Last Updated on October 30, 2022.

Dust Bath and Sandbox Dilemma

  • Hedgehog enthusiasts sometimes wonder whether or not a hedgehog actually needs a dust bath.
  • Many hedgehogs have been observed dust bathing in a variety of “dusty” things including spilled chinchilla dust, broken down pelleted litter, and even the litter in their litter pans.
  • Dust bathing is a natural behavior for many types of animals both large (horses and donkeys) and small (chinchillas and small rodents). These animals use rolling in dust as a way of bathing in a dry environment.
  • While researching this topic more we’ve found a mixed review of opinions both for and against dust bathing.

Positive Reviews

  • Most hedgehog owners only provide a traditional bath to clean a dirty pet hedgehog but in addition to the fun of a dust bath there may be some benefits.
  • HedgeMom posted on Hedgehog Central that she has many hedgehogs that seek out and play in spilled chinchilla dust.
  • Ifc claims “My guy LOVES his dust bath; when I let him out of his cage for a run its the first place he goes, often even before he checks out the treats bowl. He looks positively blissful as he rolls and wallows. I think dust baths are more in keeping with hedgehog behavior in the wild. There dusting conditions the coat and deters mites. Greebly has never needed a water bath (which, considering his opinion of any water not in his water dish, is a good thing) and since starting dust baths problems with poopy feet are greatly reduced.”

Words of Caution

  • Ifc states: “The drawback to dust bathing is that it is not for fastidious housekeepers. Chinchilla dusting sand gets kicked and tracked everywhere. I think a dust bath designed for chinchillas would have too big a door, which would increase dust disbursal.” To remedy this situation Ifc “[sits] the dust bath on a big piece of felty material [synthetic car wash cloth actually] which acts like a doormat to help catch tracked-out sand, and the whole thing is under a chair so I don’t accidently bump it [which has happened and the mess is not fun].”
  • There are some possible risks associated with dust baths, which include males getting dust in their genital area. As with every play activity it is always wise to keep an eye out for any problem.
  • On occasion new hedgehog owners are surprised to find that their hedgehog prefers to dust bathe in their litter pan instead of using it for its intended purpose!


  • Some hedgehogs love to dig and fling in sand to look for hidden treats. After all, this is a completely natural thing for your hedgehog to do in the wild.  So keep this in mind if you want to give your hedgehog something fun to do.
  • Reptile sand is a popular substrate as it is used for animals that frequently ingest their bedding while eating. One must be cautious when using commercial grade or beach sand that can harbor fleas and bacteria. The sand can be baked to help eliminate this possibility. 

Contributor: Gail Smith, Shelly Fowler, Beach Bum Hedgies, Melissa Ramos

Means, Antigone.. “Hedgehog Treats: Dust Baths”. IHA News. Vol. 4, Issue 12. December 2002
HedgeMom. Hedgehog Central Forum post November 3, 2005 Ifc. Hedgehog Central Forum post November 6, 2005

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