What Guinea pig bedding options are available? Which is best? Read about the different kinds and the pros and cons of each.
Bedding is an important component in your guinea pig’s environment. Sleeping, burrowing, eating, its all done within inches of your guinea pigs every day life. As a guinea pig owner, you want a bedding that is comfortable for your pet, not too expensive, easy to maintain, and hampers the build-up of ammonia odors from urine. Bedding for odor control is a whole other topic, if you are interested, check out my article here.
What is the Best Guinea Pig Bedding?
When you choose the Best Bedding For your Guinea Pigs, it’s important that you think about your guinea pig first rather than the price tag associated with the bedding. FORTUNATELY, bedding is actually pretty affordable. Different climates and breeds of guinea pig can mean a different type of bedding. If you can find a way to test multiple options with your guinea pig, then go for it.
I tested multiple types of beddings and picked some of the best based on the comfort I believed my guinea pigs were experiencing and the ease of cleaning/reusing it. Just try to consider all the options if you want great results and you will be more than ok.
The Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding is the best paper based bedding that I have ever come across. It’s designed to come in multiple packages, and these go from 56 L to 178 L. In my experience, this has been great for both guinea pigs as well as rabbits being designed with a focus on low to zero toxicity.
The paper based guinea pig bedding doesn’t have any chemicals, which, believe it not, can actually play a role in your guinea pigs long term health.
Since guinea pigs can easily ingest pieces of paper, be it by accident, or through simple burrowing, it’s extremely important to eliminate any chemical presence in/on their bedding. In addition, the Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding is designed to be both soft and very comfortable. Added to all of that, it absorbs urine and excess water without a problem. That makes it very versatile and easy to use, which is exactly what you need.
In order to ensure that the product works correctly, the manufacturer created it from pure, unbleached paper that was never printed or worked with. So there aren’t any residual chemicals or anything like that. It’s important to note that every bag will expand 3 times the volume when compared to its packaged size. Plenty of bedding for your guinea pig 😉
What about the odor? The Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding does a very good job at keeping all the odor away from the cage. It might still smell a little bit, but for the most part, you will find this product to eliminate that unwanted smell.
In my experience the paper beddings that I have used have been incredibly absorbent. Fortunately, the absorbed urine and water do not effect your guinea pig’s feet. When I think of wet paper I think of that newspaper left out in the rain feel. Fortunately though, unless you really neglect the bedding change process, this wont really happen.
Of course, changing the bedding from time to time is advisable.
- Created from unbleached, unprinted paper
- No chemical additives
- Expands 3 times the size
- Very absorbent
- Hard to store once you open it
I could put this in the wood category, but it’s different enough that I’ll give it its own category. Carefresh is a product that is made from wood pulp fibers that are too short to be made into paper. The fibers are processed into what looks like shredded egg cartons. It’s paper base inhibits ammonia formation so it’s very good for absorbency and odor control.
What makes this particular bedding stand out is the extra absorbent nature the pulp has preventing the need to change your guinea pig’s bedding every week.
Softness is a main concern for the manufacturer, and I can tell that they worked really hard to ensure thatcomfort is the main focus. From my experience, it feels like a very ‘natural’ products. My guinea pigs absolutely love it.
I have heard people say this was the best bedding for guinea pigs that they have come across. But once again, keep in mind the climate and the level of commitment to cleaning your cage you have before you decide on your guinea pig bedding.
Another interesting thing about the Carefresh Complete Natural Paper Bedding for Small Animals is that it offers 10-day odor control. This has been great just because you can really avoid the unwanted smells that guinea pig pee brings along.
It’s important to note that this product is 2 times more absorbent when compared to regular saw dust or newspapers shavings. Its also a lot healthier for your guinea pig because wood shavings can typically contain harmful chemicals, especially if the shavings come from treated wood. Not to mention it can cause lesions to your pet’s feet along with a host of other problems.
Cleanliness is crucial here, and the Carefresh Complete Natural Paper Bedding for Small Animals caters to that by insuring there is little to no dust in it. Since guinea pigs can have reactions to dust (depending on the source), this product pretty much bypasses the whole potential risk.
The overall cost might be a bit more compared to regular paper bedding, but it’s worth it. If you want to focus on comfort and healthiness for your guinea pig, then this is well worth the investment.
- Created from natural, raw fiber
- 99% dust-free
- Very absorbent
- Extremely soft
- Inconsistent product quality for some customers
One of the main issues people have with guinea pig beddings is the inconsistencies from one product batch to the next within the same supplier.
On top of that, some of the beddings don’t offer you a solution to the inevitable mould and dust mites that end up forming. If you’re away from home for a while or you don’t clean the cage often, dust mites can appear on most beddings.
Unlike other products, Kaytee has created a natural texture based bedding that is designed with your guinea pig’s comfort in mind. Obviously, this should be your primary focus, but there are some other pretty awesome perks that come with Kaytee’s bedding.
This bedding is able to absorb 5 times its weight in liquid which means your guinea pig won’t be plagued by a damp ridden home.
I gotta say, changing my guinea pig’s bedding is probably my least favourite task I have to perform when it comes to taking care of my guinea pig. Fortunately, this stuff pretty much limits the task to once every two weeks. The Kaytee Clean & Cozy Natural Small Animal Bedding absorbs 2 more times liquid than your standard wood shavings do.
What about dust? Thankfully, the Kaytee bedding comprises of 99% dust-free composition. As mentioned above, dust can cause a host of respiratory related infections and is best left avoided.
Most guinea pigs are very prone to allergens, so the last thing you want is for them to encounter any dust. Thankfully, their respiratory system will be completely uncompromised if you go for this option. There are even multiple scents designed to eliminate odor naturally.
- Absorbent, with multiple colors and scents
- Includes long recycled fiber strands for better absorbency
- 2 times more absorbent than wood shavings
- 99% dust-free
- It can contain small granules which are easily kicked around.
The Pros and Cons of Various Types of Bedding Materials
Wood-based beddings can come in the form of wood shavings, sawdust, or wood pellets. The important thing to know about wood is that cedar contains aromatic phenols that are believed to cause respiratory problems and liver damage in guinea pigs (Purdue University).
It also contains plicatic acid, which is also harmful to guinea pigs. Some guinea pigs are allergic to cedar and can develop severe skin rashes when they come into contact with it. So never use cedar shavings as your bedding of choice for guinea pigs.
Some people use pine shavings, but even though pine has less aromatic oils than cedar, a guinea pig’s sense of smell is very sensitive. What doesn’t smell to you can have quite an aroma to him. One study suggested that rabbits kept on pine bedding had elevated liver enzymes, so there is some doubt as to the safety of pine bedding for small animals.
Kiln-dried pine has less aromatic oils than regular pine, but it doesn’t not remove all the oils. There is a possibility that pine can irritate the upper respiratory system of some guinea pigs. If you can opt for something else, it’s probably best to do so.
- Aspen shavings or pellets Aspen shavings are simply cuttings from aspen trees, and aspen is a non-aromatic hardwood. Aspen is safe for guinea pigs. However, it does not provide much odor control, so if you use it, you will need to clean the cage pretty frequently.
- Pros: Inexpensive Cons: No odor control Cost: around $8 for 2 cubic feet
- Cypress shavings or pellets Cypress is a non-aromatic softwood that is safe for guinea pigs. It is fairly difficult to find, however, and is usually sold as mulch. Cypress is softer than aspen, and absorbs moisture more readily than aspen.
- Pros: Inexpensive Cons: No odor control Cost: around $8 for 2 cubic feet
- Sawdust Sawdust is not a good choice, no matter what kind of wood it comes from. It can get in the eyes, it can get inhaled or ingested, and it doesn’t have much absorbency. It has virtually no odor control. When wet, it can clump up and get stuck on your guinea pig’s hair and make a nasty mess. Plus, it tends to be difficult to maintain and clean up.
Hemp-based beddings are safe for guinea pigs. They are very absorbent, odorless, dust-free and soft. It is a fast-growing plant and, therefore, a sustainable resource. Two popular brands of hemp bedding are Aubiose and Hemcore.
Pros: Absorbent, odorless, soft, and dust-free. Lasts longer than wood shavings.
Cons: More expensive and harder to find than wood shavings
Cost: I saw it for sale in the UK but not the US, so I don’t know the price in the US or if it’s even available in the US. You can buy it on amazon.co.uk for 9.95 pounds for 0.25 kg.
Some people use shredded newspaper as bedding, but it doesn’t absorb liquid or odors much at all. If you don’t clean the cage frequently, you could get quite a nasty mess.
Compressed Paper-based Pellets Two companies who make compressed paper-based pellets include Yesterday’s News and Crown Animal Bedding. They offer good absorbency and good odor control but they are more expensive than most of the other options.
Cons: Fairly expensive
Cost: You can buy a 15-lb bag for around $10-$11.
Corncob-based bedding is not very expensive, but it really shouldn’t be used as a guinea pig bedding. It is not very absorbant, doesn’t inhibit odors, and if your guinea pig eats it, it can cause intestinal problems. It is also prone to develop mold growth.
Straw is rather stiff, and guinea pig have punctured their eyes with the stalks of the straw when used as bedding. Therefore, it is not recommended. It doesn’t absorb liquids well and has no odor control. You should not use it.
Using hay for bedding is plausible and many people do so, but usually they add a more absorbent bedding underneath the hay. It has some absorbency ability, unlike straw, but not very much. It has no odor control, and it can grow mouldy when it gets wet with water or urine.
If you get Timothy hay from a farm or feed store in a bale, it usually softer and more suitable as a bedding than the store-bought kind. The store-bought bags are usually dried to prevent molding which makes it harder and stiffer and less suitable as a bedding material.
Pros: Guinea Pigs love eating it, tunneling through it, and playing in it.
Cons: It’s not really absorbent and can mold when wet.
Cost: You can buy a small 24-ounce bag for around $6.
Fleece bedding is popular with some guinea pig owners. It cuts down on the cost of supplies, since you don’t need to keep buying shavings or pellets. Some people like the look of fleece in the cage, as it “decorates” the cage area. With fleece, however, you need to clean the cage daily, or maybe once every two days.
You should also put something absorbent underneath the fleece layer, even if it’s just a layer of towels. When you wash your fleece bedding, be sure not to use aromatic detergent since guinea pigs’ have an enhanced sense of smell.
Pros: Looks nice, reusable.
Cons: Requires frequent upkeep and maintenance. Also, fleece may be bad for the environment. An article by NPR indicates that every wash releases plastic microfibers into the environment, and it ends up in our food, our water, and inside animals and people.
Cost: You can make your own (free), or you can purchase it for anywhere from $6 – $40 or more, depending on the size and where you get it from.
Cat litter is not a good choice at all. First of all, many of the commercial cat litters have chemicals added to them to help with odor control. If your guinea pig eats that, he can get quite sick. Even if you buy plain old clay litter, he can still eat it and get sick.
Cat litter is hard and rocky, as well, so it doesn’t make a good bedding choice. Furthermore, many cat litters will clump when they get wet, and since guinea pigs’ bellies are right on the litter, the clumped, wet litter sticks to their hair and just makes a general mess.