What is the Best Bedding for Guinea Pigs?

It's important to use good quality bedding for your guinea pig’s hutch or cage so they are comfortable and to prevent illness or injury. Your pets need to be warm enough and the bedding should be soft to protect their delicate feet. Guinea pigs, unlike some other small pets, should never be placed in cages or hutches that have a wire bottom. It should always be covered with a flat smooth surface on which the bedding can be laid.

There are several types of bedding to choose from so we take you through the different ones and explain which are best.

Best bedding for outdoor hutches

As well as making sure the bedding you buy is comfortable for your guinea pigs, two important points to consider when determining the type of bedding you are going to put in an outdoor hutch are:

  • ensuring your guinea pigs are warm enough 
  • making sure the hutch is always as hygienic and clean as possible

Warmth

Guinea pigs like the same temperatures as we humans so always put yourself in their position. If you would find it too cold/hot then they will too and this can be extremely dangerous for them. It’s important they have the right bedding to keep them warm.

Cleanliness

An outdoor hutch that is not kept clean will attract flies and this can be fatal. It’s important to choose bedding that is absorbent and easy to clean out and to replace the bedding on a regular basis.

Hutch bedding and how to arrange it

A hutch should have 2 sections - a dark protected sleeping area and a larger area fronted with wire mesh. It’s a good idea to cover the bottom of the hutch in both sections with a thick layer of wood-based bedding or paper-based bedding. This will absorb urine and help keep it fresh. 

In the sleeping area, add plenty of hay to help keep your small pets warm in the cooler weather. It’s also advisable to add a pigloo or a large and thick snugglesack they can snuggle right into to keep warm. A pigloo can be stuffed with soft hay and this will give added warmth in the hutch. 

Adding a layer or so of newspaper to the bottom of the hutch before adding the bedding makes the job of cleaning out a lot easier as you can simply roll it all up and remove from the housing.

Bear in mind that a snugglesack will need regular washing - probably every 3-4 days so it’s advisable to buy at least 2 of these. 

Best bedding for indoor cages (including C&C cages)

Probably the most important things to think about when choosing bedding for an indoor cage are:

  • To make sure it doesn’t smell offensive and keeps the cage smelling fresh
  • To choose one that it doesn’t make a mess of the space around where the cage is kept
  • Is easy to clean and dispose of

Choosing a bedding that is absorbent and won't make your home smell weird

When you're looking for bedding for an indoor cage, it's essential to find one that is both absorbent and that doesn't have a smell you don't like. Some bedding has a particular smell to it which some people will like and others won’t. This is down to personal taste so it may be that you need to try out different types of bedding before you settle on one you like. Fleece bedding is probably the only option that has absolutely no smell at all. 

Guinea pigs are not really smelly animals when they and their cage are cleaned regularly. A dirty cage (however absorbent the bedding is) will begin to have a nasty ammonia type of smell from the urine and is extremely unhealthy for your small pets.

Choosing bedding that doesn’t make a mess of your space

If you are house proud, it will be important to you that the bedding doesn't drop out of the cage and on to your carpet or flooring. Of course, it is quite easy to vacuum but frustrating when you have just cleaned the floor if bits of shavings etc find there way back there straight afterwards!

The cages we recommend have solid sides part way up the cage but you will still find the odd bit escaping every now and again. The only bedding that you can be sure won’t do this is fleece liners.

Ease of cleaning and disposal

You can either use disposable or washable bedding for an indoor cage.  If you are using wood or paper-based bedding, adding a layer of newspaper beforehand will make it easier to clean as you can simply roll it up and either put it on your compost heap or put in a black sack. Otherwise, you can easily use a dustpan and brush to sweep it out.

Fleece liners are very easy to remove from the cage but it does need to be shaken (so no large bits of hay etc end up in the washing machine) washed and dried so you must have at least 2 sets of bedding if using this option.

Bedding options and recommendations

Hay

Lots of hay is essential for the sleeping quarters of an outdoor hutch, providing warmth and insulation. 

It is vital you buy the right type of hay. Some feeding hay can be quite rough so you need to look for a good soft hay which is comfortable for bedding. 

The other thing you must look for is a hay that is dust-extracted.  Dust is extremely bad for guinea pigs as they are very prone to respiratory infections which are incredibly dangerous for them. It’s not always easy to find a brand that is perfect as the quality can vary each time you buy it depending on time of year etc. Also, you may find when you get to the bottom of the bag, it is quite dusty. If this is the case, you should discard the dusty hay and start a fresh pack.

Bear in mind that you don’t necessarily need hay as bedding for an indoor cage but you must have feeding hay.

Wood-based bedding

There are several different types of wood-based bedding that is suitable for both indoor and outdoor guinea pigs. 

However, it is important not to just buy any old wood shavings. Most wood shavings are pine or cedar and this type of wood contains aromatic oils (or aromatic hydrocarbons also known as phenols). These oils can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs.

Paper-based bedding

Paper-based bedding is a soft disposable bedding and is a good choice for both outdoor hutches and indoor cages. The most popular paper bedding brands are Carefresh, Small Pet Select and Kaytee.

  • Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding is made from unbleached virgin fiber with no added harmful chemicals. It is a soft, comfortable bedding which is also 99% dust free.
  • Carefresh Complete Pet Bedding is made from raw natural fiber and claims to be 2x more absorbent than shavings. It is also low-dust and has odor control too.
  • Kaytee Clean & Cozy is a super soft 99.9% dust free paper bedding which is also twice as absorbent as shavings. It is soft and fluffy making it a comfortable bedding for your guinea pigs. This ultra-soft bedding is made from discarded remnants and trimmings paper trimmings from other hygienic products which would otherwise end up in landfills.

Cage fleece liners

Fleece Liners are an excellent choice for indoor guinea pigs but quite different to other types of bedding. We have 3 recommendations for fleece liners but before buying you may want to read about why  fleece is such a great choice:

Firstly, you will have no dust at all with a fleece liner. This is great news as guinea pigs are very susceptible to respiratory problems. Using fleeces in your guinea pig’s cage can reduce the likelihood of them getting these nasty and often deadly infections.

If you want your guinea pig’s cage to look beautiful, a fleece is the perfect base. They come in many different colors and with various patterns including wacky, fun and cute. They are also made to fit the cages we recommend and can also be custom made at a very reasonable price.

Fleece liners mean you don’t need to be throwing away bedding which is more environmentally friendly. Of course, this needs to be balanced with the fact they will need washing but it seems a greener option than disposable bedding. We use the Eco Egg instead of detergent which works out much cheaper long-term and is better for the environment.

Fleeces vary in thickness depending on the brand. You will want them to be as absorbent as possible so your cage smells fresh and your guinea pigs are kept nice and clean. Thinner liners will need changing and washing more frequently.

Washing fleece liners

The one thing you do need to consider when choosing fleece liners is the fact that they will need washing. You’ll need at least 2 sets of fleeces so while one is being washed you have another set for the cage. Make sure you follow the washing instructions that come with them to ensure you don’t shrink them beyond what is expected.

Another point to remember when you wash your fleece liners is to not add any fabric conditioner. This can reduce absorbency and make them less effective.

You may want to buy some laundry bags in which to wash them to protect your machine from any bits of hay or bedding that may come out in the wash.

We recommend the following fleece liners:

  • GuineaDad sell fleece liners in standard C&C cage sizes (2x1, 2x2, 2x3 and 2x4) and they can be combined for larger cages. They also make them especially for the Habitat cage size. We have found these to be great for absorbency and they also have a great design feature - a pocket at one end which your guinea pig can snuggle into and hide! These absorbent fleece liners come in a range of about 7 solid colors. Click here to view the range...

You can also buy some fantastic fleece liners on Etsy and the great thing  about these is that there is a huge range of designs to choose from. The ones we like are:

  • Handmade Pet Bedding Fleece Liners - There are over 40 fabric designs to choose from and they offer custom cage liners, Midwest Habitat liners and various sizes of fleece liners for a C&C cage. They also sell some beautiful snuggle sacks and cuddle cups! Click here to view their range...
  • Heathers Piggy Fleece - This Etsy shop also offers a massive range of designs and sizes including custom sizes, several C&C cage sizes and fleece liners for the Midwest Habitat cage. She also makes piggy pillows, cuddle cups, tunnels and potty pads as well as "Mystery Boxes" where you get several items but what you get is a surprise! Click here to view their range...

FAQs about bedding

Can I use straw instead of hay?

Many people are not aware of the difference between straw and hay. Straw has hard stems so is more likely to cause an eye injury as your guinea pig nestles into it. For this reason straw should NOT be used as a bedding for guinea pigs. It is worth noting that straw is also not edible.

Is sawdust a good bedding for guinea pigs?

Sawdust is definitely NOT a good bedding. It should be avoided at all costs. The reason is that sawdust is “dust”. Any guinea pig bedding should be dust-extracted to prevent respiratory illnesses for your pet so you should NEVER use this in your guinea pig’s cage.

Are cedar wood shavings safe?

Cedar wood shavings are unsafe due to the high levels of aromatic oils. Even kiln-dried cedar isn’t safe so if you’re using wood shavings we recommend you buy the Aspen Shavings by Kaytee

Is colored or fragranced bedding a good idea?

Some paper or wood-pulp based bedding can be purchased in various colors and although they usually describe them as non-toxic, we always recommend natural as we believe as natural as possible is always best for your pets.

The same goes for fragranced bedding - always try to buy as natural as you can. Although we like lovely colors and fragrances, your guinea pigs will prefer something closer to nature.

Shopping lists for bedding

Here are our suggested shopping lists for bedding. You can choose another type of bedding that we’ve recommended if you prefer but we’ve created these shopping lists to make it as easy as possible for you.

Hutch bedding

Check out the hutch we recommend here...

Bedding for the Midwest Habitat or a C&C cage

Find out more about the Midwest Habitat cage here...

Find out more about modular C&C cages here...

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