Guinea Pig Bedding
When it comes to guinea pig bedding, there are several things to keep in mind. This includes your guinea pig’s health, litter efficiency, and cost. Guinea pigs are highly sensitive to olfactory stimuli. Strong scents and inhalants can be particularly difficult for them and they can develop allergies to certain inhalants. This means that you want to choose a bedding type that is as lightly scented as possible. There are also two parts to guinea pig bedding- the under-bedding, which is usually comprised of wood shavings or another absorbent material, and the actual bedding top layer, which is meant to provide a soft surface to increase guinea pig comfort.
Aspen is the most highly recommended guinea pig bedding type. It’s a hardwood shaving and hardwoods are preferable over softwoods like pine and cedar because they don’t have the heavily-scented phenols that are associated with softwoods. However, Aspen can be difficult to find, especially in large quantities.
NEVER use cedar or corn cob. The former is toxic to guinea pigs and the latter can cause intestinal blockages that require medical intervention if ingested. Some people claim that pine shavings are also toxic to guinea pigs, while others state that they’ve used it as bedding for years with no difficulty. If you do choose to use pine shavings due to their low cost, make sure you only use kiln-dried pine. If it doesn’t say kiln-dried, it was probably air-dried, which means all of the aromatic phenols present in the shavings are still in high concentrations and can be harmful inhalants or allergens to your guinea pig. Additionally, let the pine shavings sit out for a while if the pine smell is strong to reduce the aroma before placing them in your guinea pig cage, or take them back to the store. You should only use pine in well-ventilated cages.
Wood pellets are also an option for the under-bedding portion of the pen. They’re very absorbent, but they dissolve into a damp sawdust when soiled with urine. Wood pellets are also result in messier clean up and a solid under-bedding foundation requires a large quantity of pellets, which are very heavy. You also want to be sure there are no accelerants added. If they are added, this means they’re meant for wood pellet stoves and not for pet bedding. This option is decently cheap though, with a 40 pound bag costing around $5 and they last a few days longer than pine shaving and paper-based beddings.
CareFresh brand also offers a litter that can be used as under-bedding. It’s non-clumping and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pens. It’s also low dust, very absorbent, biodegradable, and compostable.
The last option for under-bedding is the least expensive and most renewable, but it requires more frequent cleaning. This is the use of towels as under-bedding. You read that right- towels. Think of it as being the guinea pig equivalent of reusable cloth diapers! You can place these beneath your selection of top layer bedding and change it out every few days. The general rule for bedding is that it should never smell. If you clean it out when it starts to smell, back it up a day each cleaning until you get to the point that it’s a day before it ever starts to smell.
Bedding Top Layer
One of the most-used and best commercial pet bedding is CareFresh brand bedding. It’s highly absorbent, safe, comfortable, and made from repurposed paper and wood pulp. It’s also biodegradable and compostable. This bedding goes on top of the shavings or litter to provide a soft floor for your piggies and suppress the ammonia odors from their urine. This type is also great for nesting and burrowing!
Using hay as a top layer of bedding may be cheaper than using CareFresh as it’s easier to buy in bulk. However, you’d have to store a hay bale somewhere and this bedding isn’t very absorbent, which means you have to change it approximately every other day to maintain a clean, dry, odor-free environment.
Finding the right bedding for you and your guinea pigs really comes down to finding your personal balance between clean up efficiency, cost, and your guinea pigs’ health and happiness. When shopping for bedding, consider purchasing through online stores such as Amazon to find bulk deals! Happy bedding buying!
Further reading: Guinea pig care related articles
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