Choosing the proper bedding for your guinea pig is essential.
The wrong type of bedding could cause various health problems for guinea pigs, especially if they ingest it.
If you already own a cat, you may be wondering: Is cat litter a safe bedding option for guinea pigs?
Cat litter is unsafe for guinea pigs, and certain types will cause severe health problems. Even alternative litter options like recycled paper or wood pellets may contain ingredients harmful to guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs have very sensitive skin and respiratory systems, and you do not want to cause your pets any irritation.
It is also difficult to prevent your guinea pig from accidentally ingesting the litter, which might be deadly.
Read on for more information on why cat litter is bad for guinea pigs and which bedding options are safe.
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Health Issues in Guinea Pigs Caused by Cat Litter
Cat litter is not designed for guinea pigs and may contain harmful ingredients to small animals.
While a favorite choice among cat owners is clumping litter, this type is the most dangerous for cavies.
Silica or clay-based litters are especially dangerous for cavies if they are accidentally ingested.
Guinea pigs are more likely to eat the litter than cats, resulting in life-threatening intestinal blockages.
Intestinal blockages from clumping litter will cause a guinea pig to become constipated, and the animal will likely become distressed and stop eating.
The animal will die if an intestinal blockage in a cavy is not treated quickly.
Respiratory illnesses are another problem stemming from using cat litter for a guinea pig.
Many types of cat litter containing clay or crystals produce a lot of dust.
This dust will cause severe respiratory issues in guinea pigs when they breathe it in.
Guinea pigs have sensitive noses, and any type of litter containing added scents will cause irritation and breathing issues.
There are alternative cat litters made from natural materials like paper or wood pellets, but these may contain dust or scents toxic to guinea pigs.
A recycled paper cat litter may be used in an emergency, but it is not something you want to use all the time.
It is best to avoid using cat litter near your cavy and choose a safer option instead.
What Types of Bedding Are Safe for Guinea Pigs?
Several varieties of bedding are available for guinea pigs, and they are much safer to use than cat litter.
Always read the list of ingredients on any type of bedding you want to use to ensure it is safe for guinea pigs.
If you have a litter box in your guinea pig cage, some of these options work well as an alternative to cat litter.
Most bedding choices are available at your local pet store, or you may purchase them online.
Some guinea pig owners use cotton products such as cloths or towels for guinea pig bedding.
Cotton is comfortable and absorbent, and it is easy to wash.
The downside to using cotton cloths or towels is that they are difficult to clean every day and may need to be replaced frequently to avoid a buildup of odors.
However, if you have run out of your regular bedding and need to clean the cage, they will work in a pinch.
Fleece guinea pig liners are becoming increasingly popular due to their ease of use.
The fleece is also very soft and comfortable bedding for guinea pigs, and they seem to enjoy it.
Fleece cage liners come in various bright colors, so they are more pleasant to look at than other types of bedding.
A fleece cage liner has soft fleece for the top layer, which is attached to a more absorbent material underneath.
These liners also have a layer of fleece on the bottom, making the bedding reversible.
Fleece bedding is excellent at wicking away moisture and controls odors very well.
Fleece liners come in several sizes designed to fit the cage floor.
You will need to spot clean the fleece liner daily to remove food spills and guinea pig poop.
Depending on the cage size, how many cavies you own, and what you feed them, you will have to wash the fleece liner every 2-6 days.
While fleece liners are initially a bit more expensive than more traditional guinea pig bedding types, you will save money in the long run because they are washable and reusable.
You will find fleece guinea pig liners from several manufacturers online, and there are also tutorials available to make your own.
Learn how long guinea pig fleece liners last in our article at the link.
Hay is one of the cheapest bedding options for guinea pigs, but they tend to eat it.
You will need to clean the cage frequently since hay is ineffective at odor control and retains moisture.
Keeping the cage clean is more challenging with hay because it tends to be messy.
But, if you do not mind the extra work involved, hay is a good, inexpensive bedding choice.
Paper is also a decent inexpensive bedding option for guinea pigs.
Paper-based bedding is very absorbent and works well to control urine smells.
Paper bedding is available in many different forms, including pellets and shavings.
Avoid newspaper shavings, as the ink may contain ingredients that create a health hazard for cavies.
As with hay, paper bedding will need to be cleaned frequently to prevent any odors, and it is sometimes messy because it will clump together when it is soiled.
Aspen shavings are frequently used as guinea pig bedding and work well to control odors.
Aspen bedding is safe for guinea pigs because it is dust-free and odorless.
Avoid any types of pine or cedar bedding, as they contain toxic oils (at least to guinea pigs).
Some cavies may even be allergic to certain types of wood shavings, so be sure to choose the correct ones made just for guinea pigs.
Wood shavings are not as comfortable as other types of bedding, so you may also want to add some fleece or cotton bedding in specific areas, such as where the guinea pig sleeps.
Will Guinea Pigs Use a Litter Box?
It is possible to train your guinea pigs to use a small litter box in the cage.
Some cavies are fast learners, while others may never fully understand the concept.
You have to be patient when training your cavy to use a litter box because it is very likely for the animal to go outside the litter box until they get the hang of it.
A cat litter box is too large for a guinea pig cage, so you will have to find something smaller to use.
Small hamster litter boxes are very similar to cat litter boxes, except they are small enough for a guinea pig cage.
You may also make your cavy litter box by using a small plastic box with a hole cut inside for the animal to get in and out.
Use fresh bedding mixed with old bedding in the litter box, so the guinea pig recognizes the scent.
It is helpful to pay attention to where your cavy frequently goes to the bathroom in the cage.
Placing the litter box in this area makes it more likely for the guinea pig to use it.
Monitor your cavy, and immediately offer a treat as a reward if it uses the box.
This will encourage the guinea pig to use the box regularly.
Not every guinea pig will be able to learn how to use a litter box, so do not be upset if your attempts at training are unsuccessful.