Why do gerbils take sand bathes?

Never use chinchilla dust, it will make your gerbils sick. Or at least, that's what you have probably been told. The internet has instilled a deep fear of chinchilla dust and even sand, causing groups and forums to encourage the use of playsand or reptile sand. Often they go on about silica (sand) being bad for gerbils. Well, did you know that chinchilla dust is actually made of pumice stone, a type of volcanic rock.

Dust is an irritant to the sinuses and nose. Inhaling fine particles everyday may damage the lungs. Its for this reason that I strongly recommend you do not keep dust or sand in your gerbils cage. Gerbils are not from the desert, they do not live in the Gobi Desert of anywhere with sand dunes. This is another common misconception. Gerbils are actually from the steppes and plateaus of Mongolia, which are a type of arid grassland.

First, we should ask “Why do gerbils take sand bathes?”