The best bedding for hamsters will provide comfort and warmth for your little pet. It will also be clean and safe for hamsters to use. Ideally, the best hamster bedding will reduce odors, too. It can be made from a variety of materials, including paper, pine shavings, and even aspen bedding for hamsters.
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Best Hamster Bedding Quick Links
- Cotton Wool
- Pine Shavings
- Aspen Shavings
- Best Bedding For Syrian Hamsters
- Best Bedding For Dwarf Hamsters
What Is Hamster Bedding?
Hamster bedding is the material you line your hamster’s enclosure with. There are quite a few materials to choose from, each with their own pros and cons.
So, what makes the best hamster bedding? And why is it important?
Let’s take a look at your options.
The Importance Of Bedding For Hamsters
All creatures need somewhere they feel safe, warm, and comfortable. For a pet hamster, that place is their bedding.
It should provide a clean, and safe environment for your pet. For your sake, you might also want it to be odor free.
Your hammie will be in contact with their bedding for most of the day, so it pays to make sure it is as comfortable and harmless as possible.
A surprising number of materials are in use at the moment. Let’s talk about a few of them.
Hamster Bedding Alternatives
When considering this subject, most think of traditional options such as wood shavings or paper. And those are two of the more common choices.
But there are also other potential materials, including cotton. And even wood shavings vary, with such choices as aspen or pine bedding for hamsters.
However, not all materials are created equal. In fact, though there are several different options available on the market, there are different schools of thought on the safety of some types. We’ll consider those issues a little further on in this article.
How Much Bedding Does A Hamster Need?
Most hamsters love to dig. And the more bedding they have, the more they can dig.
One fascinating study showed that hamsters’ body condition was better when they had deep bedding when compared with shallow bedding.
The ability to tunnel and hide in a feeling of safety and security will make for a happy little hamster.
How Often Should You Change Bedding?
What about how often to change hamster bedding?
This is a big question, considering that odor can be a big problem with small pets like hamsters. And it’s best to keep the cage clean for the health of the animal, too.
The ASPCA recommends that owners replace all the bedding in a cage once a week, as well as completely cleaning out the cage each time.
Opinions on how often to change hamster bedding may vary depending on the owner and the material in question, but it’s better to change it too often than not often enough.
How Much Will It Cost?
When you change something as regularly as once a week, the cost can add up quickly. Cheap hamster bedding that also does the job is in high demand.
How much is hamster bedding? This depends quite a lot on the brand, but paper-based is almost always the cheapest.
All of this has led a lot of people into researching how to make hamster bedding themselves. Hamster bedding cost is going to be a factor in anyone’s decision.
The Best Hamster Bedding
The best hamster bedding will not only provide some odor control, it will also be comfortable and deep enough for your hamster to enjoy rooting around in it.
A paramount question with hamster bedding materials is the issue of safety.
There’s a lot to discuss with this, so let’s take a closer look at all the information you need to make a good decision for your pet.
Safe Hamster Bedding
Your hamster is going to spend a lot of time in his cage, so it’s important that the bedding be safe and healthy. The odds are that your little buddy will do a good bit of chewing on the material as well. So safe hamster bedding should be non-toxic and safe to gnaw on.
Safety should always be a priority. Hamster bedding might be unsafe because it physically hurts your hamster. It could also be unsafe because it’s toxic to them.
It goes without saying that we shouldn’t have to worry about our hamster cage bedding harming our furry friends.
Current ASPCA advice is to steer clear of any scented bedding. The chemicals used in these could upset your hamster, or even make them ill. You should also be wary of anything dusty. Particles can damage your hamsters airways, and affect their ability to breathe.
The RSPCA and ASPCA both suggest paper as the best option for your hamster.
Cedar Bedding For Hamsters
Cedar bedding for hamsters is available, but you might not want to use it. Out of all the wood chip bedding materials, it seems to be the most dangerous.
The naturally pleasant aroma makes it seem like the best hamster bedding for odor control. Cedar also boasts some great parasite repellent properties. There are a bunch of positive aspects to using cedar bedding, in fact, but one big negative: safety.
The dust from western red cedar has been shown to have some nasty effects on humans. One test compared cedar workers and office workers. Workers who had been in contact with cedar dust had significantly lower lung function than those who did not.
No specific tests have been carried out with hamsters with regards to dust, but it’s still a real cause for concern. And in scientific trials, use of red cedar bedding has been shown to increase the incidence of tumors in susceptible strains of mice!
Best Hamster Paper Bedding
Paper bedding for hamsters has a long-standing popularity, especially when it comes to DIY hamster bedding.
Homemade hamster bedding might make up a lot of people’s experience with paper, but it isn’t all there is.
Paper has the advantage of being cheap and readily available. And it’s important to point out that paper bedding has the fewest health risks associated with it.
Can You Use Newspaper For Hamster Bedding?
Shredded paper from your own home might be the cheapest option.
This isn’t ideal, however, as conventional shredders create long strips of paper. It would be quite easy for your hamster to become tangled in one of these strips.
And newspaper should absolutely be avoided. The level of ink and other potential chemicals that are involved could easily be hazardous to your pet.
If you are still thinking of making bedding for your hamster, shredded toilet roll works a lot better than conventional paper or newspaper.
Carefresh Custom Hamster/Gerbil Material
Carefresh’s custom hamster/gerbil bedding* is specifically designed with small pets in mind. This is different from most hamster bedding, which is multi purpose, also suiting rabbits and guinea pigs.
The reviews are a little split on this one. Some claim that there’s quite a bit more dust than expected. Dusty bedding is an issue, but other reviewers found no dust at all.
It may be best to see what you think with this one, and always keep an eye on your hamster for a change in behavior.
Carefresh Complete Natural Paper
This paper bedding from Carefresh* also boasts three times the absorbency of wood shavings.
Using a more absorbent bedding helps to keep your pets home cleaner for longer.
These and other Carefresh products are made with reclaimed natural paper fibers.
Vitakraft Fresh World Strength Crumble Recycled Paper
Vitakraft’s option*, on the other hand, bills itself as being 100% recycled paper fiber. It also avoids using baking soda, which is an ingredient that can have a bad effect on some small animals.
Listing itself as 99.5% dust free, this product also offers up to 14 days of superior odor control. However, as we mentioned earlier, it is recommended that you clean your hamster’s cage and replace the bedding once a week.
Best Cotton Wool Hamster Bedding
Everyone wants their pets to be comfortable, so you might consider buying your hamster fluffy bedding.
But cotton hamster bedding also is somewhat controversial. There’s even currently a petition to ban fluffy cotton hamster bedding, due to perceived health risks. But is this really a concern?
The petition is mostly based on anecdotes, and there aren’t any major studies to back it up. Lots of hamster owners do still use fluffy hamster bedding happily.
The principal concern is that hamsters may choke on bits of fluff in the bedding. Cotton, and other fibrous materials, can also produce a large amount of dust. And there are some owner stories about the fibers getting wrapped around paws when used for burrowing.
As with some other possible options on this list, it’s best to discuss it with your vet before you make a decision.
Kaytee Sweet Dreams Nesting Material
This larger piece of cotton nesting from Kaytee* can be used by hamsters, but it’s recommended for larger Syrian hamsters.
While some owners state that their hamsters love to sleep on the cotton, others say that when their pets dug in the material, strands got wrapped around their paws.
Best Pine Bedding For Hamsters
Pine bedding for hamsters smells nice, and is entirely natural. The concerns come from its potential toxic side effects.
So let’s answer the most important question: Is pine bedding safe for hamsters?
The ASPCA lists pine and cedar chips as not suitable for hamster bedding. Their main concerns are the fumes and dust that the wood may produce.
Studies have found long-term exposure to pine dust damages human lungs. For this reason it may be best to use caution, and ask your vet if pine bedding is right for your hamster.
However, pine is a popular option for small animals. So we’ve listed a few products here for your consideration, after you discuss it with your vet.
Kaytee pine bedding* is recommended for use only in well-ventilated, large enclosures.
This particular bedding also claims to be 99.9% dust free. The natural scent of pine can help to mask unpleasant odors, and keep parasites at bay.
Living World Pine Shavings
This option from Living World* is also something to consider. It is made from 100% natural pine, and is meant to be used as bedding, nesting, and burrowing material for all sorts of small animals.
Best Aspen Bedding For Hamsters
Aspen bedding for hamsters is a popular choice. Your hamsters bedding should be as clean as is reasonably possible. With aspen bedding, you get a great looking bedding material, with none of the toxicity of pine and cedar.
This bedding material is dense, and therefore great for hamsters to burrow through!
Aspen bedding doesn’t have the same health risks of some of the woods we’ll discuss later, but that doesn’t make it perfect.
The main concern with wood chips is that they have sharp edges. Hamsters often put things into their pouch, and could be injured if something sharp got in there.
Kaytee aspen bedding* is specially processed to minimize dust. The less dust the better as far as your hamster’s lungs are concerned.
Living World Aspen Shavings
Living World’s aspen option* is another one to consider. They are designed to be safe for small animals.
And they claim to be super-absorbent, able to absorb up to four times its weight in moisture!
Best Bedding For Syrian Hamsters
Syrian hamsters are among the largest varieties. You might want to look for hamster bedding alternatives for your Syrian hamster. Something non-toxic, that will adequately control odor, and absorb any mess.
Syrian hamsters are solitary, whereas dwarf hamsters live in groups. Despite these differences, they require very similar things from their environment.
Although a product might claim to be the best bedding for Syrian hamsters, their needs in this respect are not very different to other hamsters.
We’d recommend using a reputable paper bedding material, like some that we’ve mentioned earlier.
Kaytee Clean And Cozy Birthday Cake
Kaytee Clean and Cozy* boasts low dust, and great odor control.
All of us know hamster cages can get pretty smelly, so this is a big plus.
Carefresh Shavings Plus
One more different option from owner-favorite Carefresh* offers a variety of soft shavings, including 30% soft paper fluff.
Best Bedding For Dwarf Hamsters
Dwarf hamsters are smaller, and therefore more vulnerable, than other varieties. It’s natural to be a little cautious when looking for dwarf hamster bedding.
We definitely would not recommend fibrous options like cotton for tiny hamsters, for example. And smaller hammies can potentially be more susceptible to dust, as well.
It’s understandable that you might be a little more cautious with your pet, compared to the average hamster owner.
The best option for dwarfs, ultimately, will likely be the best option for any other breed.
Healthy Pet HPCC Paper Bedding
This HPCC paper bedding would be great for a dwarf hamster*, or any hamster for that matter.
Sticking with paper gives you the best chance your hamster will get along well with their new bedding.
Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding
This paper bedding* is sludge free, and is never made from recycled print paper.
It is white, which makes it easier to spot “problem” areas faster. But it’s unbleached, and made from virgin paper fibers.
What Bedding Is Best For Hamsters?
We’ve looked at lots of different bedding materials for hamsters. So, what is the best bedding for hamsters? Paper bedding seems to have the fewest health concerns, and is also very absorbent.
I’m going to go with what’s safe, and suggest paper bedding.
Once you have picked your bedding, then stick with it. Studies have shown that changing your hamsters bedding causes a stress response.
What hamster bedding material do you use? Let us know in the comments below.
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
References And Resources
Symptoms, pulmonary function, and bronchial hyperactivity in western red cedar workers compared with those in office workers. M. C. Yeung, S. Vedal, J. Kus, L. Maclean, D. Enarson, K. S. Tse
Insect feeding and oviposition deterrents from western red cedar foliage. R. I. Alfaro, H.D. pierce Jr, J. H. Borden, A. C. Oehlschlager
The toxicity of constituents of cedar and pine woods to pulmonary epithelium. G. H. Ayars, L. C. Altman, C. E. Frazier, E. Y. Chi
Hamster Care. ASPCA
Malkinson, AM 1979. Prevention of butylated hydroxytoluene-induced lung damage in mice by cedar terpene administration. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Wade, AE et al 1968. Alteration of Drug Metabolism in Rats and Mice by an Environment of Cedarwood. Karger Pharmacology
Sabine, JR 1975. Exposure to an environment containing the aromatic red cedar, Juniperus virginiana: procarcinogenic, enzyme-inducing and insecticidal effects. Toxicology.
Hauzenberger, AR. 2006. The influence of bedding depth on behaviour in golden hamsters. Applied Animal Behaviour Science
This article has been revised and updated for 2019.