If you’re the proud parent of a furry little guinea pig, then you know they require lots of love and attention. But there’s one more important element that should be taken into consideration when caring for your pet: bedding.
Comfortable, reliable bedding is essential in making sure your furry friends live their best and healthiest lives. After all, we all need a quality snooze to function at our best.
Fortunately, there are a number of different types of guinea pig bedding options available out there; you just need to know which is best for your pet. Not familiar with any bedding types for guinea pigs? Perfect — this guide will help you find the ideal bedding for your furry friend.
Tip: Getting a guinea pig for the first time? Check out this guide for pet parents on the best cages for guinea pigs so they arrive to an incredible home.
Best bedding materials for guinea pigs
With so many different types of bedding for guinea pigs available, you should be choosing one of the following.
Fleece bedding for guinea pigs
As evidenced by its popularity, fleece cage liners are easily the top bedding type for guinea pigs. These small animals love this fluffy bedding for its warmth, comfort, and softness; guinea pig parents love it for the ease of cleaning it.
Its high-absorbency qualities means that it readily catches urine and feces, allowing them to be cleaned easily the following day.
Another advantage to fleece bedding is that it’s lightweight and economical in the long run, as you can use a single one for years. Fleece is often recommended for cavies with allergies or sensitive skin as it doesn’t have dust or other toxic particles. Of course, this is only true when they’re cleaned frequently.
Perhaps the best thing about fleece bedding for guinea pigs is that you can make it yourself or purchase it. By creating it yourself, you save money and can add a bit of personal style to make it unique to your furry baby. Purchasing fleece bedding is expensive initially but will cost you less than other types in the long term.
Need help with readying your guinea pig habitat with fleece? Check out this guide on how to set up a guinea pig cage with fleece.
While fleece is amazing, there are a few things you’ll need to be aware of before deciding on it. For instance, hay and fur can stick to the fleece, while poop can sit on the material, meaning you’ll need to clean more frequently. The fleece bedding doesn’t conceal odor and can actually start carrying an odor if not cleaned properly.
Regardless, your cavy will love you for this comfortable bedding. Just be sure to give them a good dusting off before inserting them into your furry friend’s cage.
Recommended option: GuineaDad Liner
Paper bedding for guinea pigs
Paper-based bedding (not newspaper) is the second-best choice for guinea pig owners who want to make sure their pet is comfortable. The material is absorbent and makes for soft bedding, so it’s easy on your guinea pig’s little feet. However, not all paper bedding is made equal — only the high-quality types offer these benefits.
Natural paper bedding is extremely popular among piggy parents because of how cheap and easily accessible it is. However, the costs can add up over time. You’ll also love paper bedding because of its ease of use. When cleaning your furry friend’s cage, all you need to do is pick it up and replace it — that’s it.
High-quality paper bedding comes free of any harmful scents, although there’s always a bit of dust found in them. The dust is often in small amounts, but it can become an issue if you aren’t a responsible owner as it will build up over time.
Plus, paper bedding is incredible for concealing scents to ensure a great environment for both you and your cavy. Just be sure to keep an eye on any curious guinea pigs that may try eating paper bedding: this can lead to a tummy blockage.
Another benefit? Paper bedding is usually made from recycled materials, so you’re also helping the planet.
Recommended option: Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Paper Bedding
Hardwood shaving bedding for guinea pigs
When considering wood bedding as an option, you should always go for hardwood shavings. Unlike softwood options (more on these below), hardwood bedding doesn’t have toxins and particles that can lead to health issues. While there are a few different types to choose from, you’re better off with aspen or kiln-dried pine shavings.
Kiln-dried pine shavings
Kiln-dried pine shavings provide a comfortable and safe home for guinea pigs. This type of bedding is superior to aspen shavings, mostly because of its high absorbency.
Unlike soft pine shavings, kiln-dried pine shavings have a weaker pine smell and less aromatic oils (phenols). Both the smell and oils can irritate your cavy’s respiratory system. This is thanks to how kiln-dried pine shavings are processed to extract harmful particles.
This material is also popular for its odor control and low initial costs. It can be found in most pet shops. However, it’s messy, costs more than the first two options in the long run, and needs to be replaced constantly. Even with the low presence of dust and phenols, you’ll need to ensure your cavy’s in a well-ventilated cage to avoid any illnesses.
Aspen shaving is another type of hardwood shavings that are safe for cavies of all ages. High-quality aspen shavings come without any dust or harmful scents, so be sure to avoid lower-quality products with either present. Aspen soaks up urine well — although not as absorbent as kiln-dried pine shavings — and controls odor well.
Another benefit of aspen shavings is that they’re easy to use and clean; you can just scoop them up and be done. Although they frequently need to be changed, they’re easily accessible at pet shops and are cheaper than fleece.
Just beware that you may find your cavy trying to nibble on these, and they can be a little rough on feet compared to either fleece or paper options.
Recommended option: Small Pet Select Premium Natural Aspen Bedding
As they’re both shavings of some sort, it’s best to keep either hardwood shavings away from cavies who have open wounds from surgery, for example. The pieces can enter into these wounds and cause irritation or even an infection.
Hemp bedding for guinea pigs
While hemp bedding isn’t as popular (for now), it’s one of the safest and best options you can get for your guinea pig. It’s made from the hemp plant and offers a host of benefits.
Since it’s made using hemp that grows quickly without using harmful chemicals, it’s non-toxic, meaning it’s safe for your guinea pig’s skin. Due to how fast hemp grows, you’re also making the more sustainable choice compared to all other bedding types, bar fleece.
Unfortunately, hemp bedding isn’t easily found at pet stores, it’s not as soft as options like fleece, and can be costly in the long run.
Regardless, you’d still be making a good decision getting hemp bedding. It’s highly regarded for its high absorbency and how well it can mask odors. Be sure to get dust-free options only; even the low-dust varieties can cause irritation for your furry buddy’s respiratory system.
A bonus is that the hemp plant tastes terrible, so your cavy likely won’t try to eat it — once bitten, twice shy.
Recommended option: RentACoop Premium Hemp Bedding
Bath mat bedding for guinea pigs
Instead of purchasing brand-new bedding for your guinea pig, why not use bath mats? While not the most popular option, they’ve been soaring in popularity among guinea pig parents.
Bath mats are ideally designed to provide comfort and warmth to your pet. They feature a soft base and are highly absorbent and dust-free, but only when cleaned properly. The one advantage they have over fleece materials is that they don’t need to be wicked before use.
Many also have non-slip bottoms so your little friend can stay cozy when running around their cage. Additionally, bath mats are economical compared to options like fleece or paper; you can reuse them frequently when cleaned properly. Like fleece, bath mats are easy to clean — throw them in the washing machine with mild detergent, and voila.
On the downside, bath mats do require more frequent cleaning than other bedding types. Also, not every bath mat will fit into your cage, requiring a little more labor from you.
Newspaper bedding for guinea pigs
Before commercial paper bedding swept through the small pets world, everyone relied on newspapers for their guinea pig’s humble abodes.
While newspapers have dropped in popularity, they’re still popular makeshift bedding for owners on tight budgets or for emergency options. However, you shouldn’t use newspaper on its own — its ability to combine with other options is the reason they aren’t in the “to avoid” pile.
On their own, newspapers are able to keep guinea pigs warm and offer a decent level of comfort. They’re also great for poop as they’re easily replaceable when soiled with droppings or hay. You only have to pick it up, throw it in the trash can, and insert a new newspaper.
However, there’s a slew of issues that come with using newspapers alone. Firstly, they are not absorbent at all and can thus make cleaning nastier than it needs to be, plus the paper can tear apart.
Their lack of absorption also leads to the dispersion of ink, which can be harmful to guinea pigs. Non-absorbent material often becomes the breeding ground for bacterial issues and odors.
Secondly, the newspaper is kind of soft, but it’s not as soft as the other options above. If your cavy has sensitive feet, they may develop bumblefoot. Lastly, newspapers can be ingested and cause stomach issues.
So, when can you actually use newspapers? Newspaper is only recommended when used as a liner underneath one of the above materials. Even then, you’ll need to clean it frequently to avoid the excess dust that may follow if it’s not replaced often.
Guinea pig bedding options to avoid
As you can see, there are a number of incredible bedding options for guinea pigs, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. On the flip side, there are certain bedding options that are actually popular but should be avoided. These include the following:
Softwood shaving bedding for guinea pigs
Softwood shavings have been used by a lot of guinea pig parents, especially newer ones. Softwood shaving bedding like cedar and pine is popular thanks to its fresh and amazing smell, easy accessibility, and cheap costs. They’re also perfect for masking urine and poop odor.
However, these are owner-only benefits, and this type of bedding does more harm than good. Pine and cedar shavings all have aromatic oils (phenols) that can lead to respiratory problems and liver disease.
Corn cob bedding for guinea pigs
Corn cob has also been popular as a guinea pig bedding option, but they don’t have any benefits either. Firstly, corn cobs are prone to mold, which can cause illness to your furry friend. Secondly, due to their sizes, corn cobs may be ingested by the guinea pig. Unfortunately, they can cause stomach blockages when eaten. They can also be rough on a guinea pig’s feet, potentially leading to sores.
Straw bedding for guinea pigs
Straw bedding isn’t suitable for guinea pigs for a variety of reasons.
Straw offers close-to-no absorption, which means urine can build up if not cleaned frequently. It also doesn’t soak up the odor, which can lead to a smelly environment for both of you.
Straw also isn’t comfortable for guinea pigs to walk on; it’s a stiff material that can harm sensitive cavies.
Hay bedding for guinea pigs
Hay bedding, related to the drier straw, is popular among guinea pig parents, and it’s easy to see why. Cavies enjoy hay, and you may find this to be their natural bedding option.
However, hay bedding isn’t as good as many think it is. For one, it isn’t super comfy for any small animal to live on it. It’s also terrible at absorbing urine and doesn’t mask odors well.
Plus, if you have a cavy that loves eating, it may lead to overfeeding, which can be quite a problem.
Final thoughts on the best guinea pig bedding options
As you can see, there are a wide variety of options for bedding for guinea pigs — as well as a few popular materials that you should avoid. From soft options like fleece and bath mats to economical commercial paper and natural fibers like hemp bedding, each have distinct characteristics that make them good.
Ultimately, the choice is yours to make based on what you feel is best for your particular pet. When selecting bedding, think about your guinea pig’s chewing and scratching habits, allergies, and any other specific needs they may have. But above all else, think of their comfort and how much they’ll love their environment.
Now that you’ve given your cavy good bedding, here’s a list of fruits guinea pigs can eat.
Steph Dyson is a travel journalist by trade but a lover of all small pets. She’s been a pet mum to everything from gerbils to guinea pigs, rabbits to hamsters, and fish to dogs of all shapes and sizes. She wants to share her years of experience with small pets and make Small Pet Guides the go-to website for pet owners seeking information and care advice.