Choosing the proper enclosure for your mice is just the first step in making sure their habitat is ideal. Next, you have to make sure to fill their enclosure with the right type of bedding for their needs, as well as plenty of toys and enrichment. But choosing the best bedding for mice isn’t always easy.
- What Kind of Bedding Do Mice Need?
- Our Bedding Recommendations for Mice
- Bedding to Avoid for Mice
- Creating a Cozy Environment for Mice
Many bedding varieties that you may see suggested for mice aren’t really suitable. They may be too dusty or contain scented elements. Additionally, they might not be absorbent enough to properly keep ammonia under control in your mouse cage.
Below, we’ll outline the types of bedding mice need, as well as provide you with our specific recommendations for each type of bedding.
What Kind of Bedding Do Mice Need?
Mice require three types of bedding in their cage. They are:
- Nesting material
These each serve a different purpose for keeping your mice happy and healthy, which we’ll cover below.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure that any bedding you use for your mice has these qualities:
- 99% dust-free or more
Our Bedding Recommendations for Mice
Mice have very delicate respiratory systems, so it’s important that their substrate, nesting material, and litter is dust-free (as much as possible) and free from toxic fumes and chemicals.
Each of the beddings that we’ve researched, used, and listed below as our top choices almost always meet that standard.
However, there may be batches of any bedding that is dustier than the normal batch. Use your best judgment when it comes to returning or throwing out bedding if it seems dustier than normal or has a smell to it.
Best substrate for mice
The substrate is the bedding that covers the entirety of the cage. It’s important for several reasons:
- Substrate insulates the whole bottom of the cage.
- It provides a deep layer of bedding for burrowing and digging.
- It absorbs urine and other moisture throughout the cage.
Mouse bedding requirements are different than the requirements for rats because mice need a thick layer of substrate along the whole bottom of the cage. This should ideally be about six inches deep or deeper.
Rats, on the other hand, only need a deep digging box that they can play in, which doesn’t cover the whole cage bottom. (A thick layer of substrate can also be enriching for rats, though!)
Here are our picks for the best substrates for mice.
Dust-free aspen bedding is a great substrate for mice because it’s lightweight and helps control odor. Many mouse owners use aspen shavings alone or mixed with paper and other types of bedding for their main substrate.
You can often find low-cost aspen shavings at your local feed store or farm supply store. You can also buy them online, like the ones we recommend below:
Hemp fiber bedding
Hemp fiber is another favorite substrate among mouse owners because it’s highly absorbent and great for making tunnels and burrows.
You may be able to find hemp fiber bedding at your local farm store, but you may need to buy it online. We recommend the following hemp fiber bedding:
Recycled cardboard bedding
Recycled, shredded cardboard is often used as a substrate, but it isn’t the most absorbent choice. For this reason, we recommend mixing it with aspen shavings or hemp fiber to create a higher-quality substrate.
Here is the recycled cardboard bedding that we and many other small pet owners use:
Coconut fiber, coir, or soil is another great substrate that can be mixed with other types. Using this on its own can lead to a cage or tank that’s too moist, which can create fungus and increase smells.
You can mix coco coir in with your other substrate, like aspen, paper, or hemp, or you can fill a dig box with coconut soil and place it in the cage for the mice to use as they wish.
These are our favorite coconut coir products for small animals, but you can also find it at a local feed or farm store. Just make sure it doesn’t contain anything other than untreated coconut coir.
Paper bedding is another great choice that can be used as a substrate as well as a nesting material.
We recommend using a paper bedding product like the one below as a substrate or as nesting material if you use aspen shavings or hemp shavings as your substrate. If you use this paper bedding as a substrate, you can also use paper bedding with different textures as nesting materials.
Best nesting material bedding for mice
In addition to burrowing and digging, mice have a natural instinct to build complex nests. For this, they need another type of bedding in addition to their substrate: nesting material.
Nesting material should be easier to pick up in their mouths and shred. Mice also enjoy taking long pieces of nesting material and tearing them into smaller pieces. For this, we recommend shredded paper, cardboard pieces, hay, or a mix of the three.
You can mix the nesting materials in with your substrate so that the mice can go around and collect it, or place it in small piles around the enclosure.
Here are our picks for mouse nesting materials.
As mentioned above, paper bedding can be used as both a substrate and a nesting material.
We recommend using the Kaytee Clean & Cozy bedding linked above and/or one of these that lend themselves to nest-building:
Tea bag bedding
Tea bag bedding is a favorite mouse nesting material in the UK, where it’s more readily available. You can order tea bag bedding in the US, but it might not be as cost-effective.
Here are two tea bag bedding sources that we recommend:
Finally, you can give your mice dust-free hay to use as nesting material. This provides them with long strands that they can tear up into smaller pieces, which can be very enriching.
The hay you provide doesn’t need to be as high in quality as what you would feed a guinea pig or rabbit. Mice don’t rely on hay as a food source, so they’ll just be using it as nesting.
Note: Many mouse owners have had problems with hay giving their mice respiratory problems. Keep a close eye on your mouse after giving them hay, or opt for other nesting materials instead.
Here are some hay products we recommend using for your mice:
- Kaytee All Natural Timothy Hay
- Small Pet Select 1st Cutting “High Fiber” Timothy Hay Pet Food
- Small Pet Select 3rd Cutting “Super Soft” Timothy Hay
Best litter bedding for mice
Finally, mice need a type of bedding called “litter.” This is bedding that you put in the corners of the cage, where mice tend to pee and poop.
Mice are difficult to fully “potty-train,” but they tend to choose one spot in their cage to designate as the “bathroom” as a natural instinct. Using a different bedding in the “bathroom” areas helps mice differentiate between their potty area and the rest of the bedding.
This type of bedding can be heavier than their main substrate, since they ideally won’t be using it for digging or nesting. It should also be extra absorbent.
We recommend using a paper-pellet litter for your mice. Stay away from regular clay or clumping cat litter, which is dangerous for mice. We also recommend staying away from wood-pellet litter, since these can become quite dusty as they break down.
Here are our top picks when it comes to litter bedding for mice.
- Back 2 Nature Paper Pellets
- Fresh News Recycled Paper Small Animal Litter Bedding
- Marshall Ferret Litter
- Yesterday’s News Original Cat Litter
Bedding to Avoid for Mice
Now let’s look at the kinds of bedding that we recommend avoiding when it comes to mice.
Cedar or undried pine
Cedar shavings and undried pine shavings contain phenols (chemicals) that are toxic to small animals like mice.
Many mouse owners use kiln-dried pine shavings with success, but just as many advise against it. If you try kiln-dried pine shavings, make sure to keep a close eye on your mice for the first several hours and days to make sure it’s not affecting their respiratory systems.
Corncob bedding is another popular choice for small animals. However, studies have found that corncob bedding has detrimental effects on small pets, including reduced sleep quality and potential exposure to fungus.
Learn more: Is Corncob Bedding Safe for Small Pets?
Wood pellet litter
Wood pellet litter can become a dust hazard in a mouse cage because it breaks down into sawdust as it decomposes. This quickly happens when your mice pee or poop on the wood pellets. For that reason, we recommend using paper pellets as your litter instead.
Regular kitty litter
Regular clay-based or clumping kitty litter is very dangerous for mice because it’s dusty and can block their digestive tracts. Stick with paper pellet litter, which is sometimes also marketed toward conscientious cat owners.
Finally, it’s important not to give your mice or other small animals “bedding fluff,” “bed fluff,” or anything made of fluffy, non-paper materials. These kinds of bedding pose a choking risk for small animals and aren’t as useful as paper or hardwood shavings.
Creating a Cozy Environment for Mice
Ultimately, it’s up to you to do additional research into what bedding you think would work best for you and your mice. However, we hope that this guide has provided a starting or some additional information to help you in creating an amazing home for your mice.
In time, you’ll learn which bedding types and specific brands you and your pets prefer, which may be different from what we’ve listed here.
Is there a type of bedding that you use and prefer? Let us know in the comments so that we can check it out for ourselves! You might be able to help out other mouse owners, too.
Daniel A Domer, Rebecca L Erickson, Joann M Petty, Valerie K Bergdall, and Judy M Hickman-Davis. “Processing and Treatment of Corncob Bedding Affects Cage-Change Frequency for C57BL/6 Mice.” Journal of the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science. March 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3314518/