy. When chinchillas find ash or clay to bathe in, they simply roll around to get clean.

How often do they bathe? While there’s limited research into how often a chinchilla in the wild bathes, it’s believed that they probably bathe anywhere from two to four times a week. Bathing too often can cause skin irritation such as dryness and flaking.

Chinchilla in Machu Picchu
Image Credit: Martchan, Shutterstock

Related Read: What Do Chinchillas Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Do Pet Chinchillas Bathe the Same Way?

If you have a chinchilla of your own, they’ll need to bathe in the same way as those in the wild. There’s a good chance you don’t live in an area with its own volcano, but don’t worry—there are a few types of dust you can buy that are made specifically for chinchillas. You’ll also need a “bath house” of sorts for your chinchilla to be able to take its bath.

Domesticated chinchillas should take baths two to three times a week and not more than 15 minutes at a time. (Although, if you live in a humid locale, they might need to bathe every other day.) Their dust should be changed out weekly or when it starts to clump.

One thing you shouldn’t do is keep their dust bath in an area where they can get to it on their own (such as their cage). If your chinchilla gets bored or is just entirely too fond of bathing, they could head for the bath too often and end up doing damage to their skin.

What Kind of Dust Should Pet Chinchillas Use?

As we said, you can use a few types of dust to ensure your chinchilla is keeping itself clean. Regular chinchilla dust is the cheapest type, but ideally, you’ll want to go for dust that’s made from volcanic ash. These dusts are explicitly made for chinchillas and designed to mimic what they would find in their natural environment.

You might find some dusts that contain sand, but sand isn’t the best choice for your chinchilla. Sand won’t absorb the oils from their coat, and if the grains get stuck in their hair, it can cause irritation to the skin. Sand may also be irritating to their eyes.

Why Chinchillas Don’t Bathe in Water

You’re probably wondering why you can’t just bathe a chinchilla in water like other animals. Dust baths do seem counterproductive, right? However, there’s a good reason chinchillas use dust instead of water to get clean.

Chinchillas have incredibly thick coats. In fact, their hair follicles contain 60-70 hairs each, as opposed to most mammals whose follicles only contain one! Due to their fur’s sheer thickness, getting wet means it will take forever to dry. That time spent getting dry could result in moisture being trapped near the skin leading to fungal infections.

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The Round-Up

Wild chinchillas and domesticated chinchillas bathe in the same way—via dust. Using dust instead of water means dirt and debris are kept out of their coats. At the same time, natural oils are distributed, plus they avoid risking infection and hours spent drying. However, they shouldn’t bathe too often as it can cause irritation to the skin. If you’re debating getting a chinchilla as a pet, be sure you have the right kind of dust and a place for them to roll around in it.


Featured Image Credit: PawelPonichtera, Shutterstock

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