A regular dust bath is an absolute necessity for chinchillas. Taking a vigorous dust bath is one of their natural behaviors and it is how chinchillas keep their lush coats clean and healthy. Not only does a dust bath help to keep their thick fur smooth and silky, it is thought to be relaxing and fun for chinchillas. Chinchillas really get into their baths, rolling and flipping in the dust with great abandon.
If you have never seen a chinchilla in a dust bath be sure to look up some videos of it.
Chinchilla Bath Dust
Always use store-bought chinchilla dust for bathing. This is specifically made for chinchillas and for this purpose. When the chinchillas roll in this dust, it penetrates their coat down to the skin and absorbs oil and dirt from the fur. Other powders or sand may look or feel similar but it just won't work the same way. Chinchilla dust is made to mimic what they would have access to in their native habitat. The dust should be at least a couple of inches deep in whatever container you use so that the chinchilla can effectively roll in it. Poof! Blue Cloud Chinchilla Dust is a commonly recommended dust, but regardless of what brand you choose, make sure you get one made specifically for chinchillas. You typically only need a small amount of dust for a bath, just enough for them to roll in and on.
A heavy, tip-resistant bowl or deep dish can be used as a bathtub. It should be slightly larger than the chinchilla. Glass fish bowls or canisters can be used and work well. Also, a plastic house-type container with a rounded bottom can be purchased for this purpose. Fish bowls and the plastic house-type baths have the advantage of being fairly enclosed, which can help minimize the amount of dust flying around the room.
Place the bathtub in the cage every evening when the chinchillas are active. Sand will be sprayed everywhere, but this is part of having a chinchilla. The sand can be reused for a time, as long as any wastes are removed.
Chinchilla Bathing Schedule
The dust bath should only be made available to the chinchilla intermittently, rather than left in the cage indefinitely. Too much bathing can dry their skin out and if the dust is left in the cage chinchillas will often sit in the bath and/or use it as a litter box. Offer the dust bath to your chinchilla at least twice a week, typically in the evening when they are getting most active. Twice a week is usually sufficient, though you can offer the bath more frequently if your chinchilla's fur starts to look rough or feels damp or oily. In humid weather, baths should be offered more frequently. Usually 10 to 15 minutes is plenty of time for a chinchilla bath. If your chinchilla has dry, flaky skin or seems itchy, decrease the bathing time and frequency a bit.
Re-Using Chinchilla Dust
It is fine to re-use chinchilla dust for several baths. Make sure to scoop out any waste when the chinchilla is done with each bath. If the dust starts to look clumpy or dirty, discard it and use fresh dust.
Keeping the Dust from Going Everywhere
Unfortunately, this is an inevitable part of chinchilla ownership. Using a covered bath can help, but your chinchilla will still shake and groom after a dust bath, resulting in a fine layer of dust on everything around your chinchilla. Invest in a good duster and remind yourself that you are being a good chinchilla owner by providing regular baths! Consider using a room air purifier as well.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT