When thinking what type of enclosure, small or large hamster cage, accessories, bedding or food best suits our beloved pet, we should first research its natural habitat. The better we understand our little furry friend, the better hamster pet owners we will become. That being said, let’s take a closer look at a hamster’s basic needs.
Hamsters are small sized rodents, which means they tend to chew on every available item around them. It also means they are nocturnal animals, that like to burrow during the day, to shelter themselves from harm and also to rest. Nest building is another of their favorite activities that takes up a lot of their active time, in an attempt to mimic their natural habits and environment.
Choosing the appropriate bedding for your pet friend is very important both for its physical and emotional health. The closer a hamster gets to mimicking its natural environment, the more emotionally balanced and stress-free he will be. Also, suitable bedding keeps them healthy, adding much desired years to their not so long life expectancy.
There are close to 25 species of hamsters in the world, from the large European hamster measuring a staggering 13.4 inches to dwarf hamsters that grow to be up to 4 inches in length. The most common pet hamster is the Syrian hamster, measuring about 6 inches in length. In terms of betting, this wide range of hamster sizes means many options on the market.
Which bedding best suits hamsters?
To make sure you choose the right bedding for your hamster, you first need to figure out what type of hamster you have and what its natural environment is. For instance, Syrian hamsters come from a dry, hot, arid area, which makes them dig very deep burrows. To ensure your Syrian hamster has all the comfort he needs, you will need to put an extra layer of bedding in its cage.
A suitable bedding should meet three criteria at the same time: it should be absorbent, safe and comfortable for the pet. Also, being non toxic is an absolute must. And last but not least, it should be light enough and made out of a suitable material, so that the hamster can dig in and around it as it pleases, and he can make it into a bed, just like he would in the wild.
The range of bedding materials available on the market is quite large, but better understanding the needs of your hamster type will help you make the right choice for him. There are some materials that are generally advised to be used, and then some that are to be completely avoided, as we will further show in this article.
Materials of choice
Since hamsters spend almost their entire time on, or underneath their bedding, choosing the right bedding will make a huge difference in a hamster’s quality of life. Also, if the bedding of choice is white, it will make spot cleaning a lot easier and save up a lot of your time. Having less work to do, you might have more time to play with your pet.
Hamster bedding made from cellulose fiber is definitely an option for your pet since it contains no chemical scents, no inks and dyes and it is very comfortable and soft. It also absorbs liquids pretty well, going up to twice in its own weight in liquid. All of these features make it a very good choice for hamsters.
Hamster bedding made from plant-based paper fibers is also a good choice since it is close to 100% dust free, highly absorbent, very soft and comfortable and it offers quite a good odor control. It’s advisable to buy a small quantity first, just to see if your furry buddy will like it, get used to it or show signs of unhappiness with the new bedding.
Aspen shavings are some of the safe types of wood you can use in your hamster cage. Though they are not the most absorbent material, nor as comfortable as cellulose fibers, aspen shavings will give the hamster cage a natural look and they are quite cheap to buy. However, you need to make sure no undesired mites or insects are in the shavings you buy.
Materials to be avoided
Cedarwood bedding falls into the “to be avoided” category because it is quite abrasive and it can sometimes, more often than not, splinter into pieces that are really sharp. These sharp pieces can cause cuts to your pet hamster’s skin, leading to infections and other unwanted lesions. When in contact with hamster urine, this type of wood can release potentially toxic, harmful fumes.
Newspaper is another material to be avoided because of the ink that is used to print it out. The ink can be toxic to hamsters, especially when wet or if they chew on the paper. However, unprinted, clean paper can make comfortable bedding, especially if you choose a more liquid absorbent type.
Being made out of synthetic fibers, fluffy bedding is also to be avoided, because artificial fibers cannot be digested by hamsters if swallowed. Also, hamsters have tiny, sensitive feet, that may get injured by getting them tangled in the fluffy bedding. It is understandable that owners may be tempted to buy this type of bedding, for the comfort of their pets, but it’s best not to.
Cat litter sand is definitely not an option, though it is highly absorbent, for two reasons: hamsters will struggle to digest it, in case they swallow some of it, and it can lead to illness. Secondly, the cat litter dust that it contains will make the little pets all dirty and it may also lead to lung and respiratory problems.
Any type of scented bedding it to be avoided because industrial scents used on these beddings are made of chemicals and they impregnated on to the bedding. Although it may smell nice to the household members, it can be potentially harmful to the little hamsters’ health. Breathing problems may appear because of using chemically scented bedding.
Are Pinewood shavings an option?
Pinewood shavings have been broadly used for many years by both homeowners and pet shops alike. However, recent findings showed that using pine wood shaving for hamsters may not be quite the best of ideas. It seems that the strong scent of pine wood can be harmful to the hamster’s respiratory system.
When you add hamster urine to the pine tree aroma, the wood releases fumes that, in the long run, may lead to breathing issues for the hamsters. There is a better option out there, that being kiln dried pine wood shavings, because the part that is kiln dried does not let the harmful pine aroma out, not even when wet.
One more hamster habit that makes it utterly important that the bedding we use is free from any toxic component is their habit of storing and hiding food underneath their bedding, saving it for later. This habit mimicks their natural habits and environment and in this way, it contributes to the pet’s balance and mental health.