I recommend lining the hutch/cage with newspaper to soak up urine (great recycling too!). Then place hay on top of this. As well as being a soft bedding, hay is is also an essential part of their diet, so should be given in unlimited amounts.
Guinea pigs should NOT be kept on wood shavings or sawdust. The rescue does not re-home guinea pigs to live on wood shavings. The numerous reasons for this are are explained below. MEGAZORB is becoming a popular alternative to wood shavings – information at the bottom of this page.
Sawdust is far too dusty for guinea pigs to live on and can make them very poorly. They will constantly be inhaling dust making them prone to breathing difficulties and infections, which ultimately can be fatel. Sawdust can also cause allergies in the house hold as they are so dusty.
Wood shavings are widely used as bedding and are often recommend and used by pets shops. Adopters will say to me that they have always used shavings and never had any problems. But there is much research now on the dangers of using wood shavings with any rodents or small animals. To demonstrate reasons for this try putting your face close to the top of an open bag of wood shavings and try breathing whilst a close distance from the wood shavings. See how long you can tolerate the strong smell and dust for, this is what guinea pigs have to inhale all the time. Also try rubbing the wood shavings in your bare hands – does it feel nice? Wood shavings remove the oils from your skin, leaving them feeling dry. This is what your guinea pig would be having to sleep and walk on all the time.
The Cambridge Cavy Trust state that wood shavings are not suitable bedding for piggies. Wood shavings can cause:
In fact wood shavings can lead to the premature death of your guinea pig.
Peter Gurneys, a renowned guinea pig keeper says:
“There are always fine dust particles in sawdust or wood shavings and as guinea pigs are the type of animals that root around with their noses close to the ground, they breathe these particles… Although wood shavings may soak up the animals’ urine they do not give it a chance to evaporate. Therefore, on the grounds of hygiene, they are not good idea. If you really want to use shavings, then use shredded paper instead’ (page 43).
Also in the Guinea Piglopedia (Margaret Elward & Mette Ruelokke) “Wood chips are a bad idea. Most have wood oils that are toxic to guinea pigs. Even lighter woods are bad, as they are rough and hard and can hurt guinea pigs feet. The best bedding is plain black-and-white newspaper. Line the cage with that. Next add a pile of hay (Page 31).
For more information on the research into the dangers of wood shavings being used for guinea pigs please see the following link:http://www.ratfanclub.org/litters.html
Scientific research has been carried out on the risks of wood shavings and has found the following:
1. Wood shavings increase the incidents of respiratory problems, including pneumonia, in small rodents
2. Wood shavings have been linked to various forms of cancer in rodents.
3. Wood shavings contain toxins, specifically phenols which are poisonous to small rodents. These phenols are directly linked to respiratory problems in guinea pigs. They irritate the animal’s respiratory systems and affect their internal organs (liver and kidneys). These toxins put rodents at risk to liver disease. Though liver disease is not commonly documented as a common cause of guinea pig deaths (it would usually only be diagnosed through post mortem) it could explain unexplained and sudden guinea pig deaths.
Links to research articles:
Megazorb, is highly absorbant like wood shavings, but is safe for use with guinea pigs. It is made from wood pulp and is becoming a popular bedding for guinea pigs. It can be bought at a reasonable price from horse suppliers such as Riders North (Shiremoor), Carltons (Seaton Deleval), Farmway (Hexham and Alwnick), Pet n Pony (Dragonville, Durham), and Equissentials (Billingham).
Some people like to use vetbed (profleece). This keeps guinea pigs dry and is soft on their feet also. It needs to be washed regularly though.
Hutch hemp is also absorbent and also a natural air freshener.
Some people also use a shredder to shred cheap kitchen towels, which again, make a good bedding for guinea pigs.
Other people have recommended fleece and sheets as the piggies like to burrow under these.