Guinea pigs are extremely sensitive animals. Safe and comfortable bedding is vital for a guinea pig’s health, especially since it stays mostly in its cage. We’d all like to believe that any bedding that’s in the store is good for a guinea pig. Sadly, manufacturers are at times more focused on sales than on what’s actually good for a piggy. Out of many options, only a few are suitable.
The three most common, reliable choices are paper-based bedding, aspen bedding, or fleece. They yield multiple advantages, ranging from low dust levels to high comfort levels. In this article, we’ll learn how to turn regular fleece into appropriate guinea pig bedding.
How to Make Guinea Pig Fleece Bedding?
Making fleece bedding is relatively simple. However, before adding fleece to a cage, two things must be done:
Cleaning the cage completely
This means taking everything out and cleaning each item individually with a vinegar solution. Before putting objects back, make sure to use the solution to wipe the base or liner of the cage.
Placing an absorbent material on the bottom of the cage
Towels and furniture pads are good choices. When the guinea pigs pee or spill, the liquid will pass right through the fleece and onto the absorber, keeping the cage as clean as possible.
Next, add the fleece. Here’s how to prepare it:
Put it in the laundry machine: First, dust off any shavings or debris. Fleece should be washed with unscented detergent and hot water, without fabric softener and dried without dryer sheets. Add 60ml (1/4 of a cup) of white vinegar as a disinfectant. Repeat the process three to seven times. The material has a protective barrier that makes liquids pool on its surface rather than pass through. It has to be washed off.
Check if liquid runs through the fabric freely, after each cycle: Place the fleece on your chosen absorbent material, and pour liquid on it. If the water doesn’t pass through the fabric, redo the washing and drying again. It’s essential that nothing stays on the fleece because the guinea pig’s pee has to pass right through and soak into the towel/pad. Otherwise, the cage will overflow with urine.
Fold the fleece neatly and put it in the cage: Put as many layers as needed (more around eating and sleeping areas), depending on how much the guinea pigs pee. Guinea pigs that eat pellets pee more because they flush out the artificially-added, unnecessary nutrients in them.
Fleece Bedding Upkeep
A responsible adult (not a child) must sweep or vacuum the fleece at least once a day. Otherwise, all the guinea pigs’ droppings and secretions accumulate on it: which turns the cage into an extremely unhealthy and sickening environment.
Typically, the fleece will start to smell bad at some point. Besides washing or changing it every two to three days (based on the instructions above), pre-soaking the laundry can help remove odor. Add one of the following ingredients to the load:
- Baking soda
- Bleach: Guinea pigs have sensitive noses. Wash twice to remove the scent.
- Stripping powders: Add when pre-soaking.
Pros of Fleece Bedding
Fleece has several benefits:
1. It’s economical
Several yards of fleece can be washed and reused for a long time. It’s better than constantly having to buy new beddings.
2. It’s environmental
Reusing fleece and towels is better for the environment than wasting wood shavings on guinea pig poop.
3. It’s exciting
Guinea pigs are very happy every time they see a new pattern of shapes or new colors of fleece become their bedding. Some of them even ‘popcorn’ (jumping up and down).
4. It’s easy
Removing poop from fleece is easier than searching through shavings. Consequently, the cage also smells and looks better.
5. It’s effortless
The guinea pigs can walk freely through the soft fabric with no fear of getting wounded by a pointy piece of wood. It also eliminates the risk of eye, skin, or respiratory infections from other beddings.
Criteria for Choosing a Bedding
The most important factor to consider when choosing the bedding is cleanliness. The dirtier the environment, the higher the risk that the piggy will develop a dangerous infection because guinea pigs are extremely sensitive to chemicals and bacteria.
Low-quality guinea pig bedding collects a lot of dust. Dust gives the guinea pig allergies and respiratory problems. In addition, it’s quite hard to clean droppings out of dust-infested bedding.
Some beddings are rough and uncomfortable. Others don’t absorb urine well. As a result, the cage becomes stinky and unsanitary. Once again, the guinea pig’s health is at risk.
Another, albeit unusual occurrence, is when a guinea pig eats the bedding. Wet balls of paper form in its stomach, blocking digestion and causing serious damage, possibly even killing the piggy. Notice if the guinea pig likes to taste the bedding. If so, switch to aspen or fleece.
Besides fleece bedding, here’s a list of safe alternatives for guinea pigs:
This non-toxic, chemical-free, eco-friendly, odorless, and dust-free bedding is common among responsible guinea pig owners. However, it’s less absorbent than paper-based bedding and fleece, and more expensive.
Large granule/strand paper pellets (unscented)
This bedding is loved among pet owners for its high liquid and stink absorption capacity. It has all the advantages that aspen does, but it’s heavier and a bit expensive.
A natural, safe, expandable, eco-friendly alternative that’s great at keeping odor at bay. Make sure to buy a good brand, otherwise, the bedding will be dusty and mushy.
White paper (unbleached)
A soft, 100% biodegradable, and economical option that’s mostly dust-free. Inferior brands give a strong paper odor and varying levels of absorption.
Surprisingly soft and cozy crumbles can absorb liquids and block odors quite well. This chemical-free and non-toxic alternative can get quite heavy after several days of use.
Compostable, almost dust-free, and highly absorbent of liquids and odors: which means that it can get quite heavy. Beware of low-standard brands that collect dust.
This natural option is compostable, biodegradable, and affordable. It absorbs pee and smells, it’s not very dusty, and it’s easy to clean.
This is the most eco-friendly option: it’s organic, makes for great compost, and it’s grown without pesticides or insecticides. It’s soft, but not as cozy as some other options. Although it’s usually delivered in huge sizes, it’s a heavy end product: meaning that shipping prices may be high.
Some types of bedding are unsafe for guinea pigs:
Softwood shavings or chips
Cedar and pine contain oils, phenols, and dust that cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs.
This is a dry version of hay that does not absorb liquids and droppings at all. Besides, it’s stiff and sharp: therefore a potential hazard for the guinea pig’s sensitive eyes, ears, nose, and feet.
Thin, long strands that are extremely prone to mold and very dangerous if ingested.
Clumping cat litter
This alternative is full of unhealthy chemicals that give it it’s clumping properties. It’s bad for the respiratory tract and even worse if ingested.
Fleece bedding is one of the best options for guinea pigs. It’s safe, soft, affordable, and eco-friendly, and it’s made in a few easy steps. First, it has to be washed with a scent-free detergent, white vinegar, and no softener: then, dried without dryer sheets. Next, it has to be tested. Place the fabric on a towel (or other absorption material). Pour liquid on it. If the liquid flows through, the fleece is ready for use.
However, if it pools on the fleece, then it has to be washed and dried again. Put a towel or furniture pads on the bottom of a freshly cleaned cage. Fold the fleece neatly on top. Fleece bedding must be cleaned at least once daily. Only a responsible adult can be in charge of doing so, as cleanliness is extremely important for the guinea pig’s health.
There are many other great options for bedding. There are four things to look out for when deciding what to buy.
First, dustiness, because a dusty bed means having a sick piggy.
Second, smell, because guinea pigs have very sensitive respiratory tracts.
Third, comfort, because bedding should be soft and cozy.
Last but not least, some guinea pigs nibble on their bedding. Owners should either buy fleece (which can’t be nibbled on), or bedding that’s safe for ingestion. Guinea pigs should never have to live in a dust-infested home that’s full of chemicals. When using fleece, most issues cease to exist.