Dangerous hamster bedding
Bedding is to your hamster what bricks and tiles are to us. Would you live in a house with toxic walls and floors? We didn’t think so. That’s why we made this article to help you weed out all the dangerous beddings and build a safe and comfortable home for your hamster.
Two Rules of Safe Bedding
- Allow your hamster to burrow and nest in comfortably.
- Be toxin-free and water soluble so your hamster can safely ingest, digest and expel it.
Now that you are familiar with the Two Rules of Safe Bedding, let’s have a look at some of the beddings sold in Singapore which contravene these rules, and thus, fail to meet HSS safe bedding standards.
No scented bedding
- Not toxin-free
Would you feel well if you had to live your entire life in perfume factory? We know we wouldn’t, and neither would your hamster, especially since hamsters’ noses are much more keen than ours. Their correspondingly sensitive and delicate respiratory systems are very susceptible to the artificial chemicals in scented bedding; Prolonged exposure to scented bedding can cause hamsters and other rodents to develop a host of health and breathing problems.
While we understand the desire to mask unwanted odours, scented bedding is not a solution. It is hazardous for your hamster, and sometimes even lethal.
No pine and cedar wood shavings
- Not toxin-free
According to multiple studies , pine and cedar shavings are generally considered harmful to hamsters, and in large enough doses, can even trigger allergic reactions in humans. Softwood shavings like pine and cedar release aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and toxic acids that damage the lungs and windpipe (trachea) of your pet.
Though some pet supplies manufacturers claim that their heat-treated shavings are safe, several studies have otherwise, as not all toxins can be successfully removed with heat treatment.
Many bedding brands in Singapore do not feature information on their packaging regarding the type or composition of the wood used to produce the shavings. Our advice is to err on the side of caution and avoid any bedding that does not clearly display a comprehensive list of ingredients and substances.
Tip: If you are confused between pine and cedar shavings (bad), and Aspen wood shavings (good), just remember: “A for Aspen, A for Another! P and C, Please don’t See (or buy)!”
No cat litter bedding (use only as base layer)
- Not suitable for nesting and burrowing
- Certain types not water soluble
While wood- and paper-based cat litter are safe substrates for your hamster, they should not be used as the sole or main bedding as they are either too dense or not dense enough (pellets) to allow your hamster to burrow and nest properly.
However, it is true that cat litter has excellent odour-diminishing qualities. As such, we recommend spreading a thin layer at the base of your cage and topping it up generously with layers of softer and safer hamster bedding. This would give you a pleasant smelling room and your furry buddy a pleasant home to burrow and nest in.
Warning! Cat litter with “clumping” properties can cause internal blockage in your hamster’s pouch or organs when ingested. Please consult a vet immediately on any suspicion of blockage: a clump can only be removed with surgery! Given the tiny and fragile constitution of hamsters, any and all forms of surgery carry inherently large amounts of risk. Therefore, preemptive action to avoid any potential health hazards is all the more vital to keeping your hamster safe and healthy.
No fluffy bedding/cotton bedding/kapok
- Not water soluble
Fluffy, cotton bedding, also known as kapok, should be avoided at all costs. Just like cat litter with clumping properties, kapok can cause internal blockages when ingested because it is not water soluble. This is a fact backed by robust scientific research.
Furthermore, there have been documented cases of hamsters getting their hands and feet ensnared and entangled by kapok, ultimately resulting in the surgical amputation of their poor, constricted limbs.
As you can imagine, both internal blockages and amputated limbs are extremely painful experiences for your hamster. Please take every care you can to avoid exposing your hamster to such horrible health hazards.
But pet shops sell them!
Corporations sell their products to us humans, not to pets, so it makes little sense for them to prioritise the wellbeing of voiceless animals over the aesthetic tastes of their paying human customers. Ethical considerations, welfare and proper husbandry practices are the concerns of animal rights activists like us; The main concern of a pet company is the health of their bottom lines, not the health of your hamster.
This callous attitude of capitalism is why a large spectrum of safeguards was introduced to our human markets: to protect us against corporate greed. We want to do the same for hamsters by arming parents like you with the information you need to identify safe and ethical products and services for your pets.
- When purchasing bedding, remember to follow the Two Rules of Safe Bedding
- No scented bedding
- No wood-based bedding that is not aspen
- No fluffy bedding
- No clumping cat litter (paper-based cat litter is generally safe)
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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