Why Is My Hamster Eating His Bedding? [Updated Guide]

Your Hamster Is Most Likely Not Eating It’s Bedding

Any owner that experiences a hamster eating bedding is understandably concerned. You might be under the impression your hamster is going to get sick or has some illness.

The most common explanation is your hamster is not actually eating its bedding, it’s doing a common behavior which is called “pouching”. Your hamster is NOT actually eating its bedding it’s simply storing the bedding in its cheeks so it can move it to another location.

hamster eating bedding

Today we are here to put your mind at ease, and let you know there is nothing to worry about. Many newbie hamster owners often misinterpret normal hamster behaviors. It’s normal to be concerned for your pet’s health and you should always do your research if you feel concerned.

Why Does My Hamster Stuff Its Cheeks With Bedding? (Pouching)

So what does pouching actually mean? and why is your hamster doing it? Pouching is when a hamster uses its cheeks to store things. Most people just presume that hamsters only do this with food but the truth is hamsters use their cheeks to carry things too. 

Your hamster is not actually eating its bedding instead it’s stuffing the bedding into its cheeks. The reason they do this is usually to transport the bedding from one location to another. Usually, hamsters like to make a nest so they will chew the bedding and stuff it in their mouths so they can move it to their desired location.

hamster pouching his bedding

It’s perfectly normal behavior and you shouldn’t be worried if you see this happening. It might be worth just observing your hamster’s behavior for an extended period of time to see this process take place for your peace of mind. My hamsters actually seem to take some kind of enjoyment from doing this it seems, it can be cute to watch sometimes. 

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Something to keep in mind is the type of bedding that you give to your hamster. Although your hamster might not actually be digesting their bedding it’s worth taking extra precautions to ensure the bedding is not toxic or harmful if accidentally consumed.

It might be hard to believe but some beddings are actually toxic. For example, pine and cedar shavings are harmful and can even cause allergic reactions in humans. A hamster’s bedding should always be toxin-free and water-soluble. It’s also better to avoid scented bedding as it’s known to cause numerous breathing problems. Hamstersociety.sg has a great article about dangerous bedding which breaks down in detail what to look for when purchasing bedding for your hamsters!

Can Eating Bedding Kill Hamsters?

The following bedding is unsuitable for hamsters;

Fluffy bedding – Fluffy bedding can sometimes contain fibers that can get stuck in a hamster’s throat. Fluffy bedding also tangles in knots and sometimes can trap the limbs of your hamster.

Wood shavings – Cedar and Pine shavings are considered harmful to hamsters and can even cause negative reactions in humans too. These shavings can splinter and get stuck in your hamster’s skin. Cedar and Pine’s shavings also have a tendency to irritate a hamster’s lungs since the wood contains essential oils. All-around bad idea. Although not all wood shavings are bad we recommend using Aspen wood shavings. Aspen wood shavings are generally dust and scent-free and absorb liquid well. 

cute hamster

Newspaper/Magazines/Books – All of these contain ink which can be toxic and have harmful effects when swallowed or even if it just comes into contact with a hamster’s mouth.

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Cat litter – I’ve seen lots of people use cat litter but the problem with cat litter is that hamsters can’t digest and it causes digestion problems if eaten.

Scented bedding – Scented bedding usually contains chemicals that again are toxic for hamsters. Also, hamsters don’t really seem to enjoy scented bedding it’s most likely overwhelming having such a strong scent in your nest.

How Often Should I Change My Hamster’s Bedding?

You should change your hamster’s bedding weekly but dirty bedding should be removed daily. Not only should you remove a hamster’s bedding but you should also remove any excess food.

Hygiene is important when taking care of your hamster you should ensure that you keep your pet hamster’s environment as clean as possible without disturbing their lifestyle too much.

Can I Use Toliet Paper for Hamster Bedding?

Yes, you can use toilet paper for hamster bedding. It’s actually very common and many hamster owners use it. Most toilet paper will dissolve in water and hamsters can usually digest it relatively well if they decide to chew or eat it for whatever reason.

Of course, common sense is needed here like with the other beddings which I previously mentioned are dangerous to hamsters, some types of toilet paper are equal dangers although very far few between. 

We should avoid any toilet paper with artificial colorings or scented toilet paper. Take these practical steps and you have cheap, practical bedding! 

Some people dislike using toilet paper for bedding because if a hamster urinates on it can become mushy and disintegrate. Personally, I’ve never had any problems with it. Of course, there are better alternatives but it’s a quick solution if you are running low.

Can You Use Fabric for Hamster Bedding?

You should not use fabric for hamster bedding for a couple of reasons. Fabric/Cloth threads are normally synthetic. It’s common to see hamsters get caught in the frayed threads, unlike most bedding the difference is fabric is usually too strong and the hamster will get tangled up possibly causing damage to their already fragile limbs.

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Fabric bedding should only be used if you are certain it’s 100% cotton or wool. You should always check the label carefully and ensure that there is no stitching or sewing remaining. 

Generally, I would advise against fabric bedding for hamsters there are many other alternatives that are safer and more economical. 

Can I Use Cotton Balls for Hamster Bedding?

There are a couple of reasons you shouldn’t use cotton balls for bedding. The main reason cotton balls are bad for bedding material is that they are not digestible. Even if your hamster is just pouching its bedding there’s a chance it can be swallowed which can be harmful to your hamster. Although the chance of this happening is small and maybe I’m being over precautious however I think we should remove any possibility of harming our pets.

Similar to cloth/fabrics our hamster’s legs can get tangled. Cotton balls are quite tough to break apart for hamsters since they lack any real strength. Hamsters are delicate animals and we can never be too careful when trying to provide the best conditions for them.

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