Lining The Cage
This substrate acts as a slightly softer surface for your pet to live on (a bit like carpets in a human house compared to the bare concrete), but also as a form of litter which should be able to soak up any urine.
Traditionally, hamster owners would use wood flakes or sawdust to do this. This was made from pine, which is affordable and economical. It could be quite dusty though, and some edges would be sharp and abrasive, possibly splintering. Pine and cedar chips are therefore not recommended by some. Aspen is seen as a great material pick.
Some people use wood or paper-based cat litter, as long as it is comfortable enough for their hamster to walk on. You would have to watch out in case it was eaten, however – they can struggle to digest it fully, causing issues.
So now, the best option is usually seen as paper or natural cellulose/paper-based fibres. Ensure it is for hamster use and doesn’t have a print or anything on.
You should generally avoid artificially scented stuff, as this is designed to just mask the smell of your hamsters waste as opposed to having a benefit for the hamster. They also have very strong noses, so what smells nice to us could be unbearable for them.
Regular shredded paper or cardboard can also be used. If shredding your own paper, it is best not to use a shredder as the edges can be too sharp for their legs. Cardboard can be hard to shred, but you can always place full toilet roll tubes or pieces of a cardboard box in there which they can shred down themselves. The gnawing will also keep their teeth in good condition.
It is worth remembering that whatever you use, it will get damp when your hamster goes to the toilet. Hamster urine is also quite potent if not absorbed, so you need something really able to deal with moisture.
Hamsters are nocturnal, so need somewhere to curl up in during the day. It needs to be soft and comfortable, essentially nothing like their substrate.
Tissue-based bedding is popular, such as kitchen paper if DIY or dedicated soft paper wool if buying. It can be torn up and your hamster will adjust to make it comfortable.
Dedicated soft bedding can be bought from pet shops as you can see above, and this will all be safe for your small rodent which will put your mind at rest if you’re worried about doing everything correctly.
Using things such as cotton wool and other items with small fibres is often not recommended. The fibres can get caught around your hamster’s legs, and may also be ingested which could cause issues.
Some materials can be used for both lining and bedding, but it is important to use a bit of a mix of materials so they can choose what to use and can craft their home as they wish.
Should not have ink or other forms of print on. Old newspaper etc is therefore bad. Should be hand-ripped as opposed to putting through a shredder so the edges can’t harm your hamster’s legs if they get caught. Softer than wood or other similar materials.
Most commonly pine or aspen. Often natural and biodegradable, it is seen as the best for absorbing liquid without disintegrating or causing smells. Never buy flakes or chips of wood though, as they can be sharp and splinter when used with hamsters.
The best hamster bedding for your pet could also depend on which breed they are.
Syrian hamsters are found in hot, dry environments so could do with something cool. They usually burrow deep down for shelter so need something thick and cool.
Dwarf Campbell Russians often live on dry grass and harsher surfaces, so you should ensure this grass is in with their bedding and it also is a bit rougher.
Chinese hamsters tend to hibernate if it gets very cold, so you will need soft materials which are easy to keep naturally warm and maybe place their cage nearer a warm area of the house.