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Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
Section - <5.3> The pet store uses wood shavings as bedding. Should I?

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
In most cases the answer is maybe.  In addition to wood shavings generally
making for a more comfortable place to root and burrow around in, many
hedgehogs are not overly particular as to where they defecate.  Using
shavings makes cleaning up after them quite a bit easier.

I have heard of a few cases where hedgehogs were allergic to wood shaving
bedding, but these have been relatively uncommon cases.  In all the cases
I've heard of, the hedgehog has experienced what appears to be a bloody nose
most nights while roaming about its enclosure.  The solution was to use a
more natural bedding (closer to their natural habitat -- for example, real
dirt and grass).  Another possibility might be to increase the humidity, but
the best solution is to switch from using wood shavings.

I have also seen numerous warnings against using cedar shavings, especially
for baby or young hedgehogs where the strong aroma can actually overpower and
even kill them.  Do not use cedar!

The ``Safe Beddings FAQ'' now exists and is posted to the rec.pets Usenet
Newsgroup on a monthly basis.  It is also available via the WWW at:

My thanks to Rick Russell for the original pointer to it, and to Christine
Porter for the pointer to the new address.

I have to admit that, in 1994, when I acquired Velcro at 8 months of age, he
came in a pet carrier complete with a bedding of cedar shavings and was none
the worse for wear from it (though he also lived in a very well ventilated
cage).  Since then I have used pine shavings, aspen shavings, Yesterdays News
(recycled paper cat litter), and astroturf.

It now appears that pine, also being an aromatic softwood, `can' cause many
of the same effects as cedar.  While generally not as strong as cedar, it is
better to opt for aspen or other non-aromatic woods.  Personally, I believe
that pine, as long as it isn't that strongly odoured (isn't very resinous) is
an okay choice for bedding in open cages (as opposed to tanks).  Strong
smelling pine shavings, however, are not a good choice for a bedding

The rule of thumb for any bedding material is, if it has a noticeable scent,
it probably isn't terribly safe.

I have recently been in touch with Gerald McKiness, who had lost five of his
hedgehogs to the use of pine shavings -- the cause being borne out by the
necropsies that were performed.  After switching away from using pine, he has
had no further losses.  Here are some of the details about the symptoms:

    Our first casualty was a hamster. A pet of about 3 yrs. of age.  He died 
    after about 3 weeks to a month of respiratory distress and digestive 
    failure.  My hedgehogs began dying about a year later. The symptoms 
    always started with a loss of appetite, then loss of mobility in the 
    hindquarters.  They would have a wheeze to the breathing.  The 
    excretions would be a bright green.  In about three weeks, despite 
    everything, bottle feeding, antibiotic injections, veterinary care, 
    they died.

    The necropsies would all show respiratory distress, fluid in the lungs,
    liver distress, and NO PATHOGENS.
    -- Gerald McKiness

While aspen shavings do not have what some people consider the pleasant cedar
or pine scent, nor some of the insect (mite) repelling qualities of cedar,
everything I have seen strongly urges against the use of cedar and also pine
bedding for hedgehogs (and other small animals).

Aspen is, unfortunately, more expensive than either cedar or pine, but the
safety factor is paramount.  If you are unable to find aspen, and are using
pine, make sure you do so in a well ventilated cage or pen, not one that is
enclosed with limited airflow, as this will help limit the dangers.  For
cedar, the answer is simply to avoid using it.

Mike McGary has the following words of wisdom on a further advantage of using
aspen shavings:

    One of the benefits of aspen shavings is that they are digestible.
    This can prevent problems resulting from eating the bedding (our
    babies have all eaten some bedding).

Another side effect of wood is that shavings of most kinds involve quite a
bit of dust which can have unpleasant side effects on small lungs.  Aspen,
which appears to be shredded rather than chipped, seems to be less dusty and
much better than pine or cedar.

For those of you who want an alternative to wood shavings of any kind,
especially for those who might have allergies themselves to the bedding,
Kathleen Close passed along the following idea, courtesy of her veterinarian:

    Use terrarium lining or astroturf.  It's much cheaper in the long run.
    He suggested buying two lengths, washing them about every 3 days, and 
    while one is drying, put the second one in.

After trying out the astroturf idea (make sure it's the newer, soft, almost
carpet-like astroturf, not the older tinsel-like plastic grass), I wound up
wondering about the edges where it seemed to unravel a bit.  Terri Lewis
provided the following great solution:

    Use a soldering gun or iron [to melt the edges].  That should stop it 
    from unraveling unless your [hedgehog] is really chewing on it and not 
    just pulling at it.
    -- Terri Lewis

I've also found that careful use of a candle along the edges works well, but
I do stress being careful!

I can now attest to astroturf working quite well, and I've found that my
hedgehogs appear to be more active on it than with wood shavings, though that
may have just been their anticipation of spring being in the air, at the

Janet Jones sent along some information on a new product that also shows some

       	Adsorbent Corporation
       	1051 Hilton Avenue
       	Bellingham, WA 98225

    This information was taken directly from their packaging:

      CareFRESH Pet Bedding - The safest, healthiest bedding for your pet.

      For hamsters, gerbils, mice, rabbits, birds, reptiles, guinea pigs, 
      cats, dogs, ferrets, skunks and other pets.

      CareFRESH is a patented pet bedding made from reclaimed wood pulp waste. 
      This short fiber virgin pulp can't be made into paper so would normally 
      be sent to a landfill or burned. CareFRESH helps save scarce resources. 
      CareFRESH contains no added inks, dyes or chemical contaminants. It's 
      better bedding, naturally.

    I use this bedding for all my small animals, i.e., hamster, rat and 
    hedgehogs. They have been on this bedding for about a month and seem to 
    like it quite well.  The female hedgehog I just recently got loves to 
    burrow underneath it, as do the rat and hamster.  I previously used corn 
    cobs as I have allergies and wood chips of any kind make me ill. The dust
    in pine is terrible.  The corn cobs are pretty good, but they still are a
    little dusty and kind of rough. The only downside I found about CareFRESH
    bedding is that it is kind of expensive and hard to find.  But it does 
    seem to last quite a while, so maybe in the long run it really is not as 
    expensive as it seems.

Note: Some problems have been reported with some young hedgehogs eating and
subsequently choking on CareFRESH bedding.  I suspect this same problem can
occur with virtually any pelletized bedding material, and the best suggestion
is to keep it away from the dinner area and to be careful with baby and
adolescent hedgehogs.

Yesterday's News cat litter, made of pelletized recycled newspapers, also
works quite well.  They produce a variety for `ferrets' which has a smaller
pellet size than the cat litter variety, but I've found no complaints from
the quilled crowd over the larger, cat litter sized pieces.  Note: they also
make a `lemon' scented variety, which is probably not a good choice, both
from the aromatic point of view, and the fact that hedgehogs are usually not
overly fond of citrus.

Another suggestion is to just use non-clumping cat litter.  This may have two
potential dangers: dust and especially for male hedgehogs, getting caught in
the penile sheath -- the same as if you used it in a litter box [5.4], [9.1]
(there can also be problems for females, though these are not as frequent).

Corncob litter is not recommended as bedding for hedgehogs, for a number of
reasons.  The danger of it getting caught in delicate places still exists,
though not as likely as, say, clumping cat litters.  There have also been
many cases of mites that pointed back to the use of corncob bedding as the
source.  Corncob also tends to become mouldy when it gets damp, as well as
just rotting and causing odour.

Shredded office paper can also be used as bedding, although make sure it
doesn't contain any metal (such as staples or paperclips) or odd chemical
impregnated or carbon paper.  It can, however, be quite dusty.

Although most bedding for pets is treated to prevent mites, bedding is still
one of the major sources of these little pests [8.2].  I have heard from a
couple of people who have reported that their vets told them that corn cob
bedding can be especially prone to mite infestations.  I do have to temper
that thought with the idea that if a particular brand or batch in the area
that these people lived was bad, it could have been the source for numerous
problems over quite a period of time.  Still, if you have mite problems, it
is probably worthwhile to switch to at least a different brand of bedding, if
not a different type -- at least for a while.

Looking still further afield, you can use the brightly coloured aquarium
gravel (the type that is epoxy coated).  This is not absorbent like the other
bedding options, nor as warm, but it does provide a pretty safe, and
non-allergic alternative.  Cleaning and disinfecting can, however be awkward,
making this better for particular areas rather than as a general bedding.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
Hi, my hedgehog started running around her cage squealing so I took her out to see what was wrong. Her genital area was inflamed and she had open sores all around that area. I gave her a bath, but I'm really worried about her. Do you have any idea what this could be?
Thank you!

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
Previous Document: <5.2> Do I need a cage? How should I set it up?
Next Document: <5.4> What kind of litter should I use?

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