wood shavings for alternative bedding for guinea pig

11 Exceptional Bedding Substitutes for Your Beloved Guinea Pigs

Are you on a quest to discover exceptional Bedding Substitutes for Your Beloved Guinea Pigs?

As a first-time cavy caregiver, I was inundated with an array of DIY bedding possibilities, prompting me to dive deep into research to understand their merits and shortcomings.

I'm here today, eager to impart my knowledge regarding the top 11 bedding alternatives for guinea pigs, aiding you in selecting the ideal one for your cuddly companion.

Continue reading to enlighten yourself.

Key Takeaways

  • When choosing the best bedding for guinea pigs, one vital aspect to remember is its absorption capacity, which plays a key role in maintaining the overall tidiness of the cage.
  • It's crucial to uphold cleanliness within the cage for the health and well-being of your guinea pigs, which aids in warding off infectious diseases.
  • It's equally important to understand that certain bedding materials can pose a risk to guinea pigs, and such options should be unequivocally avoided.

    11 Exceptional Bedding Substitutes for Your Beloved Guinea Pigs

    Check out these 11 alternative guinea pig bedding for cage ideas (you can't miss them!):

    #1 Paper - An Absorbent Option

    "Paper bedding is the best bedding option for a guinea pig cage," suggests Catherine Bernetti, DVM [1].

    Guess what? Your guinea will love it.

    If you're keen on trying this bedding, go for the scent-free paper option (those without sharp edges!)...PAPER BEDDING

    Advantages of Paper Bedding

    Paper bedding is highly absorbent and effectively absorbs urine. It also excels at odor control, ensuring a fresh-smelling cage.

    Shredded newspaper or commercially available recycled paper products are recommended as they are safe for ingestion and do not cause respiratory irritation or dust-related issues.

    Paper bedding is soft and comfortable, particularly for guinea pigs with sensitive feet. Furthermore, opting for recycled paper is an eco-friendly choice, reducing your pet's carbon footprint.

    Disadvantages of Paper Bedding

    Cleaning shredded paper requires more effort compared to fleece bedding, as you need to scoop it out of the cage.

    Additionally, guinea pigs have a tendency to kick the paper bedding out of the enclosure.

    Commercial paper bedding can become costly in the long run since they need to be replaced every two weeks. DIY paper beddings are cost-free but requires time and effort to prepare.

    It's essential to avoid chemically-treated paper, as it can be harmful to your guinea pigs' health. Dusty types of paper can also lead to respiratory infections in guinea pigs.

    Creating Paper Bedding

    To make paper bedding for your guinea pigs, follow these steps:

    1. Take several clean sheets of paper and cut them into strips, ensuring there are no sharp edges.
    2. Place the shredded paper into a bowl of warm water and let it soak.
    3. Scrunch the wet paper into a ball and squeeze out as much water as possible.
    4. Put the paper ball into a plastic container and allow it to dry.
    5. Once the paper is completely dry, break it into small pieces and place it inside your guinea pig's cage.

    Let's discuss fleece bedding, another popular option...

    #2 Fleece Liners - A Top Choice

    Fleece liners are a popular and highly recommended bedding option for guinea pigs, especially those with sensitive feet, skin, and respiratory systems.

    Let's delve into the details of their benefits and drawbacks.fleece bedding

    Advantages of Fleece Liners

    Fleece bedding is a safe and gentle option for your cavies, as it is soft and free from dust. It provides a comfortable surface for your piggies and doesn't cause any allergic reactions.

    The absorbent layer in fleece liners effectively wicks away moisture, keeping the cage clean and dry. Additionally, fleece liners come in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs.

    One of the best aspects of fleece liners is that you can easily make them yourself, saving money in the process.

    They are also reusable, making them a cost-effective choice in the long run. Another advantage is that fleece is colorfast, allowing you to use bleach and vinegar to sanitize and eliminate bacteria and germs.

    Furthermore, by opting for fleece bedding, you contribute to environmental sustainability as it generates less waste compared to shavings or paper.

    Disadvantages of Fleece Liners

    Although maintaining fleece bedding is relatively easy, it requires a bit more effort than simply tossing it in the washing machine.

    Since debris tends to stick to the surface, it's essential to remove any solid waste before cleaning the bedding.

    Additionally, fleece liners need a couple of initial washes to reach their maximum absorbent capacity, and fabric softeners cannot be used with them.

    Creating Fleece Bedding

    To craft a fleece liner, you will need two pieces of fleece, an absorbent pad, and a sewing machine. Follow these steps:

    1. Measure the dimensions of your cage (length and width) and add an extra inch to both measurements.
    2. Cut two pieces of fleece according to the calculated size.
    3. Assemble the fleece liner by placing the top piece of fleece with the right side up, followed by the bottom piece with the right side down. The absorbent pad should be placed last, with the absorbent side up.
    4. Sew the pieces together, leaving an opening to flip the fabric. This will ensure that the absorbent layer is positioned in the middle.
    5. Once you have flipped the fabric, sew the opening closed, and your bedding is ready to use.
    6. It is recommended to have at least two fleece liners, allowing you to alternate and maintain fresh bedding.

    Don't forget to check out our premium guinea pig cage liners! Also, here's a quick and eay-to-follow guide on how to keep your pet's cage clean with cage liners.

    Eager for another clever option? Try cardboard...

    #3 Shredded Cardboard - A Safe and Cost-Saving Option

    Shredded cardboard is an excellent disposable bedding option for guinea pigs, known for its safety, cost-effectiveness, and eco-friendliness.shredded cardboard

    Advantages of Cardboard Bedding

    Guinea pigs have a natural tendency to nibble on their bedding, and shredded cardboard is safe for them to chew.

    Cardboard exhibits exceptional absorbency, keeping the cage dry. It is also readily available, affordable, soft, and easy to use.

    Disadvantages of Cardboard Bedding

    Not all cardboard boxes are suitable for bedding, as some may contain glue and other chemicals that can harm your guinea pigs.

    Therefore, it's important to carefully select boxes that are safe for this purpose. Cardboard bedding may require more frequent changes compared to traditional options to prevent unpleasant odors.

    Using Cardboard Bedding

    To utilize cardboard bedding in your guinea pig's cage, follow these steps:

    1. Select a clean cardboard box and ensure it is free from any chemical residue or labels containing ink.
    2. Tear the cardboard into pieces, avoiding sharp edges.
    3. Place the shredded cardboard in the cage and replace it every few days to maintain cleanliness.

    Here's a creative spin on bath mats (HINT: it's great for a guinea bedding option!)...

    #4 Bath Mats - A Convenient Reusable Option

    Bath mats can serve as a simple and reusable bedding option for your guinea pigs, although they may not be the first choice when exploring alternative options.bath math

    Advantages of Bath Mats

    Bath mats are user-friendly, inexpensive, and can be used as a temporary bedding substitute when your usual option is unavailable.

    They are designed to absorb water, eliminating the need for a break-in period. Washing bath mats in a machine with mild detergent and vinegar effectively kills germs.

    They are also durable, lightweight, and provide a soft surface for your guinea pigs. Additionally, you can easily move the cage while cleaning.

    Disadvantages of Bath Mats

    Bath mats may not offer the same level of odor control as other bedding options. Prior to washing, you will need to spend additional time removing hairs and debris from the mat's surface.

    Using Bath Mats as Guinea Pig Bedding

    To utilize bath mats as bedding for your guinea pigs, follow these steps:

    1. Measure your guinea pig's cage and cut the bath mat to the appropriate size.
    2. Place the mat in high-traffic areas of the cage.
    3. Remove debris and food remnants from the mat daily.

    Next, I'll discuss wood shavings - a traditional option...

    #5 Wood Shavings - A Traditional Option with Considerations

    Wood shavings have long been used as bedding for guinea pigs, but it's important to be aware of certain factors when choosing this option.wood shavings

    Advantages of Wood Shavings

    Wood shavings, particularly kiln-dried pine shavings, are absorbent and provide excellent odor control, making them suitable for small pets like guinea pigs.

    They are soft on the paws and free from dust, minimizing the risk of respiratory issues. Some pet owners prefer aspen shavings due to their lack of harmful chemicals.

    Disadvantages of Wood Shavings

    Certain wood types used for shavings contain toxic oils that can be harmful to small animals. It is crucial to ensure the shavings have gone through a special process to eliminate any potential hazards.

    Properly aired pine shavings are safe, but it's recommended to use them in a well-ventilated cage to allow volatile oils to dissipate.

    Regular replacement of wood shavings is necessary, typically on a weekly basis. It's not recommended to attempt making wood shavings at home to avoid using toxic or chemically treated wood.

    Availability of Wood Shavings

    Wood shavings for guinea pigs can be easily found in numerous pet stores.

    Want an affordable choice? Check out aspen savings and keep your pockets on the heavier side...

    #6 Aspen Shavings

    An incredible bedding option for your guineas, aspen shavings are an excellent choice for guinea pig bedding. Here's what you need to know about getting an A+ in Aspen bedding!

    Advantages of Aspen Shavings

    Aspen shavings are a superb choice for guinea pig bedding due to their affordability, high absorbency, and non-aromatic nature.

    The absence of aromatic oils typically found in other wood shavings decreases the risk of your pet developing respiratory issues.

    Moreover, the softness of aspen shavings ensures comfort for your guinea pigs during their resting and play periods.

    Disadvantages of Aspen Shavings

    The main disadvantage of aspen shavings lies in their maintenance. Like most wood-based bedding, aspen shavings can be messy and require consistent cleaning.

    How to Use Aspen Shavings

    Maintain a clean environment by spot-cleaning the aspen shavings daily, removing waste and uneaten food.

    A complete bedding change should be done weekly to guarantee a clean, healthy environment. Unused aspen shavings should be stored in a dry area to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.

    Next up is straw bedding...

    #7 Straw Bedding

    A soft, durable option, straw bedding is another keeper for your guineas. Let's explore it in more detail...

    Advantages of Straw Bedding

    Straw bedding is favored for its low cost, natural origin, and excellent insulation properties. It also offers an element of fun as guinea pigs can play with and nibble on the straw.straw bedding

    Disadvantages of Straw Bedding

    On the downside, straw is less absorbent compared to other bedding options and can be sharp at times, potentially causing injuries to your guinea pigs.

    How to Use Straw Bedding

    Just like other bedding types, straw bedding needs daily spot-cleaning and a full replacement every week. Always inspect for sharp straw pieces when buying and occasionally during use.

    If you encounter any potentially harmful straw pieces, remove them promptly to keep your guinea pig safe.

    Selecting the ideal bedding for your guinea pig depends on various factors such as cost, absorbency, cleaning convenience, and personal preference.

    By exploring these nine bedding options, you can find the perfect bedding solution that meets both your needs and those of your guinea pig.

     Let's get into the Hay bedding option (quite a natural delight!)...

    #8 Hay - Encouraging Natural Behaviors

    Hay is an essential component of a guinea pig's diet, but it can also serve as bedding to promote natural behaviors.

    guinea pig on a hay beddingAdvantages of Hay Bedding

    Using hay as bedding encourages natural behaviors, such as foraging, and provides a comfortable sleeping and playing surface for your guinea pigs.

    It is readily available in pet stores, inexpensive compared to commercial bedding options, and offers softness, comfort, and a dust-free environment. Hay is also eco-friendly, as it can be composted after use.

    Disadvantages of Hay Bedding

    Hay is not as absorbent as other alternatives, necessitating more frequent replacements of dirty bedding.

    Cleaning hay bedding can be messy, as hay stalks can end up scattered throughout your house. Rough hay can have sharp ends, making it unsuitable for guinea pigs with wounds or sensitive skin.

    Using Hay as Bedding

    To utilize hay as bedding for your guinea pigs, follow these steps:

    1. Place clean papers on the bottom of your guinea pig's cage.
    2. Add a layer of hay on top to create a comfortable sleeping and playing surface.

    Note: It is important not to substitute hay with straw, as straw has sharper stalks and offers little nutritional value for your guinea pigs.

    Have you tried hemp bedding? Check out this absorbent type (it's super easy to use!)

    #9 Hemp Bedding - An Absorbent and Antibacterial Option

    Hemp bedding, commonly used for horses, can also be suitable for guinea pigs, offering excellent absorbency and antibacterial properties.

    Advantages of Hemp Bedding

    Hemp bedding is reusable and sustainable, making it an eco-friendly choice. It is free from toxic aromatic oils and low in dust, ensuring a clean and healthy environment for your guinea pigs.

    Hemp exhibits natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, contributing to a hygienic cage. It also provides good odor control.

    Disadvantages of Hemp Bedding

    Hemp bedding may not be as cozy as traditional options, and it may not be suitable for guinea pigs with hairless or sensitive skin.

    It can be a bit messy, and since it is disposable, regular purchases are required.

    Using Hemp as Alternative Bedding for Guinea Pigs

    Since hemp bedding may not offer the same level of softness as other options, it is advisable to add hay or other soft materials to your guinea pig's sleeping area.

    Regular cage cleaning and weekly bedding replacement are recommended. Dirty bedding can be composted or disposed of appropriately.

    Cotton candy is delicious - but what about cotton bedding? Of course, for guinea bedding, that is!

    #10 Cotton Towels - A Soft and Absorbent Choice

    Thin and soft cotton towels can serve as suitable bedding options for guinea pigs, offering comfort and absorbency.cotton towel

    Advantages of Cotton Towels

    Cotton towels are reusable and easy to maintain.

    They possess excellent absorbent properties, making them effective at keeping the cage dry.

    Cotton towels are particularly suitable for guinea pigs with sensitive fur.

    They are available in various colors, patterns, and sizes, allowing for customization. Cotton towels typically require washing every 1-2 weeks.

    Disadvantages of Cotton Towels

    Frequent exposure to cotton dust may lead to respiratory infections in guinea pigs, according to certain studies.

    Cotton towels may not provide the best odor control, and guinea pigs may be inclined to eat cotton threads, which can be dangerous.

    Using Cotton Towels as Guinea Pig Bedding

    Given that cotton towels can become dirty quickly, it is advisable to use them as temporary bedding when other options are unavailable or as an additional absorbent layer beneath your usual bedding.

    Last up are blankets - here's how to use them...

    #11 Blankets - Soft and Reusable

    Blankets can be used as bedding for guinea pigs, offering a soft and reusable option.blanket bedding

    Advantages of Blanket Bedding

    Blankets provide a soft and comfortable surface for your guinea pigs.

    They are absorbent to some extent and can be reused multiple times, making them a cost-effective choice. They are suitable for guinea pigs with sensitive fur.

    Disadvantages of Blanket Bedding

    Blankets may not offer effective odor control. Additionally, guinea pigs may be at risk if they chew and consume the fabric.

    Using Blanket Bedding for Guinea Pigs

    Using blankets as bedding is simple.

    Measure the cage size and find a blanket that matches or cut the fabric accordingly. Remove debris and feces from the blanket daily and wash it every couple of days.

    While these alternative bedding options offer variety, it's important to avoid materials that are unsafe for your guinea pigs' health.

    Let's take a look at some more unsuitable options.

    For a detailed understanding of cage maintenance, be sure to check out my article "Guinea Pig Cage Liner vs Disposable Pads", and to delve deeper into liner choices, don't miss my thorough comparison in "Guinea Pig Cage Liners vs. Bedding".

    3 Steps to Maintain Guinea Pig Bedding Substitutes

    As important as selecting the appropriate bedding for your guinea pig is ensuring its regular upkeep.

    Each type of bedding—whether it's wood, fleece, paper, cotton, hemp, shredded cardboard, or any other type—requires specific attention and care. Here are some generalized steps applicable to all:

    #1 Regular Cleaning

    Regular cleaning is essential to maintain a hygienic environment, emphasizes Veterinarian Jane Tyson [2].

    For instance, fleece bedding requires daily spot cleaning and a thorough wash in a washing machine using a mild detergent at least once a week.

    However, for cotton bedding, hemp, shredded cardboard, or paper-based bedding, it's typically sufficient to replace them when they become soiled, usually every 5-7 days.

    Wood bedding options such as cedar and softwood shavings should be changed once a week or sooner if they become damp, while shredded cardboard should be replaced every few days or as soon as it becomes dirty due to its lesser absorption capacity.

    #2 Proper Storage

    Different beddings require varied storage conditions. Fleece and cotton bedding should be completely dry before storing to prevent them from developing a musty smell.

    For wood, hemp, and paper beddings, ensure to store them in a cool, dry place to avoid mold and bacterial growth.

    #3 Monitor Bedding Condition

    Observing the bedding's condition applies to all types.

    For reusable ones like fleece and cotton, look out for signs of wear and tear. Should they start to fray or if loose threads appear, it may be time for replacement.

    On the other hand, for disposable ones such as paper, hemp, shredded cardboard, and wood shavings, keep an eye out for persistent smell or wetness even after cleaning, which might indicate a need for replacement.

    Regular monitoring and proper maintenance tailored to each bedding type's unique needs will ensure that your guinea pigs have a clean, comfortable, and healthy living environment.

    Here's a quick video recap:


    1. What should I include in my guinea pig's diet?

    Provide high-quality hay, fresh vegetables, and limited amounts of fruits.

    2. Do guinea pigs need social interaction?

    Yes, they are social animals and benefit from companionship.

    3. How can I provide mental stimulation for my guinea pigs?

    You can provide toys, tunnels, hiding spots, and opportunities for foraging to keep them mentally stimulated.


    Learning about the 11 Exceptional Bedding Substitutes for Your Beloved Guinea Pigs is not only super fun but really useful! Before you click away, let's review the basics...

    It's not necessary to rely solely on commercial bedding for your guinea pigs, as there are numerous affordable alternatives that boast impressive absorbency.

    My personal favorite is fleece, due to its machine-washable convenience, but paper bedding is another excellent option for maintaining a clean and odor-free cage.

    In choosing the best bedding for your guinea pigs, you'll need to consider your willingness to handle damp and soiled bedding in your washing machine, versus opting for disposable bedding that can be simply replaced.

    We'd love to hear your thoughts on these nine alternative bedding options for guinea pigs. What's your top choice for guinea pig bedding, and why? We welcome you to share your experiences with us!

    guinea pig lying on wood shavings


    1. Dying guinea pigs found dumped in a cardboard box at park [Internet]. St Helens Star. 2021 [cited 2023 Jun 22]. Available from: https://www.sthelensstar.co.uk/news/19449789.dying-guinea-pigs-found-dumped-cardboard-box-park/

    2. published CBD. Do guinea pigs sleep? Five tips from a vet for keeping your guinea pig healthy [Internet]. PetsRadar. 2020. Available from: https://www.petsradar.com/advice/do-guinea-pigs-sleep-five-tips-from-a-vet-for-keeping-your-guinea-pig-healthy



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