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Bedding for Gerbils: The Best & Worst Options

Bedding is an essential part of a gerbil’s cage. Without proper bedding, gerbils can get injured or develop diseases. The best options include hay, aspen, and shredded paper.

Gerbils are some of the most affectionate rodents in the world. They love interacting with their owners and playing around their cages.

Gerbils are also highly active and energetic animals. They are curious and explore their cage all the time. 

For gerbils to move freely and safely, they need proper bedding.

This article discusses the different types of bedding you can use to keep your gerbil happy and safe.

Why Do Gerbils Need Bedding?

Bedding helps gerbils move around their cages without walking on the steel bars. The soft bedding acts as a cushion that keeps gerbils’ paws comfortable and safe.

Bedding TypeProsCons
Aspen ShavingsNatural, appealing, inexpensiveIt can be dusty, leading to respiratory issues
CarefreshHighly absorbentExpensive
HempNatural, highly absorbentExpensive
Corn CobNatural, cheap, absorbs wellNeeds regular changing to avoid mold and does not allow burrowing
HayCheap, edible, pleasant scentNon-absorbent
Shredded PaperCheapInk is dangerous, visually displeasing
SandNatural, good for dust bathsTunnels can collapse when dry and produces odor

A substrate or gerbil bedding is a layer of material that covers the hard metal bars on the floor of the cage or a gerbilarium.

Rodents are active animals. When they move around, they need some soft substrate to protect their feet. 

Why Do Gerbils Need Bedding

Gerbil’s feet are soft and sensitive, and the steel wires on the cage floor can cause harm.

There are several reasons why you should consider lining your gerbil’s cage with bedding:

  • It soaks up urine and keeps the cage smelling fresh.
  • Gerbils can easily walk on the floor without hurting their paws.
  • They also use bedding to make their nests which act as their hiding spots, go when they feel vulnerable.
  • The bedding serves as a soft cushion that can prevent heavy injuries from gerbils falling inside the cage.
  • Gerbils love burrowing, and having ample amounts of bedding helps them dig deeper and make longer holes inside their cages.

They spend a lot of their time digging burrows which is why choosing the right substrate is crucial to keep them active. They also build nests with the bedding in their cage.

Some beddings are safe for gerbil use, while others pose dangers to them.

3 Safe Bedding Options for Gerbils

Aspen and hay are the safest bedding options for gerbils. You can also use clean shredded paper and cardboard pieces if nothing else is available. Avoid using polyester and pine beddings as they are dangerous for gerbils.

Creating the perfect bedding for your gerbil can be tricky. The ideal bedding is a non-toxic material that gerbils can chew without getting sick. 

Gerbils love to chew, so getting edible bedding goes a long way in keeping them safe.[1]

Some other important traits to look for in bedding include:

  • Odorless
  • Absorbent
  • Soft
  • Light

Gerbils usually urinate in a single part of the cage, but they can do their business anywhere. Having bedding that absorbs urine well is a necessity.

Beddings should not have dust in them. Dusk leads to respiratory issues, which can be fatal. It should also be lightweight so as not to crush gerbils when they burrow inside it.

You can mix more than one bedding to give your gerbil a better experience.

Some of the most common safe bedding options for gerbils are listed below:

1. Hay Bedding for Gerbils

Hay Bedding for Gerbils

Hay is used as a food source for most rodents. Gerbils do eat hay, but it doesn’t make up a significant part of their diet. 

The best use of hay for gerbils is teeth filing. Their teeth continue to grow forever, and chewing hay helps trim their teeth to safe lengths.

Hay is a great substrate and makes excellent flooring material. It can be used to make tunnels and nests, which they use as their hiding spots.

Your gerbil cannot make a whole burrow out of hay as it collapses on its own, but it can be used to reinforce the walls of tunnels.

Hay is not highly absorbent but has a nice smell that keeps your gerbil’s cage odorless for long periods. It also keeps gerbils warm due to its insulation qualities. 

There are several types of hays available in the market. All of them are safe for gerbils, but some are better than the rest:

  • Timothy
  • Alfalfa
  • Orchard
  • Meadow

2. Aspen Bedding for Gerbils

Aspen Bedding for Gerbils

Aspen is a tree commonly found in the North American continent[2]. The shavings from this form a comfortable bedding option for gerbils. 

Aspen shavings are safe for gerbils to consume and are compostable. They are also visually appealing and have a pleasant smell. 

The best part about aspen shavings is their ability to absorb urine. Aspen shavings are one of the most absorbent bedding options for gerbils. This keeps away the urine odor for long periods making them great if you don’t plan on changing your gerbil’s bedding regularly.

Gerbils can chew on these shavings and make wood pulp which is great for building tunnels. 

The only drawback of aspen shavings is the dust. They contain lots of dust which is dangerous for the lungs and eyes.

Aspen is widely available at several pet shops and is extremely affordable.

3. Shredded Paper and Carefresh Bedding for Gerbils

Shredded Paper and Carefresh Bedding for Gerbils
Image Source

Shredded paper is the cheapest bedding option for gerbils. Paper is easily available everywhere and can be shredded to form small pieces. 

The thickness and quality of the paper do not matter.

Paper does not absorb urine well, resulting in a bad odor forming fast. It must be replaced frequently. Gerbils love to chew on paper and turn it into pulp.

Carefesh bedding is another popular bedding option made from paper fibers. Despite it being made from paper, it has great absorbency and controls odor well.

Gerbils can have a hard time burrowing in this bedding which is why it is better to mix it with other bedding options.

3 Dangerous Bedding Options for Gerbils

Avoid using wooden bedding made from oily tree bark. Oil is bad for gerbils and leads to health problems. Fluffy bedding such as polyester and towels can also be dangerous due to their fibers interfering with movement.

There are several gerbil beddings available in the market. Most of them are safe, but some of them pose significant dangers to gerbils. These must be avoided.

Some of the harmful beddings for gerbils are listed below.

1. Pine and Cedar Beddings for Gerbils

Pine and Cedar Beddings for Gerbils
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Too much oil is fatal for gerbils. Certain types of wood contain a lot of oil and should not be used as beddings. 

The most common bedding options that contain oil are pine and cedar shavings.

Both shavings contain compounds known as Phenols which are dangerous for rodents[3]. Oils can cause significant damage to your gerbil’s respiratory system, which is why they should be avoided.

2. Newspaper Bedding for Gerbils

Newspaper Bedding for Gerbils
Image Source

While paper is safe for gerbils, ink is not. Newspapers contain lots of toxic ink, so avoid these as bedding. 

Another reason to avoid newspaper bedding is that the ink can rub off on gerbils’ coats, staining them blue or black in some areas and damaging their integrity.

You should also check for pieces of plastic in your paper bedding to ensure gerbils do not chew on them. Plastics are toxic to them and lead to developing digestive issues.

3. Polyester Bedding for Gerbils

Wadding, towels, and polyester fabrics should not be used as bedding for gerbils. They are inedible and pose serious choking risks to gerbils.

If the wadding or polyester gets stuck in your gerbil’s gut, it can cause obstruction leading to death.

Another major issue with fabric beddings is that loose threads can make entangle your gerbil’s feet, leading to injuries.

How Much Bedding Do Gerbils Need?

Gerbils need 4 to 6 inches of bedding. Gerbils like to dig and burrow, so they need a lot of bedding. Fill half of the cage in some places to allow it to build tunnels. This also allows gerbils to bury their food, a natural behavior they need to express.

Regardless of the bedding you choose, your gerbil needs a lot of it. Gerbils are natural burrowers and dig tunnels deep inside their gerbilarium.

Here are some tips you need to prepare the bedding for your gerbil:

  • The ideal bedding should be at least six to seven inches deep.
  • You can choose to mix different beddings or assemble them in layers.
  • Avoid putting heavy equipment on top of the bedding, such as bowls, dishes, or wooden houses, as gerbils rearrange the substrate a lot.
  • Use a shelf or cage topper for all other supplies.
  • Every gerbil is different and can be comfortable with a particular type of bedding.
  • Use the trial-and-error method to deduce which bedding makes your gerbil the happiest.


Gerbils need bedding. Bedding helps them move comfortably around the cage or gerbilarium and keeps their feet from getting injured. It also allows them to burrow and dig, which are natural behaviors of theirs.

Proper and edible bedding is recommended as gerbils chew everything, and having digestible bedding is a safe option.

There are several choices for gerbil beddings you can choose. Aspen shavings work best at absorbing urine and keeping the odor away. Avoid using polyester, oily woods, and inked papers as bedding as they are dangerous.


Is Hemp Beddings Safe for Gerbils?

Yes, hemp is safe bedding for gerbils. They can be used as an alternative to wood shavings and are excellent at absorbing urine. It stops odor well but does not have its own smell. Mongolian gerbils in the wild eat hemp as part of their diet. It does not contain dust, making it a safer option than aspen. The only downside of hemp is its price which can be a lot more than other bedding options.

Can You Use Corncob Bedding for Gerbils?

No, corncob bedding is not suited for gerbils. It is excellent at absorbing urine and does not produce odor, but it has several drawbacks. It is tough to chew, which is bad for gerbils. It is also hard on gerbils’ paws and can develop mold easily.

Is Sand a Good Bedding Option for Gerbils?

No, sand is not a good option for gerbil bedding. Gerbils originated in the deserts and grasslands. Sand replicates a gerbil’s natural environment and is used for dust baths. It cannot be used to make tunnels as dry sand does not hold well. Sand can also get kicked everywhere, making it difficult to clean the cage.

Do Gerbils Eat Their Bedding?

Yes, gerbils chew on anything they can find, and bedding is one of their targets. They chew their bedding frequently, which is why getting edible and safe bedding is crucial to keep your gerbils healthy and happy. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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