Hamsters consider their homes as their habitat so as a pet owner, it is important to make sure that their cage or enclosure is as comfortable as possible. But aside from comfort, your hamster’s bedding should also be safe. Now, you might be wondering if sawdust is a safe bedding option for hamsters. Can hamsters have sawdust in the first place?
The answer is a definite no-no. Sawdust is never recommended for small animals, including hamsters. This can cause respiratory problems and irritate their nose and eyes. If you love your hamsters, which you do for sure, don’t use sawdust or don’t let them have it at all.
Continue reading below to know more about hamster beddings, why sawdust is not a good option, and what alternatives you can use instead.
Introduction to Substrate
Finding the best and safest substrate is important, especially because your goal here is to ensure that the material is free from dust while offering your pets an odorless and safe environment.
The technical term substrate or hamster bedding is the material used for lining the bottom of the cage or enclosure of your hamsters. This should be used together with the bedding of your hamster, which they also need for nesting.
A good substrate must be absorbent enough so that it will soak up excrements of your hamster, soft enough for your pets to walk on without causing any injuries, and can effectively disguise a plethora of smells.
The main purposes of the substrate include the following:
- Give your hamsters a safe and soft environment to walk around
- Inhibit bad odors.
- Make the hamster cage more pleasing to the eyes of humans
- Provide hamsters a natural environment to burrow and dig
- Soak up the urine
Hamster beddings come in many different types with each having its own set of pros and cons. However, the online community has differing opinions regarding the safety and suitability of some of these options.
You need to line the base of a hamster with about 3 centimeters of hamster bedding to allow adequate burrowing and absorption possibilities. Aside from the hamster substrate, it is also good to add a hamster potty that has a dedicated hamster litter. Just remember that its usefulness will depend on the toilet training of your hamster.
Many hamsters pick a spot where they can urinate and just stick to it. More often than not, this area is the furthest away from the hamster’s nest as much as possible.
You can readily buy substrate in the form of sawdust or wood chippings. It is important to make sure that you choose a material that didn’t undergo any chemical treatments. It should also be free from dust to prevent any breathing issues.
It doesn’t matter what specific hamster breed you have, whether you have a dwarf or a Syrian. All of them need a dust-free environment and an ultra-soft and super absorbent substrate they can run around on.
Is Sawdust Safe for Hamsters?
While sawdust is usually used, this can, unfortunately, irritate some hamsters’ nose, eyes, and lungs, and even cause skin allergies.
If your hamsters are sensitive, a good alternative you can consider is compressed paper bedding because this is softer and less harsh on the small parts of their body. Compressed paper bedding can also absorb urine well.
You might want to look for a good substrate brand. If ever you decide to change your substrate, it is recommended to keep a close eye on your hamsters to ensure that they stay healthy and safe.
Always see to it that the substrate is a minimum of 3 inches deep to give your hamster plenty enough of material that will cushion while walking around and is also thick enough for absorbing urine.
If you have a hamster that loves to burrow, you can always add a few more inches to allow your pet to play and tunnel.
Safe and Unsafe Options for Hamster Bedding
Since sawdust is not that recommended for hamsters, you might want to consider other safer alternatives. This is important because they love moving their bedding around by stuffing it into their cheek pouches.
Several substrates might be dangerous for your hamsters even if they don’t necessarily stuff their cheek pouches with them.
Some of the substrates you should never use are wood shavings derived from cedar or pine trees. Cedar and pine both contain some naturally occurring phenols that serve as the trees’ protection from being infested with fungus or eaten by insects.
Once your hamsters breathe in these dangerous phenols, this may result in some issues with your respiratory system.
The best alternatives you should instead are aspen wood shavings or other paper-based beddings. You can also use toilet paper. This good option is commonly used by hamster owners as nesting materials for their pets because it is very cozy for hamsters and very cheap for their pockets.
Just make sure that if you do use toilet paper as a nesting or bedding material, see to it that it is unscented. Hamsters have a very sensitive sense of smell and even the smallest piece of scented toilet paper may already be too overpowering for these small animals.
You also need to stay away from cotton-based beddings that might get stuck in the cheek pouches of your hamsters or end up wrapped around their tiny teeth. You should also avoid using sharp materials like straw that can cause damage to the inside of the cheek pouches of your hamsters.
What to Do If Hamsters Swallow Their Bedding
If your hamsters end up swallowing their bedding, your hamster will not be exposed to any harm, so you don’t have to worry about anything as long as you know that the bedding is made from a material confirmed to be safe. Your pet can easily digest the material and come out as waste.
The Bottom Line
Substrates are important to create a great living space for your hamsters. While you might have heard of hamster owners using sawdust as substrates, this is not safe for them. Hamsters cannot have sawdust because it can irritate their nose, eyes, and lungs, and even lead to respiratory issues.