Paper Bedding

long haired ginger guinea pig

One of the popular types of disposable bedding that guinea pig owners use in their cages is paper bedding. There are many different brands including Carefresh, Small Pet Select and Kaytee to name just a few and they will all differ slightly in quality and performance. 

We’ve tried and tested the Small Pet Select Soft Paper Bedding with our guinea pigs to see how paper bedding measures up for absorbency, softness, safety and price.

Is paper bedding good for guinea pigs?

Paper bedding is a safe and good option to use for your guinea pigs but there are several things to look for in this bedding. 

Not all brands of paper bedding are the same and there are some things to avoid when buying this substrate for your guinea pigs.

What to look for in paper bedding

When buying paper bedding, you will need to make sure it is:

  • 99% dust free
  • No artificial colours or dyes
  • Unscented
  • Unbleached
  • Virgin paper and not recycled or reclaimed
Guinea pig lying down on paper bedding under  a  bridge
Mr Jaffas making himself comfortable on the paper bedding

Dust free paper

There will always be a degree of dust in paper or wood bedding but it should be labelled as at least 99% dust-free. When you open the packet and begin to spread it around your cage, you will be able to tell if it has too much dust. 

It’s important to bear in mind that guinea pigs are very low to the ground and are constantly on the bedding you choose for them. Dust is a major irritant to their delicate respiratory systems.  

Guinea pigs are highly susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections and these can be fatal if not picked up early. It’s essential to keep dust levels to a minimum to reduce their risk of becoming ill.

No artificial colours, dyes or fragrance

There are some brands of paper bedding that come in various colours including multi-coloured paper bedding. Although these substrates might look great, any additives, especially artificial colourings and perfumes can be an irritant for a guinea pig’s skin or respiratory system. It’s essential to look out for these when buying and avoid them, opting for the more natural alternatives.

Natural unbleached paper guinea pig bedding
Natural unbleached paper bedding

If you’re buying white paper bedding, make sure it says “unbleached” on the description. The more natural paper is more often a natural brown colour. If it doesn’t specify that it is unbleached, we recommend you opt for a different brand that is unbleached.

Odour control

Although it is important a bedding has good odour control, it is also essential that this is a natural feature of the bedding and not a fragrance or chemical based odour control. 

Because guinea pigs have sensitive skin and respiratory systems, it’s important their environment is as natural as possible. Any additives included in their bedding may be harmful to these delicate pets. 

Does paper bedding need added odour control?

There is no need for paper bedding to include perfumes or odour control formulas as a good paper bedding doesn’t smell unless it is overdue for a clean.

We find the natural paper bedding from Small Pet Select masks odours really well and the bedding has nothing added to make it work in this way. This paper substrate simply masks the odours well without the need for additives.

How absorbent is paper bedding?

We found paper bedding to be pretty absorbent. It absorbed better than fleece liners and performed equally well to the aspen shavings, although it wasn’t quite as absorbent as the pine shavings or hemp bedding.

How often should I clean out paper bedding?

Guinea pigs will tend to pee and poop in various places, but they often have a favourite spot where it is dark. That’s where you may be more likely to find a pile of poops and damper bedding. 

It’s important to spot clean daily to remove any of these poop heaps or bedding where it has become soggy.  The dampness tends to filter down to the base of the bedding but if left for too long the top layer can also become damp which is something  you need to avoid.

In our test we found the paper bedding needed a complete change after 5 days. It didn’t smell at all but there were a few areas that would have become too damp and unhygienic if left longer. You may find it lasts a bit longer or a bit less but checking daily will help you decide when they need a full clean.

Remember that the size of your cage and the number of guinea pigs will also have a bearing on how long your bedding will last.

Why choose natural virgin paper bedding?

You might want to buy reclaimed or recycled paper bedding because it’s good for the environment. But although it is eco-friendly, it  isn’t necessarily good for you guinea pigs.

Paper that has been recycled may have previously been printed with inks. These residues can remain in the paper and may be harmful. Not all recycled paper bedding will have been made from printed paper but it’s important to check this before buying. 

Reclaimed paper can also have dangerous chemicals in it so this should also be avoided.

Always look for paper bedding that states it is “virgin”. Small Pet Select bedding is 100% natural virgin paper and is made from leftover food grade material and sourced in a sustainable way too.

Small pet select paper bedding label  on package
Small Pet Select Paper Bedding

Is it safe for guinea pigs to nibble the paper bedding?

Guinea pigs will sometimes nibble on bedding. You should make sure they have constant  access to hay and are fed a good diet as well as having plenty of safe toys and boredom breakers in their cage for enrichment. If you don’t provide these essentials, you may find they nibble a lot more on the bedding. However, even with all they need in their cage, you can not prevent them munching on the odd bit now and again. 

Chewing things that contain chemical additives can pose a danger to their health. By providing them with a 100% natural bedding without additives, they are unlikely to have problems from ingesting the occasional piece.

Is paper a soft bedding?

Many people love paper bedding because it is soft and fluffy and makes a good cosy cage. It is softer than wood shavings, hemp and megazorb. The only other bedding that is softer than paper is fleece.

Can you compost paper bedding?

Paper bedding can be composted providing it is 100% natural and doesn’t have any chemicals added. You can put it in a compost bin or on a compost heap but do bear in mind that this may take longer than normal vegetation such as veggie peelings etc to break down.

Quality vs cost

Paper bedding tends to be more expensive than wood shavings but it’s important you don’t just pick the cheapest brand. Consider the points we’ve made and buy a good quality brand. If you find it too expensive you may want to consider using a different bedding type such as pine shavings or hemp bedding.

Is shredded paper ok to use for guinea pig bedding?

Shredded paper isn’t a good bedding for guinea pigs. One reason for this is it has probably been printed on and this can contain toxins which are dangerous for your small pets. 

Secondly, paper bedding that you buy for guinea pigs is soft and fluffy whereas shredded paper is not. The fluffiness is not just for comfort but also gives the paper its’ absorbency

Shredded paper will not be very absorbent and will most likely get very soggy very quickly which is unhealthy and unhygienic for guinea pigs and will also be bad for odour control.

Is newspaper good for guinea pig bedding?

Newspaper isn’t suitable as a bedding because it has ink which is not safe for guinea pigs. It is also not absorbent and will simply become wet, soggy and smelly. You should not use newspaper in your guinea pig cage.

Paper bedding: pros and cons

Because paper bedding varies between brands, we’re showing you the pros and cons of our recommended paper bedding from Small Pet Select:

Pros

Cons

  • Need to keep buying it as it’s disposable bedding
  • Can be messy (like all disposable bedding)
  • Can be expensive

In summary

Paper bedding is a lovely soft and fluffy bedding which provides a cosy environment for your guinea pigs. Small Pet Select paper bedding is 100% natural and safe without any additives. This bedding has natural odour control which meant no smells in the guinea pig room! 

Paper bedding can be more expensive than some other guinea pig bedding options but if you are going to use paper, don’t buy cheap – buy safe!. We recommend the following brands:

  • Small Pet Select Soft Paper Bedding (virgin paper and 100% natural with no additives and 99% dust free.
  • Carefresh Natural – this is made from reclaimed natural fibres. The manufacturer of this bedding states on their website  “….make our own paper using raw, natural fibre obtained directly from the source”. We recommend you avoid the coloured papers and opt for the natural version instead.