Hamsters / Small Furries

Substrate Safety – Know your options!

Hamster bedding can be a silent killer if you don’t do your research and decide what is best for your pet. Many supermarkets will sell big bags of wood chips, which you would think would be okay for your furry little friend, but beware there could be hidden health concerns to consider.


The wrong kind of bedding can cause breathing problems for your hamster, which can then turn into respiratory infections, which are hard to treat. To avoid your new best friend getting sick, follow this guide to finding out what kind of bedding is good, and which kind is bad.



Lupin on Carefresh bedding with tissue and hay for nesting material





Pine and Cedar wood bedding can be deadly to your hamster, due to cedar trees producing natural chemicals and toxins that prevent the tree from being eaten by insects. Pine trees produce the same sort of chemical, and both of these chemicals and toxins can cause respiratory infections in your hamster. The same can be said for most supermarket bedding. If there is no specified wood on the pack, then it is best to be safe and not get it. To be safe, consider any other wood bedding like Apple or bamboo wood.





Aspen is fantastic wood bedding that does not give your hamster respiratory infections. Aspen can be used in woodland themed cages, or just something new for your hamster to explore. Sometimes you might think your pet shop doesn’t sell it, but fear not! You can still use the aspen from the reptile section of your shop. Check there before giving up!




Sawdust is incredibly bad for your hamster, as they would spend all day breathing in the dust. If you think about yourself living in a room filled with sawdust, then imagine how much you would be coughing!




Carefresh is the best alternative for hamster bedding as it is widely available in pet shops like Pets At Home. While it can be a little bit expensive to buy, Carefresh is made from reclaimed paper pulp waste that is recyclable and very safe for your pet. It’s also very soft, and can be used as nesting material! Carefresh substrate even comes in all kinds of different colours like pink, blue and rainbow, so you can make your hamster’s cage look as pretty as you would like.




Scented wood shavings usually contain nasty chemicals that can harm your hamster, and scented substrate is not needed. If you’re worried about your hamster getting your room smelly, then try using paper bedding with good absorbency like Carefresh or Aspen.




Wood pellets are very safe for hamsters, but they’re not very comfortable for your furry friends to sleep on. They’re better than the unsafe substrates that might make your hamster ill. Hamsters can’t really make their burrows in this sort of bedding, so consider an alternative bedding if you can or combine this with another bedding.




Ruben on Carefresh bedding





In my experience I have tried two top brand pet beddings that I have had little success with. The first I tried was Megazorb, which you can buy on Amazon in huge bales. I found this bedding to be incredibly dusty and unfit for either my Roborovski hamster or my Long Haired Syrian hamster. If it was making me sneeze from just opening the bag then imagine what my poor fluff balls had to breathe in for the months I was using it. I would not recommend this bedding for a hamster from the dust alone, but I also had issues with my Syrian’s fur. His fur matted from the bedding, and huge clumps of it had to be cut out of his fur. Thankfully he seems to grow his fur back pretty well, but I would hate for this to cause him more stress. For this reason I would not recommend Megazorb for your hamster.


Another bedding I tried was Aubiose. Aubiose is a bedding used primarily for horses and is made from a safe wood. It acts like Aspen but is a lot thicker in the chunks of wood used to make up the bedding. I found this substrate to be less dusty than the Megazorb but still dusty enough to make me sneeze. This bedding does not hold burrows well and my Roborovski doesn’t like to dig in it at all. This being said it’s absorbent enough to do the job, and isn’t a bad substrate if you’re desperate for one.


Hemp bedding is the latest substrate I have tried. The hemp bedding I use is in another language so I cannot read the packaging, but from a little research I found that it is basically another wood based substrate that acts similarly to Aubiose and Aspen. This hemp bedding I use is very similar to Aubiose in how its acts, and again my Roborovski has found it hard to make burrows in it. For that reason I will not be using hemp or Aubiose for my robo anymore. My Syrian doesn’t seem to like making burrows as much as my robo does. He prefers to dig in his sand rather than the bedding. This substrate is fine for him because of these facts.


Carefresh seems to be the only bedding I have tried that holds burrows perfectly. My roborovski loves Carefresh and will make complex burrow systems inside his cage. I will be returning to Carefresh for his bedding until I can find a cheaper alternative that gives him the same results. I know a lot of people have had a dusty experience with Carefresh, but after buying half a years worth of the stuff I can honestly say I’ve never had an issue. Maybe some batches are dustier than others? Maybe I was just lucky enough to not get a dusty batch? Who knows?


There is one bedding that the hamster community raves about that I have yet to try. Fitch is next on my list as soon as I use up the hemp and Aubiose bedding I have left over. Fitch is very similar to Carefresh and is made In the UK from recycled paper. If it helps the environment, I’m in! If my hamsters can make burrows, then sign me up! I will update this article when I have bought, tried and tested Fitch bedding.




(Left) Auiose bedding and (Right) Hemp bedding



Now you know what kind of bedding you can choose from to help your little buddy settle into their new home! Make sure to always provide clean drinking water in a dish or a bottle, and plenty of wood to chew on that is pet safe. If you’re unsure about a wood bedding, then be careful! Go with paper bedding instead.


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