What can i use for hamster bedding?

Bedding is a vital section of a hthemster’s cage setup. Without bedding, hamsters can’t dig burrows, conceal their food, stay warm, or hide when feeling afraid.  

As an alternative to hamster bedding, use high-absorbency materials. This includes shredded paper, soft toilet paper, shredded cardboard, and Timothy and meadow hay. In the event that you urgently need bedding, you should use newspaper or make paper pulp using thick papers and warm water.  

Before placing shredded paper, cardboard, or hay right into a hamster’s cage, scrunch it in your hands. Remove any sharp and pointy pieces which could cause your hamster harm.

What can i use for hamster bedding?  

Hamster Bedding Guide


Can Hamsters Live Without Bedding?

Hamsters grow stressed if they aren’t provided with optimal conditions. Stress is harmful to hamsters because it precipitates sickness-causing bacteria. Hamsters need bedding therefore:

Nesting Material

Hamsters use bedding to create nests to sleep in. In accordance with Laboratory Animals, researchers discovered that Syrian hamsters prefer bedding that makes good nesting material. In addition they noted a chooseence for:

  • Pine shavings over aspen shavings.
  • Pine shavings over corn cob.
  • Corn cob over wood pellets.
  • Aspen shavings over wood pellets

The bedding used for nesting material didn’t affect the hamsters’ paws, weight, or wheel-running activity.

Absorb Moisture and Odors

Bedding is vital for absorbing moisture and odors, particularly urine. This keeps the cage clean and sanitary enough for a hamster to live without getting sick.  

Without appropriate bedding, moisture and urine would build up, making life unpleasant for the hamster while resulting in mold and bacterial growth.

Build Tunnels

Hamsters are burrowers who dig tunnel networks.  

Applied Animal Science explains how digging is important for captive rodents, although most owners only provide their hamsters with a small amount of bedding.  

Hamsters create tunnels to sleep, store food, and escape predators. Burrows are vital for keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter.  

Captive hamsters need at the very least 6 inches of bedding before burrowing.

Foundation for Essential Items

Bedding provides a foundation for essential items, like a multi-chamber, hides, enrichment, a sthend bath, and an exercise wheel.  

Providing ample bedding allows the hamster to dig tunnels without compromising the ground space.

How to find the best hamster bedding?

What materials should NOT be used as bedding?

Not all bedding materials sold in pet stores are suitable for your hamster. Unfortunately, many unsuitable materials are available and staff often lack the necessary knowledge to advise customers properly.

For example, some stores will sell pine and cedar wood shavings as hamster bedding. We DO NOT recommend using these materials in your hamster cage!

Pine and cedar wood can be abrasive and can splinter into sharp pieces. These sharp splinters can then cut your hamster, causing injuries and potentially leading to infection. These woodens may also react to your hamster’s urine and present off toxic fumes that harm your hamster’s breathing.

If you’re going to use wood shavings as bedding, aspen shavings are a much better choice.

Pet stores also stock “fluffy bedding”. People are often tempted to buy fluffy bedding since it is very soft and, understandably, they want their hamsters to be as comfortable as possible. However, fluffy bedding is manufactured out of artificial fibers that are usually difficult for hamsters to digest if they try to eat them. Also, hamsters have small, fragile legs, which can get injured if they become tangled in fluffy bedding.  

We also suggest you avoid:

cat litter – hamsters will struggle to digest the pieces they eat

Due to its absorbency capabilities, you may be tempted to put cat litter in a hamster’s cage.  

However, litter is dusty and rwill beks unsettling a hamster’s fragile digestive tract. Furthermore, litter could cause impaction if a hamster ingests it.  

Corn cob  – not good for hamsters to eat and can get mouldy

Corn cob is commonly considered a suittheble bedding material but has many risks. Not only is it nonabsorbent, increasing the chance of mold, but hamsters can eat it, developing digestive problems.

Softwood Shavings

Most softwood shavings, especially pine and cedar, are unsafe as they contain toxic phenol chemicals.  

These acidic chemical compounds cause liver and respiratory problems, so that they can’t be used as a long-term bedding material. Hamsters exposed to softwood shavings often display allergic reactions.


You may be tempted to lay several diapers at the bottom of your hamster’s cage to soak up urine.  

Unfortunately, there’s a risk your hamster could ingest small particles of sodium polyacrylate, that is the chemical absorbent that allures liquid. Prolonged exposure irritates the airways.  

Whatever the reasons for not using bedding, ensure your chosen material can absorb urine and provides a soft, comfortable base for a hamster to sleep and burrow in. 


 Inks used to print the page can be toxic.

Any scented bedding

Contains chemicals and, though it may smell nice to you, could lead to breathing problems for your hamster

You should always carefully check the label of any hamster bedding to be absolutely sure what material you’re getting.

What is the best hamster bedding material?

So, we’ve listed lots of materials that you should NOT use as hamster bedding. We’ve listed so many in fact, that you might be wondering whether any components do make good bedding for hamsters!

Don’t worry though, there might not be one single best bedding, but you can find certainly plenty of great options to choose from…

Carefresh Ultra

Carefresh Ultra is really a premium hamster bedding created from cellulose fiber. It doesn’t contain any inks, dyes or scented chemicals and is incredibly soft. It’s also very absorbent - Carefresh Ultra is made to soak up around three times its own weight in liquid. This helps it be easier to keep your hamster cage clean and prevent any nasty smells.  

Carefresh Ultra is an excellent bedding for hamsters. However, you do purchase that quality. It will be significantly more expensive than other options, such as for example aspen shavings, though the manufacturers declare that it will last twice as long as shavings.

Carefresh Colorful Creations

Carefresh Colorful creations is quite similar to Carefresh Ultra.  

Like Carefresh Ultra, Carefresh Colorful Creations is nontoxic and absorbs around three times its own weight in liquid. The main difference between your two products is that Carefresh Colorful Creations comes in a number of colors! Included in these are purple, blue and multicolored confetti.  

While we’ve already warned against using inked and dyed materials in your hamster cage, Carefresh Colorful Creations has been created using a pet-safe dye that will not run or harm your hamster. This means it is possible to brighten up your hamster cage without fretting about damaging your hamster’s health.

Kaytee Clean and Cozy

Kaytee Clean & Cozy is really a hamster bedding made from plant-based paper fibers. It is extremely absorbent, 99.9% dust free, extremely soft and will be offering excellent odour control.  

Kaytee Clean & Cozy is an excellent alternative to Carefresh Ultra and Carefresh Colors. However, please do be careful in order to avoid the scented version. As we’ve already said, scented forms of bedding could be bad for your hamster’s breathing.

Aspen Shavings

One of the few types of wood safe for use as hamster bedding is Aspen. Aspen shavings are cheap and will give your hamster cage a natural look. However, aspen shavings are not as soft or absorbent as Carefresh or Kaytee Clean & Cozy. This could mean that your hamster is a bit less comfortable and your cage is a bit more smelly if you choose aspen shavings as a hamster bedding material.  

Also, while you may be able to buy aspen in places other than pet stores (carpenters and lumber yards, for example) you should only ever use aspen shavings purchased from a pet store. This is because aspen shavings intended for use in hamster cages will have been specially treated to remove mites and other insects.


Finally, if you’re looking for a cheap and easy solution - or perhaps a temporary material to use while you wait for your permanent hamster bedding to reach - then it is ok to use paper in your hamster cage. You just need to ensure that the paper is nontoxic rather than covered within ink. That said, it’s worth noting that paper will not do a good job of disguising odours. Your hamster cage will most likely get very smelly if you are using paper as a bedding!

What Is a Substitute for Hamster Bedding?

When it comes to choosing suitable hamster bedding, it must be:

  • Comfortable and gentle on the paws.
  • Able to absorb moisture and odors.
  • Unperfumed and scent-free.
  • Safe to put in cheek pouches.
  • Non-dusty to prevent respiratory problems.
  • Free from toxins and chemicals

There may be times when you need to look for a safe alternative to traditional bedding materials.

Shredded Toilet Paper

 Tissue or toilet paper is an effective substrate for even regular paper-based bedding. It’s inexpensive to fill the complete cage; you can shred it yourself or using a shredder.  

However, while paper is a good nesting material, a hamster will see it hard to dig burrows. That’s because papers collapses and doesn’t hold burrows well.  

Toilet paper isn’t the most absorbent material, so you’ll also need to spot-clean frequently.

Shredded Paper

You can use unbleached paper as a short-term substitute for better-absorbing materials.  

Paper you intend to recycle can be okay, so long as the ink is nontoxic. You’ll think it is easier to tear paper into fine pieces using a shredder rather than by hand.  

Paper doesn’t control odors well. Like toilet paper, you’ll have to spot-clean daily. Before placing it into the cage, bunch it up to make it softer, as this can also enable you to remove any sharp pieces.

Shredded Cardboard

Most cardboard boxes are suitable. If undyed, unlaminated, and free from inks, a hamster could get sick from ingesting them.

You can shred most of a cardboard box using scissors before finishing it by hand to ensure there aren’t any sharp points or edges.

You may also want to layer some softer tissue paper to give the hamster comfortable nesting material.


Timothy and meadow hay are two safe, inexpensive varieties.  

Hay is best when it’s layered with paper and hamster-safe wood bedding, like aspen, but it can also be used on its own. Hamsters won’t eat hay because they can’t digest it, but they’ll utilize it as bedding.

Paper Pulp

Paper pulp is an inexpensive bedding material you can make yourself at home. It should be made from ink-free paper pieces, like construction paper. Follow these steps to make it: 

  1. Tear the paper into small pieces, placing them in a bowl.
  2. Add hot water and leave the paper for 8-12 hours.
  3. Blend the paper to create a pulpy mixture.
  4. Let the paper dry before transferring it to the enclosure.

Can You Give Your Hamster a Blanket?

You may wonder in case a blanket could be an alternative to bedding.  

After all, blankets are warm and cozy, but they’re unsuitable. Once your hamster poops and urinates on the blanket, it must be washed.  

Blankets aren’t manufactured from the most absorbent materials, so they’ll only hold handful of liquid. This is likely to cause conditions within the cage to be unsanitary.  

Hamsters chew and tear blankets apart. While they won’t purposely eat a blanket, they could ingest pieces of fabric, risking impaction.  

Hamsters also can’t burrow into blankets, leaving them struggling to carry out their natural behaviors, increasing the chance of stress.