Best Bedding for Guinea Pigs – With An Eye On Odor, Comfort, and Ease of Cleaning

Everyone wants healthy, happy guinea pigs, and the first step toward a cozy habitat is choosing the best bedding for your guinea pig.

But as simple as that sounds, there are good and bad choices, and even the top options come with trade-offs. And especially for new piggie parents, this can seem overwhelming.

What’s the best option for you and your furry friend? After careful research, we’ve put together a list of popular products for you to consider, based on your needs and your cleaning regimen.

Here’s a quick glance at the best bedding for guinea pigs:

Best Guinea Pig Bedding for a Healthy, Happy Habitat

As any experienced guinea pig parent can tell you, good bedding is safe for your furry babies, highly absorbent, and odor-controlling.

Beyond that, the pros and cons vary with the particular product.

Carefresh Complete Pet Bedding – Best Paper Bedding

Carefresh Complete Pet Bedding, 60 L, Natural
Amazon

Carefresh Complete is a great all-natural paper bedding designed specifically for our small, furry friends. Carefresh makes their own paper from directly sourced raw, natural fibers, so you can be sure that there aren’t any nasty chemicals in the final product. It’s also nearly dust-free.

Both absorbent and soft, its fluffy texture is ideal for piggie’s delicate feet, and they’ll love to get cozy in it.

Twice as absorbent as shavings, Carefresh promises 10-day odor control. We recommend changing the bedding more often than that, but you should have confidence that odors will be minimized if you keep a regular habitat cleaning schedule.

Carefresh is easy to clean up, too! And unlike many other paper bedding materials, it tends to stay put pretty well. It also won’t stick to your furry friends quite as much as other fluffy products, so there’ll be more bedding in the habitat and less on your floor!

We like it better for low-mess than Small Pet Select’s unbleached paper bedding.

And for pet parents with allergy issues, this is a better choice than aspen shavings as it should be hypoallergenic.

Overall, we prefer this product over Kaytee’s Odor Control, and for most people, Carefresh Complete does a fantastic job keeping bad smells to a minimum. There’s a lot to like about this bedding, and it’s one of our favorites!

Pros:

Very absorbent

No harsh chemicals

Great odor control

Very soft and comfy for piggies!

Low dust

Easy to use and clean-up

Cons:

Can be expensive for large habitats

Colors vary and may not match the manufacturer’s images

Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding – Best Paper Bedding for Spot Cleaning

Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding, 56 L, Model Number: SMWB
Amazon

Another awesome choice for fans of paper bedding, Small Pet Select’s unbleached product creates a snow-white, fluffy pillow under your pigs.

Like Carefresh, Small Pet Select carefully selects their paper fiber, using only food-grade sources that are never recycled–100% virgin, 100% of the time! That ensures that your buddies’ bedding is free from toxins, sludge, and newsprint residues, helping you and your furry friends sleep better at night.

As pretty as this bedding is, its snowy color is intended to help you quickly spot soiled areas, and that’s a feature we really appreciate. But if you don’t keep on top of it, that virtue can quickly become a vice–leaving ugly stains wherever your pigs pee and poo. Fluffy and soft, this is among the coziest choices you can make, and for guinea pigs who love to burrow and play in their bedding, Small Pet Select’s unbleached paper is ideal.

That fluffiness comes at a price, though, and it will make a mess! Expect a bit of clean-up around their habitat, and for long-haired breeds, a bit of fluff here and there.

People used to like Kaytee’s version of this, but the paper quality and texture seems to have changed, and we wouldn’t recommend returning to that brand until they change it back.

We like this bedding a lot, and we think you will, too.

Pros:

Very absorbent

No harsh chemicals

Good odor control

Very soft and comfy for piggies!

Great for spot cleaning

Low dust

Cons:

Can make a bit of a mess

If you don’t like spot cleaning, this isn’t the option for you

Yesterday’s News Unscented Cat Litter – Best Pressed Paper Pellet Bedding

Purina Yesterday's News Non Clumping Paper Cat Litter, Unscented Low Tracking Cat Litter - 30 lb. Bag
Amazon

Yesterday’s News cat litter is an unconventional bedding option that’s making waves in the piggie world!

Less expensive than most other options, these dried paper pellets are made from recycled newspaper, making them as environmentally friendly as they are effective. And unlike shredded newspaper, there’s no worry that newsprint will affect your furry friends.

Just make sure you buy the unscented option!

There’s a lot to like about Yesterday’s News. It’s tremendously absorbent and great at controlling odors–probably the best of the bunch in these respects. It’s also a no-dust product, so it’s a good choice for you and your pigs–especially if you’re allergic to wood shavings.

It’s easy to clean and tends to stay where you put it, as well.

But it isn’t a soft, fluffy bedding, and some guinea pigs may not like it as much as alternatives like Small Pet Select’s unbleached white paper bedding or Carefresh Complete. It’s worth a try, though, and many piggy parents swear by its easy use and odor control.

Pros:

Very economical!

Very absorbent

No harsh chemicals

Great odor control

Low dust

No mess–stays put pretty well

Cons:

Not very soft–these are relatively hard paper pellets–and some piggies may not like them.

Kaytee All Natural Aspen Bedding – Best Wood Shaving Bedding Material

Kaytee Aspen Bedding 1200 cu in
Amazon

Some pet parents like aspen shavings, and there are a lot of reasons to recommend them.

Kaytee’s aspen bedding is among the best of the bunch, and while it’s completely safe for your furry friends, it has its strengths and weaknesses.

Generally, aspen bedding is a bit more economical than products like Carefresh, but that depends on where you live. It’s very easy to work with, and by adding just a bit each day, keeps your friends’ habitats looking and smelling great! For people with large habitats, aspen is a popular choice, as it allows them to spread a nice, comfy layer for their little buddies to cozy and burrow in.

And many people swear that aspen shavings control odor better than paper-based alternatives like Carefresh Complete.

But it has some drawbacks. It can be messy, especially if your furry friend is long-haired, and your piggies will inevitably spill some around the edges of their habitat. If you’re not careful, urine can soak the shavings near the bottom, making a soggy mess. And because shavings are so dry, they suck moisture from guinea pigs’ skin, sometimes causing a bit of irritation. Finally, some people with allergy issues find wood shavings to be a trigger.

If you’re considering aspen bedding, Kaytee’s is a very good option, and we like it better than

Small Pet Select’s aspen bedding, which is pretty expensive for what you get.

Pros:

Pretty economical–especially for larger habitats

Absorbent

Awesome odor control

Low dust

Easy to use

Cons:

Can cause human allergies

Can dry piggies’ sensitive skin

Can be messy

GuineaDad Fleece Liner 2.0 – Best Fleece Liner

GuineaDad Fleece Liner 2.0 for | Guinea Pig Fleece Cage Liners | Guinea Pig Bedding | Extra Absorbent Antibacterial Bamboo | Waterproof | Available Various Cage Sizes
Amazon

Fleece is a love it or hate it bedding option. People who don’t mind constant attention–and who adore a neat habitat–tend to like fleece a lot. But people who want to minimize daily poop scooping will find fleece is a poor choice for them.

GuineaDad’s fleece liner is our top pick if this is the way you want to go, and there are plenty of pet moms and dads who love it.

This is probably the best guinea pig bed for odor control. It’s very economical – a liner lasts a long time! – and GuineaDad’s fleece wicks moisture and controls odor really well, thanks to a special layer of bamboo. When properly sized for your furry friends’ habitat, you won’t have problems with them nosing the liner around, either.

If messy enclosures, dust, or paper fluff everywhere have been bothering you, a GuineaDad liner may be just the solution you’ve been looking for.

It’s soft and cozy, and many pigs love the built-in pocket, too!

As with all fleece liners, daily spot cleaning is essential, and a weekly wash in cold water (hot water will shrink the liner!) with unscented detergent is mandatory. It may even be necessary to pre-wash the fleece a few times to increase its ability to wick moisture.

Some people find that the constant fur and mess wears their washing machine down over time, so we recommend a thorough shakedown and vacuuming before every wash.

Pros:

Extremely economical!

Very absorbent

Great odor control

No dust

No mess!

Cons:

High up-front cost

Needs daily spot cleaning

Weekly washing in cold water with an unscented detergent may wear your washer if you don’t pre-clean thoroughly

Recommended Bedding Materials for Happy, Healthy Guinea Pigs

New pig parents are very rarely given careful instructions, but it’s really important that you choose the right materials to keep your furry friends healthy and happy. Among the best choices are paper, aspen shavings, and fleece liners.

Paper

When we say paper, we don’t mean shredded newspaper!

Instead, we’re talking about specific products that are designed especially for small rodents. These include confetti-style bedding, natural paper fiber bedding, compressed paper pellets, and several other options that we think are generally inferior – but perfectly safe – for you to use.

Confetti-style bedding

Confetti-style bedding is composed of crumpled bits of paper, which are sometimes brightly colored and/or scented. As always, we recommend unscented products like Carefresh Complete. These bedding materials are soft and fluffy, highly absorbent, and odor-eating.

Natural fiber bedding

Natural fiber bedding is made from raw paper fibers, and when properly sourced and produced, as with Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding, it’s perfectly safe for your tiny friends to munch, too!
Very light and very fluffy, these materials can make wonderful bedding, as they absorb liquids quickly, control odors well, and are easy to use. But they can get a bit messy, so expect a bit of fluff around your buddy’s habitat.

Compressed paper pellets

Compressed paper pellets are often recycled paper that’s been carefully treated to remove any print residue. Initially designed as cat litter, products like Yesterday’s News have been adopted by pet parents because they control odor and moisture so well.
As an added bonus, they’re easy to clean and tend to stay put. But some piggies don’t like them, as they can be a little hard under paw.

Alternatives

Alternatives like crumpled paper and soft paper granules can work well, but dust and weight can be an issue. If you prefer paper bedding, we think there are better options out there, and our list can help point you in the right direction!

Wood Shavings

Not all wood shavings are created equal, and we’ve even run into kiln-dried pine that held onto too many phenols for our taste. One quick way to test is to smell the shavings: if you pick up the scent of pine, don’t use them! Another way to check is to boil a handful or two of chips for a few minutes, looking for any sign of oil on the water. If you see oil, the kiln-drying didn’t remove all the phenols!

We recommend sticking with the tried, true, and safe: aspen shavings.

Aspen shavings

Aspen shavings make great bedding material, especially for larger habitats. Generally less expensive than paper alternatives, they’re easy to use and very effective at absorbing moisture and controlling odor.

They can be a touch messy, but they’re generally better than fluffy paper products.

Also, because they absorb so much liquid, they can over-dry your fur babies’ skin, causing irritation. If you suffer from allergies, you might give these a pass as well, as some people report problems with reactions.

Fleece Liners

Fleece liners create a neat and tidy habitat as long as you’re fanatical about daily spot cleaning and weekly laundering. If that sounds like you, you may have found the best choice!

Some pet parents make their own from fleece blanket material, but we find that GuineaDad’s quality just can’t be beat.

Fleece liners are really good at absorbing liquids, great at fighting bad smells, and are relatively easy to clean–if you follow their instructions.

And while initially expensive, as you absorb all the costs up-front, they pay for themselves quickly when you consider just how much disposable bedding you’ll be buying every month!

Dangerous Bedding Materials You Should Never Use

If you’re a first-time piggie parent, there’s a lot to learn about bedding, and even experienced moms and dads don’t always make the best bedding choices.

Guinea pigs have very sensitive respiratory systems, and dust, chemical scents, and the oils and aromatic phenols in woods like cedar and pine can cause them serious health issues!

Just say no to that!

The big five to watch out for are dust, chemical scents, phenols, inedible materials, and straw.

Dust

Dust is a particular concern for piggies, and everything from hay to soft paper can pose a hazard to them. By clogging the tiny alveoli in their lungs, fine particles of dust can create short- as well as long-term trouble.

Higher-quality (read: more expensive) paper bedding and boxed hay tend to create less dust than lower quality paper or hay in small plastic bags. But in both cases, if you find that your choice of bedding is creating dust, we’d recommend you make an immediate change.

And never use sawdust as bedding material!

Chemical Scents

Given how many of us use air-fresheners, scented candles, or other means of providing our homes with a touch of something pleasant in the air, it’s tempting to assume that your guinea pig might enjoy the same thing. And for pig parents who are worried about stinky bedding, a bit of lavender or rose sounds like just the thing.

But not only can these chemical scents irritate your piggies’ sensitive lungs, keep in mind that they’re living with that smell close to their delicate noses hour after hour, day after day.

While some chemical scents can be safe around your furry friends, most experts advise that you skip the aromatic additions and stick with nice, odor-absorbing materials and clean your piggies’ habitat often.

Oils and Aromatic Phenols

Some softwoods like pine and cedar have a distinctive smell produced by natural oils and phenols. Cedar chips, in particular, have a strong smell right out of the bag–and like scented bedding, some pet parents are tempted by the hope of covering the smell of urine with that fresh, woodsy scent.

As nice as that smell may seem to you, it’s quite dangerous to your guineas! These natural substances repel pests, but they do so through liver toxicity.

As Natalie Riggs explains, “Those aromatic oils – called phenols – that are so good at repelling insects also harm the livers of small animals like guinea pigs. Plicatic acid is known to cause damage over time; scientific studies have shown that aromatic softwood beddings can alter the biological functions of the liver. Your guinea pig doesn’t need to ingest the bedding to be in trouble. By inhaling the fumes, the toxins in cedarwood shavings pass from the lungs to the blood and are filtered through the liver. The liver can handle a small amount of toxins – detoxification is part of its job. But when consistently bombarded with poisonous compounds, it will inevitably begin to fail.”

Kiln-drying pine will remove these chemicals, leaving a soft, healthy bedding material behind. But if you can smell the pine, those are residual phenols. Good-quality pine bedding for piggies should be scentless! Even then, manufacturers like Kaytee recommend their products only for “open, well ventilated cages and aquariums.”

And cedar shavings should never be used in your pig’s habitat.

Inedible Materials

Corn husks might seem like acceptable bedding material until they start to mold, which happens pretty quickly. Then they become icky and dangerous, definitely something you want to avoid! Worse still, some piggies will try to eat the dried husks, which will then swell in their intestines, possibly killing them.

But corn husks aren’t the only danger to munchy piggies!

Some people like to use puppy pads below the bedding material to control moisture and smell. While this sounds like a good idea, for some guinea pigs, these represent an irresistible chew-toy. When they swallow that plastic, it can clump in their intestines, causing dangerous–and sometimes fatal–blockages.

We don’t recommend their use in guinea pig habitats.

Straw

straw vs hay for guinea pig bedding

Can you tell the difference between straw and hay?

Not to be confused with hay, straw is a waste product–the inedible stalk of the long stem of wheat–and it’s commonly used as bedding material for horses and cows. Hay is something else entirely: it’s the delicious top of alfalfa or grass that used as feed for a variety of animals, including guinea pigs, of course!

While hay is essential for your piggies, straw is not something they should find in their habitat.

Straw is too stiff, too sharp, and too dangerous for their unprotected eyes and delicate skin.

Final Thoughts

Bedding material is one of the most important choices you make in the life of your guinea pig friends, and to keep them safe and comfy, you need to know a bit about the options.

We hope that this article has helped you make the best choice for your furry buddies, and we’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below.

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