There are few things hamsters love as much as burrowing down into their bedding. If you live in an area where hamster bedding is hard to find or you're trying to save money on bedding, you might be interested in some great alternatives to traditional hamster bedding. We have some ideas that your hamster is sure to love.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering hamster bedding alternatives is toxicity. Whatever you choose must be safe for your hamsters. Here are some great, nontoxic bedding alternatives:
- Shredded paper towels
- Fabric scraps
- Coconut fiber
- Shredded paper
- Shredded toilet paper
No matter where you live or what your budget is, there is bound to be a great hamster bedding alternative for you. Continue reading to find out more details about how to find or make these.
Hamster Bedding Alternatives
Let's explore the following hamster bedding alternatives in greater detail.
Shredded Paper Towels
One of the easiest ways to make homemade bedding is to simply shred paper towels. Paper towels are cheap and available almost everywhere. It's up to you how simple or complex you make it. If budget is a concern, then you can shred the paper towels by hand, and the only cost will be the paper towels.
If you are more interested in customization, you can make cute homemade bedding by using a shredder and adding in some colored napkins. It's easier to add in the colored napkins with the paper towels as you shred instead of trying to shred the napkins and towels separately and then mix them. Just open a napkin and feed it into the shredder along with a paper towel.
If you're ordering online, you can often find colored paper towels, but if you're shopping locally, you may only be able to find colored napkins. Either one will work fine to make hamster bedding, so it's just a matter of what is readily available where you are.
The major drawback of shredded paper towel bedding is that it won't do much for odor control. However, that's true for most paper beddings whether they are commercially bought or homemade. Paper bedding needs to be spot cleaned frequently to control odor.
If you're more interested in helping the environment and cutting down on waste, fabric scraps may be more appealing to you. Though unusual, this type of bedding can be washed and reused. Fleece and knit scraps work best to make fabric bedding. Fleece is great in the colder months because it really holds in warmth. Knit fabric is lighter and best used in warmer environments. Either of these can be bought cheaply at most thrift stores.
Making fabric bedding is a simple process. Cut up the fabric into small squares or rectangles that are too large for your hamster to stuff in its mouth or swallow. You can use a rotary cutter and mat to make quick work of this. Cut enough scraps to provide your hamster with at least five inches of bedding. It's good to make extra so that you can replace it as you spot clean.
How To Clean The Bedding
When using reusable bedding, spot clean your hamster's cage every day and replace it as needed. Once a month you can replace one-third or one-half of the total bedding in order to wash it. If it doesn't upset your hamster, you can replace it all at once. However, hamsters usually prefer not to have all of their bedding replaced at once, as it can be stressful for them.
Before you wash the bedding, you want to make sure you get as much of your hamster's droppings out of it as possible. If you shake it when you take it out of the cage, most of the droppings will fall out and can be swept up. To get any that remain, put the bedding in a bucket of water and stir it around. Any stray droppings should float to the top and can be scooped out with a small net.
After you scoop out the droppings, dump the bucket, and wash the bedding in hot water in a small laundry bag. Dry on high heat. You can store it in food storage bags until it's needed again. This bedding is great if you have the time to take care of it. The initial cost can be low if you use old clothing, and you won't have to buy bedding again. This bedding is also perfect if you, or your hamster, are allergic to paper bedding. It's rare, but it does happen.
If you don't want to make your own bedding, coconut fiber is another alternative. It can usually be found in the reptile section of most pet stores. This is not as soft as most bedding materials that hamsters prefer, but it will do if you need to use it.
You can use shredded paper to make bedding for your hamster the same way you would use shredded paper towels. This is a fantastic way to use paper that would otherwise be thrown away. You do need to make sure that any ink that was used on the paper is nontoxic. Most modern printer and newspaper inks are nontoxic.
To make the bedding, just run the paper through a paper shredder and then bunch it up a bit with your hands to make it softer and easier for your hamster to use. Like paper toweling, shredded paper bedding won't do much to help control odors, so you'll need to spot clean it every day.
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Shredded Toilet Paper
If you can't find anything else, you can use shredded toilet paper for hamster bedding. It isn't very substantial so you may end up using a good bit. It is very cheap, though, so that might not be a problem. Your hamster will enjoy the softness of toilet paper bedding. It may not go through your shredder very well, so you can just shred it with your hands.
Toilet paper will not help control odors. It will probably break down and become messy whenever your hamster pees on it or spills water on it. You will have to spot clean it daily. However, it's almost always available and very cheap, so it may be a good option for some people.
Do Hamsters Need Bedding?
Hamsters do need bedding; hamsters in the wild are burrowing animals. They dig their nests underground to escape predators. Pet hamsters still have this instinct even though they live safely indoors. Your hamster will want to dig tunnels and hide its food stash in its bedding. This is another reason hamsters don't like to have all of their bedding changed at once; they have worked hard making a nest for themselves.
What Happens If You Don't Change Hamster Bedding?
If you don't change your hamster's bedding, you could cause your hamster to become ill. In addition to the foul smell, hamster droppings contain bacteria, and if it isn't cleaned up, it can cause diseases. Hamsters also hoard food, and while this is fine if your hamster is eating it, food that is left unchecked can spoil.
How Often Should You Change Hamster Bedding?
You should spot clean your hamster's bedding every day or every other day. Check for any obviously soiled or urine-soaked areas of bedding and remove them. Once a month, or more often if you're using toilet paper or paper towel bedding, you should change out one-third to one-half of your hamster's bedding. If your hamster is ill or its cage has a strong odor, you should clean out all of the bedding, wipe down all toys, and wipe down the cage.
Can You Make Your Own Hamster Bedding?
You can make your own hamster bedding. In fact, that's the only way to get some of the really cute, colored bedding you see in hamster features. You can make any of the bedding listed above with a minimum amount of tools and equipment.
Why Do Hamsters Move Their Bedding?
In nature, hamsters build elaborate tunnels and burrow underground. Your pet hamster is trying to recreate this environment in his cage. Though it may look random to you, your hamster is actually working very hard to build a nest and store up supplies in its bedding. Just as it would in the wild, your hamster is busily making a home for itself.
Hamsters are fun pets and easy to take care of. They don't need much to thrive. All they need is an appropriate diet, a safe home, and exercise. They do need bedding, but it doesn't have to be store-bought or expensive. Whether you are on a tight budget or are just an avid DIY-er, you can make bedding for your hamster that will meet its needs and make it happy.
Before you go, be sure to check out these other insightful hamster guides: