Choosing The Proper Bedding For A Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are very susceptible to respiratory illnesses, which may be aggravated by oily or dusty bedding. Here are the proper bedding materials for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs make ideal family pets, especially for families with small children. With their docile natures and natural sociability, guinea pigs make a great addition to the family unit. They have minimal food and water requirements, and relatively long lifespans for such small animals.
Their droppings are not offensive, and are easily disposable. Many guinea pigs become 'housebroken', learning to save any eliminations for their cages. Since they spend much of the time in their cage homes, choosing the proper bedding is essential. The wrong bedding can not only make a guinea pig uncomfortable, it can also cause potentially fatal illnesses. Here are the most common types of pet bedding used today, along with
advice on whether or not to use the material in a guinea pig's cage.
1. Cedar shavings: Commonly found in pet stores, cedar shavings are certainly one of the least expensive bedding materials available, and are usually used in situations that require a large amount of bedding. But cedar contains a very high concentration of tree oils, which is not good for a guinea pig's overall health. Cedar shavings are NOT recommended for a guinea pig's cage.
2. Pine shavings: Lighter in color than cedar shavings, pine shavings are usually kept in stock at most pet stores. Some shavings look like flakes, while others may seem more like wood that has been 'ground up' by machinery. Very absorbent and fragrant, pine shavings are not a bad choice for guinea pigs, but not perfect, either. Pine also contains wood oils, which can irritate a guinea pig's system, plus can be a bit dusty. Excessive dust exposure can cause respiratory problems for small animals. Therefore, standard pine shavings are MARGINALLY ACCEPTABLE for guinea pig owners on a budget.
3. Aspen pine shavings: This is the best compromise available at most pet stores. Aspen pine shavings are nearly oil-free, and the dust is negligible. Most guinea pig reference books will recommend Aspen pine bedding as the best choice for guinea pigs. A little pricier than the standard pine shavings, but worth it in the long run. Make sure you are indeed getting the Aspen variety of pine shavings when shopping. Because of its low oil content and dust-free nature, Aspen pine bedding is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for guinea pigs.
4. Natural hay bedding: Guinea pigs go crazy for hay as a snack, so the use of it as bedding is bliss for guineas. Not nearly as absorbent as the wood chip beddings, but definitely popular with the one intended to use it. For those who prefer an all-organic approach to pet raising, hay is a good choice. But owners must be aware of any signs of mold or other spoilage. Natural hay may also have pollen or other dusty substances, so that may be a consideration. For the benefits of an organic bedding, natural hay is a GOOD choice, but more owner diligence may be required.
5. Newspaper: Those pet owners who have observed gerbils or hamsters eagerly tear into newspaper and build nests may be surprised that the guinea pig does not share in this practice. Guinea pigs will chew newspaper, but will usually swallow it. They do not make nests with the lightly chewed remnants. Newspaper also traps urine in the upper layers, which can lead to odor troubles and 'urinary scalding' on the tender bellies of the guinea pigs. As a temporary fix while transporting a sick guinea pig to the vet or as a stopgap until regular bedding can be obtained, newspaper is an acceptable choice. But it should not be used as the permanent bedding. The inks can cause intestinal distress for the pig when ingested, and the potential for pneumonia is increased with wet bedding. For those reasons, newspaper is ACCEPTABLE as a temporary solution, but NOT ACCEPTABLE as a permanent bedding choice.
Some pet owners have suggested using cat litter under the bedding as a absorbent layer. While some may find this practice acceptable, the dust factor cannot be ignored. Baking soda is a more organic choice, and is better tolerated by the guinea pig. Cages should only be cleaned with acetic or citric acid products, such as white vinegar or orange-based cleaners labeled as safe for pet use.