dwarf hamster in bedding

The Best Dwarf Hamster Bedding – Sawdust Vs. CareFresh

There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to hamster bedding. Choosing the best dwarf hamster bedding/substrate is also a hotly debated topic among small pet keepers.

Lots of hamster owners have their own opinions and experiences with wood shavings, sawdust, carefresh and all the other options available. Let’s take a look into dwarf hamster bedding and the best options for your cage at home!

(The below article is focused on dwarf hamsters, but the same rules apply for syrians).

What is Hamster Substrate?

Substrate is the bottom material used in your hamster cage. This is usually wood chippings, sawdust or some form of soft bedding material. Hamster substrate is mainly used to keep your cage clean, create a soft walking surface and provide nesting material.

What Is Hamster Bedding?

Hamster bedding is the nesting material used for your pet to create a comfortable place to sleep. This is usually placed within a hide or ‘hamster home’ inside your cage.

The Difference Between Substrate And Bedding

These terms are often used interchangeably but the truth is that they have different uses. As mentioned, substrate is the material used to line the bottom of your hamster cage while bedding is the nesting material used in your hamster’s sleeping area.

It is possible for you to use the same material for both substrate and bedding without any problems. While other hamster owners like to use a combination such as wood shavings for substrate and carefresh for bedding. All that really matters is that the materials in your cage are safe for your dwarf hamster.

Why Your Dwarf Hamster’s Bedding Matters

There are a huge range of different substrate and bedding materials suitable for hamsters, each with their own unique advantages and drawbacks. The one you choose should really depend on what makes your hamster feel most comfortable in their home. It can often take a little trial and error to find the perfect material.

I have used a range of different bedding materials over the years! Dwarf hamsters love to burrow in their cages so it’s essential you choose a material that’s safe and also promotes natural behaviours in your pet.

Hamster Bedding Reviews

Generic Sawdust - A Risky Option

hamster sawdust

Type: Sawdust

Sawdust generally isn’t a good idea for your hamster. This is because sawdust is very fine and can often be incredibly dusty. This dust is the main problem, it can cause skin allergies and breathing issues for your pet. You may be able to find a sawdust brand that is dust-free and has no negative impacts on your dwarf hamster’s health but I haven’t come across one yet.


  • Very inexpensive


  • Usually harmful to hamsters
  • Causes skin irritation and breathing problems
  • Not recommended!

Price: Very cheap, usually $5-$20

Rating: 1/5

Kaytee Aspen Wood Shavings - All-Purpose Hamster Substrate

wood aspen shavings

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Type: Wood Shavings

You could describe aspen shavings as the upgraded sawdust. This hamster bedding is a much safer option for your pet and a good quality product won’t set you back too much cash! Using wood shavings as hamster bedding is tried and true; thousands of pet owners use this material year-round.

Aspen shavings are a perfect substrate for your hamster cage – it is one of the few types of wood that is hamster-safe. You’ll find this material to be fairly absorbent but not as absorbent as Carefresh or Kaytee Clean & Cozy. All that means is your dwarf hamster cage will start smelling quicker when compared to some other materials.

Remember to always use aspen shavings that have been created specifically for use with animals, these products have been specially treated to keep your animal safe.

***We do not recommend using pine or cedar shavings as these materials can be abrasive and splinter into sharp pieces.


  • Very cheap
  • Available in most pet stores
  • Safe, soft and a reliable bedding for your pet


  • Some hamsters are allergic to aspen shavings, but this is rare
  • Not as absorbent as other materials
  • You’ll need to add softer material for your hamster’s nesting area

Price: $29.92

Rating: 3/5

Kaytee Clean & Cozy - Cheap Hamster Bedding

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Type: Recycled Paper

Another step up in bedding, Kaytee Clean & Cozy can absorb twice the amount of liquid than wood shavings. This helps your dwarf hamster cage stay fresher, for longer. Kaytee boats exceptional odour-control and is rated as ‘99% dust-free’.

The best thing about this substrate material is how affordable the product is! Kaytee is much cheaper than Carefresh while having the features of a premium bedding product. Try and avoid any scented varieties of this product, as these products can be harmful for your hamster’s breathing.

You’ll notice that this bedding is softer and fluffier than Carefresh, making it a perfect nesting material for your pet.


  • Very soft and absorbent
  • An affordable, premium bedding
  • Not scented


  • Not stocked in all pet stores
  • Not as long-lasting as Carefresh

Price: $12.99 for 49 litres

Rating: 4/5

Small Pet Select - Soft Paper Bedding

pet select bedding

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Type: Recycled Paper

This Pet Select bedding is a great option for dwarf hamsters, it’s available in large quantities and is super absorbent. This product is very similar to Kaytee Clean & Cozy but isn’t quite as soft or absorbent. Despite this, it will still last much longer than wood shavings and can keep your dwarf hamster warm and comfortable in its cage.

This paper-based bedding is ideal for small animals and is soft enough to be used as a nesting material. No need to worry about health issues either, as this bedding is made from unbleached paper that’s never been printed.


  • Cheap and available in large quantities
  • Soft and absorbent
  • 100% safe - made from unbleached paper


  • Not as effective at odour-control compared to other products
  • You may need to change the bedding more frequently with this material

Price: $19.99 for 56 litres

Rating: 3.5/5

CareFresh Ultra - Complete Dwarf Hamster Bedding

Carefresh Ultra hamster bedding

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Type: Wood Pulp Bedding

Carefresh Ultra is a top-quality bedding that contains no pine or cedar oils. It’s clean, soft and almost completely dust-free. The best thing about CareFresh is their superior odour control. This material will last longer than most other hamster beddings thanks to its absorbing ability.

This is arguably the safest, healthiest bedding for your pet that’s completely free of any harmful chemicals. Of course, products like this come with a higher price tag than most other materials you find at the pet store.


  • A top of the range dwarf hamster bedding
  • The best odour protection available
  • Long-lasting


  • Expensive when compared to other options

Price: $18.99 for 50 litres

Rating: 5/5

CareFresh Confetti Bedding - Best Colorful Hamster Bedding

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Type: Wood Pulp Bedding

Carefresh Confetti has all the benefits of Carefresh Ultra, but in a range of different colours! While we would usually advise against the use of colored or dyed hamster beddings, CareFresh have used hamster-safe dye that won’t harm your pet.

This is the only colored hamster bedding that can offer 10-day odour control. You can also get ‘CareFresh colors’ which is the same product above but all in one color!


  • All the benefits of CareFresh Ultra
  • A colorful dwarf hamster bedding that is safe for your pet


  • Expensive when compared to other products
  • Does contain some added dyes

Price: $18.99 for 50 litres

Rating: 5/5

Healthy Pet Critter Care Bedding - Cheap CareFresh Alternative

critter care hamster bedding

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Type: Wood Pulp Bedding

This Critter Care wood pulp bedding absorbs 3x its weight which is why it deserves to be mentioned. CareFresh is still the #1 premium bedding for hamsters but this product from Healthy Pet has similar features at a cheaper price.

The blue color may appeal to some dwarf hamster owners more than others but overall this bedding is a great choice if you’re looking for a wood shavings upgrade.


  • A cheaper colored bedding alternative
  • Soft and 100% hamster-safe
  • Almost no dust


  • Not so good at odour-control compared to other products

Price: $8.14 for 6 litres

Rating: 4/5

What Is The Best Dwarf Hamster Bedding? (Our Pick)

Our pick has to be the classic CareFresh Ultra. It’s an all in one bedding and you can’t really provide a better environment for your pets with any other product. 

We also love how long it lasts and its odour eliminating ability. This might not be ideal for the budget dwarf hamster cage which is why aspen shavings deserve a mention, thanks to its great price point.

Hamster Bedding To Avoid

  • Sawdust - As mentioned, you generally want to avoid this material due to the dust
  • Corn cob - This isn’t great for hamsters to eat, especially if left unchanged for a little too long
  • Newspaper - Any king of printed paper will leak harmful chemicals which can sometimes be toxic
  • Scented bedding - Lots of scented beddings use unnatural chemicals that can lead to breathing problems in your dwarf hamster
  • Some colored bedding - Again, some cheaper varieties of colored bedding will contain unnatural chemicals used to dye the product


No, sawdust is not a good hamster bedding due to the dust it produces. This dust can cause breathing problems in your pet.

Some wood shavings (such as aspen shavings) are safe for dwarf hamsters and make an excellent bedding. Try to avoid cedar and pine shavings as well as any other types of shavings that aren’t specifically produced for animals.

Your local pet store should have a good range of bedding and substrate materials for both dwarf and syrian hamsters. That being said, you can usually find better prices for the same products when browsing online.

It is advised to give your hamster cage a full clean once every week, this is when you will replace the old bedding. Some materials, such as CareFresh, will last slightly longer allowing you to wait around 10 days before changing the bedding in your cage.

All the information above applies to Syrian hamsters and dwarf hamsters. Syrian’s will enjoy a dust-free material that’s soft and absorbent – CareFresh is probably your best bet but aspen shavings can do the job too.

Strictly speaking, wood shavings are best used as a substrate in your hamster cage and a softer nesting material should be provided for your pet’s sleeping area. These nesting materials are widely available online and in pet stores. Carefresh (and other soft beddings) can double up as both a substrate and nesting material.


As you can see, there are a lot of options when choosing dwarf hamster bedding! Hopefully you now have a much better idea on what bedding to provide your pet. Remember, a good material can greatly improve the quality of life for your hamster!

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch via social media. We also have plenty more tips and advice for setting up your hamster cage!