Creating a comfortable and safe environment for your hamster is crucial, and choosing the right bedding is a key aspect of their well-being. Unfortunately, not all products on pet store shelves are suitable for our hamsters.
In this article, we’ll explore the world of hamster bedding, highlighting safe options and providing valuable tips to ensure your hamster’s habitat is cozy and secure.
To make your decision-making process easier, we’ll include our top picks for the best hamster bedding in each category, ensuring your hamster has a cozy and secure place to call home.
Safe Bedding for Hamsters
Unfortunately, pet stores still sell products that aren’t suitable for our small pets. So first, let’s look at the different types of hamster bedding that are actually safe for hamsters.
Paper hamster bedding
Paper bedding is an excellent choice for filling up your hamster’s tank or cage with plenty of burrowing and nesting material.
There are different types of paper bedding for hamsters, such as crinkle paper, natural paper, tea bag bedding, and bleached paper bedding.
All of these types of paper bedding are safe, as long as they are not scented. We’ll go into why scented bedding is a problem later on.
Aspen hamster bedding
Aspen makes another great option for hamster bedding. Aspen chips tend to be rougher than paper, so we recommend choosing a softer brand of aspen or mixing your aspen with paper bedding.
Mixing aspen with paper is a favorite choice for many hamster owners (gerbil and mouse owners, too) because it helps control smells and holds burrows really well.
Hemp hamster bedding
Hemp bedding is highly absorbent and low-dust, which makes it a great choice for hamsters who have respiratory issues. Hemp is also a bit softer than aspen bedding, and it holds burrows and tunnels well.
Many hamster owners also choose to mix hemp bedding with paper bedding to create a softer bedding that’s superior at holding tunnels and burrows together.
Some people who use hemp bedding for their pets have reported allergic skin reactions, so it’s a good idea to look out for hives and wash your hands after handling it.
Grass or hay hamster bedding
Hay is another useful type of bedding or substrate for hamsters. It provides another different texture and is very good at holding up burrows. Don’t use too much hay, though, and don’t use it as your primary bedding.
You’ll also need to make sure that you use soft grass hay rather than sharp hay like 1st-cut Timothy hay. Hay that is too sharp can injure a hamster’s cheek pouches, so we recommend sticking with orchard grass or 2nd- and 3rd-cut Timothy hay.
If you have a lot of cardboard or even paper bags lying around the house, you can use these as bedding or supplement your bedding with shredded cardboard.
Make sure to purchase a paper shredder with the capability to shred cardboard. (We use this one.) You can bulk up your hamster’s bedding using this method to save on the cost of a full tank of paper, aspen, or hemp bedding.
Learn more: Best Hamster Cages and Enclosures in the US
Unsafe Bedding for Hamsters
We briefly touched on unsafe types of bedding for hamsters above, but here’s a more thorough breakdown of the kinds of hamster bedding you should avoid.
Scented hamster bedding
Unfortunately, pet care brands still make scented paper bedding to sell at pet stores, and this bedding isn’t safe for your pet. Even if the fragrance is derived from natural sources like lavender, scents like these can irritate your hamster’s tiny respiratory system.
Pine and cedar hamster bedding
Pine and cedar are two kinds of bedding that are still sold despite them being unsafe. Cedar and pine contain aromatic oils called phenols, which means they’re great at covering up unpleasant smells. However, these oils are also toxic to hamsters and can cause liver damage.
Aspen wood shavings are safe to use as bedding for your hamster, but make sure to check that you’re using shavings rather than sawdust. Sawdust is so fine that hamsters can breathe it in, which causes respiratory distress and infection.
Bedding fluff might look nice and cozy, but it’s not safe for hamsters. Fluffy bedding can get caught up in a hamster’s cheek pouches if they try to move it around, and the strands of bedding can wrap around tiny toes and cut off circulation.
Learn more: Is the Prevue 528 a Good Cage for Hamsters?
Questionable Bedding for Hamsters
In addition to bedding that’s well known to be safe and those that are definitely unsafe, there are a couple of types of hamster bedding that are more questionable.
Some hamster owners believe that these types of bedding are safe for hamsters, while others strongly disagree.
We generally recommend staying away from these kinds of bedding because there are already so many alternatives that are known to be safe.
First, corncob bedding is sometimes used for hamsters, but there are indications that corncob isn’t a safe or ideal bedding. Corncob bedding is very absorbent, which can be a good thing for controlling odors.
However, its absorbancy can also be dangerous if it’s ingested even in small amounts. Corncob also isn’t comfortable for hamsters, so it can lead to decreased sleep and lower mood.
Learn more: Is Corncob Bedding Safe for Your Small Pet?
As mentioned above, pine shavings contain phenols that are toxic to small animals. However, some people still choose to use kiln-dried pine, which is supposed to remove all of the phenols from the wood.
Many people report using kiln-dried pin shavings as hamster bedding, but we recommend sticking with aspen which we know is safe.
Our Picks for the Best Hamster Bedding
Now we’ll give you our specific picks for the best hamster bedding in every category.
Best paper bedding for hamsters
First, let’s look at the best paper bedding products available for hamsters. This will usually make up a large portion of your hamster’s bedding mix.
- Kaytee Clean & Cozy White
- Kaytee Clean & Cozy Natural
- Carefresh 99% Dust-Free Natural Paper
- Small Pet Select Premium Small Animal Bedding
Best aspen bedding for hamsters
Aspen bedding is the only type of wood bedding we recommend using for gerbils or other small animals. Here are the brands and products we recommend for aspen hamster bedding:
- Kaytee Small Animal Hardwood Aspen Bedding
- Niteangel Aspen Shavings
- Small Pet Select Premium Natural Aspen Bedding
Best hemp bedding for hamsters
Hemp bedding is an alternative to aspen that tends to be lighter-weight and somewhat softer. Here are some of the best hemp bedding products for hamsters:
Best hay bedding for hamsters
Finally, we’ll look at the hay bedding we recommend for hamsters. You can give your hamsters Timothy, alfalfa, orchard, or meadow hay. If you use Timothy hay, though, make sure you use 2nd- or 3rd-cut hay so it isn’t too sharp.
- Small Pet Select 3rd Cutting Super Soft Timothy Hay
- Small Pet Select Orchard Grass Hay
- Oxbow Animal Health Meadow Hay
- Oxbow Animal Health Orchard Grass Hay
Additional Substrates for Hamsters
In addition to their regular bedding, which should take up the most space in their tank or cage, your hamster should have some different substrates to explore.
The most important of these is sand because hamsters use it to bathe themselves. But other substrates can provide some variation and interest to your hamster’s environment and create great foraging opportunities.
Here are our favorite substrates to use with hamsters, as well as our favorite products for each substrate.
As mentioned, sand is important because hamsters use it to bathe. Make sure you purchase sand, rather than “bathing dust” or “powder,” as bathing dust is not suitable for hamsters.
These are our favorite sand products for hamsters:
Coconut coir is a soil-like substrate that can be used for dig boxes. Some coco coir, like that bought at garden supply stores, can be dusty, so it’s best to stick with a pet-specific brand.
Here are our favorite coco coir products for hamsters:
Another product of the coconut, coconut chips are like bark chips used in landscaping, but they’re softer and safe for hamsters. These can be used in a dig box or to add some texture throughout the enclosure.
Here are our favorite types of coco chips for hamsters:
Best Hamster Bedding: FAQs
Still have questions about the best bedding for hamsters and how to use it? The answers to these frequently asked questions might help.
What are the safest brands of hamster bedding?
If you want to stick with just one brand of bedding for your hamster rather than picking and choosing products, we recommend choosing Niteangel.
However, there are many safe bedding options for hamsters, as shown above, if you make sure to steer clear of potential bad products from a particular brand and stick to those that are safe.
What is the best hamster bedding for burrowing?
The best bedding for creating burrows is a mix of paper, aspen or hemp, and some orchard grass.
How much bedding do hamsters need?
Hamsters are natural borrowers, so they need at least 8 inches of bedding. We recommend providing 10 inches or more of bedding where you can. The deeper, the better!
How often should you change your hamster’s bedding?
Hamsters are very clean animals and rarely need their bedding completely changed. In fact, doing this can disturb your hamster and cause them a great deal of stress.
Instead of changing all of your hamster’s bedding at once by emptying out the enclosure, replace small sections every couple of weeks while freshening up their habitat.
If you do this regularly, you should never need to completely empty your hamster’s bedding and replace it.
Choosing the Best Hamster Bedding for Your Pet
It’s always hard to choose the best products for your hamster, especially when there are many options on the market that aren’t safe for your pet. Luckily, many hamster owners, including us, have sorted through the offerings available and picked those that are tried and tested.
Whenever you introduce a new product to your hamster, it’s essential to do some research first, and bedding is no different. Hopefully, this guide has provided a starting place for getting your hamster the comfy and safe environment they so deserve.