Best bedding for hamsters everything you need to know

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Setting up the perfect home for your hamster shouldn't be expensive—but the products should be suitable and high-quality!

If you're looking to give your hamster the accessories and products it needs to live its best life, the place to start would be to provide it with the best sleep of its life.

In this article, we're going to go through what the best bed for a hamster would look like and a few features you should keep your eye out for when it comes to hamster bedding. 

From its absorption characteristics to the various types, this article is full of features labeled on a need-to-know basis that can help you make your hamster-hammock purchasing decision an easy one.

a cute hamster

How to choose the best hamster bedding?

What's so special about hamster bedding? 

When in their natural habitat, a hamster will build a nest underground and burrow to get a good night's sleep, safe from its predators and warm from the harsh weather outside.

In the wild, however, the type of material they use to build their nest will not only depend on the environment around them—but it also changes from hamster type to type.

A great example of this variety is when you take a look at the behavior of the Syrian hamster. Since this specific type of hamster is often found living in a hot, dry environment, they need to get to an underground level 'that's cool enough to survive the hot nights. Quite often, they use sandy soil for their burrow.

So, depending on the type of hamster you have, you might need to do your research on the kind of bedding they need to feel most at home.

The most important features of the bed of your hamster should be that it's absorbent, so your hamster stays nice and dry throughout its sleep. You also want your pet to feel as comfortable and as safe as possible.

The Basics of Hamster Bedding

To help you sort out of the most important features when comparing bedding products for your hamster, the type of bedding you get will help your hamster lead the most natural (and best) life.

The top features to look out for will be that it:

1. Is highly absorbent with wet material including urine and dropped water.

2. Has quality odor control—especially if 'you're planning on keeping the cage in the house or in a bedroom.

3. Is gentle and designed for fragile skin and fur of the hamster.

4. Is allergen-, dust-, and chemical-free! These three features can really make a difference in the comfort and health of your pet and the rest of your family.

5. Is comfortable for your hamster and connects it to its natural habitat (can change depending on the type of hamster you have.

You definitely want to keep in mind the depth of the possible nesting area of your hamster.

Especially since the hamster is a burrowing creature, you'll want the nest to replicate it. Although you might not have the full 3-foot depth that most wild hamsters are used to, 2.5-3 inches of possible burrowing depth can be enough to make your pet feel comfortable and safe.

Avoidable Features

Some features to avoid when shopping for hamster bedding would be:

Pine and Cedar Wood Shavings: These types of wood tend to chip off and splinter into sharp, potentially harmful pieces that can do more hurt than good. Not only are these shavings injury or infection-causing, but they can also release toxic fumes when reacting to your 'hamster's urine.

Fluffy bedding made from Artificial Fibers: Even though this might sound heavenly for your hamster, they can also be harmful or even deadly if ingested. They can also get tangled in the bedding, which can lead to injuries.

Cat Litter: Another potentially dangerous material, cat litter is hard to digest and can be uncomfortable for smaller feet if your hamster is particularly small.

Scented Bedding Products: Anything scented can cause respiratory problems with your hamster because of the chemicals in its composition.

avoid wood shavings for hamster bedding

Corn Cob: Although sold in multiple pet stores as a reliable source of bedding, corn cob doesn't actually work well with your 'hamster's digestion and can often lead to mold in the cage.

Newspaper Clippings: You might think that this can be an inexpensive way to line your hamster's cage. However, the inky chemical residue on the page can be poisonous to your hamster.

Sawdust: A respiratory enemy for your hamster.

 So, what can and should you buy for your hamster's bedding?

Sought-Out Features

Now that you know what not to buy let's focus on the best types of material for your hamster.

You want the bedding to be

  • Highly absorbent
  • Able to control odors
  • Gentle on your hamster's feet
  • Allergen-, dust-, and chemical-free

With these features in mind, these are your best options:

1. Commercial hamster bedding: you can find many kinds of commercial hamster bedding to suit the needs of your hamster. Most types of bedding are made from cellulose or other plant-based fibers.

They are safe, and they often have superior qualities compared to other types of bedding. They are designed to have excellent absorption and to mimic the natural habitat of your hamster. These types of bedding materials are also soft and comfortable to your hamster as well as chemical and dust-free. This type of bedding should be your number one choice if you're looking for the best bedding for your hamster. You will find our recommendations above.

2. Aspen Shavings: Although pine and cedar are quite sharp and dangerous for your hamster to have in their bed, Aspen creates not only a natural look and feel, they are quite soft and safe for hamster bedding. It's also important to note that you should only use Aspen shavings that you buy from a store since 'they're treated to remove mites and other insects.

Aspen wood also creates a minimum amount of dust and is quite dense—making it great for burrowing.

3. Paper: For a temporary solution or a cheaper, inexpensive option, paper that is non-toxic is a good choice. However, you should know that 'it's not the best at absorbing smells.

The Process of Preparation

rabbit cage accessories

Once you've decided on the type of bedding for your hamster, it's time to figure out the proper process of preparation.

Make sure the cage is clean and wash it with a mild detergent if needed. If you have bought a commercially packaged wood shavings or other bedding material, you can pour 2.5-3-5 inches of bedding to cover the bottom of the cage.

If, however, you have bought wood shavings that have not been commercially packaged, you may want to take some precautions.

Before you lay the bedding in your hamster's cage, you should make sure that it's clean and has a low chance of bringing any kind of harm to your hamster. The process behind the last clean sweep is quite simple:

All you need to do is put the new bedding in a bag, place it in the freezer and keep it there for two days—around 48 hours. Especially if you 'don't buy a specialized wood chipping, this can help kill all the mites and insects. Once you take it out, defrost it until it reaches regular room temperature before putting in your hamster's cage.

FAQ on bedding for hamsters

Before you buy and place in your hamster's cage, here are a few last-minute questions you may have about the best hamster bedding for your little guy:

What is the best bedding for a Syrian hamster?

As we mentioned before, Syrian hamsters are used to burrowing quite deeply into the ground to escape the desert heat. Choose a material that is good for burrowing and spread at least 3 inches of bedding to cover the bottom of the cage. You also definitely want to invest in a bedding that has a high amount of absorbency and keeping bad odors at bay. 

Is pine bedding good for hamsters?

Since pine and cedarwood shavings are known for splintering or breaking off into sharp and potentially harmful pieces, this type of wood is generally not recommended for your hamster bedding. If you want to choose a wood shaving type, Aspen is best. 

How often do you change the bedding for a hamster?

The answer to this question deals directly with the health and hygiene of your hamster. When looking at expert advice, the ASPCA says that you should completely remove all remnants of your hamster's "bed" once a week. When 'you're replacing the shavings, scrub the cage for a weekly cleaning, as well. 

Is paper bedding safe for hamsters?

This type of bedding is considered safe but is generally not very absorbent and doesn't do a great job with odor control.

However, if you need to replace your hamster's bedding with a cheap, temporary solution, soft paper like toilet paper or paper towels can be used. 

Can hamsters use toilet paper as bedding?

Even though it's quite comfortable and soft, you should still tear it up into strips to make it as natural as possible. You can also use tissue paper if you need to. Although this shouldn't be a permanent bedding solution, you can definitely use paper if you're in need of material and the pet shop is closed. 

Can hamsters use cotton balls for bedding?

As we mentioned in the article before, soft bedding with material like cotton can actually be dangerous for your hamster. Not only can cotton be potentially injuring to your hamster if it has smaller legs, but it can also be dangerous if ingested. It can cause choking and intestinal blockage if it's eaten.

Is pine bedding safe for dwarf hamsters?

Whether you have a Syrian hamster, Dwarf hamster or any other type, pine bedding most likely is not the best type of bedding to get your hamster.

Do hamster cages smell bad?

Although the hamster itself is generally not a smelly creature, their cages can be rather smelly—especially if not kept and maintained properly.

To help keep your hamster's cage (and your home) stink-free, try to clean the hamster's enclosure on a weekly basis and replace the bedding once a week as well.

Do hamsters need bedding?

In the wild, hamsters are prey to many predators, which is why they love to burrow, nest, and hide. To keep them at home, one needs to provide an environment similar to or close to its wild habitat, which means providing your hamster something suitable for their natural burrowing instinct.

You require comfortable bedding to keep them relaxed, warm, and provide an environment that is conducive to their natural habits.  

They need a place where they can dig, hide their things like food, and relax when they are not active. The bedding will make the hamster feel as if it's in the wild despite being domesticated. 

Wild hamsters are not easy to locate as most of the time, they hide from predators. Keeping them at home in an open cage will make them feel insecure. By offering suitable bedding for your hamster, it will feel secure in its cage. 

The best beddings should consist of wood chippings or paper bedding, which are light, and the hamster can dig them in with ease.

Is scented bedding bad for hamsters?

Hamsters react to scents, and naturally, they have a strong sense of smell. They are capable of detecting predators, food, and their cage through the sense of smell. Therefore, they may react to any unusual smell different from their typical habitat. 

A hamster has poor eyesight, and this may be the reason why they have a strong sense of smell. As a pet owner, it's essential to keep the cage away from artificial scents, which may interfere with their comfort. This means that you shouldn't use scented bedding either.

Hamsters spend most of their time sniffing around the cage to spot food or any other unusual smell or scent. Scented bedding will cause too much stimulation and interfere with your hamster's natural behavior.

A hamster may also develop health problems if the bedding chippings have scents laced with artificial chemicals. Just like human beings, a hamster would feel most comfortable sleeping in an unscented environment. 

A hamster cage will not have a bad smell if it is cleaned regularly. A clean cage will keep both you and your hamster happy without having to rely on scented bedding.

Is pine toxic to hamsters?

Pine and cedar shavings have their natural scent, and in their wild surroundings, hamsters are known to sniff on wood and nibble. However, pine contains aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and toxic acids that are harmful to your hamster's lungs and trachea (windpipe).

Hamsters are tiny delicate animals with a respiratory system that is weak, sensitive, and prone to infections. Because pine contains these harmful toxins, it's important not to use pine chippings in the hamster's cage. They may expose your hamster to respiratory issues.

Small exposure of these pines may not be harmful; however, long-term exposure may pose a health risk to your hamster. It may also affect the internal organs of the hamster, such as the liver.

Some manufacturers claim that their kiln-dried pine shavings are safe as the drying process eliminates the toxins, but studies haven't fully supported these claims. 

To be safe, we recommend using aspen shavings or paper bedding like Carefresh. These materials are safe, comfortable, and absorbent.

Why is cedar bedding bad for hamsters?

Cedar and pine shavings are both a health risk to your hamster since phenols, and toxic acids are found in these two types of wood. The toxins from these materials may cause respiratory problems and liver damage in the long run.

Cedar is good for absorbing urine but is prone to molding, which may produce toxic fumes, and these may affect your hamster's health as well. Also, the cedar smell may not be pleasant to this animal, which is very sensitive to scents.

When choosing a bedding material for your hamster, it should not only provide comfort but also ensure the safety of your little pet. Aspen shavings or paper bedding like Carefresh are excellent options that are not just safe and soft but easy to maintain as well. 

How much bedding do hamsters need?

Hamsters require bedding for burrowing, nesting, and hiding. A depth of approximately 3 inches is advisable, maybe even a bit deeper so that the hamster can burrow and hide easily. Deeper bedding will offer more comfort to your little pet, and they will not be stressed.

The amount of bedding will also depend on the unique behavioral habits of your hamster. Some hamsters are active, play a lot, and love burrowing. They may use the bedding for hiding food, finding a safe place for resting, or just digging for the fun of it.

However, other hamsters don't use the bedding for nesting, and they rather use a hut or other small hideout to feel safe. If you feel your hamster is not that interested in bedding, you may want to offer them toys, huts, and other such accessories to provide a stimulating and safe environment.

Do Hamsters like blankets?

A good blanket for your hamster will make them comfortable. It should cozy, soft, and keep the hamster warm, especially during winter. Before deciding on a blanket, it's essential to understand their sleeping patterns since most sleep during the day and burrow at night.

A blanket may not be necessary when they are active since they need to burrow, nibble, and play around. At night these pets are most active chewing and burrowing. 

Nonetheless, during the day, you can choose a light blanket with ample ventilation and wrap them when taking a nap.

The blanket material should also be a top consideration. Your hamster will eat your blanket if it's a bit rough. When shopping, choose a blanket made of soft material to prevent nibbling at the corners. Also, choose a safe material that won't propose a choking hazard to your pet.

However, If you choose a good bedding material, there'll be no need for blankets since your hamster will stay warm by hiding inside.

Is baking soda harmful to hamsters?

Hamsters are delicate animals with sensitive respiratory and digestive systems, which is why most pet owners are apprehensive of the suitability of baking soda and whether it can be harmful to their hamsters should they ingest or inhale.

However, you may notice an awful smell emanating from your hamster's cage, and you want to figure out a way to keep your pet's home smell free. To help you control that smell, you may need to line some baking soda on the bottom of the cage, just under the bedding.

A little baking soda will not harm your hamster and will take care of the odor. Start by cleaning the tray, sprinkle a little baking soda on the bottom, set down your hamster's bedding, and let it stay until the next time you're cleaning. 

A little baking soda is harmless to hamsters, and it will keep the cage smelling fresh. It is also readily available and cheap.

How can I get rid of the smell in my hamster cage?

The number one rule to having a smell-free hamster cage is to clean your hamster's home regularly. Thorough weekly cleanups will keep both you and your pet happy - and smelling fresh.

Regular cleaning of the cage and changing the bedding keep bad odors at bay. First of all, put your hamster in a safe place like a cardboard box while cleaning their cage.

Empty the cage and use a mild soap and hot water to clean it. If you want a more natural approach, using vinegar is also an excellent way to remove bad odors. Make sure you rinse the cage thoroughly before wiping it dry. Always wash toys, hamster wheels, food trays, and other accessories as well, because they can be the source of the foul smell too.

You can sprinkle a little baking soda on the bottom of the cage to prevent nasty smells from building up, and cover it with an ample layer of bedding. You should use aspen shavings or paper bedding if you want to avoid odors. They are the most absorbent and keep the smells to the minimum.

Can hamsters use cat litter for bedding?

Cat litter made of wood can be a suitable bedding material for hamsters. However, it should not be used as the only bedding material. The reason for this is that cat litter if often very heavy and dense, which does not make for good burrowing material. It may hamper efforts by your pet to burrow and hide as they would in their natural habitat, and this can lead to stress.

There is an advantage of using cat litter in your hamster's cage since it is great at absorbing odors. Nonetheless, it's advisable to spread a little of it at the bottom of the cage before adding about 3 inches of softer bedding material on top of it. By doing so, the cage will smell fresh, and your hamster will have comfortable bedding to nest in.

It's worth noting that very tiny pieces of cat litter may find their way into the hamsters' respiratory system, which is a risk factor. Similarly, your hamster may ingest fine cat litter, and it can block the internal organs. Therefore, when using cat litter in your hamster's cage, make sure it is not the fine sand or clay type. Pellets will be safer for your pet.

Is my hamster allergic to his bedding?

Although it is quite rare, hamsters may develop allergies to their bedding, food, or other allergens in their environment. As a pet owner, it's essential to take note of early signs of allergy so that you can get rid of the allergens. 

If your hamster is sneezing, it may not be flu or cold, but it could be due to something they are reacting to. If you suspect your hamster might be allergic, look out for these symptoms:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Swollen feet

If your pet has any of these symptoms, take them to the vet for a diagosis.

When choosing the bedding material, avoid scented products since they can contain chemicals that may cause damage to the sensitive respiratory system of hamsters. Also, pick dust-free bedding that is made from safe materials and ensure the beddings are regularly cleaned to keep away the dust and provide a clean environment.

We hope this article has helped you with finding not only the best type of bedding for your hamster (no matter what type they are) but also has given you proper guidance, tips, and instructions on what the best features are to look for in hamster bedding. 

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