For your hamster, their habitat is their home, so you want to make it as comfortable as possible. Therefore selecting a substrate that is soft, yet absorbent is really important.
Finding the best hamster substrate is key as you want the material to be dust free whilst providing a safe and odor less environment. Below we explain the differences in materials and give our recommendations on the best hamster sawdust available.
Below we review our top 4 hamster substrates:
- Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding
- Carefresh Natural bedding
- Kaytee Clean & Cozy
- Komodo Aspen Bed Terrain
What is substrate?
Substrate is the technical term for the material used to line the bottom of your hamsters cage. It should be used in addition to your hamster’s bedding, which they also require in order to nest.
A good substrate should be absorbent so that it soaks up your hamster’s excrement, soft enough for them to walk on without causing injury and able to disguise a multitude of smells.
Substrate is readily available to buy as wood chippings or sawdust. You must make sure that the material you choose:
- Is dust-free to prevent any breathing problems
- Has not been chemically treated
It should not matter which breed of hamster you own, whether you have a Syrian on a Dwarf, they all need a dust-free environment and a super soft, absorbent substrate to run around on.
Are wood shavings good for hamsters?
Wood shavings are commonly used for hamster bedding as it is cheap, widely available and can be delivered in large or small bags. Aspen is the best type of wood shavings to invest in but make sure you steer clear of pine and cedar wood, as these are incredibly dusty and can cause your hamster respiratory problems.
You should also avoid scented wood shavings, as these will have been treated and are likely to contain harmful chemicals.
Is sawdust safe for hamsters?
Sawdust is often used; however, it can irritate some hamsters eyes, nose and lungs and cause skin allergies.
Compressed paper bedding is a good choice if your hamsters is sensitive as it is softer, less harsh on small body parts and absorbs urine well.
That said, we have always used a particular brand of sawdust for our hamster and never had a problem. If you do change your substrate, I would recommend monitoring your hamster closely to check that they remain safe and healthy.
Always make sure that your sawdust is at least 3” deep so that your hamster has plenty to cushion them as they walk around, and that it is thick enough absorb any wee. If your hamster likes to burrow, then add a couple of extra inches for them to tunnel and play.
What alternatives are there to sawdust?
Wood pulp bedding is a good alternative for those seeking something other than sawdust. It is a safe and healthy option as it is made from reclaimed pulp waste, so is free from inks, dyes, clay and harmful toxins.
Some, such as the Carefresh brand, sanitize their bedding to 380 degrees to ensure that any bacteria, mold or fungus has been killed off before bagging.
Recycled paper is a great choice to line a hamster’s cage as it can absorb twice the amount of liquid than wood shavings or sawdust can, and helps to keep your hamster’s habitat fresher for longer.
Our review of the best hamster substrate
Most of the bags of hamster substrate that you find at pet stores will be manufactured with all of the above in mind. Below we review the top 4 brands that are readily available to buy in store or online.
- Ideal Bedding For Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
- 100% Safe - Made In The USA Without Any Harmful Chemicals Additives
- Soft + Comfortable for Your Bunnies and Guinea Pigs, But Still Super Absorbent
- Each Bag Expands 3X In Volume From It's Packaged Size
- Made From Pure Unbleached Never Been Printed Paper
If you have the space to store it, then this highly absorbent, soft natural paper bedding, is great value for money and safe for your hamster too.
Small Pet Select pride themselves on using the highest quality natural paper that is 99% dust-free. The bag itself 3x in volume (so you get plenty of bedding for your buck) and the substrate itself is squishy and odorless.
- Sold in large bags
- 99% Dust-free
- Reduces hamster odors
- Some complaints over the packaging
- This carefresh Natural bedding is packaged in four convenient single use 14L bags totaling 56L
- COMPLETE COMFORT CARE - carefresh makes the softest, driest, most comfortable home for your small pet.
- SOFT - Made from scratch using raw, pure, natural paper fiber transformed into pillowy-soft, ultra-absorbent comfyfluff perfect for burrowing or nesting.
- FRESH – Natural-based, pet-safe odor control formula is proven to suppress ammonia odors for up to ten days.
- DRY – 2x more absorbent than shavings, keeping your small pet warm and dry with no soggy mess for easy cleanup.
Carefresh is one of the top brands for manufacturing hamster bedding. What we like about this particular bag of substrate, is that is made from natural reclaimed wood pulp so is safe and comfortable for your hamster. Especially those with allergies.
Its odor control formula suppresses ammonia and can absorb up to 3x its weight in liquid. Hamsters enjoy burrowing in this material as it is super soft on their tiny paws.
- Super absorbent
- Reduces hamster odors
- Good for burrowing
- Small pack size
- Odor Control Guaranteed
- 99.9% Dust Free for a Cleaner Cage
- Absorbs 5x its Weight in Liquid
- Safe for your Pet
- Absorbs 2x more liquid than wood shavings
Kaytee Clean & Cozy small pet paper bedding is a lovely, fluffy yet absorbent bedding. Able to soak up to 6x its own weight and 2x more liquid than wood shavings, its super absorbency means less odour for you to endure. Plus this substrate is 99 percent dust free and is made from long fibre strands that do not contain any harmful chemical or by-products and are biodegradable.
Its paper-like texture comes in a variety of colors and sizes that are perfect for brightening any hamsters habitat.
- Incredibly absorbent
- Reduces hamster odors
- Not as soft as other brands of substrate
- Komodo Aspen Bed Terrain, this 100% natural supreme snake terrain chosen by professional breeders worldwide.
Although this is marketed at snake owners if you have a hamster who likes to burrow then this is the substrate for you. Made from 100% natural materials, it encourages burrowing behavior whilst still managing to retain its shape.
Therefore your hamster can tunnel and make dens underground, just like they would in the wild.
Made from Aspen, this material is recyclable and biodegradable, plus it is light in color which makes it easy to spot clean daily.
- Great for burrowing
- Made from recyclable and biodegradable materials
- Slightly dusty compared to paper-based substrate
There are lots of different substrates available, that often finding the right one for your hamster can be overwhelming. But as long as you pick a brand that is safe (no Cedar or Pine), contains little dust and is softs on their paws, then your hamster will soon make themselves at home.
Just remember to combine the substrate with a good handful of nesting material, so that your hamster can create a comfortable bed.
If you have a large cage, then you may want to consider a variety of substrates to encourage your hamster to use the different areas of their habitat. This could include a sand bath, burrowing area and den.