BATTLE OF THE GUINEA PIG BEDDING TYPES!
If you’re wondering which is the best bedding type for your piggy, we’ve pitted them against one another to find a clear winner.
By Emily Lewis and Louise Smith
With so many guinea pig bedding types to choose from in pet stores and online, it can be tricky to know which way to turn. If you’ve found yourself asking the question ‘what is the best bedding for a C&C cage?’ then you’re certainly not alone.
Well, fear not, because here at Kavee, we’ve helpfully found an answer to this important question - by organising a bedding battle!
Pitting different bedding types against one another, we’ve marked them on their overall cost, environmental impact, as well as the effect they may have on your guinea pig’s health and wellbeing.
First things first; it’s important for any piggy parent to know that no matter which bedding type you choose, you MUST ensure that it’s safe for guinea pigs and you must also keep it clean. If you leave your piggy to live in damp, dirty conditions, they can develop nasty health complaints including respiratory infections and inflamed feet, which can lead to bumblefoot.
You should also provide your piggy with a plentiful supply of hay as this makes up the majority of their diet. Ensure that your guinea pig’s cage has at least one area - some people call it a hay kitchen - where your guinea pig can burrow and forage in a lovely layer of hay on top of their main layer of bedding.
BE AWARE THAT SOME BEDDING OPTIONS SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR GUINEA PIGS AT ALL.
It’s also vital that you are clued-up on what bedding types or cage arrangements are NOT suitable for your guinea pig from the offset.
- Wire or mesh flooring. Unfortunately, you’ll see a lot of wire or mesh floored cages online and in pet shops but these types of cages are not at all suitable for guinea pigs. That’s because putting guinea pigs on wire flooring will cause inflammation of their soft foot pads, which can lead to dangerous infections such as bumblefoot. The good news is that if you opt for a C&C cage, this won’t be an issue as the floors of these types of cages are made from coroplast base sheets and are perfectly safe and comfortable for guinea pigs.
- Newspaper or puppy training pads. Whilst these can form the base of a guinea pig’s substrate, they 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 and will often try to eat new objects they find in their environment at least once. Cat litter really isn’t safe for your piggy to eat - it’s often designed to expand as it soaks up moisture and, if ingested by your guinea pig, this could cause painful and dangerous intestinal blockages.
- Wood shavings that aren’t dust extracted. Whilst wood shavings are a very popular type of bedding for guinea pigs, you must never use wood shavings that you have made yourself or that aren’t dust extracted. Fine dust can cause irritation and infection in guinea pig’s lungs.
- Sawdust. As sawdust is made up of much smaller particles than wood shavings, it’s not suitable for guinea pigs. Sawdust is often marketed for smaller rodents such as mice and hamsters but, as we’ve already mentioned, dust can cause irritation and infection in a guinea pig’s lungs.
- Straw. As straw is stiff and brittle, it’s not suitable for guinea pigs. Piggies may love to eat and burrow in soft hay but they definitely don’t eat straw and the sharp ends can lead to dangerous eye injuries and infections.
CHOOSE SAFE BEDDING: The safest bedding type to use is always bedding that’s marketed specifically for guinea pigs, either from reputable guinea pig supply companies or pet shops.
SO WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF GUINEA PIG BEDDING?
Let’s find out a bit more about the competitors in our bedding battle.
COMPETITOR 1: FLEECE LINERS FOR GUINEA PIGS
Kavee fleece liners are a safe, soft, cosy and eco-friendly bedding system. Multilayered and ultra absorbent, these clever liners for C&C cages are designed to stay dry and cosy for your guinea pigs on the top layer by wicking moisture away into the lower layers of fleece fabric. Conveniently, fleece liners are also machine washable and easy to sweep for spot cleaning in between washes. They come in a variety of colours and patterns. And, as you can tell from the below picture, guinea pigs love to cuddle in them!
Fleece liners for guinea pigs aren’t generally available in high street pet shops. But Kavee liners - which use super soft absorbent layers of fleece on top of a thick layer of sherpa fleece - are widely available via worldwide shipping. You can shop at Kavee's online fleece boutique. Just grab a cuppa and get ready to start clicking...
COMPETITOR 2: WOOD SHAVINGS FOR GUINEA PIGS
You’re probably already aware of wood shavings being used for guinea pigs. They’ve been widely used for decades and are available in most pet shops. But despite their popularity, it’s important to know that some wood shavings simply aren’t safe to use. As we’ve already mentioned, fine dust can cause piggies to develop dangerous respiratory infections so you must always use shavings that have been dust extracted and kiln dried. It’s also worth knowing that pine and cedar shavings can contain nasty chemicals which aren’t good for guinea pigs. Aspen shavings are considered safest.
COMPETITOR 3: PAPER BEDDING FOR GUINEA PIGS
Paper bedding has become increasingly widely used and can be found online and in pet shops. However, as paper bedding exists in many forms - including thick paper shreds, thin paper shreds and paper pulp - it is processed in a variety of ways and so it can be hard to ensure that you’re buying the best or safest quality for your piggies. Some companies used 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. If you opt for paper bedding for your guinea pigs, ensure that it is free of nasty toxins and chemicals.
COMPETITOR 4: LITTER PELLETS FOR GUINEA PIGS
Litter pellets are constructed from hard paper or wood pulp based pellets. Pellets are very absorbent and soak up moisture but, when dry, they can be very tough on your piggy’s delicate foot pads and can sometimes cause inflammation. Pellets that are suitable for guinea pigs can be hard to find and it’s also worth knowing that this type of bedding can work out as being more expensive than other bedding types.
LET THE GUINEA PIG BEDDING BATTLE COMMENCE….
ROUND ONE: THE PRICE OF GUINEA PIG BEDDING
Based on a 4x2 grid C&C cage for two guinea pigs, we’ve calculated the quantity of bedding needed for one year and have assessed a range of brands to work out the price ranges for each bedding type. It’s worth knowing that these calculations are based on the assumption that if you use wood shavings, paper bedding or pellets, you would completely change your guinea pig bedding weekly, allowing for top ups during the week.
However, at Kavee, we recommend that you clean your fleece liners at least twice a week, meaning you’d generally need to use two fleece liners in your cage each week. A multi-buy of two Kavee 4x2 fleece liners for guinea pigs costs £70.
As we’ve already mentioned, fleece liners are machine washable. The average wash cycle costs 0.23p including detergents. If you were to wash your fleece liners twice a week, this would cost £24.44 a year on average. Even if you decided to buy three or four liners in order to rotate them, that would still come out as a much cheaper option than the other bedding types.
YEARLY COST OF DIFFERENT GUINEA PIG BEDDINGS
ROUND 1 VERDICT: Wood shavings and fleece liners are the two most cost effective bedding types, with litter pellets being way more expensive. Fleece liners come out as the most cost effective bedding option overall and by a long stretch too. For more information on the cost of guinea pigs, check our article "The True Cost of Owning Guinea Pigs: Detailed Calculations".
ROUND TWO: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF GUINEA PIG BEDDING
If you’re conscious of environmental issues then this is the section for you. All of the bedding types in our comparison are single-use only and must be discarded after use - except for one option. Yes, you’ve got it...fleece. It doesn’t matter if you plump for wood shavings, pellets or paper bedding; you'd still create 52 bags of guinea pig waste in a year by cleaning out your guinea pig cage once a week. As most guinea pig owners don’t have the facilities to compost this amount of waste, it’s fair to say that it will generally end up in landfill. In comparison, reusable, washable fleece liners can last a number of years, significantly reducing the landfill waste produced by your household.
Another environmental point to consider is that all wood and paper based beddings are highly processed to ensure they’re safe for use. Even if the material is recycled, the process involved is likely to use lots of water and also involves drying at high temperatures, using up fuel. Then there’s the likelihood of wood shavings coming from an unsustainable source. Have a think about the natural resources required to grow trees and the delicate woodland ecosystems which are sadly destroyed when wood is harvested.
You should also consider the environmental effect of shipping and transporting. If you’re buying bags of bedding monthly, it’s worth considering the fossil fuels required to transport it to shops or to your home. With Kavee liners for guinea pigs, only one delivery is needed.
Of course, the truth is that, like most things we buy, fleece also has an environmental impact. But this can be minimised. Yes, fleece is constructed from plastic, which is made from crude oil. However, it is not a single-use plastic which makes it less harmful to the environment than a single-use plastic bag containing guinea pig bedding such as wood shavings or pellets. Then there’s the single use plastic bag used to dispose of the bedding each week...it all adds up. With fleece liners, you won’t need to discard guinea pig bedding each week - you simply wash your liners and they’re good to go again.
Some guinea pig parents may worry about fleece shedding microfibres during washing. This can be minimised by washing your fleece liners in a large cotton pillowcase or Kavee laundry bag for guinea pig. Using a laundry bag also stops hair and hay from clogging up your washing machine. Of course, the process of washing fleece liners uses a reasonable amount of water but they can be washed on an eco or short setting at 30 degrees Celsius to use the least amounts of water and energy as possible. Overall, the water used in growing and processing a bag of sawdust each week will be more water intensive than keeping your fleece liners clean.
Wood shavings score worst when it comes to environmental impacts. That’s because it is difficult to find sustainably sourced but high quality guinea pig safe wood shavings. Whereas paper bedding and wood pulp bedding are often made from recycled material, this is rarely the case with wood shavings.
ROUND 2 VERDICT: The truth is that no single bedding type - not even fleece - gets a perfect score in this round but, reusable, washable fleece liners create the overall least volume of waste in comparison to other bedding types.
ROUND THREE: EFFECT ON YOUR GUINEA PIG’S HEALTH
As a piggy parent, surely nothing is more than your fur baby’s health? Thankfully, fleece is dust free, reducing the risk of your piggy suffering lung irritations. They’re also suitable for people with dust allergies. Be sure to prevent health issues, by choosing a fleece liner specifically for guinea pigs, such as this one from Kavee. Unsuitable fleece liners, which aren’t as absorbent or as effective at wicking away moisture, may get soggy and irritate your sensitive piggy feet. However, as long as you change Kavee liners twice weekly and add extra absorbent layers, such as pee pads for guinea pigs, in heavily used areas, dampness shouldn’t be an issue. It’s also important to use gentle, non allergenic detergents for washing your liners as harsh detergents could irritate delicate guinea pig skin and feet. Opt for natural cleaning products such as white vinegar and hypoallergenic detergent. For more guidance, check out our youtube video below on how to wash your guinea pigs fleece liners.
Whilst wood shavings are widely used as guinea pig bedding, be careful shavings made from pine and cedar may contain chemical nasties which can be toxic to guinea pigs. Untreated pine and cedar can cause guinea pig health issues including 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. Always buy dust extracted wood shavings to avoid the risk of fine dust which can irritate your piggy’s lungs.
Low quality wood shavings may also contain larger chunks of wood that can be sharp - make sure you remove any large or sharp pieces of wood to reduce the risk of injury to your guinea pig. There’s also the risk that some wood shavings contain fungal spores, especially if they’re stored in damp environments such as outhouses. It’s something to consider, given that guinea pigs are highly prone to fungal diseases, including ringworm that can be passed from guinea pigs to humans too.
When it comes to paper bedding, reputable brands extract dust from their bedding and there is less risk of this type of bedding containing sharp edges which can injure your piggy. However, it’s important to ensure that paper bedding does not contain any chemicals or dyes that could harm your guinea pig. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to check whether chemicals in the bedding are safe, especially with colourful or recycled bedding
When it comes to paper pellets in this round, it’s a thumbs down from us. That’s because, as litter pellets are hard, they’re more likely to cause irritation to your guinea pig’s feet. It can also be hard to find pellets that are marketed as safe for guinea pigs. Many litter pellets are produced specifically for cats and are therefore made from unsuitable wood types such as cedar and pine which can contain chemicals that are toxic to guinea pigs. Cat litter is also often designed to reduce odour and these chemicals can also be harmful to piggies.
ROUND 3 VERDICT: Your prime health considerations when it comes to guinea pigs should be avoiding respiratory infections and foot issues including bumblefoot. For this reason, paper bedding and fleece liners score top as they’re dust free and provide a soft layer underfoot.
ROUND FOUR: STORAGE AND TIDYING YOUR GUINEA PIG SUPPLIES
Once you’ve chosen your guinea pig bedding, don’t forget that you have to store it before use. If you’re short of space in your home and hate clutter, storing your guinea pig bedding can turn into something of a headache
As it makes more financial sense to bulk buy large bags of wood shavings, paper or pellets, think carefully about where you’d store bulky, unsightly bags.
They can also be messy and need regular sweeping or vacuuming; great if you have endless time for cleaning but not so ideal if you’d prefer to spend your free time playing with your piggies.
Fleece bedding liners are easy to store - they can be quickly rolled or folded making them easy to store between uses.
Here at Kavee, we reckon our fleece liners are stylish enough to be left out or rolled up beside the cage between uses. Let’s face it; they’re infinitely more aesthetically pleasing than bags of wood shavings!
But if you’d rather they were out of sight, simply pop them into a basket or pretty storage boxes for C&C cages. If you’re into the matchy look, you can buy Kavee storage boxes to coordinate with your Kavee fleece liners.
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!
ROUND 4 VERDICT: Fleece liners for guineas pigs are compact and easy to store between uses making them ideal if you don’t have loads of storage space. Style wise, they’re nicer to look at than bulky bags of paper bedding or wood shavings too.
VERDICT: THE BEST GUINEA PIG BEDDING IS...
AND THE OVERALL WINNER IS….
After four rounds, we found that the best bedding type for cavy cages is... FLEECE! Soft, eco-friendly, cost effective and safe for your piggy, fleece liners came out well and truly on top.