|Hamster Substrate Reviews|
There are a wide range of substrates (sometimes called bedding) suitable for hamsters, each with its own positive and negative aspects. Which you use depends on what is best for you and your hamster(s), and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find one that suits. I have used all of the following substrates at various times!
I prefer not to use wood shavings as I find the alternatives allow more time between cleanouts, are more cost effective and are, on the whole, easier to vacuum from carpet! I cleaned weekly on shavings and every 2-3 weeks on the others. Absorbency is one thing that all the other substrates have over shavings, as well as them not containing phenols which some people find of concern. Many people with larger numbers of hamsters use Fitch, Megazorb and Aubiose due to the larger bale size and absorbency.
(Variable size bags, avoid scented substrates)
(usually smaller bags so less cost effective)
Horse supply shops
(Usually larger bags/bales so more cost effective, though requires storage)
(Available in larger sizes than found in many pet shops/Supermarkets. Ecobed and Finacard are sold by some online retailers in smaller bags)
Description: Hemp-based horse bedding
Pros: Absorbent and therefore requires less frequent cleanouts than wood shavings. Large bale size and reasonable cost. Many find it suits long-haired hamsters.
Cons: There were some sharp bits in aubiose but my creatures never had any problems with it. I unfortunately wheezed on cage clean outs which became intolerable. Large bale size needs more room for storage.
Notes: Stockists may keep Aubiose outdoors so do ask as damp can get into the bags if not kept indoors. ProRep Hemp Bedding may also be suitable. Hemcore is a similar hemp-based substrate, but is treated with citronella which may irritate rodents' noses and respiratory systems and therefore is best avoided.
Description: Wood pulp small animal bedding
Pros: Absobent and forms nests well. Soft, especially for post-operative recovery. Available in different colours.
Cons: Expensive, can have a funny smell, especially the 'natural' colour.
Notes: I have heard of people having problems with mites in Carefresh, but I guess that could happen with any substrate depending on storage.
Description: Cardboard squares
Pros: Less likely to cause allergies for humans/hamsters. Suitable for other rodents, e.g. rats, mice. Less tangling with long-haired hamsters.
Cons: Not as absorbent as other horse beddings. Dwarf hamsters can find climbing over the squares tricky, especially the robos.
Notes: Smaller bags are available from some retailers, e.g. Ratrations, though postage costs may be high.
Description: Shredded cardboard
Size(s): 800g - 20kg
Pros: Easier for smaller hamsters to walk through/on than cardboard squares. Less likely to cause allergies for humans/hamsters. Suitable for other rodents, e.g. rats, mice.
Cons: Not as good for forming nests. Less absorbent than other horse beddings (though can be used in combination with Papelit to improve this - see cat litter section below).
Notes: Smaller sizes are available from Ratrations and the Finacard site. The latter has a 'sample pack' containing 2 small bags of Finacard, one bag of nesting material and one of Papelit (although not stated on the site, from personal correspondence you are only allowed to order one of these packs). There are other similar unbranded shredded cardboard options.
Description: Recycled paper animal bedding
Pros: Very absorbent and soft, requires less frequent cleanouts. Large bale size. Warm for winter, many hamsters use it to nest with as well. Holds nests and tunnels well. Can be used for other rodents, e.g. mice.
Cons: Limited availability in stockists therefore added delivery costs. Less long-term use with rodents than other horse beddings. Larger bale requires more room for storage.
Notes: Varying reports about suitability for long-haired hamsters. The size of the bale is smaller than that of Aubiose despite being the same weight.
Description: wood pulp horse bedding
Cost (approx.): £10 for 20kg
Pros: Absorbent and therefore requires less frequent cleanouts. Large bale size. Holds tunnels and nests reasonably well, not sharp.
Cons: Bags can be rather dusty. Megazorb tends to tangle in long-haired males' coats. Larger bale size requires more space for storage.
Notes: Damp can get into the bags if not kept outside, for example at stockist. Can be expensive to get delivered. Burgess Excel Ultra Absorbent Bedding is similar to Megazorb, but has had added dust extraction and is sold in small bags.
Paper based Cat Litter
Description: Paper cat litter pellets
Size(s): 7.5L - 120L, depending on brand
Pros: More absorbent than shavings, though I didn't find them as absorbent as the horse beddings. Less likely to tangle in long-haired hamsters' coats.
Cons: They tend to be more expensive and less absorbent than the horse beddings. The pellets can be a little hard and make the cages heavy.
Notes: Never use clay-based cat litter for hamsters as it can cause illness if ingested.
Links: Back 2 Nature
Wood based Cat Litter
Description: wood cat litter pellets
Size(s): 7.5L - 120L, depending on brand
Pros: Less likely to tangle in long-haired hamsters' coats.
Cons: They tend to be more expensive and less absorbent than the horse beddings. The pellets can be hard and make the cages heavy.
Notes: Never use clay-based cat litter for hamsters as it can cause illness if ingested.Links:
Wood shavings and Sawdust
Description: Shavings and sawdust, usually pine
Pros: Cheap, widely available and come in many different sized bales.
Cons: Shavings can tangle in long-haired hamsters' coats, not suitable for all other rodents (e.g. rats, mice), some people are concerned about phenols present in shavings/sawdust though others have used them with hamsters for decades without problems.
Notes: It is important to get shavings that are designed for use in animal cages as some woods and treatment agents can harm hamsters' lungs. Scented shavings and those made from cedar wood should never be used. Sawdust can irritate the eyes and nose of some hamsters
Article by R. Owers © 2014