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
Just like we do, hamsters need some kind of extra comfort for making a warm cozy bed, be it in a plastic house, grass nest, a favourite corner, or a Pringles tube.
This substrate is softer than the bedding material in main part of the habitat, and we refer to it as nesting material/substrate.
PLEASE CHECK THE OTHER SUBSTRATE TOPICS TOO....there may be others mentioned that you can or shouldn't use.
1-PLY TOILET PAPER or CHEAP SERVIETTES is the best, and pretty much the only recommended nesting material. It’s really cheap and all you have to do is roughly strip up a few sheets at a time.
Strips can either be placed in or around the bedroom. Your hamster will know what to do – watch as s/he collects the strips and carries them into the sleeping zone.
(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.)
PAPER NESTING MATERIAL
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.
• 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 on the Bedding Substrates page.
*Safe for rats as well*
KITCHEN WIPES (dishcloths) may also be chopped up to use as nesting. It would be a good idea to wash these in plain hot water first. If you use this as a bedding substrate, you could even have several batches, so that you can actually wash & rinse it a few times (no fabric softener) and re-use, simply adding more as it reduces.
TIP: In instances where a hamster is super sensitive to all general bedding substrates, and where a vet may suggest using fabric, this would be the best and safest solution (and your hamster will have three or four colours to choose from). However, this kind of bedding collapses easily and is therefore not very good for tunneling.
AVOID THE FLUFF!
It resembles cotton wool, or cozy strips of wool, string, and fabric, and feels very soft. Unfortunately, this nesting kills and injures many hamsters around the world each year. Fluffy nesting is always sold with a 'safe bedding' claim, but it is the most dangerous nesting on sale for hamster owners because:
Hamsters often naturally ingest a little of their substrate as they make their nest, but this fluffy stuff does not break down in the digestive system and becomes lodged inside their small intestine - this is incredibly painful as the hamster tries to pass it but the blockage prevents the hamster from pooing normally. Eventually, if not helped by a vet, this will end in the tragic and painful death of the hamster.
Fluffy stuff or threads become entangled around teeth and limbs. When the limbs are stuck, a hamster’s instinct is to chew the leg off and the sudden loss of blood and shock can kill them.
Hamsters often gather nesting material in their pouches to move around the nest. The inside of the pouches are rough and fluff gets stuck, along with any food that also becomes entangled in it, and this eventually causes a bad infection that will require veterinary attention, an operation and medication.
COTTON WOOL ABSOLUTELY NOT!
For the same reasons as fluffy nesting, and probably even more dangerous.
FABRIC AVOID ALL FABRICS! For similar reasons to the fluff, the risks are too great 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....you cannot get cheaper and safer than plain old 1-ply toilet paper!!!!
Other dangerous materials to be avoided include those used for stuffing and packaging, as they will also cause intestinal blockages if ingested, and entanglement problems:
TOY & CUSHION STUFFING
POLYSTYRENE BALLS OR CHIPS
WOOD AND/OR PAPER “WOOL” (not very comfortable anyway)
PLEASE CHECK THE OTHER SUBSTRATE TOPICS TOO....there may be other substrates mentioned that you can or shouldn't use.