10 Reliable Cage Liners for Guinea Pigs (What You Need to Know)

Choosing the right materials to use a as a cage liner for your guinea pig’s cage can seem daunting – especially when you’re a new pet parent. So, what do you put on the bottom of a guinea pig cage?

The best items to put on the bottom of a guinea pig cage are absorbent, soft, and odorless. Hay, paper and aspen shavings, 100% wood pellets, and fleece meet those basic requirements.  Used alone or combined with other materials, all are good options to cover the bottom of a cavy enclosure. 

Through online research and several trips to the public library, I found some useful information on the topic.  There are many good options for lining your guinea pig’s enclosure.  Each one has drawbacks and benefits.

Keep reading to see what I discovered!

What To Look For With Cage Liners and Bedding

Now you know all bedding should be absorbent, soft, and odorless . But, why?  Let’s take a closer peek at each factor.

  • Soft: Our little friends have delicate feet.  Pick the softest, most comfortable bedding to use for your guinea pig.
  • Absorbent:  Guinea pigs are peeing machines, which is normal.  But, guinea pigs don’t do well in environments that are damp with urine.  Whatever you line a guinea pig cage with should absorb the urine into its inner layers.  This leaves the surface (where your little friend walks) as dry as possible.  Also, it protects their little feet from bumblefoot and urine scald.
  • Odorless: Our piggie pals have very sensitive noses.  Intense smells can cause respiratory illnesses.  So choose bedding that has very little (or no) odor.

And that’s not all.

There’s other aspects to consider before buying, such as:

  • Time Investment: How much time is necessary to maintain the bedding?  What are your days like?  How much time do you have?
  • Cost: Some types of bedding are more expensive than others?  Think about your budget and how much money you have to dedicate to it.

Take a peek of the information below.  It shows the most popular (and effective) cage liner and bedding options for your cavies.  

Note that some cage liners are fine to use alone.  Other beddings should be combined with others for greatest effectiveness. 

So, let’s start with an overview of…

Who Are Wood, Paper, Shavings, and Hay Cage Liners Best For?

Cage liners using paper, hay, or other loose materials are usually best for people who:

  • Have access to a low cost source (like a farm or feed store).  Then you can buy a lot of the materials without worrying about the added expense of shipping.
  • Want a more natural option for a cage liner.  Guinea pigs love to burrow. Using these type of materials allow them to indulge in that habit.
  • Aren’t allergic to dust or hay.
  • Don’t mind the mess of using liners and bedding with hay, shavings, or other materials.  Usually, guinea pigs scoosh this type of bedding out of the cage. (or who have very tidy little friends)
  • Lack access to a washer and dryer.  Don’t want to (or can’t!) use their washer and dryer to clean guinea pig bedding.

1. Aspen Shavings

Here’s some more information that you need to know about aspen shavings:

  • It has a slight smell of wood, which won’t bother your piggie’s sensitive nose.
  • The shavings make a safe, comfortable bedding.
  • A major plus is that it’s practically dust free, which is fantastic news for your piggie’s sensitive nose.
  • Additionally, aspen is often recommended by vets.

2. Carefresh

This is popular alternative to wood shavings. Here’s some helpful information about it:

  • Carefresh is made from wood pulp fibers that are too short to be made into paper.
  • Some pet parents say that it can be a little dusty.
  • Has very little scent
  • Comes in several colors and is widely available for purchase.
Picture of Carefresh bedding for Cage Liner Article

3. Paper Bedding

This is one of the most popular bedding options for pet parents. Let’s take a closer look at some of its features.

  • Inspect your bedding carefully. Different paper bedding brands have varying levels of absorbency and dustiness.
  • It’s widely available for purchase.
  • There are many different types that can be purchased: paper pellets, confetti, and shaved paper to name a few.
  • Some paper bedding is made from recyclable materials, which is eco-friendly.
Picture of Paper Bedding for Guinea Pigs from Cage Liner Article

4. Wood Pellets

This cage liner option isn’t as popular as others. Although there are drawbacks, there are benefits to using wood pellets as bedding.

  • It’s quite heavy.
  • Make sure that they’re 100% wood and kiln-dried (or something similar) to remove as much smell as possible. Strong smells irritate guinea pig noses and can cause health issues.
  • Some owners reported them to less comfortable for piggies to walk on; others said that their piggies enjoyed the pellets are bedding.
  • Can difficult to find.
Picture of Wood Pellets for Cage Liner Article

5. Pine Shavings

Untreated pine is dangerous for piggies. The strong smell is too much for their sensitive noses. If you use pine shavings as bedding for your little friends, remember to buy a brand that:

  • Is kiln-dried. A process that removes the oils that cause an overwhelming strong smell for guinea pig noses. Kiln-dried is the only safe pine to use. And even then some people avoid pine. But, many expert guinea pig rescue centers use pine.
  • Is as dust-free as possible
  • They’re shavings and not sawdust. Sawdust does not make good bedding for guinea pigs.
Picture of Pine Shavings for Cage Liner Article

6. Newspaper

Newspaper is a great to use as a base liner on the bottom of a cage. Here’s what else you should know:

  • It doesn’t absorb urine well and should never be used alone. Instead it should be paired with other more absorbent beddings such as aspen shavings, paper bedding, or Carefresh.
  • Can get very soggy if you try to combine it with hay as bedding; avoid that combination.
  • Pet parents can easily roll it up with the other bedding inside it on cleaning days, saving you time and energy.
Picture of newspaper for the Cage Liner Article

7. Timothy Hay

Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of using Timothy Hay as bedding.

  • It’s a safe, natural food source.
  • Excellent to use for outdoor guinea pigs. It keeps them warmer.
  • Should be used in combination with another absorbent bedding.
  • Molds easily when wet; doesn’t absorb urine well

Who Are Cotton and Other Fabric Cage Liners Best For?

Cage liners that primarily use fabric materials are usually best for people who:

  • Have easy access to a washing machine and dryer.
  • Don’t want to deal with the mess of using liners and bedding with hay, shaving, or other materials your guinea pig might scoosh out his cage.
  • Want a reusable option that is a little bit more environmentally friendly.
  • Have a little bit of extra money for the initial purchase of fabrics. This purchase should include duplicates of the material. That way when one set is being washed, the other can be placed into the cleaned out cage.

8. Chenille Bathmats

This cage liner has gained popularity recently. It’s easy to see why.

  • Thick, absorbent, soft fabric; can often be used on its own because it’s so absorbent
  • Can buy a limited amount of different colors
  • This bedding works best when combined with a kitchen area in the cage. A kitchen area is a small area (or tray) with hay, pellets, or some other type of bedding that is placed where guinea pigs enjoy their food..
  • Widely available varieties of bathmats for purchase

9. Cotton Towels

This fabric is also thick and heavy and comfortable for piggie feet.

  • Comes in several colors and is widely available for purchase.
  • Is soft and cozy for your piggies.
  • Comes in several colors and is widely available for purchase.
Picture of Towels for Guinea PIg Cage Liner article

10. Fleece

Fleece is easily one of the most popular beddings (non-wood or paper) bedding for guinea pigs.

  • Make sure that you purchase anti-pill, 100% polyester fleece – preferably a thinner material.
  • Fleece must be wicked or stripped of its waterproof coating before it can be used in a guinea pig’s cage. If it’s not, then your piggie’s urine won’t seep through it and the top will be dry
  • Must be used with other liners (such as towels, Uhaul blankets, puppy pee pads) that absorb the urine that passes through the wicked fleece.
  • This bedding works best when combined with a kitchen area in the cage. A kitchen area is a small area (or tray) with hay, pellets, or some other type of bedding that is placed where guinea pigs enjoy their food..
  • Comes in several colors and patterns and is widely available for purchase.

How to Layer Up Those Liners

Once again, the basic rule of thumb is to use materials that keep the top layer (or layers) as soft and dry as possible for your little friends

Many pet parents use different combinations or “layers” of liners in their guinea pig cages.

My advice: once you’ve decided on which materials that you want to use, experiment until you find the setup that works for you

Here are some options to get you started.

Bottom LayerMiddle Layer (2nd Layer) – can be a mix of materialsTop Layer
Option 1newspaperwood pelletscarefresh, aspen or pine shavings, hay, or a mixture of those materials
Option 2puppy pads, shower curtain, newspaper, towelsfleece
Option 3newspaperCarefresh, aspen or pine shavings, hay, or a mixture of those materialsN/A
Option 4puppy pads, shower curtain, newspaper, towelscarefresh, aspen shavings, hay, or a mixture of those materialsN/A
Option 5puppy pads, shower curtain, newspaper, towels chenille bath matsN/A
Option 6chenille bath mat (if you can find one that absorbs very well, you can use it alone)N/AN/A

Why Is It Important for Guinea Pigs to Have Proper Cage Liners?

If you want your piggie to be healthy, it’s critical that the liner that you choose be as absorbent and as dry as possible. It also helps if you choose a cage liner that’s easy for you to clean and fits your lifestyle. The correct liner (for you and your little friend) allows you to keep your piggie’s enclosure as tidy as possible.

If the cage liner (or your efforts to keep it clean) falls short, then your guinea pigs could get sick. The following health issues can pop up if the right liner isn’t chosen of if it isn’t maintained appropriately:

  • Bumblefoot. Or Pododermatitis is likely to come knowing at your little friend’s door. Bumblefoot is an inflammation of the foot (and foot joint).  It’s very painful and if it gets infected it can spread and lead to an amputation. If the infection travels into your little friend’s body, it can cause death.  Guinea pigs get it when they have extended contact with rough or moist surfaces (like urine or poop-soaked bedding and liners)..
  • Upper Respiratory Infections (URI). Guinea pigs have a very strong sense of smell. It’s much more sensitive than a humans. They use it to communicate, to recognize their owners and each other, and to identify predators. The strong smell of ammonia from guinea pig urine irritates a guinea pig’s lungs and nose. Over time, exposure to the fumes can lead to a URI.

Which Types of Bedding Should Be Avoided?

It would be safer for your guinea pig to dip himself in barbecue sauce and go play with a pack of stray dogs than for you to line your cavy’s cage with the materials below. 

Please avoid using them.  

BeddingWhy avoid them?
Straw-does not absorb urine
-can become moldy
-hard stalks can injure guinea pig eyes
-needs to be replaced every day or two
Cat litter-can’t be eaten
-contains chemicals that irritate the respiratory system of cavies
-rough, stony quality
-getting clumped litter from the hair of a cavy is a nightmare; it dries up like cement and makes grooming nearly impossible
Cedar Shavings-cedar bedding can cause chronic upper respiratory problems and significant liver issues
-aromatic oils that cover odors and make cedar attractive to pet parents owners are what cause the problems.
Corn Cob Bedding-gets moldy very easily
-very hard to walk on
-doesn’t absorb odors well at all


Related Questions: Cage Liners for Guinea Pig Cages

Do guinea pigs stink?

The only time guinea pigs stink is when their cage and health maintenance is neglected.  Clean their cage regularly, groom them properly, and make sure that they’re healthy.  Do these things and your guinea pig will not smell bad.   

How do you know if a guinea pig is healthy? 

Healthy guinea pigs are bright and alert.  They are active and curious.  Additionally, they have good appetites and use sounds to communicate feelings of excitement, happiness, or annoyance.

Do guinea pigs sleep? 

Guinea pigs sleep.  But, they do it in shorter spurts.  Most experts agree that many guinea pigs spend most of their day (a 20 hours) awake.  Owners will often see guinea pigs napping (often with their eyes open).  

So, Which Cage Liner Options Are You Considering Today?

So there you have it:

The top 10 reliable types of bedding include: aspen shavings, Carefresh, paper bedding, wood pellets, pine shavings, newspaper, Timothy hay, Chenille bathmats, cotton towels, and fleece.

When it comes to cage liner and bedding options, I think that chenille bathmats are the best choice. It creates a safe, cozy, dust-free, and dry environment for your little friends.

Once you develop a routine and rhythm for cleaning, the bath mats provide such a safe, cozy, dust-free, and dry environment for your little friends. And compared to other options, it’s the best balance between your guinea pig’s safety and happiness and your budget and time.

So, we’re pretty clear now that chenille bath mats are my top choice amongst available beddings right now, but what’s yours?

Are there cage liner options or combinations you think people should know about?

Is there one on this list that you’ve used and loved?

Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your experience, too.

Beck, A. (2013). Guinea pigs: Keeping and caring for your pet. Enslow Pub.

Bumble foot treatment. (n.d.). Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue. https://www.laguineapigrescue.com/bumble-foot-treatment.html

Bumblefoot (Pododermatitis) in Guinea Pigs [Inflammation of the Paws]. (n.d.). Veterinarian in Cumming GA USA | Cumming Animal Hospital. https://sawneeanimalclinic.com/downloads/bumblefoot_pododermatitis_in_guinea_pigs.pdf

Housing and feeding your Guinea pig. (2016, January 19). University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/feeding-your-guinea-pig/

Housing. (n.d.). wheekcare. https://www.wheekcare.org/housing

Vanderlip, S. L. (2015). The Guinea pig handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

(n.d.). Veterinarian in Cumming GA USA | Cumming Animal Hospital. https://sawneeanimalclinic.com/downloads/bumblefoot_pododermatitis_in_guinea_pigs.pdf

What kind of housing do Guinea pigs need? (n.d.). RSPCA Knowledgebase – Let Australia’s most trusted animal welfare charity help you answer the big questions. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-kind-of-housing-do-guinea-pigs-need/

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