Guinea pigs often nib on many strange things in their cage, but can guinea pigs eat their bedding?
I had the same question when I caught my furry friend chewing on its paper bedding and rushed it to the vet for peace of mind.
Fortunately, I'm here to talk about whether it's safe for your pet cavy to chew its bedding and how to stop this behavior.
Just keep reading!
- Healthy guinea pigs shouldn't have much interest in consuming non-food items, such as their bedding.
- Most types of bedding are safe for guinea pigs to consume in small amounts and should not cause health issues.
- Guinea pigs eat their bedding for a variety of reasons, so it's vital to take preventive measures and avoid future health problems.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Chew So Much?
Before getting to whether bedding is safe for eating, let's talk about why our furry friends love chewing so much on everything in sight.
As specialists from RSPCA say, "Chewing helps to wear down their continuously growing teeth and is very important in maintaining dental and gastrointestinal health." (1)
Chewing is also a form of exercise and a way for your piggies to express emotions, such as boredom and anxiety. It's
However, not everything your piggies chew is safe for their delicate stomach. Excessive gnawing on strange materials can also signal a health problem, even when it looks cute, as in the video below.
So, should you worry if your cavies eat their bedding? Let's find out!
Is It Safe for Cavies to Eat Bedding?
Can guinea pigs eat their bedding? In terms of ability, guinea pigs have shart teeth that chew through wood, paper, and fabric with ease, so most bedding types are no match for them.
The important question is, "Should guinea pigs eat their bedding?" And the answer is a bit complicated because owners use different types of bedding for guinea pigs.
Still, a healthy guinea pig shouldn't be interested in eating its bedding materials because it's not proper food and doesn't have nutritional value.
But it's not a problem for your pet to eat a small amount of safe bedding. The key word is "safe" because not all popular bedding options are chemical-free.
This brings us to an important question: "Can you use puppy pads for guinea pigs?" It's crucial to consider the safety of various bedding materials, including those not traditionally used for small animals.
Let's talk about types of bedding that are a safe option for guinea pigs.
What Bedding Is Safe for Guinea Pigs to Eat?
A hay-based substrate is the safest option for pets that eat their bedding. Hay is full of essential nutrients and vitamins and is one of the best food options for guinea pigs.
The downside of hay is that it doesn't control odors, and the lack of an absorbent layer means you'll have to spend more time cleaning the cage. That's why hay isn't the best option for cavies.
Instead, most pet parents use paper bedding for guinea pigs. The good news is that paper litter pellets are safe to eat in small amounts because they're made from natural absorbent materials.
Quality paper bedding also absorbs urine and water well, so it's an excellent option for guinea pigs that make a mess in the cage.
It's not a problem if your piggies chew on cotton towels or fleece bedding. But it's dangerous to swallow a large piece of fabric because it can get lodged in the intestines.
Wood shavings (ash or aspen bedding) are also unlikely to cause health problems in small quantities. However, cat litter, non-kiln-dried pine shavings, cedar shavings, and old newspapers can be dangerous.
Now, let's talk in detail about why it can be dangerous for guinea pigs to eat their bedding.
Why Is It Dangerous for Cavies to Eat Bedding?
First, let me reassure you. The risk of your furry friend getting sick after eating a bit of bedding is pretty low. But you should keep a few dangers in mind.
#1 Toxic Material
I used reusable bedding in the guinea pig cage a couple of years ago. I wanted to reduce my pet's carbon footprint and spend less time scraping wood shavings off the cage floor.
However, my cavy ended up in the emergency vet clinic. I had washed the cage liners in the washing machine with a detergent that wasn't pet-friendly, making my fluffy ball sick.
Wood shavings are also more dangerous than you imagine. Pine and cedar shavings have toxic oils that can cause liver disease, while dusty bedding can lead to respiratory issues.
Paper also has its dangers, believe it or not. Shredded paper and recycled paper bedding can contain nasty chemicals that can upset your floofy friend's sensitive system when eaten.
#2 Intestinal Obsturction
Reusable options for guinea pigs can also cause intestinal obstruction. Your cavy's digestive system can't digest a large piece of cloth, and it can get stuck in the stomach.
Unfortunately, intestinal obstruction can be deadly in such a small animal. Its treatment is also costly, and the recovery can be slow.
I recommend observing your cavy if you use fleece cage liners to ensure your pet isn't eating too much of the fleece material.
Also, avoid any type of bedding that clumps (such as clumping litter) because it will harden in your cavy's intestines. And be careful when washing the material!
#3 Dental Injuries
Your pet can hurt its teeth when eating its bedding, especially if it has sharp edges or you have secured it to the cage floor. Using comfortable bedding, such as paper, can reduce the risk.
Unfortunately, obsessive bedding eating may be a red flag that something is wrong with your poor piggy. So, let's talk more about why some cavies eat through their bedding.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Bedding?
As a guinea pig parent, I was surprised to learn that it's normal for cavies to eat their feces. But when paper, wood shavings, or fleece become your pet's favorite food, it signals a problem, such as:
- Boredom. Cavies need plenty of physical and mental stimulation to enjoy a healthy life. When you don't provide toys and a rich environment, chewing on unedible objects is entertainment.
- Hunger. According to the Human Society of the United States, guinea pigs need constant access to food to promote digestion. And when there's no food, the bedding seems a suitable option. (2)
- Dental Disease. Chewing relieves tooth pain, so gnawing on unusual objects can mean your cavy has dental problems. Watch for weight loss, appetite change, facial swelling, and lethargy.
- Lack of nutrients. When you don't provide a balanced diet, your cavy's system misses essential nutrients, so your pet tries to get them by eating what's available in the cage.
But can you do anything to stop your floofy friend from eating its cage liners or paper pellets? Let's find out!
5 Tips to Prevent Guinea Pigs from Eating Their Bedding
Once you identify why your guinea pig is eating its bedding, you can use these tips to put a stop to this destructive behavior!
#1 Pick the Right Bedding
The right type of bedding can prevent common issues, such as chewing/eating non-food items. For example, hemp bedding has an unpleasant taste, so most cavies won't be interested in it.
Also, you can use hay as a top layer instead of paper, aspen, or traditional cage liners for guinea pigs. Consider using a "guinea pig cage liner washable set," which offers a reusable and safe bedding option. In this way, the guinea pig will eat the hay, not the bedding on the bottom.
But remember to avoid straw, cat litter, and some types of wood shavings, such as cedar or pine. They contain toxins that cause liver damage.
#2 Use Your Bedding Options Smart
Since I don't want to spend endless time cleaning the cavy cage, here's how I use different types of bedding to prevent chewing and make it easy to maintain:
- I use Luftpets' guinea pig cage liners to cover the toilet area. It's a great alternative to disposable bedding types because it's machine washable, non-slip, and easy to maintain.
- I put 2-3 inches of aspen shavings on top of the liners to discourage my fluffy ball from chewing.
- Then, I spot-clean the entire cage a couple of times per day to remove waste and debris.
#3 Regular Vet Checks
You should take your guinea pig to the vet at least once a year to check for common issues, such as respiratory disease, foot issues (cavies have sensitive feet!), and dental problems.
#4 Balanced Diet
Provide a balanced diet of hay, pellets from the pet store, and vegetables. And don't forget that you need Vitamin C supplements since cavies can't synthesize it on their own!
#5 Provide Stimulations
Studies conclude that guinea pigs are best raised in pairs to avoid health problems. So, you should provide a companion for your piggy and a variety of toys to avoid boredom and depression. You should have a variety of toys in the cage to ensure your guinea pig has enough physical and mental stimulation.
Also, you need the right cage size. If it's too small, your cavy won't have enough space for exercise and will look for alternative entertainment, such as eating bedding.
1. Can guinea pigs chew and eat cardboard?
Guinea pigs can chew and eat cardboard without problems because cardboard is made from plant-based materials.
2. Can I use pee pads in my guinea pig cage?
You can use pee pads in the guinea pig cage as a short-term solution. They're not the best guinea pig bedding for long-term use because they can cause intestinal obstruction if eaten.
3. Can guinea pigs eat straw?
Guinea pigs can eat straw, but it doesn't have the same nutritional value as hay. And straw is hard and sharp, so there's a risk of injuries.
Can guinea pigs eat their bedding? It's not a problem if your cavy has a bite or two of its bedding material, especially when you use common types, such as paper, wood, and hay.
However, excessive bedding consumption can cause a health problem or indicate that something is wrong with your cavy's teeth or nutrient intake.
So, you should mention the bedding eating to your vet, especially if it's a new behavior and your guinea pig has other symptoms.
What do you think about guinea pigs eating their bedding? Has it ever happened to you? Share your experience in the comment section.
1. Feeding guinea pigs | RSPCA Victoria [Internet]. RSPCA. 2022 [cited 2023 Nov 8]. Available from: https://rspcavic.org/feeding-guinea-pigs/
2. Guinea pig feeding [Internet]. The Humane Society of the United States. 2018. Available from: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-feeding
3. Fitria L, Wijayanti N, Arisuryanti T, Salasia SIO. Health comparison between guinea pigs raised in uncontrolled and controlled environments. Veterinary World. 2022;1575–82.