Are you wondering, "How much bedding do guinea pigs need?"
I struggled a lot when setting up my cavies' enclosure and made a few mistakes until I found the right amount of substrate needed.
Fortunately, I'm here to share my experience so you can have your piggies' cage ready with minimal effort.
Just keep reading.
- You should provide suitable bedding for guinea pigs to prevent health issues, provide warmth, and encourage natural burrowing behavior.
- Cavies need about 2-3 inches of absorbent bedding, such as aspen shavings or paper, to maintain hygiene, control odor, and promote natural behavior.
- Avoid using dusty bedding types, cat litter, cedar shavings, pine shavings, and corn cob.
Do Guinea Pigs Need Bedding?
I didn't think that bedding for guinea pigs was important. Then, my furry friend got a foot infection, and my vet advised me to use fleece bedding to avoid future health issues.
So, before getting to how much bedding your furry friends need, let's see why you should have a layer of bedding inside your cavy's cage.
#1 Avoid Foot Issues
Cavies have sensitive feet and are prone to developing pressure sores on the feet's bottom when kept in cages with wire floors or other hard surfaces.
As specialists from VCA explain, "The sores make guinea pigs susceptible to chronic, deep bacterial infections that cause lameness and pain." In severe cases, your furry friend may lose a leg. (1)
Providing safe bedding, such as aspen, paper, fleece, or cage liners, is vital to avoid this common issue and keep your pet's delicate feet sore-free.
#2 Maintain Hygiene
Cavies pee and poop a lot, and you can't train them to use a litter box. And sometimes water bottles malfunction, getting the whole enclosure wet.
An absorbent layer in the cage ensures your furry friend is dry, clean, and fresh-smelling. Keeping the cage clean is also easy because you can quickly replace the dirty mess with fresh bedding.
Moreover, popular bedding choices control unpleasant cage odors and prevent odor build-up. And cavies are sensitive to ammonia smells, so it's best to keep it to a minimum.
Proper hygiene is vital to avoid common issues, such as bacterial growth, respiratory issues, and parasite infestations.
#3 Provide Comfort and Warmth
Do you like walking or sleeping on hard surfaces? No one does, including animals.
That's why piggy parents should have comfortable bedding in the enclosure so the piggy can take a nap when it gets tired.
Moreover, guinea pigs in outdoor enclosures must have warm bedding to protect them from the elements. Indoor cavies also like to have something warm to snuggle.
#4 Encourage Natural Behavior
Do you know that cavies love to burrow? Guinea pigs feel safe when hidden and love foraging for food, so digging is natural for them.
Digging is also a form of physical and mental exercise for your floofy friends, allowing them to burn off some energy and explore their surroundings.
But how much bedding do guinea pigs need in the cage? Let's find out!
How Much Bedding to Use in the Guinea Pig Cage?
Since cavies need a suitable substrate in their cage to stay happy and healthy, the next question is how much to use. And the amount matters for a couple of good reasons:
- Using a small amount of paper bedding or shavings won't absorb urine well or control odors, which puts your furry friend at risk of respiratory problems and other health issues. It's important to choose the best cage liner for guinea pigs to ensure their well-being.
- Using too much bedding makes it hard to clean. Moreover, changing only the top few inches risks bacteria and mold growing on the cage floor.
- Price. Using little substrate in the cage means you have to change it often, which can be expensive, depending on the type of bedding you use.
So, what's the right amount of bedding to use in the cage? Specialists from the Humane Society of the United States say, "Provide two to three inches of bedding so absorption is maximized." (2)
However, you should consider a couple of factors to determine how much reusable or disposable bedding to get from the pet store. Let's see them.
What Determines How Much Bedding Guinea Pigs Need?
Pet parents often ask me, "How do you know how much bedding to buy for your cavies?" I wish I could say a concrete amount, but it depends on a few important factors. And here they are.
#1 Cage Size
The enclosure size is one of the most important factors determining how much bedding your guinea pig needs. The more square feet, the more absorbent material you'll need to cover the whole floor.
In general, experts from RSPCA recommend at least 7.5 square feet. But since cavies are social animals and do best in pairs, you should consider at least a 10.5-ft cage. (3)
I recommend getting a few bags of guinea pig bedding until you can estimate how much it takes to cover the cage's bottom. You want to be prepared if you run out of the first bag quicker than expected.
#2 Type of Bedding
When it comes to guinea pig bedding, guinea pig parents have reusable options (fleece and washable cage liners) and disposable options (aspen bedding, paper, shavings, etc.).
If you're using reusable bedding, such as fleece cage liners, you must measure to ensure they're big enough to cover the cage floor.
Moreover, you need to have a few extra fleece liners available. You never know when your cavies may get sick or spill fresh water in the cage.
For disposable bedding, you need 2-3 inches of shavings or pellets inside the enclosure. Depending on the size of the enclosure, a bag of paper or aspen bedding can last 2-3 changes.
In a moment, I'll talk about how long each type can last, so stay tuned!
#3 How Many Cavies You Have
As mentioned, cavies are social animals. They can get lonely, depressed, and sick when alone, so you should keep them in pairs.
But the more piggies you have, the quicker the bedding gets dirty and has to be replaced to maintain hygiene and prevent disease.
If you have two guinea pigs, a 50-60 L bag of bedding should be enough to last a month. However, pet parents with more animals can go through a couple of large bags, which is expensive.
That's why I prefer using Luftpet washable cage liners for guinea pigs. They're waterproof, machine washable, and comfortable for delicate guinea pigs.
#4 Frequency of Cleaning
Daily spot cleaning is necessary to remove debris to prevent the spread of guinea pig diseases. And it's important not only for hygienic purposes.
Regular spot cleaning also means you don't have to change the whole bedding every few days. Instead, you can only remove the wet parts and add fresh bedding.
This way, a 50-60 L pet bedding bag can be enough for 2-3 changes. But if you don't spot clean daily, you'll have to replace the bedding every 2-3 days. That's expensive!
Check this video to see how to clean a guinea pig enclosure with bedding! It will give you a rough idea how much bedding you'll need.
#5 Age and Diseases
Baby cavies pee and poop more often than adults. So, you'll have to change the bedding often to maintain a clean environment and allow your baby cavies to thrive.
Guinea pigs can also suffer from underlying conditions that make them urinate or defecate more often than usual, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, kidney disease, and diarrhea.
In such circumstances, you'll need more bedding than usual to keep the cage clean and prevent health complications.
But what are the best bedding options for guinea pigs, and which lasts the longest? Let's find out!
What Is the Best Bedding Choice for Guinea Pigs?
As mentioned, pet parents can pick between disposable and reusable bedding. Safe options include paper, aspen, hemp, fleece, cage liners, bath mats, etc.
In general, reusable options have a higher initial price, but they're cost-effective in the long run and are better for the environment. Disposable bedding generates a lot of waste but lasts longer.
So, which one is the best choice? Well, it depends on what you're looking for. Paper bedding is the best option if you're looking for something soft, low dust, absorbent, and comfortable.
Paper and aspen wood shavings for guinea pigs also absorb urine, control ammonia smells, and can last up to a week before changing. But they're a bit messy to change and take time to clean.
On the other hand, reusable cage liners and fleece bedding are great if you want something easy to change because you can toss it in the washing machine.
But you'll have to wash the dirty bedding every 3-4 days to maintain the cage clean. And there's always the chance your cavy can eat too much of its bedding and get sick.
It's also worth taking your guinea pig's preferences in mind. Some cavies prefer soft and cuddy materials like fleece, while others are more comfortable with hay or paper.
But the important thing is to avoid certain types of bedding that can be dangerous for your furry friend. Keep reading to learn more about them.
What Types of Bedding to Avoid
Guinea pigs have delicate respiratory systems, so avoiding any bedding that generates big dust clouds is vital. The most dangerous substrates are:
- Sawdust. It's too dusty and cause many health problems.
- Cat litter. Clumping litter can cause intestinal obstruction because it hardens when wet.
- Non-kiln dried pine or cedar shavings. They contain harmful toxins that can damage your pet's organs and cause liver disease. Suitable wood shavings are aspen and ash.
- Corn cob. It's not a safe bedding option for cavies because it gets moldy and can attract insects.
- Straw. It's not toxic to guinea pigs, but it's not comfy bedding and can cause eye and feet problems.
Now, let's talk about how much you will have to spend on bedding and how you can save some money!
How Much Does Guinea Pig Bedding Cost?
Popular guinea pig bedding options, such as high-quality paper bedding, can cost around $30 per 50-litter bag. And one bag is not always enough to last a month.
This leads some pet owners to wonder if alternative options like puppy pads are viable, but it's crucial to ask, "are puppy pads toxic to guinea pigs?" before considering them as a cost-effective solution.
Depending on how many guinea pigs you have and how often you change the bedding, the monthly cost can reach $85-$100.
Fortunately, you can save some money with a few simple tips.
How to Save Money on Guinea Pig Bedding
I quickly realized I couldn't spend nearly $80 per month on quality guinea pig bedding, but I wasn't ready to sacrifice my pet's comfort and switch to low-quality bedding. So, here's a couple of tips:
- Buy in bulk. It's cheaper and ensures you have enough bedding in emergencies.
- Switch to reusable bedding. Fleece and cage liners cost around $40. Even if you add the cost of cleaning them in the washing machine, they're still cheaper in the long run.
- Line the area your guinea pig uses as a toilet with cage liners and pour disposable bedding on the top. It will make the disposable bedding last longer.
- Spot-cleaning the entire cage a couple of times per day can also make your bedding of choice last a bit longer than usual.
- Look for deals and promotions in physical and online pet stores. Some of my favorite zoo stores always offer discounts at least once a month.
1. Do guinea pigs need bedding all over their cage?
Guinea pigs should have bedding all over the cage to absorb moisture, prevent bacterial growth, and reduce unpleasant ammonia odors.
2. Is it okay for guinea pigs to chew on their bedding?
It's normal for guinea pigs to chew their bedding, especially if you're using hay or other edible material. But chewing on the bedding can also mean your pet is bored and lonely.
3. How many times do you need to change a guinea pig bedding?
Under the best circumstances, you'll need to refresh the bedding every 2-3 days and fully clean it once a week. Reusable bedding should be washed every 2-3 days.
How much bedding do guinea pigs need in their enclosure? You must provide at least 2-3 inches of disposable bedding or line the entire cage with reusable material, such as fleece.
However, how much bedding your guinea pigs need per month depends on the cage's size, type of bedding, and how often you clean it.
What do you think about this topic? How much bedding do guinea pigs need in their enclosure? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
1. Hess L. Health Problems in Guinea Pigs [Internet]. vca_corporate. 2009. Available from: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/guinea-pigs-problems
2. The Humane Society of the United States. Guinea pig housing [Internet]. The Humane Society of the United States. 2019. Available from: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-housing
3. Guinea Pig Accommodation - RSPCA South Bedfordshire Branch [Internet]. RSPCA South Bedfordshire Branch. 2017. Available from: https://rspca-bedfordshiresouth.org.uk/faqs/guinea-pigs/guinea-pig-accommodation/