Guinea Pig Bedding: Which One is Best?

Guinea Pig bedding is a hot topic among keepers.  Pet shops offer several options, and improvised options, like fleece, are popular as well.  You’re going to learn about the various options, how easy they are to find, how much they cost, and whether they are safe for your pets.

Litter-Style Guinea Pig Bedding

Litter-style guinea pig beddings are those that are made of small pieces of paper, shavings, or other material.  They’re similar to kitty litter.  Their advantage is that they usually don’t cost much, and are absorbent.  However, many varieties are toxic to guinea pigs, they can’t be re-used, and they often need several cleanings a week.

Wood Shavings

Most casual guinea pig owners use wood shavings.  Most pet stores stock three varieties: cedar, pine, and aspen.  Wood shavings are dusty, but super absorbent, and smell good for the first few days.  Depending on the size of the cage, they’ll need to be cleaned at least twice a week and possibly more.

Cedar has proven to cause cancer in mice, and it’s assumed they also cause damage to guinea pigs.  Don’t use cedar, even though it is the least expensive of the wood shavings.

Pine shavings are considered safer than cedar, but aspen is preferred (and of course, most expensive.) While you can use cedar in a pinch, try to find aspen. It’s the best option of the three.

 

Guinea Pig Food Pellets

Some guinea pig keepers bed their pigs on pelleted food.  Cost-wise, rabbit pellets are inexpensive, and suitable for guinea pigs.  Pellets hold less moisture than shavings, and compost well.  However, some guinea pigs eat soiled pellets, and pellets are heavy, so cleaning is a heavy chore.

Pine Pellets

Horse owners use pine pellets as stall bedding, which makes them very inexpensive for the quantity needed.  When purchasing pine pellets, I assumed that if the oil danger was present, it would affect horses—and illness in horses costs a lot of money. I found pine pellets to work very well for my guinea pigs.

Once the pellet gets wet, it disintegrates into something that feels like dirt.  Stir the bedding daily, and it dries quickly.  A 50lb. bag would last four weeks with four pigs, and the odor was minimal.  It is, however, very dusty.  I felt the cost ($10 a month) outweighed the constant dusting.

Corn Livestock Bedding

Many feed and livestock stores sell corn bedding.  Corn bedding is made of small pellets, either of dried corn or chopped up corn cob.  It’s pretty cheap, and looks good.

Don’t use corn bedding.  The pieces are small enough that your guinea pig could try to eat them, but large and hard enough to choke.  They also absorb liquid in the digestive system and cause blockages.  Avoid corn-based bedding.

Alternative Bedding Options

Fleece

Many guinea pig owners now use fleece bedding.  Just hem basic fleece–available at any fabric store–to fit the size of your cage.  Place multiple layers under the dirtiest sections of the cage, and change those frequently.  Fleece bedding can match the decor of the room, or a holiday theme.  Some owners use velcro strips to hold the fleece bedding in place.

Wash fleece regularly–every 2-3 days.  If your home does not include a washing machine, you need more fleece.  However, if you have access to a washer, the cost savings are significant.

Some guinea pigs chew fleece bedding.  If they do eat the fleece, it can cause major internal damage and kill your guinea pig.  Watch for signs of chewing during the first few weeks.

Fleece is the cleanest bedding to use, if your family has a washing machine.  It does not emit residues or dust and changes out quickly.  The ease of use and long-term value mitigates the relatively high upfront cost.

Mesh Bottom Cages

Some people choose to keep their pigs in cages with mesh bottoms, much like rabbits, but guinea pigs have much smaller feet and mesh can trap and hurt their feet.  Don’t keep guinea pigs on mesh.

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