Which bedding is best for your pet?


There are a variety of pet bedding choices available on the market. When it comes to choosing the best bedding for your small pet, it can be difficult to decide.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of common types of bedding so that you can feel informed to make the best choice for your pet.

Common types of pet bedding include:

  • Wood bedding
  • Hay or straw
  • Paper bedding
  • Cardboard
  • Cat litter
  • Grass mats
  • Fleece or other types of fabric

Wood Bedding

Wood bedding like aspen or kiln-dried pine is quite common and easy to find. Wood bedding is moderately absorbent and is fairly good at odor control. However, it can be dusty and difficult to clean up. You also need to be careful of the type of wood you use since some have aromatic oils that can irritate fragile respiratory systems.

Important Health Note: Never use cedar shavings as bedding as it can cause serious liver complications in pets.

Hay Or Straw

At first glance, hay or straw might seem like a good bedding option for your small pet.  After all, hay is natural and a staple in the daily diets of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other herbivores.  Providing extra hay in the habitat encourages your little one to eat more – another benefit.

Upon closer consideration, however, hay and straw are not very absorbent, and they mold easily when wet.  This means that these materials would need to be changed out more often if included as bedding in your pet’s habitat.  It is also worth noting that hay and straw can also be really dusty, which can lead to respiratory issues and difficulties in cleaning.

Paper Bedding

Paper bedding is a very good bedding option for most small pets. Paper bedding is commonly available and easy to find in most pet stores.  In addition to containing very little dust, most paper bedding is highly absorbent with good odor control.

Some spot cleaning is necessary with paper bedding in order to maintain a hygienic, odor-free habitat.

Paper bedding may not be the best choice for long-haired pets as it can get tangled in their fur and it can be messy for overly rambunctious pets that like to fling their bedding around.


Some pet parents choose to utilize cardboard as bedding. Letting their pets rip it up is wonderful enrichment. Cardboard is plentiful and like paper bedding, it is quite absorbent. However, the difficulty lies in what may be on or in that cardboard. Ink printing or shipping grime is a danger to your little one, as are the tape, adhesives, and staples used to hold them together.

If you choose to recycle your cardboard as bedding, make sure it is as clean as possible and all hazards are removed.

Cat Litter

Cat litter may seem like an obvious choice, especially for litter pans, but only some types are acceptable for your small mammal. Stay away from clay cat litter because they tend to be really dusty, they also become muddy when wet and can become trapped and dry like cement on your pet’s feet. 

Crystal cat litter can be poisonous, so it’s best to stay away. Clumping litters may seem like an easy idea but if ingested they can clump and cause intestinal blockages, even just from grooming it off their feet. 

Other litters have added chemicals or scents that can cause damage to your pet’s respiratory system.

The only cat litters that are acceptable for litter pan use with small animals are paper or wood pellet litters.

Grass Mats

Grass mats are becoming more popular and can be found at many stores and online retailers. They are a great way of providing enrichment, nourishment, and a soft place to sleep. Like straw and hay, however, it is not very absorbent, and they are difficult to spot clean.

Make sure you pick a grass mat from a reputable manufacturer to ensure there are no chemicals, glue, plastic or metal used in the construction.

Fleece And Other Fabrics

Fleece is becoming a more popular option for bedding, particularly for litter-trained pets. Fleece is cozy, absorbent and comes in all sorts of fun colors and patterns. Better yet, it is washable and reusable which can really cut down on costs long term, even though they can seem expensive at first.

However, fleece is not ideal for pets that enjoy chewing their bedding. Holes in the fleece can catch paws and cause injury and if ingested it can cause blockages.

A Look At Oxbow’s Bedding & Litter Solutions

Oxbow offers four different products to meet your pet’s bedding and litter needs. It’s important to know the benefits, differences, and how they can work together to keep your pet comfortable.

Pure Comfort Paper Bedding

Oxbow’s Pure Comfort virgin paper bedding promotes the natural nesting, digging, and hiding behaviors your pet exhibits so it is particularly suited for pets that enjoy burrowing in the wild, like rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats, and mice.

Pure Comfort is also beneficial for chinchillas and guinea pigs by providing a soft, comfortable layer for landing (for the more rambunctious, leaping chins) and snuggly sleeping. Pure Comfort can even be used to make a great dig box for our ferret friends!

The moisture-absorbent qualities wick away messes to help keep your pet’s feet dry and clean. We still recommend checking your pet’s habitat daily and spot cleaning as needed. Ensuring a dry and comfortable home is a key husbandry trait.

Special note on how our Pure Comfort Bags are filled:

It is important to remember that Pure Comfort is not measured by weight, but by the expanded usable volume after it has been removed from the package. This is known as the “recovery volume.” This is similar to how a bag of flour settles and compacts but then fluffs up and appears like a larger amount when you move it into another container. A similar change happens with our Pure Comfort bedding and it is the main reason paper bedding is sold in liters and not pounds or kilograms.

Since the density of the virgin paper we use varies quite a bit, there will naturally be some variation between package sizes and weights, though the recovery volume when you remove it from the bag should always be consistent. All of our Pure Comfort bedding products are filled following the regulations of the National Institute of Standards and Technology under the US Department of Commerce.

Eco-Straw Litter

Eco-Straw is made of all-natural, highly-absorbent wheat straw, making it a perfect addition to keep your little one’s habitat clean and dry. It is particularly great for use in litterboxes and for long-haired pets who would otherwise get paper bedding caught up in their fur!

Veterinarians even use Eco-Straw for post-surgical feline patients to avoid dust contamination of surgical sites or pets with chronic respiratory issues.

What if my pet ingests some?

It’s perfectly normal for pets to inadvertently ingest small amounts of bedding or litter during foraging or out of curiosity. If you notice your pet actively ingesting Eco-Straw, discontinue use and contact your veterinarian.

Benefits for specific pets:

  • RatsMiceHamsters, and Gerbils love to move their bedding around. They create tunnels and nests, cover up special food pantries for safekeeping, and landscape their habitats. Having a combination of the Eco-Straw and Pure Comfort helps support these natural behaviors while also controlling moisture and odor. The heavier Eco-Straw remains in the bottom of the habitat while they can bulldoze and dig to their heart’s content.
  • Guinea Pigs often establish specific bathroom areas this may be around where they eat their hay or in their favorite hiding areas. Having an extra layer of Eco-Straw is beneficial for these high-traffic spots and makes spot cleaning daily easy. We recommend starting with one inch of Eco-Straw, followed by two inches of Pure Comfort bedding for whole habitat coverage.
  • RabbitsChinchillas, and Ferrets can be litterbox trained (at least for urine in bunnies and chins) so utilizing Eco-Straw in the litterbox is a great way to keep things dry and easy to clean. It also helps with the training, as they will learn the difference in texture as being the place to go potty.

Enriched Life Washable Floor Mat

Fleece bedding has been gaining popularity due to its long-term economic and sustainability benefits. We recommend having several on hand so that you can swap them out often for washing. This is another option for long-haired animals who have difficulties with lighter bedding like wood shavings or paper getting caught in their fur.

The Enriched Life Washable Floor Mat is not recommended for pets who have a habit of chewing up their bedding. May not be ideal for heavy chewers like rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils as they may destroy them.

Timothy Club Mat

Timothy Mats provide a fun way to add enrichment to your pet’s bedding routine. Guinea pigs, rabbits, and chinchillas particularly enjoy tearing into their mats.

Because Timothy Mats aren’t particularly absorbent, it is beneficial to couple this with our Eco-Straw litter to make sure your furry friend’s habitat stays dry. These are extra beneficial for hot summer days as a cooler place for your pet to lay.

Bedding is one of the most important parts of your pet’s husbandry practices. Keeping your pet’s habitat clean and dry is important for many reasons, especially for their health and to cut down on unpleasant smells. It is important to have a good cleaning schedule with all pet species.

Spot clean daily and make sure to remove any uneaten fresh food items to prevent mold.  Fully replace bedding weekly to every two weeks, depending on your pet.

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