Does Hamster Bedding Expire?

By Dawn | Hamster Care
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If you’re anything like me, you will do a ‘hamster shop’ on a regular basis. I like to pop down to the pet store at least once a month and stock up on everything my hamster is going to need. This prevents me from ever running out of anything, and sometimes, I even find myself with a back-stock. But this got me thinking; does hamster bedding expire and should I use it by a certain date?

Hamster bedding should be fine to use for many years after you purchase it. However, you must make sure that you store it correctly, otherwise, it may not be suitable to use. 

With that in mind, I wanted to explore the subject in a little more detail, so read on to find out what I discovered. 

Does Hamster Bedding Go Bad?

There are many types of hamster bedding and these are typically made from natural materials and there is a good reason for this. 

Hamsters are quite sensitive animals and as such, can develop allergies, particularly to bedding. 

Using natural, unscented bedding is the best way to avoid making your hamster ill. 

However, natural materials like paper and wood shavings will decompose over time and unfortunately there is no getting away from this. 

The good news is that it would take many years before your hamster bedding started rotting away so this is almost certainly never going to be a problem. 

Furthermore, the way that you store your hamster bedding is important. Due to the nature of the bedding, you may find that if it is exposed to moisture, it will begin to deteriorate. 

Not to mention that you shouldn’t put wet bedding into your pet’s cage.

The best way to store your hamster bedding is in a cool dry place; perhaps a storage cupboard in the home. 

You should never store your pet’s bedding in an outbuilding such as a garden shed. Even though you might consider this to be ‘inside’ these environments are still susceptible to dampness and this could significantly affect the longevity and quality of the bedding. 

What’s more, and potentially worse is that even if you allowed it to dry out before using, mold may have already developed. 

This can cause health problems for your pet including respiratory illnesses and digestive issues if your hamster chews on their bedding, which is highly likely. 

Some people like to store their hamster’s bedding in the freezer. This sounds crazy, right? But again, when we look closer, we notice that there is a very good reason for this. 

Natural bedding is a great place for bugs to breed, particularly things like weevils, moths, and other creepy crawlies which could irritate or harm your hamster. 

Freezing the bedding for at least 48 hours before putting it into the is a good way to kill off bugs and any eggs they may have laid. 

If you do decide to freeze the bedding, it is crucial that you allow it to thoroughly defrost before giving it to your hamster. If they were to burrow down in cold bedding this may cause them to catch a chill. 

How Often Should I Change My Hamster’s Bedding?

One of the most critical parts of being a responsible pet owner is giving your hamster somewhere clean and safe to bed down. 

Hamster’s not only sleep in their bedding, but the substrate you supply will allow them to burrow and dig tunnels as they do in the wild, so it is essential that it is hygienic. 

Your hamster will also do their business in the bedding although you will probably notice that they designate an area for this. 

Regardless, you should always make sure that you remove any wet or soiled bedding every day. This will keep the cage clean but will also prevent any nasty odors from building up. 

Once every few weeks to a month, you should remove all of the bedding from the enclosure and give the cage a thorough clean. You will then need to supply your pet with new, fresh bedding.

If you have a large cage, such as an aquarium, then you will likely have a lot of bedding in there, so you could do a half-clean and remove just half of the bedding and remove the remaining half next time.

Although a daily spot-clean is essential, a full cage clean out every week is too stressful for your hamster and hard work for the owner too!

How Much Bedding Does A Hamster Need?

Some hamster owners, especially those who are inexperienced, make the mistake of not putting enough bedding into the cage

Since hamsters are creatures that spend a lot of time burrowing, it is vital that they have enough space to do this. 

For this reason, you will need to place at least six inches of bedding in at least one section of their cage to allow for burrowing, but if there is room for more, it won’t harm your pet. 

You should also make sure to supply them with a mix of wood shavings or granular bedding as well as something softer for them to nest in such as shredded toilet paper.

Some hammy owners like to layer the bedding and have it deeper in some areas which gives the animal ‘zones’ and can make things a little more interesting for them. 

Related Questions

Which bedding is bad for hamsters?

You should always avoid cedar or pine shavings as these can be dangerous for your pet and may adversely affect their health. If you want to use wood shavings, we would always recommend Aspen

What to do if you run out of hamster bedding?

If you run out of hamster bedding, you can use soft shredded paper in a hamster’s cage. The best types to use are toilet paper or facial tissues but always be sure to use unscented products.  However, if you have been stocking up on hamster supplies, you shouldn’t run out and it is always a good idea to have plenty on hand.