Using straw bedding for guinea pigs is not recommended for three reasons. 1) It may result in puncture wounds. 2) It is uncomfortable for guinea pigs. 3) Despite being edible, it does not provide any nutritional value.
A guinea pig’s bedding is an essential part of their care. It’s exciting to bring a guinea pig home and figure out how to make them feel comfortable. Quality bedding is always a must. Many guinea pig owners have considered using straw as bedding, but is that a good idea?
Straw Is Not Good Bedding
Straw is not appropriate bedding for guinea pigs. Many of the individual straw stalks are hard and firm. This can cause accidental wounds.
Straw has a tendency to splinter or crack. This leads to excess dust and discomfort for guinea pigs. It is also a poor nutritional choice for guinea pigs who choose to consume it (which is almost all of them).
Here’s a detailed breakdown of why straw should not be used as guinea pig bedding.
Puncture wounds caused by straw, also known as straw stick, are a serious concern when using straw bedding.
Some stalks of straw are naturally firm and pointy. Because of this, guinea pigs are at risk of accidentally injuring themselves.
During their normal behavior, such as burrowing, rolling over, and even walking, guinea pigs can get poked quite hard. The severity of these wounds will vary to a large degree. This is because of the placement of the wound, the amount of time it’s gone unnoticed, the depth of the poke, and if an infection occurs.
There is no need to be alarmed, as most pokes are minor aggravating wounds. The concern is when they get poked in vital areas like the eyes or develop an infection.
Reach out to a veterinarian if you are concerned that your guinea pig may have suffered from straw stick. It can’t hurt to be safe!
Aside from getting poked, there are other characteristics of straw that cause discomfort to guinea pigs.
Dust is an irritant that must be at the forefront of a guinea pig owner’s mind when considering bedding. At first glance, straw may not appear dusty, but consider how brittle the material really is.
Straw comes in all shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and qualities. This leads to some stalks being brittle and splintering over time. This can pose a physical and respiratory risk.
The splintering of straw leads to micro-particles in the air being breathed in by your guinea pigs. However, not all the pieces are micro. Most of the stalk will split into small, potentially sharp pieces that could get into the guinea pig’s eyes or nose.
The excess dust inside your guinea pig’s respiratory system can result in coughing, wheezing, difficulties breathing, excess sneezing, or fevers.
Minimal Nutritional Value
Even if we ignore all the issues listed above, straw is a terrible food source. Some guinea pig owners use edible bedding, such as timothy hay. Because of this, it isn’t too odd to think that straw could provide the same benefits as edible bedding.
Although straw is edible, it provides minimal nutritional value while posing all the same risks of irritation and puncture wounds.
The best way to understand its poor nutritional value is to compare it to hay. Hay is grown solely as a food source, while straw is a by-product of something else being grown.
Hay is harvested before it fully matures and bears seeds of its own. This is done to ensure it is nutrient-rich and a good food source.
The same care is not put into the production of straw. Straw is the dead stalk left over after the desired plant has grown. A dead plant simply doesn’t have the nutritional value that your guinea pig requires.
If given as a staple in their diet, your guinea pig will quickly become malnourished.
What Should I Use Instead?
There are many great options for bedding. Some recommendations are fleece liners, cloth, dust-free hay, dust-free paper shavings/confetti, and wood shavings from reliable wood.
There are low-quality and high-quality products within each of these categories. Be careful when you buy guinea pig supplies. It is important to remember that their bedding should be absorbent and dust-free.
Fleece liners have become the new rockstar of the guinea pig world. They are an excellent choice for bedding because of their absorbency.
Fleece liners vary in quality, but they are very easy to clean, reusable, and absorbent!
Their high absorbency is crucial to ensuring there isn’t as much bacteria build-up. But the quality of materials will play a massive role in how absorbant it is. Always be vigilant and research whatever brand you decide to purchase for your guinea pig.
Some consider cloth liners the be the budget version of fleece liners. The effectiveness of cloth liners will ultimately depend on the quality of the material. Unless you are having success with a cloth liner currently, we recommend a fleece liner.
Hay can be a good bedding option for guinea pigs, but other options are better. The largest draw to hay bedding is that it’s edible. This can help guinea pigs that need additional nutrients. It also keeps their teeth trim. Where hay falls short is in absorbancy and comfort.
Paper is a tried-and-true bedding. There are a few things to remember about paper bedding, though. The paper must be dust-free, never use newspaper, research the brand’s quality, and use paper shavings/confetti.
Wood shavings can make decent bedding for guinea pigs. However, make sure that your wood is shavings from hardwood. A common recommendation is aspen wood shavings. The primary concern with wood shavings is their low absorbency. Their low absorbency will require frequent changing. Remember to never use pine dust, sawdust, or any other wood dust as bedding.