Bedding Options

Hamster Bedding & Nesting Material OptionsThere are two types of bedding materials you need to provide. One is the material that goes down on the floor of the cage or habitat. The other type is a nesting material that goes into the sleeping house. There are a handful of different options that include: woods, papers, grasses, and grains. These materials can come in the form of shavings, pellets, and stripes.Deciding on which type of bedding to get depends on a few factors including: the type of cage you have and the type of hamster you have. But really, it’s kind of a trial and error process. Some hamsters might have allergies to certain types or they might like to eat other types. Additionally, some might just be messier with their bedding than others.

The amount that should be placed into the bottom of the cage depends on the type of material you use and the behavior of your little pet The room temperature of where the cage is placed will also be a factor. Again, it’s a bit of trial and error since every hamster is slightly different than the other. If a hamster likes to fluff its bedding a lot, a small layer can expand into a lot. Shoot for 3-4 inches for Syrian breeds and slightly less for dwarfs. If anything though, too much is better than not enough, especially when the room temperature is cooler.

Wood Shavings

Wood shavings are the most popular and type of material when it comes to bedding. Not every type of wood shavings or chips is healthy for your hamsters though. Avoid cedar and pine woods because they contain phenol chemicals that can cause respiratory and liver problems. Instead, if you choose to go with wood shavings, go with a safe hardwood like aspen. The drawbacks of wood however are that it’s not really absorbent and will require daily cleaning of the bathroom area or you will need to teach your pet how to use a litter box. Additionally, if you have a long-haired breed, wood shavings can become entangled in their hair.

Wood Shavings for Hamster Bedding

A great alternative to wood shavings include the following brands

Carefresh Pet Bedding

  • Made from wood pulp waste
  • Resembles shredded cardboard
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Non toxic and biodegradable
  • Good for burrowing
  • It’s absorbent

Sani Chips

  • Made from aspen or maple
  • Smell fresh and clean
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Good for burrowing
  • Absorbent
  • (con) Scatters Easily
  • Acceptable in aquariums

A Note On Cleaning Bedding

Each week soiled bedding should be removed and replaced. Each month the majority of the bedding should be changed and replaced. Mix a little bit of the old bedding in with the new so the hamster’s scent is still present. Doing this will keep them from becoming stressed out.

See more about cleaning a hamster cage

Wood and Paper Pellets

Wood and recycled newspaper pellets are ideal bedding materials since they don’t scatter as much and they are more absorbent than wood shavings. Pellets won’t get entangled into the hair of long haired breeds. In regards to pellets, pine is okay to use as long as the wood has been heat treated. Wood pellet brands include:

  • Feline Pine
  • Pine Fresh
  • All Pet Pine
  • Barnaby Farms
  • Gentle Touch
Hamster Bedding of Wood Pellet

Recycled newspaper pellets for bedding are good because they are non toxic, biodegradable and the don’t scatter but they are slightly dustier, harder on the feet of a hamster and are only so effective in odor control. Brands to look for are ones that are softer than the standard paper pellet and include:

Cell Sorb PlusYesterdays News

Is Shredded Paper Okay for Hamsters

Shredded Paper

Shredded paper is one of the easiest to make and most used types of pet bedding materials. Paper material made for pets consists of long narrow stripes of confetti-like paper. They come in several different colors. White paper is ideal because it will help show if your hamster has an illness or is bleeding from an injury. (see below why you should avoid newspaper).

Hay or other Grasses and Grains

Hay is sometimes used as bedding but it can get entangled in the hair of long-haired hamsters. Never use hay collected from the fields though since they can contain mites. It’s also not a good idea to use a straw because it has sharp ends and can injury your hamsters.

Hay for Hamster Habitat

Hamster Nesting Materials

Hamsters don’t just sleep anywhere, they like to sleep in a sleeping house. It’s a small enclosed space where a hamster can feel comfortable. The nesting materials in these houses should be good for burrowing and soft on the hamster’s face and feet.

Safe Hamster Bedding

Paper products like shredded stripes of paper or toilet paper are ideal for nesting because they are soft and can easily be burrowed into. Towel stripes are also a suitable nesting material. Make sure the paper products are nontoxic and contain no inks. The inks can smudge off onto the fur or a hamster and stain the fur.

Cotton Balls Not Good for Hamster Nesting Materials

Nesting Materials to Avoid

Proper care involves that you avoid using bedding materials that contain the following materials:

  • Cotton balls
  • Polyester stuffing
  • Felt stripes
  • Cotton batting
  • Coconut fibers

Only use these materials if you know for a fact that they are made of natural plant fibers or reconstructed cellulose. The reason being is that the list of materials above are hard to digest and can cause problems on their digestive system. These materials can get stuck and impact a hamster’s cheek pouches, stomach, or intestines. Additionally, the long stringy materials can get tangled around a hamster’s feet. Finally, coconut fibers are sharp and can cut your hamster’s feet.

Guide to Hamster Care
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Reviewed By: Tim Winter

Tim Winter has a strong affection for pets and wildlife. His years of experience caring for various types of pets has led him to share his knowledge with others on the best practices in pet care. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.

43 thoughts on “Bedding Options”

  1. can i use sand for my panda bear syrian hamster. i got her yesterday and i am using woodshavings. is that okay or should i immediately change it?

    • I use half sand and half of the kaydee white bedding. Make sure it’s play sand and never get anything with calcium in it. You also will need to sift through it with a sifter to make sure no rocks get in there. It works wonders and depending on what wood shavings it is you should be good. It’s good to have a variety of different types of bedding so that way they have different things to dig into and it helps prevent boredom.

  2. I just bought a Robo dwarf hamster a few days ago and as a first timer with a hamster I get worried easily because I don’t know if he feels comfortable with what I had bought him. I’m currently using a soft type of paper bedding (I don’t know how to explain it) and I’m worried if that’s the cause of him scratching himself all the time. Sometimes he would scratch the top of his head, his side, and belly. I don’t know for sure if this is because of the bedding or if he’s allergic to something so if it’s okay to ask can I have some advice on what to do when this happens? Thanks

    • I think the scratching is okay, he’s probably only cleaning himself. I’m not exactly sure, but my Robo does that too, and I have aspen (wood) bedding.

      • Robo Hamsters can get itchy in Winter from dryness. Put a little vaseline behind ears. I use paper bedding in a glass fish tank and my hamsters love to tunnel….no issues. If itchiness continues always seek specialty vet. Do your own research, don’t depend on Pet Store.

    • Hamsters can be allergic to certain woods or hays but I have never encountered a hamster allergic to any kind of paper. If he is new to is cage he is probably just a little stressed from moving. Only be concerned about itching if you see blood, bugs, he looses weight or fur. Like if he has bald spots or thinning fur can be a sign of old age though too but if your robo is under 3 then losing hair is bad. Robos usually live 4-5 years despite what pet stores say also please take the advice they give you at petco or petsmart with a grain of salt and do your own research I recommend YouTube channels like Victoria Rachel, erins animals and munchies place for hamster info.

  3. I have 2 panda hamsters and a teddy bear. I am allergic to all trees so wood shaving and straw r no good as my husband is allergic. So what inexpensive alternative is best to use

  4. So can I use all natural pine bedding it says on the bag its naturally toxin free, naturally fresh scent, naturally odor absorption. And its dust free, and kiln dried. Should I keep using it? This is what the pet store told me to get, I just got my hamster two days ago. Its a dwarf hamster. He seems to be eating it instead of the food I have for him as well.

  5. I just bought a bag of pine bedding for my new hamster I got today because that’s what my mom picked out. I told her about how it’s toxic and I’m not sure if I should get new bedding right away or if I should use the bag and switch next time I go to the store.

    • Personally, I would replace the pine bedding right away. Your hamster will also be easier to tame and handle if the feel better, and with breathing problems they don’t.

  6. I have seen other materials such as sand and some stuff that looked like grass or dirt. Not so much for bedding but in play areas or around the food dish. Any ideas about this?

    • Chinchilla sand can be used for burrowing and bathing. NEVER bathe you hamster with water as they can get very sick. They enjoy the sand and often use it as a toilet which makes it much easier to clean the cages. I would not put the bowl with sand near the food dish.

  7. Since syrians from desert may i use sand in habitat with bedding duchcas chinchilla sand and the habitat tunnels look very tight on hercnow when should they be taken out? Butcshe does love to go sround in her tunnels snd burycher food.?

  8. Hello can we make our own shredded paper bedding by just using the shredded paper out of our shredders at home ? Sorry if sounds silly but finding the other bedding is causing allergies with us at home. Thank you

    • Yeah that works. Use white paper. You can make substrate out of plain white toilet paper (instructional videos on youtube) that’s better at absorbing urine, takes more effort to make it but don’t need to change as often as with shredded paper.

  9. Are pine toys safe for hamsters? I am having issues with finding hamster toys that state what wood type they’re made of and when I do pine is listed.

  10. i just a new hamster . i dont know what to use on the bottom. The women at store told me to bird litter. Is it good for hamster?

  11. I am using birch wood shavings… it’s a hardwood like aspen so it’s safe..
    Also, I think it’s more comfy compared to aspen coz my hamsters love to sleep on it

  12. Hi,
    I have a foreign bedding called benelux houtzvel and I dont know if it is pine, it looks like pine shedding, I want to change it but my moms not agreeing saying that its what the pet shop told us. I also noticed that they started sneezing after I cleaned their cage like after two or a day I cleaned it. I dont know if their is carefresh in our mall we live in UAE.

      • Similar to what we look like when we have a cold, redness, wetness, sneezing and sometimes wheezing or some additional effort needed to breath.

    • I couldn’t locate this bedding so I’m not sure what it is made out of. It could be pine or it could be aspen or something else. When you run out, ask the pet store what it is made out of. If they have a cellulose (paper product) option, go with that next time around. Just make sure the cage has some good ventilation.

    • You should avoid pine bedding since it contains toxic chemicals that can harm your hamster. stick to wood shavings made from hardwoods like aspen. But I recommend using Sani Chips or Carefresh bedding. It’s less dusty and more absorbent than wood shavings.

      • Yeah um ive been using the Northern white pine bedding for the first time but I dont notice aany harm aalso in the pacage it said that supposully it was clean and that they cleaned it many times for your hamsters helth something like that
        And i am very afraid to change it if it sose do harm because Jill (my hamster)just had pups what should I do

      • Yeah, you should definitely wait to change the bedding. The bedding might indeed be safe like the manufacturer says but usually that type of wood is not safe. In my opinion though, I’d switch to the Carefresh or Sani Chips. I’ll have to look into the bedding you are talking about to see if it truly is safe, which it might be.

      • We have our 1st hamster and it was kind of confusing what bedding to buy since there were 3-4 choices. I went with the pine. It’s “Easy Clean bedding and litter….says it’s 100% Canadian Pine softwood…so I sure hope it’s ok.

    • hardwoods are okay but I tend to prefer the carefresh and sani chip. the timothy hay and fluff can be used as nesting materials in their sleeping house. hay can be pointy though and scratch up a hamster.

      • No fluff is dangerous it can get stuck in hamsters cheeks and throat. It can also can get tangled around hamster limbs and cause stress and cut off blood. Also in one case a hamster chewed through its own leg just to get the fluff off, sadly the hamster died. So DO NOY USE FLUFF!

  13. Hi, i have three hamsters 1 is a male syrian and the other two are chinese.
    I use wood shavings for the floor of the cages and fluff for their bedding.
    Although recently i have noticing them all scratching alot and i dont believe they have mites or anything like that so i was wondering if it could be the wood shavings or bedding? Does anyone know what it could be?

    • It depends, what kind of wood are the shavings and what kind of fluff do you use? take the advice on this post and it should eliminate any allergies and what not. You can find out if your hamsters have mites on this post.

    • They actually don’t like to be bathed. See this post on hamster sand bath. I’m not entirely familiar with mosquito bites and hamsters but I do know they can carry diseases which can kill your hamster. I f the bite is itchy, your hamster might keep gnawing at the bite which can lead to an injury. I think moms are usually right so you should keep your hamster indoors if you are worried about insect bites.

  14. Hi! We just bought a hamster last week and were given a free cotton pod (the size and shape of a sweet potato). Mikey, our hamster, really really loves it! He built a nest that looked like a big cloud! I never knew a hamster could get so excited and look so happy! 🙂 But I read at another site that those pods are not safe. What do you think??

    Also, paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls are okay to put into his cage, right?

    And lastly, should we change water daily or is every other day okay? what about food?

    Thank you!

    • Yeah, I’ve never really heard of paper towel or toilet paper rolls causing any problems for a hamster. I have heard of some hamsters eating the cotton fibers of cotton balls that gave them problems with their digestive tract. It’s not a given your hamster will try to eat the cotton but it’s probably better to be safe than sorry and avoid any stringy fibers like cotton. Toilet paper is a good alternative but you can also do a shopping search for hamster nesting materials.

      If you have a water bottle, you probably don’t have to change it daily but a dish will get dirty fast and will need to be changed daily. See hamster food for info on feeding your hamster. 🙂

  15. This helped me alot of picking new Bedding for my Syrian Hamster. So thank you very much!

    Oh, and you did a Little Typo at Care Fresh Bedding. It should be Good no Goo xD.

    • Unfortunately, I’m not the best editor and I’m sure the site is filled with little typos. Thank you for pointing it out though. I’m glad you got some good info from this post. 🙂


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