In the wild, hamsters like to burrow into the ground and build nests. These nests are built with natural hamster bedding they find in the wild.
The type of nests they build depends on the type of hamster and their natural environment.
For example, Syrian hamsters live in a hot dry environment. This means they dig deep underground burrows, where they can stay cool.
However, Campbell Russian hamsters live on dry grassy plains, so they line their nests with grass and sheep’s wool.
Why find the best hamster bedding?
Of course, when keeping any animal as a pet, you should always consider its natural environment, and the more closely you can replicate a hamster’s natural environment, the healthier and happier your hamster will be. It’s an essential part of good hamster care.
This means it is very important to find the best bedding for hamsters. You need to find bedding that your hamster can dig around in and make into a bed – as if they were in the wild – but the same bedding also needs to be absorbent, comfortable and safe.
In this article, we look at some of the best hamster bedding materials, as well as some materials that are best avoided.
What materials should NOT be used as bedding?
Not all bedding materials sold in pet stores are suitable for your hamster. Unfortunately, many unsuitable materials are available and staff often lack the necessary knowledge to advise customers properly.
For example, some stores will sell pine and cedar wood shavings as hamster bedding. We DO NOT recommend using these materials in your hamster cage!
Pine and cedar wood can be abrasive and can splinter into sharp pieces. These sharp splinters can then cut your hamster, causing injuries and potentially leading to infection. These woods can also react to your hamster’s urine and give off toxic fumes that harm your hamster’s breathing.
If you’re going to use wood shavings as bedding, aspen shavings are a much better choice.
Pet stores also stock “fluffy bedding”. People are often tempted to buy fluffy bedding as it is very soft and, understandably, they want their hamsters to be as comfortable as possible. However, fluffy bedding is made from artificial fibers that are difficult for hamsters to digest if they try to eat them. Also, hamsters have small, fragile legs, which can get injured when they become tangled in fluffy bedding.
We also suggest you avoid:
- cat litter – hamsters will struggle to digest the pieces they eat
- corn cob – not good for hamsters to eat and can get mouldy
- newspaper – inks used to print the page can be toxic
- any scented bedding – contains chemicals and, though it may smell nice to you, could lead to breathing problems for your hamster
You should always carefully check the label of any hamster bedding to be absolutely sure what material you’re getting.
What is the best hamster bedding material?
So, we’ve listed a lot of materials that you should NOT use as hamster bedding. We’ve listed so many in fact, that you may be wondering whether any materials do make good bedding for hamsters!
Don’t worry though, there may not be one single best bedding, but there are certainly lots of great options to choose from…
Carefresh Ultra is a premium hamster bedding made from cellulose fiber. It doesn’t contain any inks, dyes or scented chemicals and is extremely soft. It’s also very absorbent – Carefresh Ultra is designed to soak up as much as three times its own weight in liquid. This makes it easier to keep your hamster cage clean and avoid any nasty smells.
Carefresh Ultra is an excellent bedding for hamsters. However, you do pay for that quality. It is significantly more expensive than other options, such as aspen shavings, though the manufacturers claim that it will last twice as long as shavings.
Carefresh Colorful Creations
Carefresh Colorful creations is very similar to Carefresh Ultra.
Like Carefresh Ultra, Carefresh Colorful Creations is non-toxic and absorbs up to three times its own weight in liquid. The main difference between the two products is that Carefresh Colorful Creations is available in a variety of colors! These include purple, blue and multicolored confetti.
While we’ve already warned against using inked and dyed materials in your hamster cage, Carefresh Colorful Creations has been created using a pet-safe dye that will not run or harm your hamster. This means you can brighten up your hamster cage without worrying about damaging your hamster’s health.
Kaytee Clean and Cozy
Kaytee Clean & Cozy is a hamster bedding made from plant-based paper fibers. It is very absorbent, 99.9% dust free, extremely soft and offers excellent odour control.
Kaytee Clean & Cozy is a great alternative to Carefresh Ultra and Carefresh Colors. However, please do be careful to avoid the scented version. As we’ve already said, scented types of bedding can be bad for your hamster’s breathing.
One of the few types of wood safe for use as hamster bedding is Aspen. Aspen shavings are cheap and will give your hamster cage a natural look. However, aspen shavings are not as soft or absorbent as Carefresh or Kaytee Clean & Cozy. This could mean that your hamster is a bit less comfortable and your cage is a bit more smelly if you choose aspen shavings as a hamster bedding material.
Also, while you may be able to buy aspen in places other than pet stores (carpenters and lumber yards, for example) you should only ever use aspen shavings purchased from a pet store. This is because aspen shavings intended for use in hamster cages will have been specially treated to remove mites and other insects.
Finally, if you’re looking for a cheap and easy solution – or a temporary material to use while you wait for your permanent hamster bedding to arrive – then it is ok to use paper in your hamster cage. You just need to ensure that the paper is non-toxic and not covered in ink. That said, it’s worth noting that paper will not do a good job of disguising odours. Your hamster cage will probably get very smelly if you use paper as a bedding!
How to prepare bedding for your hamster
Before adding any bedding to your hamster cage, you should make sure that the bedding is free of mites and other insects that could harm your hamster.
To do this, you should place any new bedding in a bag and put it the freezer for at least 48 hours. After 48 hours have passed, you can remove the bedding from the freezer and allow it to defrost and return to room temperature naturally.
This process will kill any mites and insects that may be hiding in the bedding and ensure that it is safe to add to your hamster cage.