How Thick is Chinchilla Fur?
Chinchillas (also called chins) grow the densest fur in the world for animals living on land. According to the BBC, chinchillas grow 50 hairs per follicle. Follicles are tiny tunnels in the skin where hairs grow. This not only keeps the animal toasty warm, but also helps prevent parasites on the body (but not the paws or ears). The fur is just too thick for the bugs to penetrate and have enough air to survive.
Although this makes the fur extremely soft and insulating, it is not made to ever get wet. Since the hairs are so close together, air isn’t allowed in to help dry them. Fur that remains damp for long periods of time is prone to fungal infections like ringworm. These infections are usually contagious not only to other chins, but other pets and your family.
Properly Getting Chinchillas Clean with Dust Baths
If chinchilla fur should never get wet, then how do chinchillas stay clean? They use dust baths, similar to the way birds use dust baths. There are many fine dust baths available made just for chinchillas. Chins should bathe every few days, but don’t keep the bath house or pan in the chin’s usual cage as it will quickly get soiled by urine and poop.
Giving your chin a dust bath is easy. Just remember that your chin will fling dust about, so be prepared to clean up any dust spills afterward. Many chin owners place their dust bath pans in rooms without carpeting to make cleaning up easier.
Place two inches of dust in a chinchilla dust bath pan or “house” or a shallow litter box for kittens.
- Place chin in dust bath
- Wait about 15 minutes for your chin to roll around
- Place chin back in usual home. Dump the dust when it starts clumping up, looks dirty, or has a bad smell.
What If Chinchillas Get into a Messy Situation?
Accidents happen in even the best of situations. Pets are champions at getting into messes. One of the most common messes is getting peed on by another chinchilla or having diarrhea. Chins may also accidentally come into contact with makeup, oils, paints or creams or lotions. Even liquid soap should not stay on a chin for long.
Spot cleanings for chinchillas can be done, with a little preparation to make it as short and stress-free as possible for the pet.
- Gather a wet cloth, mild dish detergent or soap, chew toys, hair dryer and towels.
- Try wiping off the mess with a wet cloth first. If it does not come off, then use mild dish washing detergent or baby shampoo on the cloth. If necessary, rinse the chin in water. A very brief bath with water is preferable to getting a serious skin problem from having a toxic substance cling to the fur.
- Towel off the chin gently.
- Give chew toys to help distract him or her and make the cleaning a positive situation.
- Turn on hair dryer at lowest setting and keep the nozzle two feet away from the chin to prevent burns.
- Return chin to a warm, clean cage.
Avoiding Wet Chinchillas
Besides avoiding water baths whenever possible, there are many other things a small pet parent can do to make sure a chin is not getting regularly damp for long stretches of time. Not only should a small pet owner check a chin over thoroughly every day, but check the cage as well.
- Place and routinely wash or change cloths on perches, play areas or other places chins hang out for a long time. This not only keeps the chin dry but helps to prevent urine stains on the fur.
- Check water bottles for leaks or constant dripping. Replace any bottles that drip so much they leave big damp spots or puddles below the spots.
- Clean the cage often so the chinchillas are not forced to sit in wet areas.
- Feed them high quality hay to avoid health problems like diarrhea.
Keep Warm and Dry
For the most part, chinchillas should avoid water and not get wet. Keep your small pet healthy and happy with twice-weekly dust baths, daily cage and pet body checks, replacing drippy water bottles and feeding the best quality hay possible.