In case you are thinking about getting a hamster as a pet, you will probably want to know what type of hamster bedding is the most appropriate one.
When adopting an animal as a pet, you should always consider its natural environment and requirements. In the case of hamsters, the closer you can duplicate his or her natural living conditions, the happier and healthier your small friend will be.
You need to do a lot of research on this matter. We will give you a simple example: Syrian hamsters naturally live in a hot dry environment, so they dig deep underground burrows in sandy soil. Campbell Russian hamsters, on the other hand, live on dry grass plains and fill their nests with grass and sheep wool.
Dangerous Bedding Materials
When it comes to hamster bedding, most materials you can find describe the types that should be used and you can rarely find information about what not to use. However, in order to keep your pet safe, knowing what products to avoid is just as important as knowing what types are recommended.
Cedar shavings are definitely not recommended to be used as hamster bedding. Cedar trees are known to naturally produce chemicals which are meant to protect their wood from being infested by fungi or eaten by insects. Furthermore, these chemicals have evolved and can cause a lot of harm to other animals as well.
One of these chemicals is plicatic acid which destroys body cells. The dust from cedarwood is a known inhalation hazard for woodworkers and can even cause asthma. Cedar is also listed as a threat to the nervous system on a Health and Executive Safety list.
It is definitely not recommended to use pine shavings as hamster bedding either. Although pine is not considered as dangerous as cedar, it still has the potential to cause serious issues to hamsters.
Pine shavings include similar toxins to the ones from cedar. Instead of plicatic acid, pine contains abietic acid which is a known skin and respiratory irritant. This wood is also considered having negative effects on the animal’s lung function.
There is a debate on whether kiln-dried pine shavings are appropriate to be used as bedding for hamsters. The argument in favor of this type of wood is that the kiln-drying process removes the toxic substances. However, this process is actually designed to remove water from the wood. It is not clear if it really removes any other substances.
In other words, there is no real evidence that the kiln drying has any kind of effect on the dangerous substances in pine. This shaving is possibly safer than regular pine, but the risks involved have not been properly tested. Therefore, using kiln-dried pine shavings as bedding for your hamster is recommended being avoided.
Other Types of Unsafe Bedding
Softwood shavings are not a good option to be used, either. Softwood refers to coniferous woods, which also includes pine and cedar. Aspen is the only safe wood because it is hardwood. Anything labeled as softwood is unsafe for hamsters.
You should know that it is not uncommon to find wood shavings that have no specification as to what type of wood has been used. Therefore, any kind of unlabeled shavings should be avoided. Usually, they contain pine, rather than aspen, but why take any chances?
There are companies that make scented bedding for hamsters. While this option may be appealing to pet owners, they might not be so good for the animals. You should consider that your hamster has to live with the bedding at all times, and he or she has a much keener sense of smell than you do.
In other words, the scent of that bedding will be much more pungent to your pet that it will be for you. Just imagine having to live in a home where everything is drenched in perfume. Even if it is your favorite scent, it would surely become bothersome and overwhelming.
Moreover, scented bedding does not provide any benefit to your hamster and it can also cause respiratory issues. Honestly, there is no point in risking your pet’s health and comfort for something that is as trivial as nice-smelling bedding.
Cotton fluff, which is actually more nesting material than bedding should definitely be avoided. As soft and comfortable as it may seem, it is one of the most dangerous types of bedding available. Simply put, cotton fluff can kill your hamster. Unlike paper and wood, cotton fibers do not break down in water.
If your pet eats it, he or she will not be able to digest it, and will consequently die from blockages in the digestive system. Furthermore, the long fibers can easily tangle around the little one’s feet which can lead to the blood flow being cut off.
Last, but not least, cotton fluff is a choking hazard as it can get caught in the throat easily. In other words, as appealing as it may look, by providing your hamster cotton fluff bedding, you will surely be condemning your pet to a horrible death.
Corn cob is another option that can be used as hamster bedding but there are several problems with it. First of all, it is loaded with fungal spores. This means that it will start to grow potentially dangerous fungi at the slightest bit of moisture.
And this can easily happen with a drippy water bottle or from urine. Also, this is a hard, uncomfortable, and lumpy material for a hamster to walk on, so it is definitely not recommended as appropriate bedding.
Cat litter is also unsafe for hamsters as they will struggle to digest the pieces they eat. Moreover, the materials used can be very harmful to them. Another bedding you should definitely avoid is newspaper. Although the paper itself is not dangerous, the ink used to print the pages can be very toxic.
What to Use
Now that we’ve covered what type of bedding should not be used for hamsters, we can make a few suggestions regarding safe alternatives. First of all, you should always check the label of any hamster bedding you wish to buy, to make sure that you get the right material. Anything that is unclear or unlabeled should be avoided.
We’ve listed so many unsafe materials that you might be wondering if anything is truly safe to use. Do not worry, there is plenty to choose from, and the market has a lot to offer in this perspective. For example, we already mentioned aspen wood shavings. This is a type of hardwood and it is recommended for hamsters so you can use it without issues.
Hemp bedding is also safe. Moreover, this material can also be used for cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, and even chickens and horses. Unscented paper pulp is another alternative you can try, and there are multiple companies that produce this type of product.
Unscented shredded paper is another option. As mentioned before, paper breaks down into the water and it is safe to use for hamsters. The same goes for unscented paper crinkles and unscented paper pellets. Another type of bedding you might find on the market which is also safe to use is unscented granule-type bedding.
The bedding is one of the most important items you will need to get your hamster. You small friend has to leave with it at all times. That is why it is essential to get safe materials that will not harm your pet.