A hamster will use its bedding to make a nest, but it will also carry it from place to place and gnaw on it from time to time. Therefore the bedding you choose for your hamster has to be soft yet safe and made from a digestible and non-porous material.
Finding the best bedding for your hamster is key as you want the material to feel cosy whilst providing a safe and odor free environment. Below we explain the differences in substances and give recommendations on the best hamster bedding available.
Just like goldilocks who could not find a comfortable bed in the 3 bears house, you may find that your hamster is rather picky when it comes to their preferred bedding choice. But never fear as there are plenty of choices available to buy and even make. Here we explain what to consider when looking at hamster bedding and the different materials and textures to use. We also review the top brands currently available on the market.
Why do hamsters need bedding?
Hamsters like to build nests. It is their safe haven where they can curl up and sleep. Their nests are there to keep them warm, offer a familiar scent and is the perfect place to bury their hoards.
In the wild, a hamster would look to build their nest out of natural resources. For example, a Syrian hamster (which originates from the desert), would seek solace from the sun and predators by digging and creating a nest underground. Here they are well cossetted and are able to keep cool.
Campbell Russian hamsters, however, live out their days on dry verdant plains, so use grass and sheep’s wool to make their nests.
It is important that as responsible hamster owners we consider the needs of our pets and try and replicate their natural environment as much as possible. Our Syrian hamster Oscar is not a fan of fluffy textures and as such prefers to create his nest using shredded paper.
Different types of hamster bedding
Within your hamster’s cage you will find two different types of bedding. There is the substrate which lines the base of the cage, and the nesting material with which they can use to create a comfortable bed.
Here we look at the best materials to use for your hamster’s nest bedding.
Aspen shavings are safe enough to use for hamster bedding. Although this option is cost-effective and natural-looking, it is not particularly comfortable for your hamster. Aspen shavings tend to also be less absorbent than other materials, so odor may become an issue.
Plant-Based Paper Fibres
Plant-based paper fibres are highly absorbent so are great at efficiently controlling odors. They are soft and squidgy, and some brands even offer a 99% dust-free option, which is great for your hamster’s health
Pelleted Wood and Paper
Wood and recycled newspaper pellets offer good bedding materials since they don’t scatter and make a mess. They are also more absorbent than normal wood-based shavings. For long-haired hamster owners, pellets are also good as you do not need to worry about their hair getting tangled.
Shredded paper is one of the most common types of hamster bedding materials. This paper-based material consists of long narrow stripes of confetti and can often come in a range of vibrant colors.
Hazardous hamsters bedding materials
Whilst most hamster bedding that you will find on sale in your local pet stores are safe to use, you should make sure that you steer clear of pine and cedar shavings. These abrasive materials can splinter and cause injuries, whilst the toxic fumes released when your pet soils them can cause nasal and bronchial irritation for your hamster.
Cotton wool-like bedding that are made from artificial fibers should also be used with caution as they are difficult for hamsters to digest should your hamster swallow them. You also need to beware of fragile legs, which can easily get injured when tangled in this fluffy bedding.
How to make your own hamster bedding
In addition to purchasing bags of hamster bedding, when not consider making your own! This DIY solution can be cheap and easy to make.
There are many different materials you can use including paper. Providing it is ink and toxic-free, you can simply shred the paper and pop it in. The only downside of using paper is that it is not absorbent and therefore will not disguise the smell of odors.
Cardboard is slightly more porous and offers a great way to recycle your used toilet rolls. Ripped into smaller pieces you can create an environment that your hamster can burrow and forage through.
Finally, soft tissue paper or kitchen roll, roughly torn into strips offer a comfortable nest for your hamster to enjoy. Just make sure that they are not super strong and can tear easily just in case your hamster gets it trapped in their teeth.
When looking for household materials do not be tempted to use:
- Cat litter – hamsters cannot digest this should they consume it
- Newspaper – the ink on the pages can give off toxic fumes
How much bedding does a hamster need?
In most cases, it is a good idea to provide your hamster with a few handfuls of bedding, in addition to their usual substrate which should be used as a base for digging and lining the cage.
As our DIY hamster bin cage is modular, we also find that placing some bedding in each compartment useful, as it saves Oscar having to carry it from place to place depending on where he decides to nest that day.
How often should you change your hamster’s bedding?
How often you decide to change the bedding in your hamster’s cage is dependent on how many are sharing a cage, how quickly it becomes soiled and the material of the bedding you use.
Some products may advise on their labelling and instructions on how often the bedding should be changed, but we tend to change the bedding each time we clean our hamster’s cage. This is every 10-14 days, although we do spot clean specific areas daily. If, however, you notice odors becoming a problem then you may need to change the bedding more regularly.
Things to consider when purchasing hamster bedding
Your hamster will not care what their bedding looks like, their only concern it how comfortable it is. In order to keep your hamster happy and in good health you should consider the following before purchasing their bedding:
- Coziness – We all know what it’s like when you sleep in a different bed. Sometimes you fall into a sweet slumber and other times you just cannot get comfy. And it is just the same for our fluffy friends. So please consider the softer and smoother materials, as your hamster will be all the happier for it.
- Absorption – What goes in must come out and although hamsters only drink around 2-4 teaspoons of water a day (depending on their size and breed), hamsters still urinate. Therefore, you need to choose a bedding that will absorb any excess moisture to avoid any potential hamster health issues, yet still remain comfortable for them to curl up in.
- Scent – Odor control is another important aspect to consider when choosing your hamster’s bedding. Afterall hamster urine can be quite potent, and the smell of pee can soon permeate a room. A good hamster bedding should not only absorb excess moisture but control the scent at the same time.
- Safety – Hamsters tend to gnaw away at their bedding because of their ever-growing teeth and some may even store or carry it in their cheek pouches. Although your hamster may not intentionally want to feast on their bedding they may accidentally swallow pieces here and there. This is why it is crucial to choose a product that is safe and non-toxic.
Our reviews of the best hamster bedding
Most of the hamster bedding that you find at pet stores will be produced with all of the above in mind. Below we review the top 3 brands that are available to buy.
- 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.
- Made with natural fibers
- Odor formula helps to keep urine smells away
- 2X more absorbent than wood shavings
- 99% Dust-free
- Available in a number of bedding bag sizes
Carefresh has a number of products and colors to choose from but are a great brand in that they make hamster bedding from reclaimed natural fibers. The bedding itself is light and pillowy soft and 99.9% dust-free.
What we particularly like about the Carefresh bedding is its ability to keep smells to a minimum. Our cage is in the lounge so we need it stay clean for as long as possible and the Carefresh formula can limit ammonia smells for up to 10 days. Another great thing about this bedding is that the individual pieces of material are small, making it easier for Oscar to carry.
- Great odor control
- Made from a biodegradable and compostable material
- Quality of material can sometimes vary from bag to bag due to the nature of the raw materials
- Clean and cozy bedding is safe for small pet including rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and gerbils
- Absorbs 6x its weight in liquid
- 99.9% dust-free
- Odor control guaranteed
- Made of material that meets FDA standards
- 2X more absorbent than wood shavings
- 99% Dust-free
- Made from recycled materials
- Expandable materials to hold moisture
Kaytee clean and cozy are the rival brand to Carefresh and offer affordable hamster bedding in a range of colours, sizes, and scents. Made from long-fibre recycled paper it has twice the absorbency of normal pine shavings and is 99.9% dust-free.
The bedding itself is soft and fluffy and comes in a number of different scents, including lavender, to mask any unwanted smells.
- Holds up to 4X its weight in liquid
- Dust-free to maintain cleanliness
- Expandable and ultra-absorbent
- Although the choice of colors are great, some dark shades make it difficult to spot clean
- Made from 100% recyclable material
- 99% Dust-free
- Unique odor blocking material
Vitakraft uses a baking-soda free formula that rapidly absorbs and locks in moisture allowing it to control odors for up to 14 days. Not only that but it is 99.5% dust free! And it’s not only good for your hamster’s health but is great for the environment as it is made from 100% recycled paper fiber.
- Holds up to 3X its weight in liquid
- Dust-free to maintain cleanliness
- Slightly more expensive than other brands
Whatever option you choose for your hamster’s bedding, please make sure that you monitor them closely within the first few days to ensure that they have adjusted well to their new materials.
If you want to provide your hamster with a comfortable haven in which to relax, then try to choose one that replicates their natural habitat. This can be homemade, or store-bought as long as it is safe, comfortable and absorbent.