By Emily Lewis
With so many bedding types to choose from in pet stores and online, many guinea pig owners find themselves asking: what is the best bedding for a C&C cage? Kavee have formulated an answer to this question based on the financial, environmental and guinea pig health pros and cons.
There are many guinea pig health issues that could be caused by the incorrect bedding or bedding that isn’t changed frequently enough. These health issues can include inflamed feet (leading to bumblefoot) and respiratory infections. The correct bedding type should be properly researched before owning a guinea pig. For the purpose of this comparison, five bedding types have been chosen. However, there is some bedding that certainly shouldn’t be used for guinea pigs.
The following should not be used as bedding for guinea pigs:
- Wire or mesh flooring. If you are getting or have already purchased a C&C cage, this won’t be an issue as the floors are made from coroplast sheets and are safe for guinea pigs. Putting guinea pigs on wire flooring will cause inflammation of their foot pads as well as potential infections and bumblefoot.
- Solely newspaper or puppy training pads. These can form the base of a guinea pig’s substrate but should always be covered with a different type of bedding as they become easily waterlogged, again causing inflammation of the feet.
- Silica gel and clumping cat litter. Guinea pigs are curious animals that often like to try and eat things in their environment at least once. Cat litter isn’t safe for ingestion and is often designed to expand in moisture which could cause intestinal blockages.
- Any wood shavings that haven’t been dust extracted. Do not use wood shavings that you have made yourself. Fine dust will cause irritation and infection in a guinea pig’s lungs.
- Sawdust, which has smaller particles than wood shavings, is not suitable for guinea pigs. Sawdust is often marketed for smaller rodents such as mice and hamsters. The fine particles will cause irritation and infection in a guinea pig’s lungs.
- Straw also is not ideal bedding for guinea pigs. Unlike hay, they do not eat straw. Straw is very stiff and can be sharp. This can lead to eye injuries and infection.
The safest bedding to use is always bedding that’s marketed specifically for guinea pigs, either from reputable guinea pig supply companies or pet shops. So, what types of guinea pig bedding are there?
Kavee fleece liners are reusable, multilayered and are designed to stay dry on top by capturing moisture in the lower layers. The fleece liner is machine washable and easy to sweep for spot cleaning in between washes. Fleece liners are soft underfoot and can last for many washes. Customers often buy the two liner multi-buy as it’s handy to have two so that whilst one is being washed and dried, the other can be used.
It’s also important to get the right type of fleece liner. A piece of fleece material by itself won’t wick moisture like the Kavee liners. Ordinary fleece, without an absorbent layer, will become waterlogged quickly and could cause foot irritation for guinea pigs. However, Kavee liners are specifically designed for guinea pigs and prevent this during normal use.
Fleece liners aren’t widely available in pet stores so this is where Kavee steps in to ensure easy access to buying fleece liners from the comfort of your living room.
Wood shavings have been used as bedding for guinea pigs for decades and are one of the most popular bedding choices as it is widely available in pet shops. Wood shavings can be made from a variety of different tree types and aspen shavings are considered the safest to use. Wood shavings must be dust extracted as well as kiln dried. The health implications of using wood shavings that aren’t kiln dried or dust extracted are further discussed in the guinea pig health comparison.
Paper bedding can exist in many forms including thick paper shreds, thin paper shreds and paper pulp. Paper bedding has become increasingly popular and easy to buy from pet shops and online. Paper bedding is processed in a variety of different ways so it can be hard to ensure the quality of what you are buying. Some companies use reclaimed and waste paper, which is better for the environment than making paper solely for the manufacturing of bedding. However, some waste paper can contain inks, dyes and chemicals that could cause harm to guinea pigs. More popular brands of paper bedding ensure that the bedding is toxin and chemical free.
Wood pulp bedding
Wood pulp bedding is manufactured from virgin wood pulp. Wood pulp bedding is often advertised as bedding for horses, however, it is widely used for guinea pigs. It is very absorbent and, as it’s designed for larger animals, comes in larger bags meaning it lasts longer than a bag of wood shavings. It is also processed at a high temperature to remove fungus and bacteria and is dust extracted making it a safe choice for guinea pigs. However, some people have reported that the smell is strong and they have had allergic reactions to the wood based product.
Paper litter pellets
Litter pellets are hard paper or wood pulp based pellets. They are often made from recycled paper and lose their form when absorbing water. This bedding however can be tough on delicate guinea pig feet pads and can sometimes cause inflammation. It is also difficult to find pellets that are suitable for guinea pigs. The pellets designed for guinea pigs in particular can be relatively expensive compared to other bedding types.
Price comparison of guinea pig bedding types
A price comparison has been formulated based on a standard two guinea pig 4x2 grid C&C cage. We have calculated the number of litres of bedding needed each year and used a variety of brands and sellers to create the price ranges for each bedding type. These calculations are also based on the assumption that the bedding is completely changed once per week, allowing for top ups during the week.
As the results show, fleece liners, due to the fact that they are reusable, are the cheapest option over a year. If you buy four liners in a year, this still comes out lower than all the other bedding options. One of the things that would increase the cost of the fleece liners is the cost of washing them. However, the average wash cycle only costs 18p. So if you were to do an extra wash once a week, this would come to £9.36 a year. If you were to wash the liners twice a week, this would be £18.72 a year on average, meaning that fleece liners are still the cheapest option over the course of a year.
Environmental comparison of guinea pig bedding types
All of the bedding types in the comparison, except for fleece, are single use only. This means that it will have to be disposed of at the end of each use. If a guinea pig cage was cleaned out once a week, this would produce at least 52 bags of guinea pig waste in a year. Most people don’t have the facilities to compost this amount of waste so it will end up in landfill. Due to the fact they can last a number of years, compared to 52 bags a year in landfill, getting rid of two fleece liners after three years is a significantly reduced amount of waste.
All of the wood and paper based beddings are highly processed to ensure safety. Even if the material is recycled, it will often involve creating a wood or paper pulp by adding lots of water and then drying at high temperatures, using a lot of fuel. There is also a chance that wood shavings come from an unsustainable source. It requires a large amount of water and resources for a tree to grow and plantations can disrupt natural woodland ecosystems. As well as this, bedding had to be shipped and transported. If you’re buying bedding monthly (unless you have a lot of storage space) fossil fuels will be used to transport the bedding to shops or to be delivered to your home. With Kavee liners, only one delivery is needed.
Like most things we buy, fleece also has an environmental impact however this can be minimised. Fleece is made from plastic, which is made from crude oil, however it is not a single use plastic making it less impactful than buying a plastic bag with bedding inside every month, and then disposing of the guinea pig waste in a plastic bin bag. There is also the concern that fleece will shed microfibers. This can be minimised by washing fleece in a large cotton pillow case or laundry bag. This also stops hair and hay from clogging up your washing machine. Washing fleece liners will use a reasonable amount of water; however, they can be washed on an eco setting at 30 degrees Celsius to use the least amount of water and energy as possible. The water used in growing and processing a bag of sawdust each week will be more water intensive.
Because it is difficult to find, sustainably sourced but high quality wood shavings, these get the lowest score for the environmental comparison. They’re also least likely of the wood based bedding options to be made from waste whereas paper bedding and wood pulp is more often recycled.
None of the bedding scores a perfect five in this round as all of them have an environmental impact. The scale of the waste produced per bedding type and whether they’re made out of reused materials were the deciding factors.
Guinea pig health comparison
Fleece liners are considered one of the safest bedding choices. Fleece is dust free and will not have any sharp edges that could contribute to health issues. They’re suitable for people that have dust allergies and therefore are not likely to irritate a guinea pig’s lungs. To prevent any health issues, make sure you choose a fleece liner specifically for guinea pigs, such as the Kavee liner. Unsuitable fleece could get soggy and irritate your guinea pigs fleece but as long as you change the Kavee liners weekly and put extra layers, such as a pee pad, in heavily used areas, dampness shouldn’t be an issue. It’s also important to use guinea pig safe washing detergent as harsher detergents could irritate their skin and feet. Opt for natural cleaning products such as white vinegar and hypoallergenic detergent.
Some wood shavings are made from pine and cedar, both of which contain oils that can be toxic to guinea pigs. Untreated pine and cedar can cause a number of health issues such as respiratory diseases and liver disease. The process of kiln drying removes these toxins so only kiln dried shavings should be purchased as guinea pig bedding. Low quality wood shavings can also contain larger chunks of wood that can be sharp. It’s important to remove any larger pieces of wood to avoid injury to your guinea pig. There also is a higher chance of fungal spores existing in wood shavings, especially if wood shavings are stored in outhouses that are more likely to be damp and encourage the growth of fungus. Guinea pigs are highly prone to fungal diseases, including ringworm that can be passed between guinea pigs and to humans as well.
Wood shavings have been used safely as animal and guinea pig bedding for many years however, before buying, it is important to find dust extracted wood shavings. As well as being dust extracted ensures that any cedar or pine shavings have been kiln dried. If you’re ever I doubt, aspen wood shavings are the safest type.
Paper bedding is normally safe to use for guinea pigs. Reputable brands extract dust from their bedding and there are fewer accounts of sharp pieces being found in paper bedding than wood shavings. However, it’s important to make sure that the bedding does not contain any chemicals or dyes that could harm your guinea pig. It can be difficult to check whether chemicals in the bedding are safe, especially with colourful or recycled bedding.
Wood pulp is also similarly safe, with few reported issues. It is dried at high temperatures to remove any fungus or bacteria. The only downside is that it can be quite dusty and owners have reported that it has triggered their allergies. If a guinea pig is sensitive to dust, this could cause lung irritation.
Paper litter pellets
Due to the hard texture of litter pellets, it is the most likely of the five bedding types to cause irritation to guinea pig’s feet. It is also difficult to find pellets that are explicitly safe and marketed for guinea pigs. Many litter pellets are for cats and can be made out of unsuitable woods such as cedar and pine. As mentioned with wood shavings, untreated cedar and pine contain chemicals that are toxic to guinea pigs. It is not advisable to use cat litter as it can also be treated with chemicals that are designed to reduce odour. These chemicals could be harmful to guinea pigs.
Some other considerations
Another point to consider is the practically of storage if you don’t have much room. Bags of wood shavings, paper bedding, wood pulp and pellets take up a lot of storage space as it is more economical to buy bigger bags. They can also be messy leaving more vacuuming to do around the house. Fleece bedding is compact to store in between uses. It can even be folded up and stored in a storage basket or box in the house, adding to the aesthetic of a room – much nicer looking than a bag of wood shavings. Another practical bonus is that once you have fleece liners you also don’t have to remember to buy bedding regularly. You can cross one thing off your shopping list!
The results are in…
After three rounds of comparisons the fleece liner came in first place. The wood pulp bedding came in second place. Ultimately, it’s up to the owner to choose what’s best and most convenient for them, as long as they can ensure that the bedding is safe for their guinea pigs i.e. dust and toxin free. Every owner knows their own guinea pigs and what is best for them so it is worth being aware of all of the different bedding types to find what works for you and your guinea pigs.