When it comes to hamster bedding, there are lots of options out there. The big question is, which one is the best? This is a topic that gets a lot of small pet owners riled up and it seems like the product that deserves the title of best hamster bedding or substrate is up for debate.
In this article, we will cover each of the types of hamster bedding options you can choose from, such as saw dust, wood shavings, and so on to help you understand the pros and cons of each. From there, you can decide for yourself which choice you feel is best for you and your hamster.
Best Hamster Bedding Reviews
Generic Sawdust – A Poor Choice
Sawdust is not a good choice because of how fine and dusty it is. The main issue is the dust, as it may lead to skin allergies and breathing problems with your pet. Perhaps somewhere out there exists a brand of sawdust that is dust-free and guarantees no negative effects on your hamster, but so far I haven’t found one yet.
- Causes skin irritation and breathing issues
Kaytee Aspen Wood Shavings – All-Purpose Hamster Substrate
Think of aspen shavings as better sawdust, with significantly less downsides. First of all, this hamster bedding is safer and still quite cheap when compared to sawdust. Wood shavings for hamster bedding is a staple at this point; thousands of hamster owners have used this for years because it is tried and true.
As such, aspen shavings are the ideal substrate for your hamster’s enclosure because it is one of only a handful of wood that is safe for your hamster. You’ll find that it is very absorbent, but not quite on the same level as premium products like Kaytee Clean & Cozy or CareFresh. This just means that you have to replace the aspen shavings a little earlier since it will smell quicker.
Don’t just use any aspen shaving that you find; make sure that the product you are using was created specifically for use on small animals, since that means they have been treated to be animal safe.
Lastly, avoid using cedar or pine shavings since these can hurt your hamster due to how sharp and abrasive they are.
- Available everywhere
- Reliable, soft, and safe bedding for your hamster
- In some rare cases, your hamster may be allergic to aspen
- Not nearly as absorbent as some products
- Softer material is still needed for your hamster’s nesting place
Small Pet Select – Soft Paper Bedding
If you are looking for dwarf hamster bedding, this Small Pet Select can fit that bill. You can buy them in large quantities and they are very absorbent. They are softer and more absorbent that wood shavings but can’t quite compare with the Kaytee Clean & Cozy. With that said, this is still a good value product and will keep your dwarf hamster comfortable and warm in his home.
Paper-based bedding material works well for small animals and is even soft enough for use as nesting material. You don’t have to worry about health concerns either, since this product was made from unbleached paper that has never been printed.
- Large quantities available for cheap
- Absorbent and soft
- Made from unbleached paper
- You will have to replace this material quite often to keep the smell in check
Kaytee Clean & Cozy – Cheap Hamster Bedding
Yet another upgrade in quality of bedding material, Kaytee Clean & Cozy is capable of absorbing double the amount of liquid than regular wood shavings. What this means is that your hamster cage will stay odor free for longer, and you won’t have to replace the bedding as quickly. Kaytee products are well-known for their odor control and this one is even rated “99% dust-free”.
Despite all of its benefits, the best thing about this product is its low price. The Clean & Cozy is considerably cheaper than premium products like CareFresh, yet boasts features that a premium bedding product would have. Just make sure to get the unscented version of this product because scented versions can harm your hamster’s breathing.
Furthermore, you’ll find that this bedding is fluffier and softer than CareFresh, making it an ideal nesting material for your hamster.
- Absorbent and soft
- Premium bedding without a premium cost
- May not be stocked in all pet stores
CareFresh Ultra – Best Premium Hamster Bedding
We’ve already mentioned CareFresh several times over this review and that’s because it is a premium quality bedding that is soft, clean, and nearly dust-free. You will find no traces of cedar or pine oils in it. CareFresh has a reputation for their superior odor control and longevitity. This product will last the longest out of all other hamster bedding before you need to replace it thanks to its superior absorbing capability.
CareFresh is most likely the healthiest, safest bedding you can get for your hamster because it does not contain any harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, a premium product like this comes with a premium price tag. However, if you have the budget for it, CareFresh is definitely worth the additional cost.
- Superior odor control
- No harmful chemicals
CareFresh Confetti Bedding – Best Colored Hamster Bedding
This brightly colored product has all of the same benefits as the CareFresh Ultra, except that it comes in a bright mix of colors. Though we typically recommend against using products that have been colored or dyed, CareFresh uses a hamster-safe dye that will not harm your hamster.
On top of that, you will not find another colored hamster bedding on the market that provides 10-day odor control. Another alternative is to get CareFresh Colors which, once again, is like the CareFresh Ultra but all in a single color of your choosing.
- Same benefits as the CareFresh Ultra
- The colors will keep your hamster entertained
Healthy Pet Critter Care Bedding – Cheap Alternative to CareFresh
You may not be willing to pay a premium for CareFresh, but this Critter Car wood pulp bedding can absorb three times its size in liquids and deserves to be considered as well. Though it still cannot quite compare to CareFresh, it does almost the same thing at a fraction of the cost.
For hamster owners who are looking for an upgrade to wood shavings, this is a great bedding choice if you don’t mind its blue color.
- Cheaper than CareFresh and nearly as good
- Nearly dust-free
- 100% hamster safe
- Odor control can be an issue
What is Hamster Substrate?
The material used on the bottom of your hamster enclosure is the substrate. Typically, this would be saw dust, wood chippings or other similar material. The purpose of hamster substrate is to provide a soft surface for your hamster to walk on, keep the cage clean, and provide material for building a nest.
What is Hamster Bedding?
Hamster bedding is any nesting material you put in for the sole purpose of letting your hamster use it to make a comfortable bed to sleep in. Typically, this would be placed inside a burrow or a hide in the cage.
Hamster Substrate vs. Hamster Bedding
So what is the distinction between these two terms? Indeed, most people use these terms interchangeably, however there is actually a difference. Covered above, substrate is used to line the floor of the cage whereas bedding is the material your hamster will sleep on.
Despite the distinction, you can get away with using the same material for both bedding and substrate. Your hamster won’t mind. Some hamster owners believe the optimal choice is to use wood shavings for the substrate, and carefresh for bedding. At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind is whether or not the materials you put into the hamster cage are safe for your pet hamster.
The Importance of Proper Hamster Bedding
Since there is a huge selection of various bedding and substrate materials that you can purchase for your hamster, each with their positives and negatives, the one you pick needs to make your hamster feel comfortable in their home. There is a possibility that some trial and error will be needed since each hamster is different.
Don’t worry, I’ve used many bedding materials over the years, and for the most part my hamsters are usually fine with what I put in the cage. Since hamsters, especially dwarf hamsters love to dig in their cages, you should pick a material that won’t hurt their feet as they shuffle around and do what hamsters love to do.
Hamster Bedding that is Harmful to Your Hamster
Sawdust: Mentioned earlier, this is the cheapest option by far but it is harmful to your hamster because of the dust.
Newspaper: Not just newspapers, but any kind of paper that has been printed on contains harmful chemicals that is toxic, especially if eaten.
Scented bedding: The reason why the bedding smells the way it does is because unnatural chemicals have been sprayed on it which can lead to respiratory problems for your hamster.
Corn Cob: Hamsters will eat it eventually if you do not replace it often enough, and that is harmful to them.
Various colored bedding: We recommended colored CareFresh products because they have been proven to be quite safe, however we cannot make the same promise for cheaper varieties of colored bedding that use lower quality dyes that can harm your pet.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why can’t I use sawdust for bedding?
Sawdust should not be used for hamster bedding because the dust it produces can lead to respiratory problems in your pet.
Can I use wood chipping for my dwarf hamster?
Yes, wood shavings such as aspen shavings are a great choice for hamster bedding. Make a note of avoiding pine and cedar shavings since these are not suitable for use with animals.
How often do I have to replace hamster bedding?
It is recommended that you do a full clean once a week where you completely replace all the bedding. Premium materials like CareFresh can last longer (up to 10 days) before you need to replace them.
Where can I buy hamster bedding?
Unless you want something really specific, your local pet store should stock a wide range of bedding and substrate materials for both Syrian and dwarf hamsters. With that said, you can also browse online to find the same products for cheaper.
What’s the best bedding for a dwarf hamster/Syrian hamster?
The information provided in this article applies to both dwarf hamsters and Syrian hamsters. Larger hamsters like the Syrian hamster prefer a dust-free bedding that is absorbent and soft. The best option is CareFresh, however aspen shavings can get the job done as well.
Once again, wood shavings should be used as a substrate in your hamster cage and for your hamster’s sleeping area, softer nesting material should be provided. You can find these nesting materials in pet stores or purchase them online. CareFresh, or similar soft beddings, can be used as both nesting material and substrate.
When it comes to selecting the best hamster bedding, there are various options for each price point. No matter how limited your budget is, do not use sawdust as bedding material. Stay away from scented or colored products unless it is from a reputable brand like CareFresh.
When using wood shavings, make sure the product is rated for use with animals (i.e. do not use cedar or pine). You can find most bedding material at your local pet store, but you may potentially get it for cheaper online.