Choosing the right bedding to go inside hamster cages is a sometimes a life or death decision! Your hamster is in constant contact with the materials, so these need to be non-toxic and contain nothing remotely abrasive or sharp. This article gives tips for what to use in the cage, what not to use, and how to tidy and clean the cage contents. This should give you a guide for shopping for your hamster and appropriate daily and weekly cleaning duties.
What To Put in
Hamsters chew all sorts of things and the lining of their cheeks (their little pouches) is a delicate membrane that is easily injured. They also have delicate eyes, skin and gastro-intestinal systems, so never introduce any type of bedding that is potentially toxic, abrasive or in any way could develop into a sharp piece, no matter how small. You can try putting a clean layer of sawdust on the floor of the cage (1, 5) and clean white kitchen paper for bedding (1, 5). Or use timothy hay, aspen shavings, shredded paper, pelleted bedding (2,3,4) and/or hamster-specific recycled bedding (3). These should be fine but be aware other materials are very dangerous.
What Not To Put In
Cedar or pine chips or shavings can create poisonous fumes (2, 4) and newspaper or other paper printed inks can also be a poison to hamsters (1, 4, and 5). Don’t use synthetic fluffy, other fluffy, fabric or wool bedding, including cotton wool as it can become lodged in their cheek pouches (4) or cause blockages if eaten which can be fatal (5, 6). Stick to the list of recommended substances unless otherwise directed by your vet for safety and develop good cage hygiene habits to ensure better health.
You will need to tidy the cage daily – this means removing soiled and wet bedding materials and any pieces of discarded food, otherwise it will rot in there. You can also use this time to check for any sharp pieces, although hopefully these won’t ever happen as you’ve already red the Safer Cages Tips. Place your hamster into a safe enclosed area for weekly cleaning, while you empty and wash down the hutch with hamster-safe disinfectant from a pet store or your vet. You may want to retain a little old bedding to mix it, to make your hamster feel at home when she/he gets back to his spring-cleaned cage with otherwise unfamiliar smells all around her/him.
Clean safe materials in the cage are a must – you risk hamster injury or worse by trying different materials. Creating a safe place to put hammy in while you clean is essential, one way to do this is to double up a daily exercise play pen as the cleaning-time enclosure. With a checklist of some known good hamster care ideas and some known harmful materials, you should be equipped to make a cosy home and start your hamster cage cleaning routine.
Jonathon & Jo Boyd
1. RSPCA. Pet care – Hamsters. [online]. Available from:
2. ASPCA. Hamster Care [online]. Available from:
3. Hamster Care The 411 [online]. Available from:
4. EASE. The EASE Guide To caring For Hamsters [online]. Available from:
5. PDSA. Golden Hamsters – A Suitable Environment [online]. Available from:
6. National Hamster Society. Getting Started [online]. Available at: