There are lots of things you can do to ensure your furry pal is comfy and cozy in the home you've created for him or her, but probably the most important aspect of a pet's cage (aside from food and water of course) is bedding.
Now, you may be thinking that bedding doesn't really matter, and if that's the case, your animal is likely not living its best life. Not only does the proper bedding provide comfort, but it provides a blanket of warmth that your little guy relies on for survival.
Many people only use enough bedding to cover the floor of their hamster cage, but experts agree that at least 4 to 6 inches of bedding is needed to give your pet the appropriate amount of room to burrow and stay warm.
However, a scientific study completed in Switzerland in 2005 found that the deeper the bedding, the happier the hamster.
In that study, a group of Golden Hamsters were observed in different habitats with different bedding amounts, and the hamsters who were happiest and lived longest were the ones with at least 15 inches of fluff to tunnel through.
According to the study, hamsters that had less than 10 cm (four inches) of bedding in their cages exhibited signs of severe distress, including gnawing of the wires around their cages. These test subjects also tended to run on their wheel for extended periods in comparison with subjects given enough bedding to burrow.
It was found that lack of adequate bedding was the sole reason for the gnawing of the wires, as the hamsters dwelling in 80 cm (31 inches) or more of bedding did not gnaw on their cages at all. To top off the findings, every single hamster given at least 40 cm (16 inches) of bedding created tunnels and burrows that they then inhabited.
Stressors are a huge issue with any pet, but hamsters exhibit signs of their unhappiness the same way a cat or dog would. They show clear physical signs of distress, like chewing on the metal part of their cage, which many people think is just typical rodent behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, if your hamster is gnawing on its cage, regardless of how cute it may seem, he or she is actually begging you to provide it with more comfort.
Not only do bedding amounts make a difference in your pet’s mental state, but the study also found that hamsters given at least 40 cm of bedding weighed more than hamsters showing signs of distress in 10 cm of bedding. Incidentally, the hamsters with the highest body fat were those housed in a cage with at least 80 cm of bedding.
Adding the appropriate bedding density to the cage will allow the animal to burrow and tunnel like any rodent would do in nature. This allows the animal to feel safe, warm, and protected in its home, which is the whole point anyway, right?
The Pet Supply Guy recommends getting the dimensions of your cage before figuring out how much bedding you need to purchase.
According to his website, all you have to do to figure out how much bedding to buy is multiply the length of your pet’s cage by the width and then by the number of inches of bedding you’re aiming for.
So, if you want six inches of bedding and your cage dimensions are 12x18, you will want to multiply 12 x 18 x 6 for a total of 1,296 cubic inches of bedding needed.
To break that down, all you need to know is that there are 61.02374 cubic inches in a liter. Now, you simply divide 1296 by 61.02374 for a grand total of 21.24 liters of bedding needed to fill your particular cage with six inches of bedding.
Types Of Bedding
There is also a wide variety of types of bedding to think of when making your purchase.
Your hamster may like a fluffy paper bedding, or perhaps a wood or paper pellet bedding. Or maybe a wood shaving or hay/grass feel is more his thing.
There's really only one surefire way to find out, and that's to test them out and pay close attention to what your hamster's behavior is telling you.
The quality of the bedding you choose is just as pertinent as the amount of bedding you put in.
There is a vast array of name brand and generic products that you can find at pretty much any pet store or online, and while you may need to test out a few types/brands to find which one your little guy prefers.
Here is a list of recommended brands that are certain pet pleasers:
- Carefresh Custom Hamster/Gerbil Pet Bedding
- Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Small Animal Bedding
- Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding
- Kaytee Aspen Bedding Bag
1. Carefresh Custom Hamster/Gerbil Pet Bedding
For animals that need to burrow, the Carefresh Custom Hamster/Gerbil Pet Bedding is specially designed so that your pet can create tunnels and compartments with ease and little chance of cave-ins due to the lightweight paper material used. This bedding material will allow your hamster to burrow happily.
The product is "made from all natural paper, and it’s 99.9% dust free," according to The Pet Supply Guy. The bedding also contains an odor-blocking technology that any pet owner would appreciate.
2. Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Small Animal Bedding
Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Small Animal Bedding brand offers not only cheap pricing, but bag sizes that will provide standard-sized hamster cages with a sufficient amount of bedding using just one bag. So, if you don't have the money for top-of-the-line bedding, this is a safe alternative for your pet.
Also 99.9% dust free, this bedding will save your hamster from respiratory issues that can be caused by other beddings that contain dust particles. These particles get tossed into the air any time the hamster moves, and can decrease the lifespan of your pet.
3. Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding
Small Pet Select Unbleached White Paper Bedding is an all-natural brand that can be purchased in a bulk size of 178 liters, which equates to 16.5 pounds of bedding. On average, this amount of bedding would last you about eight cage cleanings. You can even purchase the bulk bag in a pack of three on Amazon.
Now, you may also be asking yourself how often you should be changing the bedding in your hamster's cage. This can differ depending on how many hamsters you have, and how messy they are.
Typically, your cage(s) should be cleaned once a week, but an extra messy pet may require spot cleanings throughout the week to limit harsh odors and excrement build-up.
If you follow these simple guidelines for you pet's cage-care, you will surely have a happier hamster who will likely live a lot longer too.