Pine wood shavings are a popular bedding for guinea pigs but are they a good option and are they safe for your small pets?
Is pine bedding good for guinea pigs?
Pine bedding is a good choice for guinea pigs but it is important the wood shavings have been processed correctly so they are safe for these small pets. In this article we explain what you need to look for in a good pine bedding and discuss the pros and cons of pine wood shavings.
What to look for in good pine shavings
When buying pine wood shavings, you will need to make sure they are:
- Kiln dried
- Dust extracted
- Shavings and NOT sawdust
- Soft & comfortable
- No added ingredients such as scents or colours
Kiln dried pine bedding
If you’re considering this bedding option, it is essential you use the kiln dried pine shavings because pine that has not gone through this specific drying process is dangerous for your guinea pigs.
Pine contains aromatic oils (or aromatic hydrocarbons also known as phenols) which are known to cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs.
As guinea pigs are particularly prone to respiratory illnesses it is important to buy the kiln dried pine shavings because the drying process removes most of these oils making it safe to use as bedding.
You will still find that some people recommend against using these shavings. However, the largest guinea pig welfare organisation and rescue in the US (LA Guinea Pig Rescue) use pine bedding for their guinea pigs. As highly experienced piggy experts they wouldn’t use anything that would be harmful and would certainly know if these shavings were creating health issues in the guinea pigs.
Dust free shavings
It is important the shavings you use are dust-free because dust will also aggravate a guinea pig’s respiratory system and may result in a serious life-threatening illness.
Always check that the pine shavings you buy are labelled as “dust extracted”. This means they have been through the dust removal process and should be safe. Even then, you may find some brands that are not as well dust extracted as others so you may need to experiment with different brands to find the best one for your piggies. We recommend the Pillow Wad pine bedding or the Shorefields Pine Shavings which works out great value for such a large bag.
Wood Shavings are NOT Sawdust!
Shavings are completely different to sawdust which should NEVER be used for your guinea pigs. Sawdust is literally wood dust and should be completely avoided for these small pets.
Anything dusty is a health risk for a guinea pig so please take care when choosing your bedding.
The pine wood shavings you use as bedding for your guinea pigs should feel soft and not hard or abrasive to the touch.
If they don’t feel soft to you they are not going to feel good to your guinea pigs either. Remember that guinea pigs do have sensitive skin and feet and will spend much of their time either running around on the shavings or lying on it.
Check the shavings you buy don’t have any sharp pieces and have some fluffiness to them. If they are in any way rough or sharp, they are not suitable as bedding.
Absorbency & smells
Pine wood shavings naturally absorb your pet’s urine extremely well. It tends to be drawn down to the bottom so that the surface is not damp. The poops also get mixed up within the shavings so your piggies are not constantly walking on them.
This means your guinea pig’s coat and feet are more likely to stay clean, providing you do a regular cage clean.
Pine shavings work extremely well to reduce any smells. Guinea pigs aren’t smelly pets but their housing can start to smell and they themselves can also get a bit pongy if the bedding isn’t absorbent.
The pine shavings have a natural pleasant smell and if you are sensitive to bad smells, this bedding would be a great option for you to use for an indoor guinea pig’s cage.
Pine bedding is also great for an outdoor hutch. Bad smells attract flies and they can be extremely harmful to your guinea pigs so the more absorbent the bedding is, the safer your outdoor guinea pigs will be.
Avoid buying any pine bedding that has any added fragrance as this can be an irritant to your pets and is an unnecessary addition.
Cleaning a hutch or cage that has pine shavings
You will need to do a full hutch or cage clean once a week if you use pine bedding. You should also check each day for areas that may need spot cleaning.
If your guinea pigs have a favourite spot where they like to go to the toilet, the shavings in these areas may need scooping out.
Most guinea pigs will pee and poop in the darkened areas of their housing and also wherever it is they eat their hay so this is most likely where you’ll need to spot clean most often.
Hay in sleeping areas
Adding hay can make a sleeping area nice and cosy for them. If you have a wooden house in the cage or some other hidey such as a pigloo, put a pile of soft bedding hay in there too so they can snuggle into it.
This is particularly important if you have outdoor guinea pigs. Adding hay to their sleeping quarters will not only make them feel safer but in the colder months will help to keep them warmer, especially if you stuff hay inside a hidey within the sleeping quarters.
You could alternatively use fleece hideys in an indoor cage but pine shavings do tend to stick a bit to fleece so you'd need to give them all a good brush out before putting in the washing machine. If you want to use a natural bedding with fleece hideys, hemp is a great alternative because it doesn't stick so much to the fleece and you can quite easily brush it off with just your hands.
Pine bedding can be messy
It is worth bearing in mind that pine bedding can be a little messy as, depending on the type of cage you have, some shavings may get kicked out of the cage and end up on the floor.
Of course, this won’t matter if you have outdoor guinea pigs but, if you have indoor piggies and you’re a very tidy person, this may bother you.
If you have a cage that is made of wood with a perspex front, most of the shavings should stay in the cage but if you have a caged front then you are bound to get some shavings on the floor at some point.
However, all guinea pig bedding is messy apart from fleece so if you want to be completely mess-free, you may want to consider fleece liners instead.
Can you compost pine wood shavings?
Pine bedding can be composted but it does take some time to rot down. Guinea pig poops make excellent compost so if you do have the ability to compost your bedding, this saves on waste and is great for the environment.
Other types of wood shavings
Although pine bedding is suitable for guinea pigs, not all wood shavings are good for these small pets.
Cedar wood is extremely high in the aromatic oils that pose a serious health risk to guinea pigs so these shavings must NEVER be used as bedding for these small pets.
However, aspen wood shavings don't contain any of these dangerous oils and makes a great bedding for your guinea pigs.
When NOT to use shavings
If you have a hairless guinea pig such as a Skinny Pig or a Baldwin, you should use fleece liners. These guinea pigs have very delicate skin and need a very soft bedding so their skin doesn’t become irritated.
If you have a guinea pig who has had an operation and has stitches, fleece bedding should be used as they will be sore and require super soft bedding so their wounds can heal properly.
Quality vs cost
Different brands of wood shavings will vary in quality so it’s important not to just opt for the cheapest one which may not be kiln dried or dust extracted. Even when the wood has gone through these processes, quality will vary depending on how thorough the manufacturer has been.
Bear in mind, if you buy low quality shavings and your guinea pig develops a respiratory illness, you could end up with expensive vet fees which could far outweigh any financial benefit from having bought cheaply.
Pine bedding: pros and cons
There are always advantages and disadvantages to any bedding option so here are the pros and cons of pine shavings:
- Good value and economic to buy
- Pleasant aroma
- Absorbs well
- Lasts well between cleans
- Can be composted
- Can make the cage look like a more natural environment
- Need to keep buying it as it’s disposable bedding
- Can be messy
- Although it can be composted, it is slow to compost down
Pine wood shavings are a great bedding for your guinea pigs because they are absorbent, have a pleasant natural aroma and are a soft natural bedding that is gentle to their delicate skin. However, it is essential you buy good quality shavings that are kiln dried and dust extracted.
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