Many owners are unsure of what type of bedding is best for their guinea pigs. This blog doesn't tell you which is the best bedding, it gives an overview of the main options for bedding. There are several options of bedding/cage lining material for guinea pigs. Each has their own pros and cons and it is important to make a choice that works for both you and your guinea pigs. Each owner will have different priorities when it comes to selecting a bedding/cage lining material.
Aspects of bedding material to consider:
Comfort- a good bedding material will be soft on guinea pigs' feet. Abrasive substrates can contribute to pododermatitis (foot lesions).
Absorbency - ideal substrates will be highly absorbent so your guinea pig does not get wet feet or undercarriage (they are potatoes on legs after all). The best materials for cage lining will also wick the moisture away so the layer in contact with your guinea pig remains dry.
Nontoxic - the material needs to have no adverse effects when in contact with guinea pigs. It must also be non-appetising so your guinea pig is not prone to eat it.
Dust Free - to reduce respiratory symptoms and allergies.
Neutralise Odour- this is for everyone's benefit, including your guinea pig. No one likes a lingering aroma!
Insulation - ideal bedding will provide some insulation to keep your guinea pig warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Cost - understanding your budget when selecting the material. Some options may seem expensive at first, but in the long term they can work out to be more cost-effective.
Eco friendly- environmental impact varies between the options.
The main bedding substrate options for guinea pigs include fleece cage liners, cloth, paper and wood shavings.
Fleece cage liners:
These are fast becoming a very popular option especially for indoor housed guinea pigs. Not all fleece liners are the same. Some will contain fleece on both sides, some have a water repellent base layer, and others will have a central absorbent layer.
Personally, I feel that a good cage liner should have 3 layers. The top layer being soft and allowing urine to pass through it. A middle highly absorbent layer that is good at wicking moisture away from the top layer. Finally, a base layer, this could either be fleece again or a water repellent material.
Fleece liners are the most expensive option in terms of initial cost but are very cost effective in the long-range as they can be washed and used repeatedly.
Pros- soft, dust free, absorbent, eco friendly and cost effective in the long run
Cons- expensive initially, require frequent washing, rare for guinea pigs to chew it
Essentially the cheaper version of the fleece liner. Towels or bed linen can be repurposed to use for guinea pigs. Ideally natural materials like cotton should be used, they tend to be more absorbent than synthetic materials. Cloth materials are not as good as fleece liners at wicking moisture away so will need changing more frequently.
Pros- soft, dust free, cheap, non-toxic
Cons- not good at wicking moisture, can get smelly quickly, need more frequent washing
There are several different options when it comes to using paper. I would generally advise against newspaper. The type of ink used for print can vary and newspaper breaks apart when wet. Commercial paper bedding can be found as pellets, confetti or shavings. I would look for options that have no additives and have the least amount of dust. Good paper bedding brands are highly absorbent, can reduce odour and are soft on the feet.
Pros - soft, absorbent, recycled varieties eco friendly
Cons - can contain some dust still, needs changing regularly and therefore can be higher cost over time, some guinea pigs may attempt to eat it
If going for the wood option, it is important to have shavings and not sawdust due to the dust levels. It is important to understand what the shavings are made from. Safe woods for guinea pigs can include Aspen, Ash, Kiln Dried Pine.
Pros - initially quite cheap, easily available
cons - can be abrasive on the feet, can be dusty, not as absorbent as other options so can be more expensive in the long run Remember that your choice for bedding/cage lining substrate should be what is best for you and your guinea pigs.