I've got two Roborovski Hamsters which both have good sized cages. I like to try and change their bedding frequently which obviously increases the cost of the bedding.

It seems there are two types of material required for a hamster:

Buying in bulk seems to be alright for the shavings but less so for the softer stuff. In terms of price, a bag of cotton wool balls (with no additives) costs far less than the softer packs of bedding.

Is there a downside or issue with using cotton wool balls (or small pieces of a larger sheet of cotton wool) as a cheaper substitute for the hamsters?

Potential issues I could think of:

  • Perhaps cotton wool is less absorbent
  • Maybe the fibres would get caught around their legs or something?

To clarify, I only want to replace the more expensive soft bedding not the shavings.

  • Growing up, my cousins had a hamster. They used wool for its bedding. We went to feed it one evening, and it was dead. It had swallowed some of the wool and had a string coming out of its mouth. It had choked or suffocated. Definitely advise against wool-like bedding.
    – Richard C
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


Cotton Wool Dangers

There are some dangers to cotton wool such as:

  • Ingestion - Intestinal blockage
  • Limbs can get tangeled

Hamsters LOVE to burrow so having a substrate where they can dig and hide is best. It acts as environmental enrichment as well as a safe place to hide.

Layna has added a nice list of burrowing/bedding materials however I would only use them in one location of the cage (with the exception of paper based substrates).

  1. Hay/straw/dried leaves does not absorb urine or odors well
  2. Hemp seems a bit hard and pointy, this might be a German thing - we don't see this type of bedding in Canada but it looks similar to woodchips.

Why not woodchips?

Woodchips have been known to cause some issues in out critters some examples:

  • Aspen - Bumble-foot, eye injuries (chips are hard and pointy).
  • Pine - known to cause respiratory ailments from the fine dust particles and phenols.
  • Cedar - A harder chip that also contain phenols.

Great bedding choices

  • Toilet paper, shredded paper - only downfall is it does not absorb smell very well.
  • Carefresh (like you currently use)
  • Living world Fresh N Comfy (my personal favorite, absorbs smell VERY well)

How to save money?

Litterbox for your hamster! Hamsters tend to pee and poo in a specific area of their enclosure, purchase a litter box for him to use. This will reduce the amount of full enclosure cleanings you need to do, just replace the substrate you use in the litterbox instead!

How to Potty Train a Hamster


Ok, I checked my best source for small animal Keeping (German site: Die Brain)
What they advise is:

  • Hay
  • Straw
  • Toilet paper
  • (Shredded) paper (Make sure it has no chemicals on it, the more natural, the better)
  • Dried leaves
  • hemp

Cotton is explicitly NOT recommeded! Anything that the hamster can get tangled in should be avoided.
But as Toilet Paper made the list, there is your cheap alternative :).

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