Bedding Absorbency Experiment

ginger guinea pig next to his hideout

One of the most important considerations when choosing the best bedding for your guinea pigs is the absorbency so we decided to experiment with 6 different beddings to see how absorbent they really were. 

Remember that if you use a good absorbent bedding it will most likely perform well on odor control too.

What types of bedding did we test for absorbency?

We chose the most commonly used guinea pig bedding for our experiment:

How did we test for absorbency?

We’ve actually tried out all these types of bedding properly with our guinea pigs but this was an experiment to compare them side by side.

With the disposable substrate, we had 5 identical jars and filled each of them with bedding. Then we poured out a measured amount of water to see what happened.

We did use quite a lot of water and a lot more than your bedding would be exposed to as we wanted to give them a really good test!

So bear in mind that we’re not suggesting the bedding which didn’t perform so well is bad and shouldn’t be used. They all have their pros and cons.

With the fleece liners, we simply poured the same quantity of water as we used with the disposable bedding on to the fleece.

Bedding absorbency experiment results

This was really interesting as we could see more closely exactly what happened when the bedding was properly put to the test!

Pine Shavings

When  we poured the water over the pine shavings, it seeped straight through to the bottom  of the jar. This is good because you don’t want it sitting on top making your guinea pig’s coat wet. 

The shavings didn’t absorb all the water but nevertheless this bedding did absorb well.

Hemp bedding

Hemp bedding worked really well and drew the water down to the bottom. We found this to have about the same absorbency as pine shavings. The top of the hemp wasn’t soggy which makes it a good absorbent bedding to use for your guinea pigs.

Aspen Shavings

When we poured water over the Aspen shavings, it went straight to the bottom. And the aspen didn’t absorb a lot of the water either as there was a large puddle at the bottom of the jar. However the advantage of the aspen is that it didn’t feel soggy on the top layer. Having said this, pine shavings did turn out to be  a lot more absorbent than aspen

Paper bedding

The paper bedding proved to be highly absorbent. There was no water at the bottom of the jar as the paper had absorbed it all. Because it absorbs the moisture well, it does tend to become soggy. But remember we did use an awful lot of water in our experiment, so this is an extreme example of what happens when it becomes wet!

In fact, Small Pet Select suggests mixing the  for a more affordable option which also gives you the best of both… a highly absorbent bedding mixed with one that draws the moisture down and doesn’t remain wet. 

Mixture of Small Pet Select Aspen and Paper Bedding

Wood pulp (Megazorb)

Megazorb was the biggest surprise in our tests. We didn’t like this when we used it in the cage because it has a distinctive (we thought unpleasant!) odor. But it did absorb really well. It drew the water to the bottom of the jar and the bedding expanded as it absorbed the water. It wasn’t too wet on the top and there was no puddle at the bottom of the jar either. Megazorb is made from a similar fiber to Kaytee Soft Granule Blend.

Fleece Liners

We tested two different fleece liners, including one of the most popular brands, GuineaDad.

GuineaDad fleece liner

The water immediately soaked into the Guineadad fleece liner and the waterproof layer underneath kept the moisture within the liner. Most of the water was absorbed into the middle layer so there wasn’t much dampness on the top of the fleece.

Other fleece liner

The other fleece liner we tested didn’t absorb  anywhere near as well as GuineaDad. The water sat on the top layer for quite a long time before soaking in. We did use a lot of water in our tests  so it may not be so much of  an issue  for smaller quantities. 

The waterproof layer did keep the water from going through the bottom but the middle layer didn’t draw enough of the water into it which meant a much damper surface than the Guineadad liners.

You’ll want to avoid any fleece liners that don’t absorb immediately as your guinea pig’s coat will become soggy and start  to smell which isn’t good for them and will mean more frequent baths. 

An important point to add here is that fleeces usually need to be washed several times to become absorbent, although we find the GuineaDad fleeces don’t seem to need this process.   Both fleece liners in our test had been used and washed many times before so it was a fair test for both of them.

Summary of our bedding absorbency tests

For complete absorbency, Megazorb (wood pulp) and paper had the best results in our test.

However,  the pine, aspen and hemp as well as the GuineaDad fleece liners performed really well in drawing the dampness down from the top layer.

Mix and match your bedding

You might like to do your own tests and try a combination, mixing them up as we suggested with the .  

Fleece liners and disposable bedding

Some piggy parents who use fleece liners also like to use an absorbent disposable bedding where their guinea pigs tend to go to the toilet the most. This is often under the hayrack or in dark areas. 

Mixing in this way is a good compromise that we’ve seen with quite a few cage setups.

Try not to be too set on having to use one type of bedding. Experiment until you find what works best for you in your setup and also for your guinea pigs.

You can find out more about different bedding options here: