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What Is The Best Bedding For Guinea Pigs?

Choosing the appropriate bedding for your guinea pigs is fundamental to providing a safe, comfortable, hygienic environment. With so many bedding options available, finding the best one can feel overwhelming. 

In this article, we will look at the six best types of guinea pig bedding that I personally recommend, all of which are available to buy in the UK:

  1. Pine Bedding
  2. Noodle Bath Mats
  3. Fleece Liners
  4. Paper Bedding
  5. Hemp Bedding
  6. Aspen Bedding

I have tested all of these with my own guinea pigs and will share my experience on the advantages and drawbacks of each. This information will help you determine the most suitable bedding for your setup.

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guinea pig on natural paper bedding
Guinea Pig on natural paper bedding

Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Bedding?

Guinea pigs require bedding primarily for hygiene and comfort, ensuring their living environment is both clean and cosy. Here’s why bedding is so important:

Absorption of Urine

Bedding is essential to absorb urine, which keeps a guinea pig’s coat from becoming damp, dirty, and smelly. This helps prevent health issues and ensures the comfort of your pet.

Comfortable Living Space

Providing your guinea pig’s enclosure with bedding creates a soft and cosy place to rest, sleep and exercise, encouraging natural behaviours and contributing to their overall well-being.

guinea pig enclosure with hemp bedding
Guinea pig enclosure with hemp bedding

What to Consider When Buying Guinea Pig Bedding

In selecting the right bedding for your guinea pigs, you should consider their comfort, health and safety. Here are the aspects to consider when choosing the best bedding for your small pets:

Dust-Extracted

Bedding must be low in dust or dust-extracted. Guinea pigs are particularly sensitive to dust, which can lead to respiratory problems and other health issues. The cleaner the air around their living space, the healthier they will be.

Guinea Pig Care Sheets - Printable PDF Download - Checklists, Logs and Information Sheets

Comfortable Texture

The delicate feet of guinea pigs can quickly become sore from bedding that is too rough or contains sharp pieces. Ensure the bedding you choose has a comfortable texture; a good test is to scrunch it in your hand. It won’t be comfortable for your guinea pig if it doesn’t feel comfortable in your hand.

Unscented or Naturally Fragranced

Avoid bedding with artificial fragrances, as these can irritate the sensitive respiratory systems of guinea pigs. If the bedding is scented, ensure it’s a natural and safe fragrance. 

Absorbency and Odour Control

High absorbency is critical in guinea pig bedding. It keeps the enclosure dry and hygienic, preventing the uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions that come with dampness. Good absorbent bedding helps manage odour, making the living environment more pleasant for you and your guinea pigs.

Indoor or Outdoor Guinea Pigs

Outdoor guinea pigs are best with disposable substrate rather than washable bedding. This choice is more hygienic due to the potential for dampness. Indoor guinea pigs can have either type of bedding.

Hairless Guinea Pigs and Their Bedding Requirements

Washable bedding is the best choice for hairless guinea pigs due to their sensitive skin, which is susceptible to irritation and soreness from many disposable bedding materials.

Recommended Bedding Options for Guinea Pigs

Each of the bedding options recommended below is suitable for your guinea pigs. At the end of this section, there is a table summarising the advantages and disadvantages of each.

1. Pine Bedding

Pine shavings are the most popular disposable bedding due to their affordability and wide availability. With an aesthetically pleasing natural appearance, they absorb urine efficiently, have a naturally pleasant scent and are effective at masking odours.

Guinea pigs on a mix of pine shavings and hemp
A mix of pine shavings and hemp

Opting for kiln-dried pine shavings is crucial, as the drying process removes natural oils (phenols) found in pine wood, making it safe for use in your guinea pigs’ habitat.

The texture of pine bedding can vary, with some options being dustier or more abrasive than others. Therefore, selecting a variety that is not only dust-extracted but also gentle on your guinea pigs’ delicate feet is crucial. 

As an added benefit, pine is a sustainable substrate, and the shavings can be composted. However, it does take longer to decompose than some other disposable bedding options.

Please note that pine shavings are different from sawdust. Although sawdust may be appropriate for some small pets, it is unsuitable for guinea pigs because of its dusty nature.

Rating: 8/10 – Check Price on Amazon

Guinea Pig Care Sheets - Printable PDF Download - Checklists, Logs and Information Sheets

2. Noodle Bath Mats

Noodle bath mats may seem an unusual type of bedding for guinea pigs, but they have grown in popularity among guinea pig enthusiasts over the past few years.

Noodle bath mats in guinea pig enclosure
Noodle bath mats

Also known as bobble bath mats, this alternative bedding provides a soft and cosy environment, which guinea pigs love. Their gentle texture ensures no irritation to the sensitive skin of hairless breeds, a common issue with some disposable beddings. They are reusable and come in many different colours.

Bath mats need regular washing and drying to ensure a sanitary living space for your guinea pigs.  Before washing, it’s necessary to shake out the mats to remove any bits of hay and excess hair. Fortunately, most of these bits come off easily. 

While the additional laundry will result in extra energy costs, bath mats are almost dry when they come out of the wash. This reduces the need for extended drying times, making them extremely convenient. 

Noodle bath mats represent a cost-effective solution. Their durability means long-term savings on bedding expenses, making them a good investment for the care and comfort of your guinea pigs.

Rating: 9/10 – Check Price on Amazon

3. Fleece Liners

Fleece liners have long been a favourite bedding choice for guinea pig owners for the same reasons as bath mats. They share similar benefits but are also available in many designs with patterns and also with pockets for the guinea pigs to hide inside.

Guinea pig sitting on a Guineadad Fleece Liner
A GuineaDad Fleece Liner

Despite their popularity, these cage liners are more expensive than bath mats and have a longer drying time. Hay and hair tend to stick to fleece, making the liners more challenging to clean by shaking out. If you’re interested in using fleece liners, you can find out more about them here >

Rating: 8.5/10 – Check Price on Amazon

4. Aspen Bedding

Aspen shavings are an excellent alternative to traditional pine bedding. They don’t contain the oils that pine does and have good absorbency and odour control.

Guinea Pig on Aspen Bedding
Aspen bedding

Although aspen bedding tends to be more expensive than pine shavings, it makes a good choice for those who want to use shavings but have reservations about using pine.

Aspen is a sustainable wood and gives your setup a natural look. The shavings can be composted after use, although they take longer than hemp to break down.

Rating: 7.5/10 – Check Price on Small Pet Select 

5. Paper Bedding

Paper bedding is a cosy and soft option for your guinea pigs, available in white or natural light brown. However, choosing products that are natural and safe for your pets is crucial. If opting for white paper bedding, ensure it’s unbleached to avoid harmful chemicals.

Guinea pig on paper bedding
Natural brown paper bedding

Although it tends to be pricier, many guinea pig owners find the softness and aesthetics of paper bedding worth the extra cost. I found this substrate was less absorbent than wood shavings or hemp, requiring more frequent changes.

Although some paper beddings are compostable, others might not be due to the types of fibres used in their production. Small Pet Select offers a great range of paper bedding specifically designed for small animals including:

Please note that shredded paper is unsuitable as it won’t absorb efficiently; instead, use bedding specifically made for guinea pigs. 

Rating: 6.5/10 – Check price on Small Pet Select

6. Hemp Bedding

Hemp bedding is derived from the stalks of the hemp plant. Thanks to its natural resistance to many pests, it’s typically grown organically, without the need for chemical pesticides or herbicides.

Guinea Pig On Hemp Bedding
Hemp Bedding

This bedding has antifungal and antibacterial properties, making it an exceptionally hygienic choice for guinea pig habitats. When guinea pigs urinate, the liquid moves to the bottom layer, and the hemp fibres clump together, which helps keep your guinea pigs dry and comfortable.

Hemp bedding, often referred to as Aubiose in the UK, tends to contain significantly less dust compared to wood shavings, contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for both guinea pigs and their owners.

A potential drawback of hemp bedding is its lack of softness compared to other types of bedding. However, you can resolve this issue by using hemp in one section of the enclosure while placing fleece liners or bath mats in another. This approach works well because hemp does not stick to fleece as much as shavings, making cleaning more straightforward.

The hemp plant grows faster than trees making it much more sustainable than the wood and paper-based alternatives. 

Rating: 9/10 – Check Price on Amazon

Bedding TypeAdvantagesDisadvantages
Pine ShavingsAffordable, good absorbency and odour control, sustainable and compostable, comfortableTexture and dustiness vary
Noodle Bath MatsCost-effective, soft and comfortable, decent absorbency and odour control, washable and reusable, various colours, quick-drying, dust-freeRequires regular washing, extra energy costs
Fleece LinersSaves money over time, soft and comfortable, decent absorbency and odour control, washable and reusable, various colours and designs, dust-freeMore expensive to buy initially, longer drying times, extra energy costs
Aspen BeddingFree from harmful oils, good absorbency, good odour control, sustainable, compostableMore expensive and not quite as absorbent as pine 
Paper BeddingCosy and soft, can be naturally colourful or fragranced, some types compostable, aesthetically pleasingMay require more frequent changes, some types not compostable, expensive, absorbency not as good as other beddings
Hemp BeddingOrganic, antifungal, antibacterial, sustainable, less dust and composts quicker than other disposable beddingsNot as comfortable as other bedding types
Pros and Cons of Various Bedding Types

How Much Bedding Do Guinea Pigs Need?

Guinea pigs require bedding that is thick enough to fully cover the floor of their enclosure, with an additional layer for comfort. The exact thickness depends on the fluffiness of the bedding material. For instance, paper bedding, being fluffier, should be layered more thickly compared to denser materials like hemp bedding. This improves absorbency and provides a comfortable for your guinea pigs.

How Often Should I Change My Guinea Pig’s Bedding?

The frequency of changing your guinea pig’s bedding varies, ranging from every couple of days to once a week. Factors influencing this include the cage size, the number of guinea pigs, and the bedding type. This could mean cleaning every few days or extending it to a week. Larger cages with fewer guinea pigs allow the bedding to last longer, while smaller cages require more frequent changes. Washable and paper bedding types need to be changed more often than shavings or hemp bedding and spot cleaning is always necessary in between major cleans.

How To Transition From One Bedding To Another

Switching bedding types for guinea pigs is usually straightforward, as they adapt well to new substrates. Guinea pigs are naturally curious animals and will often excitedly explore their enclosure when presented with a new type of bedding, taking in the different feel underfoot and the new smells. Despite the changes, monitoring them for any signs of discomfort or allergies is important. However, a gradual change is unnecessary, thanks to their adaptable nature and eagerness to investigate their new environment.

guinea pig in soft bedding hay
Bedding hay in a section of the enclosure adds enrichment

Bedding to Avoid

When considering bedding options for guinea pigs, it’s important to avoid certain materials that could harm your pet:

  • Cedar Shavings or Non Kiln-Dried Pine Shavings: You should avoid using non-kiln-dried pine and cedar shavings as they contain harmful aromatic oils that can be detrimental to your guinea pig’s health. Opt for kiln-dried pine or aspen shavings instead.
  • Sawdust: Due to it’s dusty nature, sawdust should not be used as bedding as it poses a significant risk to a guinea pig’s sensitive respiratory system.
  • Newspaper: Newspaper alone is not a good bedding choice as it lacks sufficient absorbency, though it is helpful when used as a liner beneath other bedding materials as you can simply roll up the bedding within the newspaper when cleaning out.
  • Disposable Puppy Pads:  As guinea pigs like to chew things, disposable puppy pads are unsuitable for guinea pig enclosures due to the risk of ingestion, which can lead to internal blockages.
  • Straw: Lacking absorbency, straw is not suitable for guinea pig bedding, and it is very stalky, which can result in nasty eye injuries.
  • Hay: Although hay is not suitable as the primary bedding material due to its tendency to quickly become soggy and smelly, guinea pigs do enjoy burrowing and lying in it. So you can add a generous pile of soft bedding hay into a designated area of the enclosure, as this will significantly enrich your guinea pigs’ environment.
  • Cat Litter: Due to its additives and texture, is inappropriate and potentially harmful as bedding for guinea pigs.
  • Pellet Bedding: It’s not a good idea to use pellet bedding as the main bedding option as it isn’t very comfortable. But you could use the safe  it in one section under a big pile of bedding hay for absorbency.
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