[Update: We have added an infographic about hamster bedding at the end of the article.]
Safe Hamster Bedding
Hamsters are natural burrowers, and can dig to depths of up to 0.7m at times. It is important that you provide a safe substrate material that allows for proper burrowing and nesting.
A great way to test whether a bedding is safe for your hamster is to place a very small piece of the bedding in a small dish of water. As the bedding should be water-soluble, you should be able to see it disintegrate easily in the water. This is because hamsters tend to pouch materials in order to build their nests, and in the event your hamster accidentally ingests a small piece of bedding, you want to have bedding that can naturally and harmlessly pass through your hamster’s digestive system.
digging depths of up to 0.5 metres
How thick should the bedding be? How much bedding do I give my hamster?
Your hamster’s bedding should cover the entire cage and provide your hamster with ample room to burrow. The deeper the bedding, the better. Fun fact: German style hamster cages feature bedding depths of up to 50cm!
According to research conducted by the Division of Animal Housing and Welfare of the Vetsuisse Faculty at the University of Berne, cages with deep bedding depth (40cm deep and more) have been shown to enhance the welfare of Syrian hamsters.
Hamsters kept in cages with lower amounts of bedding displayed more tendencies for wire-gnawing and increased running wheel activity.
Adequate hamster bedding depth accompanied with the appropriate cage size also ensures better odour control; this is especially helpful if you have a hamster that is not potty trained.
enhances your hamster’s welfare
What types of bedding are safe for my hamster?
Here is a list of safe, HSS-approved bedding for your little furry buddy, including some of our favourite brands that are available in Singapore.
Aspen is the only safe wood-based bedding for hamsters. Aspen is a great choice if you’re looking for affordability and odour control.
Although aspen has a tendency to stick to the fur of certain species of hamsters, particularly long-haired Syrian hamsters, we still recommend it as a the go-to wood-based bedding. This is because the aspen sticking to the fur is merely a minor aesthetic issue and does not harm your hamster in anyway. Furthermore, simply brushing your hamster on a regular basis would not only remove the aspen from its fur, but also serve as a mini bonding session.
You can find aspen bedding at around $10 for a 57L bag from pet supplies company Kaytee and other brands such as Marukan. These are easily available online from retailers such as Lazada and Pet Lovers Centre (online), as well as at local, brick-and-mortar pet stores.
Warning! Do not confuse Aspen bedding with Pine or Cedar, as Pine and Cedar are both extremely toxic to your hamster.
a safe bedding choice that provides good odour control
Paper Based Bedding
Arguably the most popular type of hamster bedding in Singapore, paper-based bedding is widely available on the market and generally safe to use. Examples of HSS-approved paper bedding include Carefresh, Crittercare, Oxbow Pure Comfort and Kaytee Clean & Cozy.
Although pricier than aspen, paper-based bedding is popular in part due to its variety of fun colours like pink, blue, purple, green, which are great for spicing up cage aesthetics.
Warning! When selecting your bedding, do ensure that you stick exclusively to non-scented options. Scented bedding can contain toxins and are dangerous for your hamster, and should therefore be avoided at all costs.
a variety of colours to max out your creativity levels
offers odour control to help maintain cage conditions
Good old toilet paper is a great alternative to paper bedding, with the only drawback being the very limited odour control.
This means that, although toilet paper is both cheap and readily available, you will find yourself changing out the bedding much more frequently than if you were to use other bedding options, especially if you want your hamster and your home to continue smelling pleasant.
a safe and easy to find alternative
Soft Granule Blend by Kaytee
Besides their Clean & Cozy series, Kaytee has also come up with another lineup of pet bedding: the Soft Granule Blend series. This compostable bedding is made of recycled materials and is generally safe for your hamster.
However, as this type of bedding is not sturdy enough for your hamster to form tunnels or nests, we recommend using it as a supplementary bedding on top of either aspen or paper-based bedding.
Do remember to stick to unscented versions of this bedding. As a rule of thumb, scented beddings can cause damage to your hamster’s respiratory system and should be avoided at all costs.
You can find the unscented versions on Amazon.com, and we hope it will make its debut in the local pet supplies market soon.
kaytee granule & Paper pellets
paper pellets (grey) helps manage odour control, while the granule (beige) gives your hamster an additional material to nest with
Paper pellets, such as Breeder Celect Cat Litter and Nature's Eco Recycled Paper Cat Litter, are another safe alternative to aspen bedding. However, please note that, just like with Soft Granule Blend, this kind of bedding should be used as a supplementary bedding, with aspen or paper-based bedding as a main. Again, the reason for this is because these pellets are too soft and will not allow your hamster to burrow and nest properly.
Some kind of beddings, especially paper-based ones, can get “dusty”. A good solution to this is to sift through small amounts of bedding at a time with a handheld sieve before placing it into your hamster’s cage. To sift through larger amounts at one go, try pouring your dusty bedding into netted laundry bag and giving it a good shake. Of course, please do this outdoors or somewhere where it will be easy to clean up the mess!
In some countries, freezing the bedding is recommended to kill any harmful bugs that might be lurking in the bedding. Although these creatures are not common in Singapore, if you do opt to freeze your bedding, do remember to give it sufficient time to thaw out completely before placing it into your hamster’s cage; You wouldn’t want it to catch a cold.
We recommend creating a dedicated digging area for your hamster within the cage. This would provide your hamster with a designated space to burrow and “deep dive” in.
Try slowly increasing the depth of your hamster’s bedding in the cage by adding layers over time, creating a mountain-like bedding structure.
make one by putting extra deep bedding creating a “mountain” at a corner of your hamster’s cage
Although not nutritionally necessary for hamsters, soft hay can be given to your hamsters as additional bedding and nesting material. Do make sure that the hay is soft as stiff and sharp ones could poke your hamsters or hurt them when they try to pouch it.
gives your hamster extra materials to nest with and munch on
While hamster bedding comes in a variety of colours, the HSS-recommended colour is white. This is because it makes for easy observation of “potty spots”, which translates to easier cleaning, as well as greater effectiveness with potty training.
Most of the HSS-approved bedding brands available in Singapore that have been mentioned in this article (e.g. Kaytee Clean & Cozy, Oxbow Pure Comfort, Carefresh and Crittercare) offer unscented white bedding.
makes spot cleaning easy
Decorate with Napkins
Party napkins come in many fun colours and patterns, and coincidentally, make for great hamster cage decorations. Try adding some spice and zest to your hamster cage with a party napkin or two. You will find them in most party stores and home/furniture stores like Ikea, where they are often sold at reasonable prices. Shred them up to smaller pieces to make it easier for your hamster to work with.
add a little fun to your hamsters’ cages
All in all, choosing the right bedding for your hamster is important because it provides your hamster with a safe and suitable environment to burrow and nest to its heart’s content. Good and safe bedding leads to happy and healthy hamsters!
If you are interested in the detailed information about how we came up with our list of recommended beddings, and also why certain bedding types are considered hazardous, please check out our next article.
try a mix to see what your hamster likes to nest with
a hamster is given a mix of Kaytee Aspen, Kaytee Clean & Cozy (white) and Crittercare (blue)
· use paper based or aspen
· never use scented bedding
· give enough depth for burrowing
· ensure bedding given allows for nesting
To read our article on the dangerous types of hamster bedding you should definitely avoid, check it out here.
Hamster Central - Substrate Depth (http://www.hamstercentral.com/community/housing/68213-substrate-depth.html)
Hamster Hideout Forum - Burrowing Areas? (http://hamsterhideout.com/forum/topic/93456-burrowing-areas/)
Hamster Hideout Forum - Freezing Bedding Before Use (http://hamsterhideout.com/forum/topic/86100-freezing-bedding-before-use)
Hamster Hideout Forum - Tips for German style hamster cage? (http://hamsterhideout.com/forum/topic/142168-tips-for-german-style-hamster-cage)
Live Science - Hamster Facts: Diet, Habits & Types of Hamsters (https://www.livescience.com/27169-hamsters.html)
PawTalk.Net - Choosing bedding for your hammy? Avoid the “fluff” and other bad stuff (https://www.paw-talk.net/forums/f13/choosing-bedding-your-hammy-avoid-fluff-other-bad-stuff-4006.html)
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Science Direct -The influence of bedding depth on behaviour in golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016815910500393X)
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Wikipedia - Hamster, Burrowing Behaviour (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamster#Burrowing_behavior)