Best Gerbil Substrate

A gerbil laying in shredded cardboard substrate. The picture is for the article; Best gerbil substrate

Is it true that the choice of substrate for your gerbil’s habitat can significantly impact their health and well-being? You might be surprised to find out that, indeed, not all bedding materials are created equal.

As a gerbil owner, you’re tasked with providing a comfortable, safe, and enriching environment for your tiny friend. Substrate plays a crucial role in this, as it serves not only as a bed but also as a playground and a place for your gerbil to burrow and hide.

So, which substrates are the best, and which ones should you avoid? Stick around, and we’ll explore this topic together.

Key Takeaways

  • Gerbil bedding is essential for providing comfort, absorption, and opportunities for burrowing.
  • Safe substrate options for gerbils include aspen shavings, Carefresh, Kaytee Clean & Cozy, hemp, and corn cob.
  • Unsafe substrates for gerbils include perfumed bedding, pellet bedding, most cat litter, cedar and pine wood shavings, and heavily inked paper.
  • An ideal bedding depth of approximately 8 inches supports natural behaviours, provides stability, and mimics their natural environment for psychological well-being.

Understanding Gerbil Bedding Needs

Understanding your gerbil’s bedding needs is crucial as it not only provides a comfortable surface for them to walk on, but also absorbs urine, faeces, and spilt water to maintain a dry environment in their cage. The right bedding will also line their homes, ensuring they stay warm and cosy. It can also act as a protective cushion should your gerbil take a tumble.

Moreover, bedding satisfies a gerbil’s instinct to burrow and build tunnels. This activity keeps them mentally stimulated and physically active, essential for their overall well-being. You’ve got a variety of safe bedding options to consider: aspen shavings, Carefresh, Kaytee Clean & Cozy, hemp, and corn cob. Each type has its unique characteristics in terms of absorbency, odour control, and safety.

However, be careful and avoid certain bedding that could harm your pet. Stay away from perfumed bedding, cedar and pine wood shavings, most cat litter, inked paper, and cotton and polyester wadding. These could pose serious health risks to your gerbil. Always prioritize their comfort and safety to keep them healthy and happy.

Top Rated Gerbil Substrates

Now that you’re familiar with the importance of selecting the right bedding for your gerbil, let’s assess the top-rated substrates to help you make an informed decision.

Aspen shavings are a natural, visually appealing choice that’s also quite absorbent. However, beware that some brands can be a bit dusty.

If you’re looking for high absorption, Carefresh is a worthy contender. It’s available in various colours to add a fun twist to your gerbil’s habitat, albeit it’s pricier than aspen.

Kaytee Clean & Cozy is another option to consider, especially if you’re on a budget. It’s soft, making it ideal for nesting, yet it isn’t as absorbent as Carefresh.

For those seeking a dust-free solution, hemp bedding is a solid choice. It’s natural, highly absorbent, and mixes well with other substrates, but it does come with a higher price tag.

Lastly, corn cob bedding is an eco-friendly, dust-free substrate that’s cheaper than hemp and offers great odour control. Bear in mind, though, it’s not suitable for burrowing and must be changed regularly to prevent mould growth.

Unsafe Substrates for Gerbils

While choosing the right substrate for your gerbil’s habitat is crucial, it’s equally important to know which materials to avoid as they can compromise your pet’s health and well-being. Several substrates are harmful and should be avoided at all costs.

Perfumed bedding, for instance, interferes with scent trails and can cause eye and respiratory irritation. Pellet bedding, though sometimes marketed for small rodents, is unsuitable for gerbils because of its burrowing-inhibiting properties and potential to cause respiratory issues. Most cat litter is unsafe due to the dust and perfumes it contains, not to mention potentially harmful materials.

Cedar and pine wood shavings are another no-go. These contain toxic phenols which can negatively affect respiratory function and cause organ damage. It’s crucial to be aware of this as wood shavings are often a popular choice for rodent bedding.

Heavily-inked paper, like that found in newspapers, is another substrate to steer clear of. If ingested, the ink can be toxic and it can also stain your gerbil’s fur. Always look for substrates that are safe, comfortable, and conducive to your pet’s natural behaviours.

Ideal Bedding Quantity for Gerbils

When setting up your gerbil’s habitat, it’s important to provide a bedding depth of approximately 8 inches. This allows for essential digging and burrowing activities, catering to their instincts. Creating a habitat that closely mimics their natural environment is essential for their psychological well-being.

Ensuring an adequate layer of bedding is particularly vital in the following areas:

  • Tunnel creation: Gerbils are burrowers by nature. A deep layer of bedding allows them to create intricate tunnel systems, satisfying their instinct to dig and burrow.
  • Stable tunnel structures: Providing a thick layer of bedding ensures the tunnels your gerbil creates remain stable. This prevents tunnel collapse, ensuring your gerbil’s safety while they explore and inhabit their tunnels.
  • Comfort and enrichment: A generous amount of bedding supports your gerbil’s need for a comfortable, cosy, and enriching environment. It provides them with the means to nest and rest comfortably.

Frequency of Changing Gerbil Bedding

To maintain a clean and healthy environment for your gerbil, it’s crucial to change the bedding regularly, ideally once every week or two. Not only does this prevent the buildup of waste and bacteria, but it also keeps your pet’s habitat fresh and comfortable.

When changing the bedding, remove all the old substrate, and clean the cage thoroughly with a pet-safe disinfectant. Let it dry completely before adding new bedding. This routine ensures the elimination of any harmful pathogens that could potentially harm your gerbil.

If you notice a strong odour before the scheduled cleaning, it’s advisable to change the bedding sooner. This could be a sign of excessive waste or dampness that can lead to health issues if not addressed promptly.


In conclusion, your gerbil’s health and comfort largely depend on the substrate you choose. Hay, Carefresh, and cardboard shavings are top-rated options.

Remember, pine and cedar bedding, newspaper, and fluffy bedding can harm your pet.

Always maintain the ideal bedding quantity and change it regularly.

By following these guidelines, you’ll provide a safe and comfortable environment for your gerbil.

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