Guinea pigs are incredibly adorable and budget-friendly pets. Besides food, there is one other essential thing to guinea pigs and that is the bedding. It makes them feel safe and comfy in a nice environment. It is known that guinea pigs in the wild sleep even in ground burrows, but domesticated cavies like the bedding for its ability to retain the heat and keep warmth longer. There are many types of bedding shavings on the market, but good research shows which bedding is good and which isn’t.
Can guinea pigs use pine bedding? The pine bedding or pine wood shavings are not good or healthy for the guinea pigs, just as cedar wood too. These shavings are preferred by most owner only because they have a nice smell, and this is somewhat practical for masking odors inside the cage. However, this scent irritates the cavy and its respiratory system; often allergies are the first symptoms or even skin problems and conditions.
Since bedding is so essential for the guinea pigs, you as an owner need to choose the right type of bedding. It doesn’t matter whether the shavings masks the odors or not, what’s most important is the health and comfort of the cavy. It’s sad to think that the adorable cavy would stick its nose in scented bedding all the time, and struggle to breathe well. It’s a mistake to use pine shavings just to cover up odors, but there is a lot to know about which beddings are better than pine, too.
Beddings to Be Avoided, and Their Effects on the Cavy’s Health
The pine shavings are among the worst bedding types for cavies. They smell amazing, but this is simply the release of phenols. Exactly that nice smell is the scent that comes out of the wood. Some pine shavings are canned and dehydrated and are considered safe for cavies because they lack moisture and scents. But, in general, avoid the pine.
This wood is a great irritant for the gentle respiratory system of the cavies. Why? It releases harmful scents from the wood, called phenols, and these scents go out in the air and cause allergies in the guinea pigs. Allergies, together with skin conditions can upset the respiratory system. This is the most common issues caused by the wrong type of bedding. It is the same with cedar wood – also to be avoided. If your cavy is exposed to these scented shavings longer, it will develop chronic liver problems and chronic respiratory issues.
Also, another bedding to be avoided is the one made of corn cob. Corn cob has a few flaws that makes it a poor choice. Out of all beddings, the corn cob gets mold often and the pellet shavings are so small, they can get stuck in the cavy’s ears or the genitals. This issue can cause serious infections. And, do you remember that cavies like to chew on pellets? Well, if they chew or gnaw the corn cob, those pellets will block the intestines once digested.
Straw is also not good for cavies. This bedding never absorbs moisture or smell of urine (ammonia odors). This makes it unpractical for the cavies and their physiological needs. The stalks are quite stiff and hard, so you can imagine this is not comfy like soft bedding! Even worse, straw even cracks or splinters and may injure the cavy’s nose and eyes.
The kitty litter is another material used by owners as cavy’s bedding. This is just as bad as the pine or cedar wood, because it also has chemicals that hide odors. Besides, this is not comfy at all, it resembles rough sand and is ‘stone-like’, so if ingested it can damage the intestines.
Can Cavies Sleep on Blankets or Fleece Fabrics?
Guinea pigs absolutely love to sleep on every fabric the humans use for resting/sleeping. They can cuddle in our arms, on blankets, sheets, and linens. They adore fleece fabrics and soft materials. The softness of these materials comforts the cavies, but it is not a permanent solution. These comfy fabrics like blankets or fleece fabric should be used, for example in the play area, or in the area just for resting. Here, the cavy can take a nap or rest, or even have their snacks and treats there. Your cavy would be thrilled to sleep a bit on such a soft and nice bedding!
Of course, this is not a permanent solution and the guinea pig must have pellet bedding, preferably hay pellets.
Kiln-Dried Pine as a Better Option Than Regular Pine Bedding
Unfortunately, the scented pine bedding is not healthy for cavies, or their respiratory system. Too much scent around the cavies and they will be congested, if not something even worse. They are prone to getting tumors or serious skin conditions, and even liver damage – all from pine pellets mostly!
So, sometimes it may be hard to find the right pellets that are scent-free, so only pine shavings are available. No need to worry, even in such a worst-case scenario when you can’t use fleece fabrics or similar, you can make use of the pine bedding as an urgent solution. If the smell is still strong and present, this is the phenols so they must be removed or reduced. Spread the shavings on a surface and let them air out the smells, and don’t cover this with hay to suffocate the smell. If it’s covered to hide the smell, it will only keep the smell more, trapped inside. Covering up pine with hay must be an urgent solution only! If the pine still smells too much, simply don’t use it.
Some pine shavings are safe to use, if they are kiln dried. Some kinds are air-dried, but kiln dried are a bit better as far as scent removal goes. Basically, kiln drying is wood placed in a special oven for bricks and lumber, and pine wood is dried like this too. Expect that most pet shops will offer pine shavings that are labeled as kiln dried, so you can buy that kind if no others are available.
Can Guinea Pigs Stay in a Cage Made of Pine Wood?
Sometimes, owners want to make their own houses and homes for their pets. For guinea pigs, owners get certain materials and make a small house, but often they make it from pine wood. This is not as bad as using pine bedding. Usually, the lumber used for rodent houses is already dried, or ‘kiln dried’. Pine is a safe material for making pet houses, but unsafe as bedding.
How Often to Change the Pine Bedding and Can It Be Mixed with Other Types of Shavings?
The pine bedding is the same as any other type of bedding shavings; it needs to be changed frequently. Most owners clean the bedding once a week, which is too seldom and it needs to be changed often. Clean bedding is essential for the health and happiness of the cavy.
The pine bedding might mask the urine odor of your cavy, but it’s not healthy for it, as we mentioned. Still, if that one is used, you can air it out prior to putting it in the cage. Some people that have a bit of pine and bit of hay at once, tend to combine these two. The trick is to put the pine bedding first, and cover it with hay pellets on top. This stops the phenols to release scent and press them covered underneath – this is ok but only as an urgent practical solution.
Which Beddings Are the Best for the Cavies?
As a rule of thumb, there are always more than one or two suitable types of bedding. For example, Aspen wood shavings are pretty much an excellent quality. They don’t have the same aroma and strong scents like other types and are not irritants.
You could also use bedding made from fibers of wood pulp and this is quite popular among cavy owners.
Another popular choice is the cotton towels or fleece liners (in rare occasions, for practical reasons only)– even though they require washing very often. The fleece liners are even better for handling and can be custom-fit for the cage.
The paper bedding of some brands is also very good. Certain wood pulps can be practical and fine as well.
The most popular ever bedding and you probably already heard of – the hay pellets bedding. It’s the one essential every cavy loves to have. It is safe, healthy, it is food and bedding at the same time, and it has nutrients vital for surviving. The Timothy hay is one of the most preferred beddings. The hay is good for cavies since they chew it to avoid overgrowth in the teeth and similar dental problems.
Another good hay pellet kind is the alfalfa hay – it has too many nutrients and has to be given in moderation.