Bedding is the layer substrate added to the bottom of the cage for the hamsters to walk on and burrow in. Hamsters need a MINIMUM of 6” of bedding in order to construct burrows. THE MORE BEDDING THE BETTER! Wild Syrian hamsters construct burrows around 2 feet deep! I notice happier, cleaner, less stressed hamsters with more extensive tunnels when provided with bedding at least 8” inches deep on one side of the cage.
Providing ample bedding actually saves money by keeping the cage cleaner longer. The reason for this is; given a habitat where a hamster can engage their instinct to burrow, they are less likely to excessively scent mark out of stress. Also, most happy healthy hamsters will utilize a sand bath in the cage corner to urinate in which allows for easy spot cleaning… just clean the sand bath, wheel and areas with lots of poop! In an appropriately sized cage with a sand bath, hamsters only need their bedding partially changed every 1-2 months or even less! A tip for cage setup with deep bedding is to use a barrier like bend-a-bridges and a clean, sanitized brick to separate an area with deep and minimal bedding for wheel and other cage accessories.
CEDAR, PINE AND OTHER SOFTWOOD BEDDINGS ARE TOXIC TO HAMSTERS and some other small animals. Although these products may be sold in pet stores, there is clear scientific evidence indicating that the phenols and oils which give these shavings their scent are harmful to your pet. Also avoid bedding made from printed paper as the ink can cause health issues.
Paper bedding is the most recommended. When purchasing paper bedding be sure that it isn’t too crumbly to hold burrows or contain an added scent or “odor eliminating” substance like baking soda.
Aspen bedding is technically safe but sometimes has large, sharp pieces and makes burrowing difficult. Aspen bedding intended for snakes is an excellent choice but tends to be a little pricey. Hay (especially orchard grass) can also be used for bedding but can be dusty, non-absorbent, have sharp pieces and can be difficult to burrow in. We recommend only orchard grass which is softer and only as an addition to regular bedding to add interesting smells and textures for your hamster.
To keep bedding affordable buy in large quantities. The size of the bag does not necessarily indicate the amount of bedding as some varieties are compacted for packaging, so compare quantities before buying. Bedding is also often cheaper online, but many stores will honor online prices of price match, so don’t be afraid to ask at the register of your local pet store.
~ Kaytee Clean & Cozy ~
Kaytee Clean & Cozy is soft, low dust, comes in multiple colors and the texture holds the shape of hamster burrows fairly well. The texture of this bedding varies from color-to-color and by batch, but it is uniformly high quality. Kaytee Clean & Cozy also has the added benefit of being carried in stock in most pet stores. Be sure not to buy scented or extreme odor control versions of this bedding which contain either a lavender scent or baking soda which will irritate your hamster’s respiratory system and skin.
~ Uber ~
~ Boxo ~
Boxo is another good paper-based bedding. It has more limited color options than other brands and is available from many online sources. This bedding comes in packages that vary widely in size, if you buy a large bags Boxo can be an affordable option.
~ Rabbit Hole ~
Rabbit Hole is a top quality, bedding made of food grade paper. Due to it’s high quality it lacks the slight paper-pulp odor of other brands. While this is only available online it comes in large bags which makes ordering worthwhile.
~ Aspen Snake Bedding ~
Snake quality aspen shavings are a good option for those who wish to use a wood-based bedding. Aspen is hamster safe and the snake quality ensures it is softer so hamsters are able to burrow in it (as opposed to many other varieties of aspen shavings which are sharp and closer to bark dust). Small bags can be found in pet stores but tends to be expensive. If you find you like it try ordering in bulk to make it affordable.
~ Carefresh ~
Carefresh is a safe paper bedding which comes in many colors and is widely available both in stores and online. Carefresh tends to be dustier, less soft and have more of a paper-pulp odor than other recommended brands. When buying Carefresh be sure to avoid the scented varieties and those with substances added to eliminate odor.