November 16, 2021

Best Rabbit Bedding – Best Vet-Approved, Safe, Odor-Resistant and Easy-to-Clean Choices for Bedding

rabbit needs bedding
Fact checked by Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Published by Emma Hughes


Vet Explains

Buyer's Guide –
Good Bedding for Rabbits

There are many different bedding options for rabbits, and each option has its perks and drawbacks. Since finding the right bedding requires some knowledge in the topic, we have compiled a list of factors you need to consider when bedding shopping.

Each bedding material has its perks and drawbacks, and at the end of the day, the final decision is based on what you and your rabbit want. 

Differentiation from litter

First of all, we need to emphasize the difference between litter and bedding since many first-time rabbit owners use these terms interchangeably, making the line between these two blurry.

Bedding is what you use to cover the cage surface, make it more comfortable for your rabbit's paws, and provide sound insulation. On the other hand, litter is what you put in the litter box (provided your rabbit is litter-trained) to absorb pee.

In theory, you can use certain bedding materials as litter; however, their absorbency and odor-control powers are not nearly as good as those of actual litter materials.

Also, you'll want your rabbit to see a clear distinction between the potty area and the rest of the cage, so you should use different materials for them.

Read more: Best Litter for Rabbits (Vet-Approved Guide)

Safety

Safety or health-friendliness is the first aspect you need to consider when choosing bedding for your rabbit. In this context, safety is an umbrella term covering several features like non-toxic, non-scented, non-molding, odorless, dust-free, paw-friendly, and well-absorbing.

Do not be scared by the number of features covered by this umbrella term. The rabbit-friendly bedding choices covered in this article meet all safety criteria.

rabbit in a one-level cage

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Odor control 

Odor control is an essential consideration. The urine smell is something neither you nor your rabbit wants. However, odor control goes beyond this – the evaporating urine chemicals can irritate the upper portions of your rabbit's respiratory tract.

During the colder winter months, even a lower-quality bedding choice can achieve satisfactory odor control. However, in summer, you must invest in high-quality bedding with solid odor control powers.

It is worth mentioning that odor control is not the same as scented. In fact, you should avoid scented bedding (although they are good at covering most nasty smells) as the scent chemicals are usually harmful – they can irritate the nasal passages of your bunny.

Absorbency 

The bedding's absorbency level affects several other considerations, including safety, comfort, and ease of cleaning. In terms of safety, non-absorbing bedding results in high moisture, and moisture is associated with bacteria. Plus, spending time on damp surfaces is exceptionally uncomfortable. Finally, if the bedding is not highly absorbent, you will need to clean it more frequently.

Comfort

Except for the daily free roam time, your rabbit will be spending all of its time on top of the bedding. Therefore, comfort is a critical consideration. In addition to being comfortable, the suitable bedding material must be non-abrasive – which means unlikely to injure or damage the rabbit's soft paws.

Dust

We already mentioned dust in the safety section, but it deserves its own paragraph because of its importance. Namely, dust can trigger respiratory infections and allergies, which are serious health hazards. Plus, a dusty bedding material is extremely hard to maintain and keep clean. Always check if the bedding package contains labels like "dust extracted" or "low dust."

Ease of cleaning 

High-quality bedding with significant absorbing and odor-control powers is easier to clean – simply because it requires less frequent maintenance. On the other hand, you will need to engage in more frequent cleaning sessions if you use low-quality beddings.

  • Disposable bedding options are generally easier to clean and less time-consuming.
  • Reusable beddings require washing and drying, but most manufacturers allow machine washing to simplify the maintenance process. Also, reusable bedding is environmentally friendly and usually cheaper in the long run.

At the end of the day, choose the option you find more practical – if you do not mind doing the laundry, get fleece bedding and if you prefer disposing of the used bedding, get aspen or paper.

pelleted straw bedding for rabbits

Disposing 

It would help if you always looked for eco-friendly options – either reusable or biodegradable. Your rabbit's cage will need frequent cleaning, so ease of disposing of it is not a factor you should overlook.

Biodegradability makes the disposing simpler in terms of eco-friendliness and sustainability. 

Price 

Even the expensive bedding choices do not have exceptionally high price tags. However, keep in mind that bedding is not a one-time purchase – you will need it regularly, meaning the purchase costs will quickly pile up.

Obviously, the reusable options have higher upfront costs but are more budget-friendly in the long run. However, their maintenance is more time-consuming. Basically, it would be best if you decided what is more important – time or money.

What is the Best Bedding for Rabbits?

Now that you know the basic high-quality bedding features, it is time we review several popular bedding options. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a universally perfect bedding option.

Fleece bedding/cage liners

Fleece is one of the most popular choices for bedding today. Made of several thick padding layers, fleece is the closest thing to a mattress, meaning it is extra soft, comfortable, and paw-friendly. Most fleece beddings are dust-free and hypoallergenic.

Plus, the fleece bedding is labeled as an environment-friendly choice – the bedding is washable and reusable. This feature also makes fleece bedding a relatively inexpensive alternative. Last not but not least, fleece ensures reasonable absorbency and odor control.

On the other hand, what you save in money you will compensate with time you need to have to wash the bedding on a regular basis. Most fleece beddings allow machine washing and, after that, thorough drying in the dryer.

Being machine washable, the liners are pretty easy to use. However, you will have to use pet-friendly detergents (unscented and hypoallergenic), and if there is a heavy layer of fur and hay on the fleece bedding, you need to manually remove it as it can damage the washing machine. Getting a Wheeky Pet Laundry Bag will be helpful, as it catches all the loose fur and hay, preventing blockages and keeping your washer clean.

Depending on the fleece thickness and absorbability, it might be practical to place something underneath the fleece like a disposable cage liner (like this super absorbent Arm & Hammer liner), an old towel, or a puppy pad. This will prevent the formation of pee puddles underneath the fleece bedding.

fleece bedding

Aspen bedding

Aspen is the best wood-based bedding option for rabbits. Unlike other wood options, it does not contain potentially harmful phenols and aromatic oils. Plus, it is dust-free and basically odorless.

Aspen is a perfectly safe bedding option for rabbits.

Rabbit parents are often reluctant to use aspen because they associate all wood-based beddings with the mentioned issues. However, aspen is a perfectly safe bedding option for rabbits. In fact, since it is 100% natural, aspen is the number-one vet-recommended bedding material for pet rodents.

However, aspen has its downsides too. For example, compared to fleece and paper, it has lower absorbency capacity and odor control. Of course, these are not severe cons – you can manage them simply by practicing more frequent bedding changes and cage cleanings.

Obviously, this will increase the amount of bedding your rabbit needs per month, and aspen bedding is already more expensive than other bedding options. In a nutshell, aspen bedding is a great choice if you do not mind frequent cleaning and you are not on a tight budget.

Paper bedding

Paper is a simple yet trendy bedding choice primarily because of its ultra-high absorbing capacity – even low-quality paper bedding ensures satisfactory absorbency and odor control. Additionally, paper is extra soft and comfortable, thus preventing sores and damage to your rabbit's delicate paws.

The major downside of paper bedding is its ability to cause blockages (so-called wet balls) if ingested—however, not all bunnies munch on their bedding material. If your rabbit is fond of this activity, you can use other bedding, and if not interested, the paper makes a perfectly safe and convenient bedding choice.

Another potential issue is the dust accumulation tendency. Based on the manufacturer, some paper beddings are dust-free while others are not. Dusty beddings should be avoided as dust is associated with irritations and inflammations of the upper respiratory tract.

Pelleted straw 

Unlike regular straw (we will explain its array of downsides later), pelleted straw is a decent bedding material.

Featuring moderate absorbency, pelleted straw is associated with satisfactory odor control and is 100% safe for rabbits that love nibbling on their beddings. Plus, it is low in dust and manufactured without adding chemicals or fragrances.

As for the cons of pelleted straw is not as comfortable and paw-friendly as other options, and it usually comes with high price tags.

aspen beddin for rabbits

Hemp bedding

Hemp bedding is among the best choices for rabbits that love nibbling their bedding materials (and before you ask, the answer is no – munching on hemp bedding will not make your bunny high).

In addition to being 100% safe for ingestion, hemp has high-absorbing qualities and a pleasant, not-too-strong scent. However, it is not as cozy as fleece or paper, and it can be messy in terms of maintenance.

Types of Bedding You Should Avoid

We have explained which types of beddings you should look for, and now it is time to say a word or two about the beddings you need to avoid.

Straw

Straw or simply put, dry hay is nibble-friendly and makes a good snack, but it is not a good bedding material. Straw is a non-absorbing material meaning it will promote the formation of urine puddles in the cage. The pee puddles are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Not to mention that the straw's sharp and spiky ends can easily pierce the sensitive skin on the paws and cause infection-prone injuries.

Corn husks 

Corn husks are risky for rabbits because of several reasons. First of all, they are prone to developing mold. Molds release spores which, if inhaled, can cause a myriad of health problems not just in rabbits but also in people.

Secondly, corn husks are basically wispy hair-like strands that are hard to digest. If your rabbit is fond of nibbling its bedding material, corn husks can cause gastrointestinal issues.

Finally, corn husks are not very paw-friendly and can easily damage your rabbit's sensitive paws. Plus, since they are not sterile, even a tiny puncture wound can trigger a severe infection.

avoid straw bedding for rabbits

Pine and cedar shavings

Cedar and pine shavings contain phenols and aromatic oils and are high in dust. Therefore, they are associated with two health problems – upper respiratory tract infections and skin irritations.

Some manufacturers offer so-called kiln-dried shavings that are supposedly safe since the potentially troublesome aromatic oils and phenols are removed. However, since they are much safer bedding options for rabbits, there is no objective reason for using any form of pine and cedar shavings.

Old newspapers 

Shredded old newspapers are definitely a practical and low-cost choice. However, you must avoid them. The biggest concern associated with this option is the ink – unless soy-based most inks are highly toxic. Even if the ink is not toxic once the newspaper becomes damp, the ink will leave stains all over your rabbit.

Do Rabbits Need Bedding?

The necessity of bedding for rabbits is often debated. While outdoor rabbits need bedding for insulation purposes, indoor rabbits can do perfectly well without bedding as long as they are provided with soft and cozy flooring.

However, although not vital, bedding is recommended even for indoor pet rabbits. In addition to the mentioned insulation, the right bedding choices will provide a more comfortable sleeping and stepping area, absorb moisture (important for rabbits that are not litter-trained or like knocking off their water bowls), and support the rabbit's natural denning and digging instincts.

Just keep in mind that bedding can make the litter training process a bit more challenging since your rabbit will see its entire cage as a giant toilet area if litter and bedding are not significantly different from each other.

Summing Up – Best Bedding for Bunnies

Generally speaking, fleece, aspen, and paper are practical and safe bedding options, while straw, corn husks, pine and cedar shavings, and newspapers are not. It would be best if you avoided these unsafe options as they can put the health and well-being of your rabbit in danger.

However, when it comes to safe options, there is no universally good bedding. Each bedding material has its perks and drawbacks, and at the end of the day, the final decision is based on what you and your rabbit want.

Ivana Crnec doctor of veterinary medicine

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Ivana Crnec

DVM

Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your rabbit’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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