Best Bedding for Burrowers: A comprehensive guide for small animal owners

Choosing bedding for your small pet can feel a little overwhelming. Your pet needs something absorbent to help soak up his waste, but he also needs fluffy bedding for burrowing. Watching your little fuzzy pet play and dive through soft bedding is not only fun for you, but it's essential for your tiny burrower's mental health.

Burrowing is instinctual for many small animals, like gerbils, rabbits, and hamsters. In the wild, they burrow into nests when they sleep to stay warm and protected from the elements. But they can also burrow for fun. Burrowing is a natural part of small animal enrichment. Providing the right bedding and enough space in the cage for burrowing is important for your pet's mental health. In fact, if your pets can't burrow, they might become depressed or anxious.

Interestingly, even small animals like guinea pigs that don't burrow naturally in the wild may still enjoy light burrowing as pets, as long as the bedding is soft and easy to move.

So, how do you know what bedding is best? This guide will help you understand what to avoid and what is best for your small furry friend.

How to Choose the Best Bedding for Burrowing

When looking for small animal bedding that's best for burrowing, you want a soft and absorbent substrate that gives off very little dust. This is why paper bedding is so popular.

What to Avoid in Bedding for Burrowing

However, some of the choices you might see pet parents talking about actually aren't a good choice for small animal health. Watch out for these:

  • Avoid pulp paper bedding that may have sand and wood shivs in it. These unwanted additions may irritate your pet's skin or cause injury. Look for products that use super soft, high-quality shredded paper.
  • Avoid fleece. It can make a nice soft cage liner, but it's a huge shedder of microfibers, which are tiny plastics that are bad for the environment and dangerous for your pet if ingested.
  • The bedding shouldn't be heavy or difficult for a little animal to move around.
  • Don't use substances that can be dusty and irritate your pet's lungs, like soil, sand, or sawdust.
  • Avoid bedding with cedar chips. While they may smell nice, these aromatic compounds can actually give small animals respiratory issues.
  • Don't use a product like cotton wool that pulls into tiny strands your pet can get tangled in.

What to Look for in Bedding for Burrowing

While this may feel like a lot of items to avoid, you're still left with great choices for your little fuzzy pet.

  • Paper-based materials are great as long as you use high-quality ones. Look for commercial products designed for small pets, like the Kaytee Clean & Cozy line. Clean & Cozy is unique among paper bedding brands because it only uses high-quality remnants and trimmings from paper that meet the standards for human use, not lower-grade pulp. Plus, an industrial vacuum is used to remove dust from the product, so it's 99 percent dust-free and highly absorbent.
  • Recycled, soft granules and paper pellets are another option. However, they may not be sturdy enough for easy burrowing. Some pet parents use them as a bottom layer with fluffier bedding on top.
  • If you really want to use wood shavings, try aspen shavings, like the Kaytee Aspen Bedding that's processed to eliminate dust. They control odors well and are safe for pets.
  • Make sure it's light enough to be easily pushed around.
  • Harder wood pellets (not cedar), like Kaytee Wood Pellets, can be a great absorbent litter for small animals, like ferrets or rabbits. But your pets will still want separate, softer bedding for burrowing.

Paper-Based Bedding Meets All Your Pet's Needs

If you're looking for soft bedding that's great for burrowing, you really can't beat shredded paper for your tiny pet. The Kaytee Clean & Cozy line provides more absorbency than wood shavings. It's also 99 percent dust-free to protect your little pet's fragile lungs. The bedding is designed to be safe for all small animals like rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, guinea pigs, rats, and gerbils.

The Clean & Cozy line also offers different varieties depending on your preference. There are fun blue and purple colors to match your decor. Or you can opt for bedding scented with real lavender that smells good, helps mask odors, and is safe for your pet's lungs. There's even a Natural line with no bleaches, artificial scents, or dyes.

Burrowing Is Vital for Mental Enrichment

Burrowing is vital for your small pet's mental enrichment. Some pet owners might even try arranging the bedding in different thicknesses or mixing different types for better mental enrichment. Or they might try Kaytee Clean & Cozy Confetti Bedding, which has colorful pet-safe pieces mixed in the bedding your pet can unroll and play with. Whatever you choose, make sure you're getting a soft variety that's dust-free and designed especially for your little pet.