5 alternatives to hamster bedding found in your home
In addition to providing a safe place for your hamster to dig and burrow for warmth, bedding also serves as your hamster’s bathroom. It’s a necessary component for your hamster’s cage, so what should you do if you run out and don’t have anywhere nearby to purchase more?
Take heart: you probably already have several safe and effective DIY hamster bedding options in your home. Continue reading to learn about new ways to prepare common household items, transforming them into low-cost alternatives to store-bought hamster bedding, as well as some alternatives you should never use.
- Shredded cardboard
Shredded cardboard, one of the simplest and most readily available options for replacing your hamster’s bedding, can be obtained from any plain box you receive in the mail. While scissors can be used to begin the shredding process, we recommend finishing it by hand to avoid leaving any sharp edges. Before shredding, discard any laminated or inked cardboard and remove all labels.
- Shredded paper
Any unbleached paper that hasn’t been printed on can make excellent hamster bedding. In a pinch, shred toilet paper, paper towels, or napkins to make soft, absorbent bedding for your pet. We keep extra napkins from takeout or delivery orders in our house in case we run out of bedding.
Good quality, fresh hay should already be a regular part of your hamster’s diet – but you may not have noticed that after a few days, most hammies will reject the “stale” hay. This is perfectly fine because you can easily end up saving it and reusing it as bedding when you need it.
- Paper pulp
Making your own paper pulp can be a significant cost-saver if you’re ready for a larger and more time-consuming project that will provide you with all the hamster bedding you could possibly need. (Watch video from Victoria Raechel on Youtube for a full breakdown on how to make your own DIY hamster bedding.)
A common, everyday newspaper should only be used as a last resort for hamster bedding because the ink can easily rub off and irritate their fur. It is unlikely to cause serious problems – or at least none that are more serious than if your hamster was forced to go without bedding – but it should not be used for any longer than absolutely necessary.
What NOT to use for hamster bedding
Under no circumstances should three less common household items be used for hamster bedding. They are as follows:
- Cat litter is far too dusty for your hamster’s respiratory system to deal with and will quickly lead to infections. If ingested, it also runs the risk of seriously blocking your hamster’s digestive system.
- Softwood shavings, especially cedar and pine, contain volatile oils that are especially harmful to small animals (including hamsters). Avoid them at all costs, and make sure that any commercial bedding you buy does not use softwoods as part of its recipe.
- Corn cob is sometimes marketed as a low-cost alternative for animal bedding, but it is doubly problematic because of being non-absorbent and running the risk of digestive problems if eaten.
How to choose safe bedding for your hamster?
For the majority of their daily activities, hamsters rely on a thick layer of bedding in their cage. You’ll see your hamster interact with its bedding at all hours of the day, from using the bathroom to hiding food to burrowing and creating warm spots for the winter.
As a result, you should look for the following three characteristics in any material you use for hamster bedding:
- Absorbent materials will do a better job of holding in your hamster’s urine, preventing messes as well as extending the time you can go between full cage cleanings.
- Dust-free bedding is especially important for hamsters, as their burrowing habits predispose them to respiratory issues. Avoid anything that produces fluff or dust, as this can enter your hamster’s nose and mouth and cause respiratory infections.
- Chemical-free materials ensure that your hamster won’t harm themselves by accidentally ingesting toxins. Watch out for ink, especially as it can bleed onto your hamster’s skin and cause irritation.
With a little extra time, thought, and effort, you can easily prepare a wide range of bedding options for your hamster. Because it is so important to their health and happiness, we always recommend having a backup plan in place to keep your hamster’s cage fresh, clean, and sanitary. And with the options on this list, you should be completely prepared!
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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