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Suitable Bedding for Rodents- The Complete Guide

Updated on April 8, 2015

Bedding for Pets.

There are many debates as to what is and what is not the best bedding for small animals. Rodents in particular can be quite susceptible to health problems related to their bedding as anything from poisoning to respiratory infections. We all want the best for our pets and need to think carefully about what bedding we are going to use.

Keep in mind that some pets are allergic to beddings that are otherwise perfectly suitable, some are allergic to most beddings making it very difficult to line their cages and nests. Some people choose to use washable bedding, some choose to use easily replaceable things each time. Whatever you choose, the health of your pet comes first.

Also, if you can think of any other quirky and creative types of SAFE bedding, then please comment them down below and share your experiences :) All of the bedding in this hub has been tried and tested and is proven safe for small pets.

Things that need to be avoided:

  • Dusty bedding
  • Bedding that has been used with other animals.
  • Pine, cedar and scented bedding
  • Chemical beddings
  • Baby wipes or face wipes as nesting material
  • Printed paper (precautionary)
  • Thick cardboard.
  • Anything that swells in water e.g. jay-cloth.

Wood Shavings NOT Sawdust

There are many horror stories of people using saw dust as bedding for animals. Yes, saw dust can and will easily cause respiratory problems and infection in rodents, especially hamsters. There is a HUGE difference between sawdust and wood shavings.

Wood shavings: Contain little-no dust and are vacuum packed and sold in most pet or home stores on the shelves. They are high quality larger flakes that have been specifically manufactured for quality animal use. Many brands make them. They do not feel soggy to tough, they are absorbent and take several days to smell. Quality ones are less likely to harbour mould, mites, and other unpleasant things. Avoid ones that contain pine or cedar as they produce phenols which are toxic to pets.

Sawdust: Like the name states, it is the dust and small flakes or splinters that comes from sawn wood, especially tree mills. Sawdust isn't as widely sold anymore and is often in loose packaging in farm shops, on warehouse floors or sold in garden centres. It can be terribly dusty, may harbour mould, parasites, or unfriendly bacteria and in some cases may have come into contact with wild animals or their toilets. Sawdust is very low quality although not really much cheaper than shavings and can make your pet extremely ill. Much of it may have been scraped up off a dirty floor or from outside and is not suitable for pet use.

Bedding Fluff

There are some debates as to the safety of this, but good quality bedding fluff is perfectly fine for small animals. Bedding fluff I find to be their favourite, it is warm, comfortable and they can easily build it into a nest. Fluff is also very unlikely to cause skin allergies or breathing problems. It is not suitable as a base for your cage and will not absorb urine.

When to avoid: Bedding fluff that is hard, has been opened or is like wire/wool. I cannot mention brand names in this hub but a big brand beginning with the letter R commonly sold in pet stores and supermarkets, should always be avoided. If your pet shows signs of problems after use.

You can do a safety test, if it's soft, light and fluffy and has a safety alert on it, it's usually okay. Coloured or plain makes no difference to the quality of the item. If you take a small piece and place it in water, if it does not swell, it will not swell in the stomach of your pet, if it swells to feels rough, you should get rid of it immediately.

Warning: In some rarer cases, animals can become entangled and injure themselves during use. If the fluff is soft, breaks apart easily and does not swell in water, your pet is unlikely to get caught up in it.

Hay

Hay makes a great nesting material for hamsters, it is good fibre and it can help keep their teeth down. It is not harmful, however, untreated hay or low quality hay, such as dusty hay, can cause breathing problems and skin allergies. You want to make sure any hay purchased has been vacuum packed and is of high quality purchased from a pet store. Timothy hay is an especially good choice and it smells great!

NEVER use cut crass or hay you pick up from a park/outdoor hay. This hay has not been treated, could contain chemicals, germs or animal mess and could make your pet very sick.

Hay is not a good baseline for your cage as it won't absorb moisture and your pet can easily brush it out of the way, plus it bundles up and doesn't lie flat which can be like a jungle for your pet to climb through.

Shredded paper.

This is commonly used as nesting material and some people even use it to line cages. Using clean packaged white paper is usually okay for pets. Whether you tear it up or shred it in a machine, it shouldn't matter. It is very cheap to buy.

The problem with paper is it will likely need changed every day, does not absorb water or urine, will stain yellow and can be very smelly. It is also not a very warm choice or suitable as a cage liner. It isn't, however, dangerous.

Avoid anything with printing inks, food or drink spillage, unpackaged or has been in contact with other animals as it could harbour bacteria, be toxic and many human foods/drinks are toxic to rodents/ small mammals.

Nesting Paper

Unlike shredded paper, this is soft and mostly suitable for pet use. Most of the brands in the pet shops are fine to use as they are warm, soft and won't harm your pet if eaten or stuffed into pouches. It is cheap and easily replaced and may resemble bandages. It is not suitable for lining the tray of the cage.

You should be very careful when purchasing to make sure the paper is not made from kitchen roll, jay-cloth, or other highly absorbent material as these will swell in the stomach of your pet which kills them. If you're worried you can soak a small amount in water to see how it reacts. If it swells up or becomes heavy, don't use it, if it disintegrates or weakens and does not absorb water, it's fine to use.

Socks

Socks?! are you sure!? yes I am.

Cotton ankle or trainer socks can make good nesting material, especially for smaller hamsters such as the Roborovski or even mice. Cotton socks don't normally contain anything that can swell in the stomach or cause blockages. Please don't give your mice any thick fluffy socks or woollen ones or anything that may be highly absorbent as it could block their intestines and swell in their stomach. Socks can be used as a sleeping bag or cut up to line their nest with. They're not suitable for lining a cage. They can be made into toys, full nesting houses and even washed and reused a second time. It makes great use for old socks you can't wear anymore provided you wash them through first!

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