Did you know that Chinchillas never take a bath? Well, actually, I take that back. Chinchillas do bathe. They bathe in dirt. What, you say, that’s not a bath. You are right, and you’re wrong. Here’s why.
Other than for drinking, water is not good for a chinchilla. Their fur, as you can tell from petting your chinchilla, is very thick, the thickest of any animal on the planet. In most animals their hair will absorb water but not so for chinchillas. If they get wet their skin absorbs the water and can cause them problems like fungus buildup, parasites, and even worms. So they need to stay dry.
And that is why you were both right and wrong. Chinchillas do take baths. They take dust baths. Chinchillas originated in South America in the Andes Mountains where there are large deposits of volcanic ash. The ash is perfect for the chinchilla’s dust bath. They roll in it and get themselves all cleaned up and ready for partying. (Scratch that. Chinchillas don’t actually party. But they do like to play. They’ll even play with you if you are very patient and gentle and spend time gaining their trust.) But I digress. We were talking about dust baths, so let’s continue.
A regular dust bath is necessary for chinchillas to keep their luxurious coats clean, smooth and healthy. (By the way, do you think a young chinchilla gives its mother a hard time when she says it’s time for your bath? Whoops. I’m digressing again. Sorry.)
Your chinchilla does not live in the Andes Mountains. It lives in a cage in your home. So how is it supposed to take a bath? Simple. You go to your local pet store, or on the Internet, and you buy chinchilla dust. Yep, chinchilla dust. It’s very similar to the volcanic ash used by wild chinchillas. You put a bowl filled with the dust in your chinchilla’s cage. And guess what? You guessed it, the chinchilla rolls around in it until it has had a very nice bath. And then it goes to bed. (Just kidding. Chinchillas don’t go to bed as soon as they finish their dust bath. They stay up and run around on a wheel until they’re all tuckered out. And then they fall asleep from fatigue.)
By the way, I suppose you already know that chinchillas are nocturnal. They sleep during the day and are awake when you are asleep. But no worries. They’ll be awake for you to play with once they get used to your circadian rhythms.
Put the dust in a deep bowl that won’t tip over. It has to be larger than the chinchilla. (You already guessed that, didn’t you?) I recommend using a container that is slightly enclosed or else you’re going to see dust flying all over the place. Fill the bottom with a few inches of dust. You don’t need a lot.
Unlike the bath you take, you don’t have to throw the dust out. Your chinchilla will use that dust several times before you have to replace it. When it starts to get clumpy or look dirty toss it and put in new dust.
The best thing is to put the dust bath in the cage at night when your chinchilla is up and about. Do it about twice a week unless your environment tends to be humid, in which case, more frequent baths are recommended.
Oh, one last thing: Don’t leave the dust bath in the cage. Remove it after your chinchilla has had its bath. Too much bathing can dry the chinchilla’s skin. Plus, it might just get into the habit of using the dust bath bowl to urinate, and, yuck, you don’t want that, do you?
Now go take your bath.