Although rain rarely visits the dry and rocky environment of the Andes Mountains in South America, wild chinchillas have adapted and managed to make the most out of their environment. For the various succulents covering the area alone, these have evolved in such a way that whenever precious water is available, either growing vast roots underground to soak every drop, growing very close to the ground for immediate access, or storing the water in their juicy flesh. For wild chinchillas, eating some succulents replaces drinking. And since water is hard to come by, grooming includes bathing in the fine sand and ash scattered about.
Since many chinchillas have been bred in captivity and domesticated, companies and pet owners have tried to mimic aspects of their natural habitat by providing them with a variety of special chinchilla dust baths available in pet stores.
Chinchilla’s fur is rich and thick, helping them insulate their bodies against extreme temperatures, protecting their sensitive skin from bacteria and parasites. Unlike other domestic animals, you cannot wash your pet chinchillas with water or shampoo. Their skin is prone to bacterial and fungal infection with moisture. This is why, even when in the wild, chinchillas roll in fine dust to clean. Chinchilla dust is formulated in such a way that it does not dry out your pet’s coat, only absorbing and stripping away excess oil, dirt, and moisture.
Most chinchilla dust baths available in the market today usually have the vague phrase “natural chinchilla dust” written under the ingredients portion of the label. In the wild, the dust they roll around in is composed of either fine volcanic ash or eroded pumice rock found in the area; or a mix of both. Some products are made of grounded pumice rock. The “Chinchilla Bath Sand” product claims that it is made entirely out of “100% Natural Volcanic Mountain Pumice found in the Andes Mountains.” The tagline also includes that such an ingredient is “dust free” lessening the trouble of dust flying around during bathing time.
For other products like “Sun Seed Sunthing Special Chinchilla Dust Bath”, the product lists ‘Fuller’s earth” as an ingredient. This is a mineral that is known to be capable of absorbing oil, moisture, and other impurities; also added in some cosmetics, powders and pharmaceuticals. Interestingly, movie sets also use the powdered mineral to simulate larger and cheaper explosions. For other uses in pet care, the ingredient is also known to be in cat litter and other pet powders.
Other possible ingredients put in the mix of chinchilla dust include either a portion of really fine sand or fragrances. Be wary of cheap knock-offs that are only made of sand as this doesn’t really do a good job in cleaning your pet chinchilla. The Kaytee and Pet Scentsations brands offer various chinchilla dust baths with scents ranging from melon, to raspberry and vanilla. Other brands state their products to be environment-friendly and all-natural. These are great considerations in choosing the perfect chinchilla dust variety for you.
Chinchilla dust is usually affordable depending on the size you require or would like to keep in stock. Prices range from approximately $4 (for about 30 ounces) to about $30 (for a big sack of over 60 pounds of dust). Many pet owners usually try a variety of products to see which best suits the chinchilla they have.
Knowing what exactly is in the chinchilla dust bath you buy helps in understanding your chinchilla and its basic needs even better. And just like any good consumer, it pays to be on the look-out for only the best products available for your pet.