Posted on September 19, 2020 by Monique Hanford
There are many different types of bedding to choose from for your guinea pigs’ cage with everything from traditional pine shavings to fleece liners. When deciding on which guinea pig bedding to use, you need to consider the absorbency, smell and cost but you also need to be aware of any dangers that may lurk in some small pet bedding.
It is important to know that whatever bedding you use must be put on to a flat smooth surface. Because guinea pigs have extremely delicate feet, these pets can not be allowed to run around on a wire cage base as this will hurt them and can cause serious foot problems.
You will want to use a bedding that absorbs moisture well so your guinea pigs don’t end up sitting in wet patches.
If the bedding you choose isn’t sufficiently absorbent your guinea pigs will get mucky and begin to smell and you’ll need to bathe them a lot more often. The more absorbent your guinea pig bedding is, the more hygienic your cage will be and the less likely you will be to get odors from the cage or the guinea pigs.
Absorbent bedding will help keep your guinea pigs healthy and will help prevent them getting infections or nasty conditions that may leave them sore and uncomfortable. Check out our guinea pig bedding absorbency experiment results where we tested 6 different types of bedding.
Another important factor you will need to consider when buying bedding for your guinea pigs is how dusty it is. Dust is extremely bad for guinea pigs who have delicate respiratory systems so you should look for bedding that is labeled “dust extracted” or “low dust”. If you use one that is dusty, it may well result in expensive vet bills if they get an upper respiratory tract infection – something that is very common in guinea pigs.
Always check the label before buying your bedding to make sure it is safe.
There are several types of bedding that you can buy for a guinea pig’s cage or hutch. The most common substrates are:
Both aspen and pine shavings must be dust extracted and it is vital if you buy pine shavings that they are kiln dried. This removes the natural aromatic oils which are toxic to guinea pigs. If they aren’t marked as kiln dried, choose a different brand that clearly states that it has been through this important process.
Made from the fibers of the hemp plant, this bedding is very popular as bedding for horses and is also a great option for guinea pigs.
The advantage of hemp as bedding for your small pets is that it is not only a natural product but it is organically grown and very absorbent.
The hemp bedding will draw any urine down into the lower layers therefore keeping the upper layer dry and hygienic for your guinea pigs.
Find out more about hemp bedding and the brands we recommend.
Paper bedding is soft and fluffy and is also a good absorbent bedding. These brands do vary in quality and price and we always recommend you opt for the most natural and safe bedding products. You will also need to check this type of bedding to make sure it is low dust and it should state this in the description of the product.
Some of the paper bedding is colored or it may be bleached. It’s important to stay away from anything that has unnecessary additives or chemicals as they may not be good for your guinea pigs.
Some paper bedding is made from recycled printed paper or reclaimed paper (known as sludge), both of which may contain toxins.
Find out more about paper bedding and the brands we recommend.
Wood pulp bedding is usually a by-product of the paper-making industry and is a less commonly used substrate for guinea pigs.
A UK brand called “Megazorb” is often used for horses, particularly those with respiratory problems. This is not a bedding we particularly like, as it is more like a litter, but you can find out more about wood pulp bedding here…
Fleece bedding is a highly popular bedding choice for guinea pig owners and they are completely different to all other types of bedding.
It is common for guinea pig owners to buy the specially made fleece liners which usually consist of a top layer of fleece, an absorbent middle layer and waterproof backing.
Fleece liners are washable which means that although they are more expensive to buy initially, you won’t have to keep buying bedding as with all other options.
The reason piggy parents love this washable bedding so much is that they are not only completely dust free but can be bought in many different colors, patterns and designs and they can make your guinea pig’s living quarters really beautiful!
Fleece bedding will require daily spot cleaning and generally do require changing more often than other disposable types of bedding. However, it is a cleaner type of bedding with no bits that can get kicked out of the cage and on to the floor of your room.
Find out more about fleece liners and the brands we recommend.
If you are housing your guinea pigs outdoors, it is important they are kept warm enough.
The bedding we recommend for outdoor guinea pigs are pine shavings or aspen shavings or hemp bedding. Add some soft bedding hay (not straw) to the sleeping quarters for warmth. Adding a layer of newspaper under the bedding is especially beneficial for an outdoor hutch as it does make cleaning out much quicker.
Any of the bedding recommended on this page can be used for indoor guinea pigs. The main points you’ll need to consider specific to keeping guinea pigs indoors are the odor and how much mess the chosen bedding might make in your home.
We found that the best guinea pig bedding types for odor control are pine shavings, hemp bedding and aspen shavings. We found fleece liners were the worst performer for odors as they began to smell much quicker than any of the other options.
There is some bedding that is not suitable for guinea pigs and they include:
Some piggy parents do use puppy pads, but disposable pads can be dangerous. If your guinea pigs chew on them and ingest them, they can cause serious problems, creating blockages in their digestive system.
These should certainly never be used as a standalone bedding and we wouldn’t even advise you use them underneath a fleece just in case your guinea pig ends up gaining access to them. It just isn’t worth it, especially when there are so many other good bedding options.
Sawdust, unlike wood shavings, is very fine and dusty and can cause serious illness in your guinea pigs. As piggies are prone to upper respiratory tract infections, you need to stay away from anything that is dusty to keep them healthy.
Cat litter comes in many different forms but it isn’t manufactured as a bedding that pets are supposed to lie in but one that is designed for a cat to poop and pee in. Therefore, it may contain chemicals or additives for odor control that is not safe for guinea pigs, not to mention the fact that some types would be very uncomfortable as a bedding for small pets.
If pine shavings are not kiln dried, the aromatic oils (phenols) will still remain in the wood and these are toxic for guinea pigs. They should always be avoided.
Cedar wood shavings are dangerous for the same reasons as non kiln dried pine shavings. However, they contain even higher levels of the dangerous aromatic oils so pose an even bigger danger. Cedar shavings must never be used in guinea pig housing.
Newspaper is not suitable to use as a bedding for guinea pigs because the ink contains toxins that can be harmful to your small pets. Although some people may use it underneath other types of bedding, it is really best avoided.
We’ve designed some helpful care sheets including checklists and record sheets that will help you keep organised and up to date with the care of your guinea pigs…Find out more...