A hamster requires clean bedding to keep its cage hygienic and comfortable. It’s also a soft material to burrow and nest in, absorbing unpleasant odors, which prevents the cage from smelling bad.
Of course, a hamster’s bedding must be replaced during daily spot-cleaning and weekly deep cleaning.
Cleaning a hamster’s cage is an essential job that no pet owner enjoys because you have to remove and dispose of smelly, urine-soaked bedding material.
Even the hamster will be displeased because substrate changes remove its tunnels, change the cage’s layout, and remove its odors and pheromones.
The easiest way to get rid of used hamster bedding is to throw it away. However, alternatives like recycling or composting the bedding can reduce costs and environmental waste.
What To Do With Used Hamster Bedding
Use a sealable plastic bag and a garbage can to put soiled hamster bedding in the trash. For hygiene reasons, move it from the cage into the bag. After that, seal the bag and take it to the trash can.
Seal the bag and put the lid in place to keep any bad odors inside. This will also prevent local pets and wild animals from getting into the trash and coming into contact with deadly pathogens.
If you time it right, clean the hamster’s cage the day before garbage services arrive. This ensures the soiled bag doesn’t sit in the outdoor trash in the sun for too long.
Even if it only contains the hamster’s bedding and waste, it may still attract the attention of rodents, like rats and mice. Also, some predators may follow the scent, expecting to find a hamster.
If garbage services aren’t removing the trash immediately, keep any cans properly sealed. If necessary, put a weight on the lid to ensure no animal can pry it open and get inside the garbage can.
Can You Reuse Hamster Bedding?
If part of the bedding has been soiled, but the rest is clean, you can reuse the untainted bedding.
Much like scooping out kitty litter, you can use a small spade to remove the used parts of the bedding. Place this in a plastic bag and dispose of it as normal.
As for the remaining parts, check them over to ensure they’re not hiding wet patches or feces. Use a scoop rather than your hands to avoid coming into direct contact with any harmful pathogens.
If the bedding is clean, leave it behind and fill in the gaps with new bedding. This ensures you don’t have to spend as much on bedding and retains some of the hamster’s scent, which is essential.
If the hamster is rarely in that cage and the bedding is hardly used, you can avoid changing it as often. For example, while changing out small cages weekly is recommended, you may be able to wait slightly longer before performing a deep clean.
Don’t reuse the bedding if a hamster is ill, on medication, or has parasites (like worms, mites, lice, and ticks). Bacteria, parasites, and chemicals can spread throughout the bedding, even if it’s not obvious.
Can You Wash Hamster Bedding?
If a hamster’s bedding is heavily soiled, it can’t be washed and returned to the cage.
The most common types of bedding are hay, wood shavings, paper, and straw. It would be near-impossible to clean these materials sufficiently so that no disease-causing pathogens are retained.
If you washed these bedding types, they would retain the water they were soaked in.
Drying them out wouldn’t return the natural absorbency the bedding once had. So, it would fail to soak up urine in the way it would normally.
Once hamster bedding is soiled, your only option is to dispose of it.
Can You Compost Hamster Bedding?
If you want to use a hamster’s bedding positively, consider putting the waste in the compost pile. After all, you could transform this waste material into enrichment for the garden.
It’ll compost well if the bedding is made from natural materials, like straw, wood shavings, or paper.
If a hamster’s ill or on prescription medication, avoid putting feces and urine in the compost because the medicinal ingredients and pathogens could negatively affect the soil and plants.
If a hamster’s diet isn’t meat-based, it’s safe to compost, as it’ll break down naturally. As fully bio-degradable, hamster poop will help the compost heap decompose faster.
However, if the hamster feeds on meat, avoid composing its bedding, especially if you use the manure on vegetables or fruits. The hamster’s poop will be acidic, causing the plant to wither.
Excessive soil acidity stunts plant growth because they can’t absorb nutrients, inhibiting their ability to photosynthesize and making them more vulnerable to disease.
High acidity levels can decrease minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium, which are critical for plant growth. Also, acidic soils reduce the number of microorganisms in the soil.
Moreover, animal proteins contain more digestive tract parasites than plant-based foods. So, a meat-eating hamster’s droppings may contain roundworms, hookworms, and giardia.
These gastrointestinal parasites can accumulate in the compost heap, harming the plants.
Should I Use Less Hamster Bedding?
If you want to save money, you may not want to throw out substrate each time you clean the cage. However, deeper bedding soaks up more waste, keeping it away from the hamster.
If you only put a small amount of paper, wood shavings, or hay at the bottom of the cage, urine and feces will soak through. Also, a hamster will feel stressed and exposed without sufficient substrate.
Aside from hygiene reasons, hamsters need deep bedding. According to Applied Animal Science, burrowing is important for hamsters’ physical and mental well-being.
Digging and burrowing is natural behavior hamsters exhibit in the wild and captivity. Burrows allow hamsters to sleep, hide when afraid, and stay cool on hot days.
Insufficient bedding will make hamsters feel stressed and uncomfortable, leading to sickness.
Ensure the cage has 6+ inches of bedding to keep a hamster happy. When cleaning the cage, keep as much of the unsoiled bedding as possible, as it retains the hamster’s scent and pheromones.