BEDDING SUBSTRATES

Your hamster will need at least three different substrates within its cage/habitat for comfort, natural behaviour and cleanliness.

You may of course provide more than one, but the must-haves are

(1)    BEDDING    and    (2)  NESTING    and    (3)  SAND/LITTER

(Sand/Litter and Nesting are dealt with on a separate pages)

Additional substrates and bedding toppers may also be considered for extra variety, but not as complete bedding replacement.

 

Bedding is usually the main substrate within the cage (different to nesting and litter) and lines the base for the hamster to dig in (natural instinct), as well as to sift droppings to the bottom and to assist with odour control from urine if your hamster is not potty-trained to use a sand bath.

PLEASE CHECK THE OTHER SUBSTRATE TOPICS TOO....there may be others mentioned that you can or shouldn't use.

Click to go to:          

HOW MUCH BEDDING?     

SAFE BEDDINGS        

UNSAFE BEDDINGS         

FABRIC           

NEWSPAPER  

SAFE INTERNATIONAL BEDDING LIST

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HOW MUCH BEDDING? This needs to be suitably deep for digging & burrowing: It is suggested that 30cm or more should be provided, but many of us either can’t afford this, or a cage won’t hold that kind of depth. Therefore, a digging/burrowing box of sorts can be constructed for a corner, or a side section of a tank/bin can be partitioned or loaded, to provide this depth. The rest of the habitat’s bedding area should ideally have about 10-15cm. Some hamsters are bigger into digging than others, so you could adjust the depth once you are certain of your little one’s preference or habit.

NOTE: If the packaging states that the bedding has been specially "treated to reduce odour control", BE VERY CAREFUL! Often this means that it has been chemically treated or has bicarbonate/baking soda added, which are usually lethal for rodents.

TIP: Wait until your hamster is fully potty-trained and using only his sand to pee in before giving him a full depth bedding zone. Thereafter, the softer, deeper, bedding section should ideally be about 35% of a large habitat, or 50% of a minimum size with a deeper (min. 25cm, but deeper is always better) zone of it for burrowing, and the rest being alternative/additional safe substrates. If you choose to cover the entire habitat with this bedding, the rest can be about 15cm deep, but make sure you have that deep section in that percentage. Partitions can be made from simple plain cardboard, which is safe for the hamster to nibble on, and cheap & easy enough to replace if necessary. 

PLEASE REFER TO THE "HOW TO USE PAPER BEDDING" PAGE.

 

 SAFE BEDDINGS

PAPER BASED BEDDINGS:

Unscented paper based beddings are the SAFEST and the most highly recommended substrates for hamsters (worldwide), and come in a variety of colours.

While these appear to be expensive, do bear in mind that they last and stay cleaner far longer than most other substrates, and there are many ways that you can stretch the use further within your hamster’s setup, e.g. by dividing your hamster's habitat into sections of other different substrates.

(See details and tips on the Paper Bedding - How to Use page). These are now available in many pet shops in SA and online.

 
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ROBYN'S HAMSTER BEDDING

(super soft)

 

Order from:

ROBYN'S HAMSTER SUPPLIES

https://robynchapman706.wixsite.com/rhsupplies/inventory

robynchapman706@gmail.com

Whatsapp 073 879 2993

https://www.facebook.com/robynshamstersupplies

 

(Delivery/collection from JHB-South)

 Kindly note: This bedding is hand-made to order.

Please allow 7-14 days for it to be made (depending on schedule).

MANUFACTURED IN SA -

PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES!

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HYGGELIG PAPER BEDDING 

(super soft)

Order from:

HYGGELIG HAMSTER HAVEN SA

https://www.hyggelighamsterhaven.co.za/shop

5L trial pack also available

***Bumper 80L pack now available***

(Delivery/collection from South Peninsula, CPT)

https://www.facebook.com/hyggelighamsterhaven

 Kindly note: All bedding is hand-made to order,

so please allow 7-14 days for it to be made (depending on schedule).

MANUFACTURED IN SA - PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES!

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KERI'S CUSTOM CABINS

 PAPER BEDDING (super soft)

 

Order from:

https://www.facebook.com/Keris-Custom-Cabins

Whatsapp 082 868 6436

keriannpackham@gmail.com

(Delivery/collection from Stanford/Hermanus)

 Kindly note: This bedding is hand-made to order.

Please allow 7-14 days for it to be made (depending on schedule).

MANUFACTURED IN SA -

PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES!

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BUDWUD'S HAMSTER BEDDING

The brown bedding is not super soft, but is highly suitable for giving stability to softer paper beddings if necessary.

TO ORDER:

https://tammyopperman1402.wixsite.com/budwudssmallanimalpr/shop

Whatsapp 071 471 6938

budwudspetproducts@gmail.com

FB: Budwud's Small Animal Products and Dog Toys

 

(Delivery/collection from PE area)

 Kindly note: This bedding is hand-made to order.

Please allow 7-14 days for it to be made (depending on schedule).

MANUFACTURED IN SA -

PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES!

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PAPER NESTING MATERIAL

BY HYGGLELIG, BUDWUD and SPROGLEY

Nesting Material is made from shredded plain newsprint and can be used in your hamster's hide/nest box, as an additional substrate in the habitat, or can be used to create layers in between your paper bedding like a fake hay, or to simply make extra depth.

• Affordable.

• Natural

• Organic

• Hamster Safe

• Softer than what it looks  in the pics.

*Please note - the Nesting Material is not 100% ideal as the only bedding substrate throughout the habitat. We still advise that proper paper bedding be used along with the nesting material, but can be used as an economic stand-by bedding until you can afford one of the more lush beddings above.

*Safe for rats as well*

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HAMMY'S BEDDING (PAPER)

MANUFACTURED IN SA

Locally produced (KZN), affordable paper bedding is good for holding burrow structures while also being really soft for your hamster to snuggle in.

Available in White - 20L useable volume.

https://www.mypetshop.co.za/product/hammys-bedding-20-litre/

 

Hopefully back in stock soon!

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ALERT @ June 2022:

Some of the latest batches of Kaytee bedding that arrived in SA appear to be very dusty. 

If you notice an excessive amount of fine dust particles clinging to the glass or walls of your habitat, please ensure that you shake the bedding vigorously in a netting laundry bag (outdoors) to try and get rid of most dust before using.

 
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CAREFRESH & CHIPSI CAREFRESH BEDDING

(IMPORTED)

Note about Carefresh: You may detect a slight odour that is sometimes present in some batches when you open up a new/sealed bag (sometimes stronger than other times). Unless your house is about to explode with an odour, do not panic. It is not harmful and usually disappears within a day or two of it being scrunched and spread out, either in the habitat or before putting it in. The smell is a typical cellulose odour that comes with wood pulp products and can linger even after the pulp has been manufactured into paper, particularly when packaged quickly due to high demand. Perhaps initially a little unpleasant for those with a super-sensitive sense of smell but, if you are concerned that the furry one may be unhappy, you can simply 'uncompress' the amount you need and air it out for a day or two before using.

ALERT @ January 2022:

There is currently a concerning issue with the latest batches, initially just the Natural but now seems to be all colours. Aside from foreign matter present in some of the batches, the biggest concern is the amount of cases popping up, here in SA and around the world, of hamsters developing eye and respiratory infections when using the latest batches of Carefresh. 

UNFORTUNATELY WE CAN THEREFORE NOT CONFIDENTLY RECOMMEND

CAREFRESH OR CHIPSI CAREFRESH FOR NOW :'(

 

Possibly being discontinued
in SA

 
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SAFEBED PAPER FLAKES and PAPER SHAVINGS are available from Westpack, JHB or online via https://pethero.co.za/small-animals/small-animal-bedding/.

However, the bags are only 100g and 300g and it does work out to be more expensive than the other beddings above.

Be weary of the Paper Wool as this could pose a tangling risk. While not completely dangerous as the hamster could chew through the soft paper and free itself, it may be too freaked out in that moment to think about it, and could therefore still end up gnawing it's own foot or leg off....better to be safe than sorry!

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CLEAN PAPER - FINELY CROSS-CUT SHREDDED (NOT strip- or large- cross-cut shredded, nor the fine Micro-cuts). Level P3 or P4 size (200-400 particles) would be the best. You can experiment with different paper types and weights, or a mix of a few types, from ordinary clean printing paper to plain uncoated newsprint paper to non-glossed brown craft paper to cheap serviettes. As long as it is free of ink and glossy coatings. 

STRIP-SHREDDED paper (Level P1 or 2) can cause paper cuts and tangling issues, and is also not conducive to natural burrowing, particularly where harder papers are used. MICRO-CUT paper (Level P5 to P7) will be too fine and inhale-able. 

Lighter weight papers will result in softer bedding, but please check how much dust is produced.

You may need to shake/sift out any excess dust before using.

Dust (fine particles) will irritate your hamster's eyes, nose and respiratory system.

For hamsters that develop sensitivity to most general bedding substrates, or where safe substrates are not available,

you can opt to cut up a whole lot of KITCHEN WIPES.,

(see topic on Nesting page )

In desperate times, when you cannot get a recommended paper bedding in good time, as a temporary measure  you can simply shred up lots of 1-PLY TOILET PAPER

This is not entirely ideal as a permanent bedding since it collapses easily and does not hold tunnels at all, but is better to use than pine shavings.

(Note: do not use super-soft toilet paper, 2-ply toilet paper, facial tissues, or luxury serviettes/paper towel as these are too dusty when stripped up, which can cause eye and respiratory irritation.)

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WOOD BEDDINGS:

 
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CHIPSI SUPER (Fine Granulate)

This is a safe option, but is more of an additional enrichment substrate since it does not hold up well for burrowing or tunneling.

1. It is similar to kenaf, but has finer, smaller pieces.

2. It is soft.

3. It has a strong woody aroma.

4. It does not have a lot of structural integrity, therefore doesn't hold burrows well.

5. It does contain dust.

Given the above, we do not recommend it as a sole bedding option. However, it is fine to use as an alternate texture or as a fun digging zone (easier alternative to a cocopeat pit), or can be mixed with paper bedding.

We do recommend first emptying the bag into a container or tub first and giving it a shake to sift the finer, smaller pieces to the bottom first, before placing in the habitat.

*Be aware - it claims to be 60L (3.4kg). However, in reality, it appears to only be about half that.

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HEMP HURD / AUBIOSE / KENAF BEDDING

This is a safe option, but is more of an additional enrichment substrate since it does not hold up well for burrowing or tunneling, but is fine to use in another zone as an alternate texture or where you don't want bedding being bunched up against a wheel. Not as soft as Chipsi Super. 

No longer very easily available in SA (at this stage), but you can try one of the following places:

KENAF (Grade 3 chip size):

- Hyggelig Hamster Havenhttps://www.hyggelighamsterhaven.co.za/product-page/kenaf-pet-bedding

- Mischief Pet Products: https://mischiefproducts.co.za/..../kenaf-pet-bedding

HEMP HURD: Hemporium: https://www.hemporium.co.za/contactus-2

Alternatively, we recommend rather using Chipsi Super. 

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WOOD SUBSTRATES ARE NOT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BUT PLEASE NOTE THAT WHITE BIRCH AND ASPEN ARE THE ONLY POSSIBLY SAFE KINDS.

*** DO NOT CONFUSE THESE WITH THE TYPICAL PINE SHAVINGS SOLD IN PET SHOPS, WHICH ARE NOT SAFE AT ALL!!! *** 

(see below in the Unsafe Beddings section for details).

 

Be aware that wood shavings will break down and crumble into small particles that, while these particular two may not be toxic, may still cause irritation to the hamster's eyes, nose and respiratory systems. You will need to change the bedding every week or two, which is usually very upsetting for the hamster.

In the long run, any shavings could end up proving to be more expensive to use than unscented Kaytee Clean & Cozy or Carefresh.

Furthermore, hardwood shavings are hard and abrasive and can cause irritation to the hamster's delicate skin. If you have to use birch or aspen, make sure the product is shredded and not shavings.

 
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SHREDDED WHITE BIRCH is safe to use, since it is a hardwood deciduous tree, but not so easy to find in SA.

If you do come across it, make sure that:

  • it is indeed white birch (some commercial packages claim to be birch when, in fact, they are pine shavings). 

  • it is not a mixture of pine and birch, as many suppliers/shops seem to do.

  • it is not scented/fragranced.

  • it is not large shavings, which can be quite hard and abrasive on the hamster's sensitive skin.

 

NOT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

SHREDDED ASPEN BEDDING (SNAKE BEDDING) 

Please make sure that it is SHREDDED ASPEN and NOT SHAVINGS!

HOWEVER, please note that there are now indications that some hamsters may indeed be having reactions:  http://www.chahamsters.org/aspen.html (but still no definite proven facts).

Updated response from CHA (July 2020):

 

 

Unfortunately, not easily available in SA, and it can be quite pricey, but you may be able to find Shredded Aspen at some reptile/exotic pet shops in SA as "snake bedding", or it can be purchased online: https://www.reptilecity.co.za/......type=product  or  https://www.unitedreptiles.co.za/zoo-med-aspen-snake-bedding

                                              (unfortunately more often out of stock than in stock) 

 

We are starting to see Kaytee Aspen Shavings in some pet shops now and via their website online shop. Unfortunately, at the moment, this appears to be hard shavings and not shredded Aspen, and reports are that it has a strong woody odour, which is always a sign that it has not been treated properly. One of our members used it for her rats and landed up at the vet with really bad bouts of sneezing fits. 

For now, we are not recommending the Kaytee brand of aspen.

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FOR EXTRA THINGS IN THE HABITAT, ALSO REFER TO THE ACCESSORIES & ENRICHMENT PAGE.

 

 UNSAFE BEDDINGS

 
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PINE & SOFT WOOD SHAVINGS ARE  NOT SAFE to use for hamsters due to the toxic phenols, which have been proven to cause severe respiratory health problems, skin allergies and eye infections. Kiln drying simply removes moisture, but does not remove all phenols! This is unfortunately the most commonly available bedding in most pet shops in SA, but should absolutely be avoided for hamsters. The cost of good bedding is still cheaper than a vet’s bill! If you're still not convinced, please read the full details about the Dangers of Pine & Cedar.

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SCENTED SUBSTRATES. As with any bedding, nesting, or litter, DO NOT USE anything scented! Who knows what that scent is made from, even if the packaging implies that it is derived from “natural fruits”? Scented products can be very overpowering in the habitat and the hamster is unable to escape the hell and into fresh air! Please don’t do this to your pet.

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MEDICATED SUBSTRATES.

One has to ask why it is "medicated" and with what? Usually the importer/supplier can't even answer that question!

STAY AWAY FROM ANYTHING THAT HAS ADDITIVES!

 

WOOD (CAT LITTER) OR RABBIT PELLETS AS BEDDING, like corncob bedding, is very uncomfortable for little feet, nor does it allow the hamster to dig and burrow. In the case of wood pellets, one does not know what wood it's made of and could be toxic to your hamster's respiratory system.

 
 
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~ Picture courtesy of Wagon Wheel Farm ~

HAY SOLD IN SOUTH AFRICA IS UNFORTUNATELY 1st-CUT AND THEREFORE TOO "STALKY" SO NOT RECOMMENDED.

FINE HAYGenerally, the "2nd cut" or "3rd cut" hays are softer and more preferable, if you have the option, than the courser "1st cut" hays. Fine hays, can be used to either mix with the main substrate, or to make layers between substrates, or to provide additional insulation around nesting areas, especially during winter. If you are going to use hay, use the finest hair-like hay you can find, or pick out ALL hard stalky pieces to prevent injuries.

Beware of those hays that have obviously been standing in warehouses for many months, if not years, since the quality would have deteriorated quite radically. This is usually quite obvious by the very dry brown colour. The product should still have some green tone to indicate freshness.

CAUTION: Hay, even if frozen prior to use, has a tendency to attract mites if used as an abundant main bedding substrate. It also breaks down quickly, creating a fair amount of dust, isn't very absorbent, and will therefore need to be changed at least once a week. Not highly recommended as a main substrate in the habby.

STRAW. This is not very comfortable, and also rather hazardous. 

Do not even consider using straw! Not only will your hamster get it's eyes or body poked and scratched, it is not absorbent at all. Urine will simply wet it and create mold, and those spores and ammonia fumes will result in various health issues. 

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CORNCOB BEDDING often contains mold and spores and, even if not, it gets moldy very quickly if it becomes wet (from water bottles/bowls or urine).

These fungal spores & bacteria pose a huge risk to the hamster’s respiratory system, and may be associated with opportunistic diseases in healthy, non-immunosuppressed animals.

 

Very importantly, it is not safe for a hamster to ingest, and will cause many problems if eaten, including obesity (and bear in mind that hamsters do nibble on corn/mealies). Corncob can also swell in the stomach if eaten, causing immense pain.

 

Corncob bedding is also not very soft and, like pellet beddings, can be uncomfortable on the hamster’s feet. It also does not allow the hamster to burrow.

 

Please do not even consider trying this as bedding!

 
 
 

Animal ZONE "Cat Litter & Pet Bedding" or any similar litter/bedding made from fruit kernels. This particular product consists of peach and apricot kernels and, as you will note on the Food lists, most pips/seeds/kernels/stones (whatever you like to call them) are listed in the bad section, and this includes peaches and apricots. If you research further, just about every hamster site brands these as "LETHAL" or 'TOXIC". Since hamsters can/do often ingest some of their bedding, nesting and litter, we therefore deem this kind of litter or bedding as extremely unsafe. 

CAT GRAVEL/LITTER is not comfortable on the feet, and due to it's heaviness it does not allow the hamster to dig and burrow. The roughness of such products will cause abrasions that can easily become infected, requiring veterinary attention. 

SAWDUST from anywhere IS TO BE AVOIDED at all costs!!!!! Besides being too fine and dusty, you do not know what kinds of wood the sawdust has been collected from. There will undoubtedly be toxic oils and phenols, as well as splinters. It is incredibly dangerous to use, no matter how convenient or cheap it is!

 

WOOD AND/OR PAPER “WOOL” from packaging is also dangerous because of the high entanglement risk, as described in the topic on Nesting. Even though some wood wool is apparently made from Aspen in SA, unless you’re absolutely sure and are going to really chop it up and freeze it, DON’T. Paper Wool packaging may be OK if it’s clean and you’re willing to chop it up nicely and then freeze it. But there are much easier and safer options than to bother with this.

 
 
 
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NEWSPAPER: Black ink on newspapers is apparently non-toxic nowadays.

However, please note that colour ink IS toxic and should be avoided at all costs. While we say the black print is "OK", please be aware that it still has some kind of odour that could be irritating to the nose & eyes. Furthermore, the ink can make your hamster "dirty".

It's actually not a very nice bedding for hamsters. 

We therefore do not highly recommend using newspaper.

Paper from MAGAZINES & JUNK MAIL is to be avoided due to the glossy paper and colour ink. 

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Other dangerous materials to be avoided include those used for stuffing and packaging, as they will cause intestinal blockages if ingested:​​

  • SPONGE PIECES

  • FOAM CHIPS 

  • POLYSTYRENE BALLS OR CHIPS 

CEDAR WOOD SHAVINGS probably contain even more harmful oils and phenols than pine shavings. Fortunately not very commonly available in SA but, if you ever come across it, DO NOT under any circumstances purchase this for your hamster! Again, the topic of Dangers of Pine & Cedar refers. 

 

FABRIC AVOID ALL FABRICS! For similar reasons to the fluffy nesting, the risks are too great for due to the fluff that they scratch up from fabric, as well as the resulting threads when they nibble and tear it up. Hamsters will instinctively try to make nesting material out of anything soft, so please don't give them any kind of fabric. 

See Bad Nesting topic on the Nesting Substrates page for further details.

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Please see the topic of POUCH PROBLEMS on the Health & Medical page

if you are still adamant to use fabric, wool and fluff in the habitat!

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******IMPORTANT TIP ******

It is always a good idea to freeze bedding and nesting substrates, except for those that are baked in your own oven, for at least 24 hours before use to ensure any ganonies and nits will be killed (if you have a large freezer, you can even store it permanently in those conditions). This is particularly important for any commercial substrates since one doesn’t know what has crept into any of the other seemingly “immune” products in facilities during manufacturing, packaging, and storage.

It is a lot easier to freeze your substrates than it is to treat your hamster and cage for mite infestation!

PLEASE CHECK THE OTHER SUBSTRATE TOPICS TOO....there may be other substrates mentioned that you can or shouldn't use.

SAFE INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL SUBSTRATES

(NOT ENTIRELY UP-TO-DATE AS NEW BRANDS MAY HAVE ENTERED THE MARKET, & OTHERS MAY HAVE BEEN DISCONTINUED)

Since some people are ordering bedding from overseas, or travelling and bringing these home, we thought it a good idea to put up the international assessment list. Some products may have been discontinued, and there may also be some new ones on the market now, but it should still give you a reasonable idea of what is suitable. (~ courtesy of Hamster Worldwide Care)

 

BEDDING SUBSTRATES

 

  • ALL THINGS LIVING (Pet Smart)

  • ASPEN BEDDING HARD WOOD BASED - although there are now indications of some hamsters possibly having bad reactions (see above)  

  • AUBIOSE/Hemp (plant based)

  • BOXO COMFORT

  • CAREFRESH - UNSCENTED ONLY (paper based)

  • FIBRE CORE ECO BEDDING (good as added nesting material)

  • FINACARD / SOFTACARD

  • FITCH (paper based)

  • GREEN DREAMZZZ BEDDING (paper) by American Pet

  • HEALTHY PET CRITTER CARE (Walmart)

  • HEMP/Aubiose (plant based) (to be mixed with a paper based bedding for burrowing)

  • KAYTEE CLEAN AND COZY – UNSCENTED ONLY (paper based)

  • MEGAZORB (virgin wood pulp)

  • OXBOW PURE COMFORT SMALL ANIMAL BEDDING (Natural)

  • PETS AT HOME SMALL ANIMAL BEDDING (paper based)

  • SMALL PET SELECT

  • SOFTACARD / FINACARD

 

PELLET / ADDITIONAL SUBSTRATES

 

  • BACK 2 NATURE (paper based pellets)

  • KAYTEE SOFT GRANULE BLEND

 

UNSUITABLE SUBSTRATES AND BEDDINGS

  • SCENTED substrates and bedding are now considered harmful to hamsters and their sensitive noses

  • Substrates and Bedding with ADDITIVES TO CONTROL ODOUR is also now considered harmful to the hamster’s skin and respiratory system.

  • WOOD BASED substrates where you do not know what wood/s they contain, or if made from known unsafe wood/s.