Aspen Wood Shavings: Aspen is all natural and free of toxins. It is odorless and contains no dust. Aspen is soft on feet and good for nesting. It is biodegradable and can be used as compost.
Carefresh Paper Bedding: Carefresh bedding comes in many varieties and colors. It is made if paper pulp and is very soft. It makes for excellent nesting materials and is very soft on their feet. It's odor control isn't exactly off the charts, but it makes up for that in absorbency. It can be flushed when dirty.
Shredded paper: You can make your own bedding by shredding clean paper. It must be free of toxic inks and dyes and should be free of sharp edges. It is extremely cheap, but does nothing for odor control.
Pellet Bedding: Pellets can absorb moisture without falling apart. They are easy to clean and dust free, however they can be a bit rough on the feet and other nesting materials are required.
Sand: Sand can be used as long as it's clean and doesn't smell. It stimulates natural burrowing instincts, however other nesting materials must be provided. Sand is very heavy, and this makes it hard to clean.
Ground Walnut Shells: While ground walnut shells are intended for reptiles, some hamster breeders and caretakers are starting to use it for their small furry friends as well. It is light weight, dust free, and stimulates natural digging. Other nesting materials must be provided. It won't scratch glass and plastic cages, and it can be composed with everyday yard waste and used in gardens.
Toilet Paper: I know, it sounds odd, but toilet paper makes for excellent nesting materials.You can shred a bit of it and stuff it in their house. I do not recommend using only toilet paper in a cage though.
Litter: Many small animals can be potty trained! Potty training your ham can reduce cage clean up by at least 30%, though you do still need to regularly clean it. You can purchase small animal outhouses from pet stores and fill them with litter. Litters that are safe to use are only ones that specify they are small animal friendly. Cat litters can be cheaper but are often scented and can be harmful if swallowed. If you do not want to use a litter, you can use sand or walnut shells instead.
NEVER EVER NEVER use these beddings:
Pine, ceder, saw dust and any wood chips other than aspen. Aspen is the only acceptable wood based bedding because many other wood types have too much saw dust which can cause to vision problems and respiratory problems. Some wood types can even splinter and be rough on your hammy's feet.
Scented bedding and litter is a definite no-no! The perfumes may be toxic.
Corn Cob, while not completely unacceptable, is not recommended. Recent studies have shown that Corn Cob has toxins in it that can lead to respiratory problems. Corn Cob is also very dangerous because if it is swallowed, it can get stuck in the throat and the small animal can choke to death. It also quickly grows mold and rots when wet.
Cloth materials are dangerous and should not be used because hams may chew and swallow the threads which can lead to digestive problems. Loose threads can also get wrapped around legs and tails and can cause injuries.
There are also many types of bedding that are mixed, such as aspen and paper mix, and paper and pellet mix. You can also buy and make your own mixes if you like. Just remember to change your pet's bedding often, and keep in mind that the bigger your pet is and/or the more you have in a cage, the more frequently you need to clean their habitat.
When choosing beddings or experimenting with new ones, keep in mind that some small animals may have allergies or be allergic to a certain type or brand, so keep an eye on them for a while once they have been exposed to new bedding.
Personally, my favorite types of bedding are aspen and an aspen Carefresh mix. The wood shavings are more natural, but the paper pieces give my pets something softer to sleep in. I hope everyone finds just what they are looking for!