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Is Fluffy Bedding safe for Hamsters?

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June 2, 2016
DIY Hamster Nesting Box
February 3, 2017

Fluffy bedding is a popular product sold in every store, but just how safe is it?

O ne of the most popular nesting material sold for small rodents in pet stores is cotton based bedding known as fluffy bedding or Kapok. It comes in different colors and sold by lots of different brands. It’s promoted as the ideal bedding for hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice and rats. More often than not the staff will recommend purchasing this for first time owners. You may also find it comes as part of those small rodent starter packs sold in stores. Unfortunately not everything sold in the pet store is as safe as they make it out to be.

Fluffy bedding is dangerous. Each year there are large numbers of firsthand reports cropping up all over the internet of people’s pets getting injured through the use of this sort of bedding. The most common report is the cotton fibers from fluffy bedding get wrapped around limbs and cut off circulation. Clare Ceresani, a member on the facebook group HAMSTERS, recently posted her own experience when rearing a litter of unwanted pups:

Clare's story

"the moral of this post is PLEASE never buy fluffy cotton bedding for your hamsters!!!. learn from my mistakes"

“back a few years ago, i raised a litter of orphaned pups after their owner wasn't prepared to put in the effort to keep them alive. i was still pretty naive with the do's and don'ts of hamster care back then so i gave them fluffy bedding to nest in. it was all fine for the first few days, but then i noticed that a lot of the pups had strands wrapped around their paws!!! i took the fluffy bedding out immediately and tried to take it off of their paws but they started squeaking and it was so upsetting. i hoped that it would fall off in a day or two after wiggling around in their nest (and for some of them, yes this was this case) but there were two or three that still had it stuck on them. one of the pups , who i named him Hope, was the worst of them all. his paw had swelled up around the fluffy bedding and i feared he would lose it. i went to the vet and she removed the fluffy bedding with tweezers free of charge which was very nice of her. after a few days of waiting, the swelling in hope's paw slowly got less severe. i ended up keeping him and he grew to live a healthy, full life. his paw never returned to normal (it was slightly thicker than his other ones) but thankfully he still had use of it. the moral of this post is PLEASE never buy fluffy cotton bedding for your hamsters!!!. learn from my mistakes”

Clare Ceresani

If you look carefully the first two images of the pup you can see the paw is swollen from the thin cotton fibers being wrapped around its limb. Syrian pups are incredibly tiny, other species of hamster even more so. Getting tangled up in fluffy bedding can be deadly. Clare was incredibly lucky to have a happy ending where her vet was able to save the pup. Limbs can be lost due to this. It doesn’t just happen to young hamsters either, adults also fall victim.

Fluffy bedding is an insoluble fiber, meaning it passes through the digestive system in close to its original form. You can test to see if bedding is safe by placing some in water to see if it breaks down. Naturally hamsters ingest small amounts of bedding as they store hoards of food in their nest. In the wild they would forage for materials like moss or grass to build their nest. Ingesting this is harmless and breaks down as it passes through their digestive system. Fluffy bedding has been known to cause blockages or prolapse which can be fatal if for for emergency vet care.

Anon's story

Just another example of the dangers fluffy bedding could cause.

Others might argue that Kapok is safe. Germany have banned fluffy bedding, but have not banned Kapok because the fibers are shorter so it’s less likely for entanglement to happen. However, this product is still an insoluble fiber. It is still not safe to use and can still cause blockages and problems if ingested. Less risk, but still a risk not worth taking.

So for all owners out there, both new and experienced. Avoid cotton or fabrics like fleece for bedding. There are active campaigns to completely remove these sort of products from all pet stores. Writing polite and concise messages to your local chains can help. If enough people voice their opinions it will make a difference.
Creator of and also an admin of the facebook group HAMSTERS. I'm just a hamster enthusiast looking to share my experiences and advice!

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