Hemp bedding is becoming a popular bedding for guinea pigs but what exactly is hemp and is this a safe bedding for your small pets?
- What is hemp bedding?
- Is hemp bedding safe for guinea pigs?
- Is hemp absorbent and what about odour control?
- How often does hemp bedding need cleaning out?
- Is hemp bedding warm?
- Is hemp bedding messy?
- Can you compost hemp bedding?
- When NOT to use hemp bedding
- Quality vs cost
- Pros & cons of hemp bedding
What is hemp bedding?
Commonly used as bedding for horses, hemp is harvested from the stalks of the hemp plant and the processed fibre is known as hemp hurd. Because of its natural resistance to many pests, hemp is usually organically grown without the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides.
The hemp plant grows faster than trees making it a lot more sustainable than the wood and paper based bedding.
Is hemp bedding safe for guinea pigs?
Because of the absence of chemicals used in the growing process hemp is a very safe bedding to use in your guinea pig cage. And unlike some woods such as cedar and pine, there are no aromatic oils which are harmful to guinea pigs.
Bear in mind that most but not all hemp is organic and some companies may use fertilizer so always check the label before you buy.
The hemp has an unpleasant taste to it which most pets don't like. This is beneficial because it means you guinea pigs won't try to eat it as they tend to do with wood and paper alternatives.
Hemp bedding is dust extracted so has extremely low dust. In fact, many people report it as being less dusty than other types of bedding. This is great news for guinea pigs who have such delicate respiratory systems and need bedding that is as dust free as possible.
Due to its naturally occurring antifungal and antibacterial properties, hemp is also a very hygienic guinea pig bedding for your small pets.
Is hemp absorbent and does it mask smells?
Hemp bedding has the benefit of being highly absorbent. It is really good at wicking moisture through to the lower layers keeping the top layer dry and more comfortable for your guinea pigs.
The actual hemp bedding itself doesn’t have any smell and the odor control for this substrate is excellent. In fact we found that after a whole week with just spot cleans where they pee and poop the most, the cage did not smell at all.
The wet bedding tends to clump together rather than spreading and this makes spot cleaning much easier.
How often does hemp bedding need cleaning out?
A full hutch or cage clean will usually be necessary once a week with hemp bedding and you will need to spot clean daily as necessary where they tend to go to the toilet the most.
When we tested the hemp bedding it actually remained very dry in the central part of the cage so we could possibly have made it last longer than a week just by replacing the bedding in more soiled areas.
Is hemp bedding warm?
Hemp bedding is not as cozy as some alternatives as it tends to lie flat in the cage and is not fluffy like some paper or wood shavings.
So, in addition to the hemp bedding, we recommend you add hay to your guinea pig hideys so they have a nice cozy and soft place to rest.
However, it does have good thermal properties so it is a really good option for outdoor guinea pigs with the addition of hay for sleeping areas.
If you have guinea pigs who are outdoors all year round, it is essential they have plenty of extra hay to help insulate their sleeping quarters, especially in the winter. We do however recommend that guinea pigs are kept indoors during the colder parts of the year.
For indoor guinea pigs, you may want to use fleece hideys. We found that unlike wood shavings, hemp doesn't stick to fleece so much and is easy to just brush off before putting in the washing machine.
Is hemp bedding messy?
As with any disposable bedding, you can end up with bits of the hemp on the floor but this is the case with any bedding other than the washable types such as fleece liners. It isn’t any messier than paper or wood shavings. However, because it doesn't stick so strongly to fabrics or fleece like wood shavings do, so it's less messy in that respect.
Can you compost hemp bedding?
If you prefer to compost your guinea pig bedding rather than putting it in the bin, you will find hemp is a preferable option compared to other disposable alternatives. Whereas wood shavings take a considerable time to rot down, hemp bedding decomposes much faster.
Another useful and interesting fact about hemp is that it is apparently not liked so much by slugs and snails but is favorable to earthworms so if you already have a compost heap or an outdoor compost bin, this could work really well for you.
When NOT to use hemp bedding
Any guinea pig who has sensitive skin such as a hairless guinea pig, one that has a skin condition or has just had an operation should use fleece bedding. None of the disposable bedding is suitable for these guinea pigs.
Quality vs cost
You might find that different brands vary in quality. Some may be softer than others and prices will obviously differ too so you may want to try 2 or 3 brands before settling on one. Here are some of your options:
- Rentacoop Hemp Bedding - good for bulk buying for lots of guinea pigs
- Dr Hemp - a smaller pack if you have just a pair or don't want to buy a lot in one go
We tested a brand called "Aubiose" that is available in the UK but there are lots of good ones out there for the US, Canadian and European market too. Based on how much we used for the size of our cage (at the time of writing this article) it would cost about $5 per square metre per week. That would be about $4 for a Midwest Habitat cage or housing of similar size (120cm x 60cm) and $5.00 for a 2x4 grid C&C cage.
Hemp bedding: pros and cons
- Bedding has no smell
- Absorbs really well
- Excellent odor control
- Very low dust
- Usually organic and grown without any chemicals
- Lasts well between cleans
- A more sustainable bedding option than shavings or paper
- Much faster to compost than other disposable alternatives & compost-friendly
- Natural looking environment for your pets
- Brushes off fleece hideys easier than wood shavings
- It's disposable so you'll need to buy regularly
- Can be messy
- Needs a bit of hay in the hideys to make it cozier and a soft place to rest
In summary, we found hemp to be an excellent bedding option for guinea pigs. It is good for both indoor or outdoor guinea pig housing and is highly absorbent, low-dust, has excellent odor control plus the antibacterial and antifungal properties will contribute to your guinea pigs wellbeing.
Coupled with the fact that it is mostly organically grown and the best disposable substrate to compost, we highly recommend hemp bedding for your guinea pigs.
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