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The Best Bedding for Your Furry Friends

Little animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils can make great pets for you or your kids. They don’t require as much time, commitment, or attention as larger animals like cats and dogs, but they’re still cute, cuddly, and playful. They don’t require as much space either, which may be an important factor if you live in a small condo or studio apartment. Or maybe you want a furry companion and your apartment complex or dorm doesn’t allow dogs and cats, but smaller pets are okay. Whatever your reasoning, if you decide to buy a little furry friend, one item that’s necessary for their cage is bedding. Metal and plastic cages alike will have hard, often cold, bottoms, so soft bedding will make the cage cozier for your pet. It gives them warmth, protection, and a comfortable place to curl up and sleep. Many rodents like to nest and/or burrow, so bedding allows them to act on their natural instincts. You’ll appreciate it, too, since it absorbs waste, urine, and odors to ensure that your pet’s cage remains drier and less smelly in between cleanings. Here are some bedding options for small animals that we recommend.

What to Consider in Small Animal Bedding

Here are a few things to think about before buying small animal bedding:

  • Material: The best bedding for small pets is made from wood and paper. Wooden bedding can come in large chunks, pellets, or fine-cut shreds. It’s easy to find, inexpensive, and reasonably absorbent for urine and odor, but its dust and oils can cause health issues in pets if they inhale or eat it; look for kiln-dried wooden bedding as it’s less dusty, oil-free, and overall much less toxic. Paper bedding is made of recycled paper or cardboard and contains little dust and no oil, so it won’t cause any allergic or adverse reactions in your pets, even if they eat it. It’s also very absorbent, though paper bedding will require more frequent changing since it gets wet and soggy when oversaturated. Corncob bedding is also a choice, though it’s less common. It’s inexpensive, free of oils and dust, and absorbent, but it also requires daily changing as it tends to become moldy when wet. Synthetic fiber bedding (such as cotton) should also be avoided as it’s a big choking hazard for small pets.
  • Quantity: Small animal bedding is sold in multiple different sizes, usually measured in liters. Though the actual quantities vary, it tends to be a product sold in bulk as you should be cleaning your pet’s cage once a week at the absolute minimum, so you’ll go through it pretty quickly. How often you’ll need to change the bedding will depend on the type and how absorbent it is. How much fresh bedding goes into the cage after cleaning is dependent on how large the cage is, the size of your pet, and how much they like to burrow, dig, or nest. A small gerbil probably won’t need as much bedding as a rabbit, for instance. Most bags of bedding come in the 20-to-40-liter range, though there are certainly smaller and larger options available if you need them. It’s also worth looking for bedding solid in bulk packs of two or four bags of bedding at once, as they will save you money in the long run.
  • Features: There are a few beneficial features to look for in bedding for small animals. Avoid scented beddings since they can cause respiratory problems in your furry friends, and look for odor-neutralizing options instead. If you want bedding with some color, make sure it isn’t dyed with chemical or synthetic dyes, as these may cause health issues if your pet nibbles on their bedding. Look for shavings and scraps that expand and can absorb three to six times their weight, as these will last longer before they need to be cleaned out. Plenty of beddings these days are compostable and biodegradable. This is an especially important consideration if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly since you’ll be throwing away and replacing the bedding quite often.

Top Choice: Kaytee Clean & Cozy Small Animal Bedding

Whether you own a rabbit or hamster, guinea pig or chinchilla, gerbil or mouse, this bedding is safe and cozy for them all. It’s made out of long, recycled fibrous paper strands that are soft and fluffy to encourage your pet to burrow or nest. The long strands ensure better consistency and quality overall. In addition to being soft and snug, this bedding can absorb six times its weight in liquid. And the higher absorbency means better odor control and a generally cleaner cage. It’s also 99.9% dust-free for a safer environment for your little furry friend. This bedding is available in four different quantities, 12.3, 24.6, 49.2, and 85 liters, so no matter the size of your pet or their cage, there’s a size that will line up well with your (and their) needs.

Top Choice

Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Small Animal Bedding

Recycled paper bedding made of long, fibrous strands that can absorb up to six times their weight in liquid.

Most Size Options: Carefresh Small Pet Bedding

Your bedding needs might vary depending on the type, size, and number of pets you own, as well as the size of the cage they live in. No matter how large or small your pet’s cage or tank, this small animal bedding has it covered (literally and figuratively). It’s available in seven sizes, the smallest coming in at 10 liters and the largest at 60 liters. One size option is a bulk pack of four 14-liter bags. The bedding, regardless of size, is comprised of pillowy, natural paper fiber bedding that is both soft and dry. The gentle texture is perfect for burrowing and nesting, nice and sensitive against their skin and fur. The odor control formula is designed to suppress ammonia smells for up to ten days at a time. It’s also 99% dust-free and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals or synthetic dyes, so you know it’s safe for your pets. The paper is biodegradable and compostable to boot. If you want to match the bedding to your cage or home decor, it’s also available in five different colors.

Most Size Options

carefresh 99% Dust Free White Natural Paper Small Pet Bedding with Odor Control, 50 L

Soft, pillowy paper bedding available in five different colors and seven different bulk quantities.

Best Pellet Bedding: Small Pet Select Pellet Bedding

If you prefer wooden bedding to paper, corncob, or any other type of small animal bedding, these pellets do more traditional wooden shavings. They’re made from all-natural pinewood without any additives, irritants, or other toxins with other similar wood stove pellets. It’s also kiln-dried for additional pet safety. The pine is denser to pack more fiber into each pellet and absorb more liquid per pellet, and the pellets “fluff” up when wet so that you know when they need a change. This helps to protect your pets against conditions or fur stains caused by wet or soggy bedding. The density also means that the bedding takes up less storage, whether you buy the 8-, 15-, 25-, 40-, or 50-pound bag. The pinewood is recyclable, compostable, and ethically sourced to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Best Pellet Bedding

Small Pet Select All Natural Pellet Bedding, 25 lb.

Kiln-dried, environmentally friendly pinewood bedding in pellet rather than shaved form.

Best Blend: Carefresh Shavings Plus Paper Small Pet Bedding

Both paper and wooden beddings have benefits, so you may have trouble deciding between the two. This small animal bedding is a blend of sustainable, natural, fluffy paper fiber and kiln-dried softwood shavings to combine the upsides of both types. It’s made up of roughly 30% paper and 70% wood. Due to the blend, this bedding is an estimated 60% more absorbent than wooden shavings alone to provide a drier, warmer, and comfier environment for your animals. This helps to suppress odors caused by ammonia for up to five days at a time. Even with the blend of natural and blue coloring, the blended bedding doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals and synthetic dyes, and it’s also 97% dust-free for a healthy, non-toxic environment for your pets. It’s biodegradable and compostable for easier cleanup. Each bag contains 69.4 liters of bedding in order to last you that much longer in between purchases.

Best Blend

carefresh Shavings Plus Blue Natural Paper Small Pet Bedding with Odor Control, 69.4 L

Fluffy paper meets kiln-dried softwood shavings in this blended bedding that is more absorbent than wood alone.

Best Odor Control: Kaytee Clean & Cozy Extreme Odor Control

No matter if you keep your pet’s cage or tank in your bedroom, living room, playroom, den, kitchen, or anywhere else, you’re going to want bedding with the best possible odor control. This odor-neutralizing paper bedding will leave your pet cage smelling fresher for up to 14 days at a time. It doesn’t matter if you own guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, gerbils, or rats—it’ll work to reduce waste odors. This fluffy bedding is also 99.9% dust-free to avoid giving your pets respiratory issues and absorbs six times its weight in liquid for increased cleanliness. This ensures the paper bedding is the perfect combination of safe, comfy, and dry for burrowing, nesting, filling beds, and more. You can purchase it in either a 40- or 65-liter bag.

Best Odor Control

Kaytee Extreme Odor Control Bedding For Pet Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Hamsters, Gerbils, and Chinchillas, 40 Liter

A fluffy, absorbent paper bedding with special odor-neutralizing properties to keep your pets' cage smelling fresh for up to two weeks.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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