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Complete Guide to Hamster Bedding

The bedding in your hamster’s cage is vitally important for them to live a comfortable and healthy life in their cage. The bedding serves a number of different purposes, but most importantly it helps keep your hamster warm, comfortable, and cozy in their enclosure.

But keeping your furry friend comfortable isn’t the only thing it does. The bedding also keeps their enclosure dry by absorbing moisture, as well as provides material to make nests since hamsters are natural nest builders. And finally, the bedding can help reduce odors by soaking up unpleasant smells.

There’s going to be a lot of content covered in the following article all about hamster bedding, but if you’re looking for a specific section or question answered, click any of the links below to be taken to that section of the article:

Table of Contents

    Can a Hamster Live Without Bedding?

    A hamster needs bedding to live a comfortable, safe, and anxiety free life because it provides the necessary material for them to build nests, feel safe, and stay warm in their enclosure.

    can a hamster live without bedding

    A hamster’s bedding isn’t just for looks and it’s not just a decoration. It serves not just one, but many important purposes. The bedding serves as a nest building material that your hamster will use to build specific areas to sleep, burrow, and more. By depriving them of this material, they can start to feel anxious, which can have adverse health effects.

    Not only does the bedding help reduce anxiousness, but it will help keep them warm and reduce moisture in their enclosure. It will also absorb urine and other liquids that could make your little buddy sick.

    As a result, hamster bedding is required for your hamster to feel safe and healthy in their cage. And later in this article, we’ll cover what types of bedding are the best for your furry friend.

    How Much Bedding Should I Put In My Hamster’s Cage?

    The amount of bedding to put in your hamster’s cage ultimately depends on the size of the cage, but there are a few general rules that you can follow to ensure your hamster has enough bedding. Check out the following guidelines when it comes to your hamster’s bedding:

    how much bedding should i put in my hamster's cage
    1. Thoroughly cover the bottom: The bedding throughout the cage should be 2-3 inches deep, which is enough to allow them to build nests and burrow, but not too much that they can’t easily move around.
    2. Place in more bedding in their “bathroom” area: Hamsters generally like to use the same area of their enclosure to use the bathroom. That area becomes soiled more quickly and as a result needs to be replaced more often. However, you should place extra bedding in this area proactively to help soak up their excrement.
    3. Don’t use too much bedding: A common mistake that new hamster owners make is to put too much bedding into their enclosure. And the reason is that you don’t want to put too little, but then you over compensate and put too much. It’s a balancing act between too little and too much.

    Bedding is super important for hamsters, but it’s also important to provide the correct amount. Too little and they don’t have enough to feel safe and nest, which can cause anxiety. Too much and they start to feel suffocated and have trouble moving around.

    How Many Inches of Bedding Does a Hamster Need?

    How Many Inches of Bedding Does a Hamster Need

    The ideal amount of bedding for a hamster is 2 to 3 inches across the entire bottom of their enclosure. This is generally enough for them to build a nest, but not enough for them to have difficulty moving around.

    The 2 – 3 inches of bedding is used for your furry friend to burrow and build a nest. This is common hamster behavior and allows them to feel safe, comfortable, and warm in their enclosure.

    It’s also enough for you to monitor for areas where your furry friend is using the bathroom, so that area can be cleaned and replaced. It’s important to keep track of these areas so your hamster isn’t living in their own excrement. As soon as you notice a soiled area, it’s best to clean and replace it right area.

    However, too much bedding (more than 2 – 3 inches) can make it difficult for your hamster to move around, as well as cause respiratory issues. So don’t go too far in the other direction and give them too much bedding.

    How Often to Change Hamster Bedding?

    How Often to Change Hamster Bedding

    How often you change hamster bedding depends on a few different factors, but as a general rule of thumb you should be changing the entire bedding once a week. On top of that, there are a few other general rules to follow when it comes to changing bedding:

    1. Clean the entire enclosure once a week: You should be removing all of the used bedding and replacing it with new bedding at least once a week. This will help keep the enclosure clean and your hamster healthy.
    2. Spot clean dirty areas regularly: While you should change the entire bedding set at least once a week, you should be regularly checking for dirty spots (urine or defecation) and removing that soiled bedding as soon as you see it. Also, bedding that is wet from water spillage should be removed as well to keep your hamster in a dry and hygienic environment.
    3. Use appropriate and healthy bedding: Not so much a guideline of when to change hamster bedding, but rather what you should be using, always use bedding that is safe and healthy for your furry friend. More on this topic will be addressed in the sections below.

    Changing the bedding regularly will help keep your hamster happy, healthy, and comfortable. In addition to regular bedding, you’ll want to monitor their cage and spot clean dirty or soiled areas to prevent illness.

    How Long Does Hamster Bedding Last?

    As a general rule of thumb, hamster bedding lasts 1 week. You should be changing all of the bedding in their enclosure once a week on a regular basis to avoid health issues and keep it comfortable for your furry friend.

    After a week, hamster bedding can start becoming damp and it won’t absorb moisture as well. Not to mention it can become soiled and start to harbor bacteria that is harmful to your furry friend. And as the bedding remains damp, your hamster will become uncomfortable, won’t be able to burrow or nest, and will have a hard time staying warm.

    With that said, if you are diligent about removing sections of damp or soiled bedding ASAP then you may be able to extend the life of the bedding from 1 week to 2 weeks. However, it’s all about maintaining a dry and comfortable environment for your hamster. Regardless of when you clean their entire cage, you should be removing any soiled bedding as soon as you notice it, which is ideally within a few hours.

    Keeping your hamster’s enclosure clean and comfortable for them should be a priority for any owner and that’s best done by changing their bedding out at least once a week.

    Best Bedding for Hamsters

    The best bedding for your hamster will depend on your preferences and needs, but the best choice will likely be aspen shavings or shredded paper. Here is more information on those two options:

    Best Bedding for Hamsters
    • Aspen Shavings: Shavings like this are what you likely think of when you are imagining hamster bedding. It’s the most popular choice because they are safe, absorbent, soft and easily cleaned. The only downside to aspen shavings is they can get expensive if your cage is exceedingly large and there will likely be dust buildup. If you are prone to allergies, then shredded paper may be a better choice.
    • Shredded Paper: As an alternative to pricy aspen shavings, shredded paper is a great choice because it’s inexpensive (you likely already have lots lying around your home and more on the way in the form of junk mail) and is very absorbent like aspen shavings. However, something to keep in mind with paper is that you should get a real shredder to cut the paper into very small pieces. You don’t want to be cutting the paper by hand because it’s tedious and you likely can’t cut the pieces small enough.

    When deciding between aspen shavings and shredded paper, consider the pros and cons of each. Aspen shavings are likely the preferred choice of your furry companion and they’re very easy to clean, however they can get expensive and lead to dust build up. On the flip side, shredded paper is obviously inexpensive, but it’s not as easy to clean and you’ll likely need a large, professional shredder to cut the paper into small enough pieces.

    The choice is up to you, but something to consider is if you have a veterinarian appointment coming up, you can always get a professional opinion from someone who has experience with these types of small animals.

    What is the Best Hamster Bedding for Odor Control?

    When choosing a hamster bedding for odor control, you want a material that is highly absorbent to get rid of the foul smelling odors. The two best options are what we covered previously, shredded paper and aspen shavings.

    What is the Best Hamster Bedding for Odor Control

    Most odors come from liquids, such as spilled water or urine. The materials that absorb these liquids will also remove the accompanying smell. And by removing the bad smells, you’ll keep your hamster’s cage smelling clean and fresh.

    Just remember that you want to remove the odors and not mask them. And always think about your hamster’s health as a top priority. That means no Febreeze or other odor maskers that are made of chemicals. If you’re bothered by the smell, imagine how bad it is for your hamster.

    And while bedding can help, the best method for odor control is regular cleaning. That means cleaning the entire cage at least once a week and doing regular spot checks to remove soiled areas.

    Is Pine Bedding Safe for Hamsters?

    Is Pine Bedding Safe for Hamsters

    No, pine bedding is not safe for hamsters because it contains toxic chemicals and fumes that are harmful and it can break apart into small pieces that may pose a choking hazard. Use safer alternatives, such as aspen shavings or shredded paper.

    Pine bedding are aromatic and while you may experience a light and even pleasant smell, it can be overbearing and harmful to a small animals, such as a hamster. In large doses (ie. the amount of bedding for a hamster cage) the chemicals can damage the lungs and trachea of your furry friend. As a result, it’s best to avoid these types of bedding that pose a risk to hamsters.

    Safer alternatives, such as aspen shavings or shredded paper are preferred because they don’t contain these types of aromatic chemicals. When choosing the right bedding, you always want to err on the side of caution and go with something that is proven safe and comfortable for small animals.

    Can I Use Sand as Hamster Bedding?

    Sand is not recommended as hamster bedding because it can pose health risks to their lungs and cause irritation in their eyes. Sand is also harder to clean, more likely to contain harmful bacteria, and not easy for your hamster to build their nest.

    Can I Use Sand as Hamster Bedding

    There are much better alternatives for your hamster’s bedding than sand, such as aspen shavings or shredded paper. Those materials will give your hamster a much better ability to build their nest and burrow, while also protecting them from harmful bacteria and respiratory issues. Dust from the sand can cause irritation, not only for your furry friend, but also for you and anyone else living in your home.

    Not to mention that other types of bedding are easier to regularly clean, weigh less, and cause fewer messes.

    If you are looking for the best type of bedding, you should probably go with aspen shavings or shredded paper. The other sections in this article can provide more insight and detailed information, but as always if you have further or more specific questions, you should reach out to a veterinarian who can provide their professional opinion.

    Can I Use Toilet Paper for Hamster Bedding?

    No, toilet paper should not be used as hamster bedding because it is harmful to their respiratory systems, non-absorbent, won’t remove odors, and it is uncomfortable for hamsters.

    Can I Use Toilet Paper for Hamster Bedding

    Hamsters have delicate respiratory systems that can be harmed by even the most minor chemicals or fibers. Toilet paper will often fall apart into smaller pieces and those tiny fibers can harm your hamster’s lungs, throat, and trachea. As a result, it’s best to avoid these types of health issues by removing toilet paper from their enclosure entirely.

    Not to mention that toilet paper isn’t very absorbent and won’t remove odors as well as aspen shavings or shredded paper. There are much better options out there than toilet paper to keep your hamster’s cage clean and free or odors.

    On the flip side, toilet paper rolls make great toys, tunnels, and nests for your hamster. So just skip the toilet paper, but feel free to throw the roll in for them to use.

    Can You Use Hay for Hamster Bedding?

    Hay is not the best choice for hamster bedding for a number of reasons. There are much better options out there, but let’s go over a few reasons why hay is not the ideal choice:

    Can You Use Hay for Hamster Bedding
    1. Less Absorbency: Hay is not as absorbent as other types of bedding and this can cause problems with keeping your hamster’s enclosure dry, clean, and comfortable.
    2. More Dust: Hay produces a lot of dust that can cause respiratory issues for your furry friend. That dust can also induce allergies in you and other members of your household, not to mention dust will make your hamster cage smell more than it should.
    3. Bacteria and Germs: Hay is more likely to contain bacteria and germs that can cause health issues in your hamster, you, and members of your household.
    4. Harder to Clean: Hay is generally harder to clean than other types of hamster bedding, especially spot cleaning of soiled areas in your hamster’s enclosure.

    Better alternatives include aspen shavings or shredded paper because they are more absorbent, easier to clean, and less likely to harbor bacteria and germs. If you are thinking of a hamster bedding to use regularly, it’s best to avoid hay. However, if you need to use it as a temporary bedding, you shouldn’t have as many issues.

    As always, you can talk to your veterinarian for a professional opinion specific to your situation and your furry friend.

    Can You Use Sawdust for Hamster Bedding?

    Sawdust should not be used as hamster bedding because it can cause health issues, such as irritation to their respiratory system and eyes. This type of irritation is common in materials that are made up of smaller particles.

    Can You Use Sawdust for Hamster Bedding

    Bedding that is made up of smaller particles, such as sawdust, sand, or toilet paper is likely to cause more health issues. Hamsters are very small animals and these small particles can be ingested and cause additional and unnecessary health issues.

    Not to mention that sawdust is generally harder to clean, especially spot cleaning soiled areas. It also doesn’t provide the type of nest building material that hamsters need to live a comfortable life in their enclosure.

    All in all, there are better types of bedding that won’t cause these types of health issues, such as aspen shavings or shredded paper. If you’re thinking of a new type of hamster bedding it’s best to choose something healthy, reliable, and easy to clean.

    Can You Use Shredded Paper for Hamster Bedding?

    Shredded paper can be used as hamster bedding because it is safe, comfortable, easy to clean, and generally free of harmful chemicals. Here is more information on why it can be useful for your furry friend:

    Can You Use Shredded Paper for Hamster Bedding
    1. Safe and non-toxic: The most important factor when choosing a bedding for your hamster is whether it is safe for them. Some materials can contain small fibers or toxic chemicals, but shredded paper won’t hurt your hamster. Just make sure to use shredded paper that doesn’t have ink, paint, or other chemicals imprinted on it.
    2. Cheap and easily accessible: Shredded paper is both cheap and easily accessible. You probably have lots laying around your home right now and instead of throwing it away, you can shred it and repurpose it into safe and comfortable bedding.
    3. Easy to clean: Shredded paper is easy to regularly clean and quickly remove soiled areas without trouble. Just make sure to shred the paper into small pieces.
    4. Hamsters can create nests: Hamsters love to create little nests and burrow into their bedding material. Shredded paper makes this very easy for them.

    The only downside to shredded paper as a bedding is that it may not be as absorbent as something like aspen shavings. If odor control is something you’re worried about, then you should probably stick with aspen shavings.

    Additional Reading

    There’s lots of information covered in this article, but if you’re interested in reading more or checking out related products, check out the links below for additional reading:


    And there you have it! There’s so many important uses for hamster bedding that aren’t well known, but are vitally important to your hamster buddy living their best life. From acting as a warm and cozy nest material to absorbing unpleasant odors and moisture, you should ensure the bedding used in your hamster’s enclosure is the best for them.

    You should be adding enough bedding to be comfortable, changing it regularly, and using the right type of bedding to avoid any health issues. All of these may seem simple, but they are a key component of your hamster living a comfortable life.

    If you have other questions, feel free to search our site and related articles or call your veterinarian for information specific to your situation.