10 Comments on BEDDING FOR GERBILS

Small pets like gerbils require bedding with good quality so they can have a healthier life in their homes (I preffer saying home because cage is an ugly word).:) The bedding is used for urine absorption, as well as for digging because gerbils in the wild live in tunels, so it is in their nature to dig. The bedding is also used for nest building.

Gerbils don’t urinate a lot and their urine doesn’t have a strong smell, so the bedding doesn’t have to be fragranced (perfumed / scented). There are many different kinds of beddings for small animals available, but there still isn’t a perfect bedding made for gerbils, so mixing some of the beddings can give better results.

How much bedding to use?

How much bedding you should use really depends on the size and type of a gerbils home. If you have an aquarrium / terrarium with a topper, then a third (1/3) or half of the tank would be enough for their tunels and burrowing. This alows that gerbils have a lot of space to play and burrow.

Keep in mind that by putting more bedding in their home you are in fact recreating their natural enviroment and too much of it can cause them to go wild. If you are breeding gerbils then 2“ (about 5 centimeters) of bedding should be enough.

A good example of how much bedding to use

When to change bedding?

This depends on how much and what kind of bedding you use. The average 10-15 galon
(about 38 – 57 litres) tank should be cleaned at least every month or two and not more than every two weeks.
If you clean on a daily basis the tank should never smell, but too much cleaning can cause loosing of a gerbils natural scent, with that they can forget their inmates and get in fights. I personally like to clean their homes every month. If watter is spilled just take out the soaked bedding and replace it with a bit of the clean one.


What beddings not to use?

Avoid using Cedar or Pine wood shavings because they have a strong smell and contain phenol, which is a natural bactericide produced by those trees. This can be dangerous for all kinds of animals, especially the small ones who are kept for a long time in that kind of bedding. It can cause respiratory and eye infections, liver damage, allergic reactions, and many other health problems. If you can find the bedding treated against phenol, dust-free and dried then it would be fine, if not you can still use it but avoid especially if breeding.
Sawdust is cheap and easy to find, but it can cause respiratory infections and eye irritations.
Do not use shreded paper which has some print on it (newspapers and similar), the ink used for printing can be very dangerous.1
I don’t recommend fluffy bedding like cotton similar materials, because they can swallow it and get bowel blockage.
I heard people using dry alfalfa or lucerne which i would recommend only in situations where you can’t find any other bedding until you find it, because it is not a good type of bedding to be used by itself but combined with other beddings. It is better for nesting.
Don’t use grass picked from outside because it can be full of bacteria.
Straw for bedding may be uncomfortable for your gerbils because of the sharp edges.

Use toilet papper only if your gerbils are allergic to other materials and only as a temporary bedding until you find a suitable one. When shreded it makes a lot of dust, and gets wet and smelly fast, so it must be changed almost every day, but it makes a good nesting material.
I heard that cat litter can be used too, but I don’t know what the pros or cons from it are, if you have any expirience with it let me know in the comments i really would like to know about it.

What beddings to use?

By most experts Carefresh, Aspen or Corn Cob beddings are most recommended. Those are the most safe and healthy beddings for gerbils and can be found in many pet stores. Some countries don’t have those kind of beddings, but you can still get them online or find some good replacements at your pet stores.

Aspen is one of the most recommended beddings by breeders and veterinarians. Aspen shavings are soft and economical. It is a good nesting material too, but it is more expensive than other bedding materials listed above in what bedding not to use.

Right out of the bag Aspen shavings provide poor coverage for thiner layers of bedding and are a bit difficult for gerbils to walk on, but after a few days gerbils will chew larger pieces of shavings to smaller ones, so it is not a permanent issue, or if you can find some brands that have smaller pieces of shavings.

You can mix Aspen with other beddings like Carefresh, so you can get a more cozy and good for tunels material. There were reports that Aspen caused allergies in some gerbils, so if you notice that your gerbil has an irritated red nose discontinue the use of Aspen.

Carefresh as told by experts is one of the best beddings to use for gerbils. It is more expensive than Aspen but everyone wants for their pets to be healthy and have just the best, don’t you agree?

Carefresh is made from natural reclaimed paper fibers. It has a really good absoprtion and is almost 100% dust free.

It is good for small animals like gerbils because it is soft and doesn’t colapse easy when tunels are made, but for better effect and to save up a bit you can combine it with other beddings like Aspen for example.
I’ve heard that Carefresh too can cause allergies to some gerbils, so be carefull and if you notice signs of allergies discontinue using it.

Corn Cob is also recommended by most experts.
It has a better absorption than shavings and can eliminate almost all odor. I personally wouldn’t use it for the whole tank but only to cover the glass bottom of the tank or to mix it with another bedding.
It gives some good coverage for the bottom glass, has low dust, but it is a bit expensive and isn’t as comfortable as the shavings. As the name says it is made from corn.

Gerbils can eat it and it can cause digestion problems, so if you notice anything weird visit the vet as soon as possible. Corn Cob needs to be changed about every month because it can produce amonia which can cause health issues.

Can I mix different beddings together?

Yes, you can mix different beddings together. Some beddings are even better when combined with others. Try different combinations until you find something that suits you gerbils best.


When it comes to bedding choosing it doesn’t necessary mean that you have to do and use what experts recommend. If you see that your gerbils are feeling good in their home with the bedding they have and that there are no health problems or allergies, then everything should be just fine. These are just recommendations, because we only want the best for our pets, don’t we.:)

I personally use pine bedding, which is dust-free and treated against phenol, because I couldn’t find any other better bedding in my country and my gerbils are feeling great and playfull as always, and I didn’t notice any problems. I hope this post helped you a bit in any way.
If you have experience with any of the above listed beddings please let me know in the comments, I would love to read about others opinions, and if you have any questions feel free to ask!

10 thoughts on “BEDDING FOR GERBILS

  1. Pam

    This is so cool….I did not know that deep bedding makes your Gerbils go wild. Very interesting, I’ve never had one of these little critters but friends have tons of them. I will sure pass this post over to them. It has some great information ….especially about the bedding I don’t think they know about. Great read!

    1. Kristina Post author

      Yes, deep bedding can make a gerbil go wild because it recreates their natural enviroment and they can easily get used to it.
      I am glad that this post had some useful information for you and your friends, I am sure they want the best for their gerbils.

  2. Marlinda Davis

    Very good information you have here. I used to have gerbils when I was younger. I didn’t know they needed so much sawdust. I knew they liked to hide under it but I never realized that they dig tunnels. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough because I want to get a guinea pig. Do they also dig tunnels in their bedding as well?

    1. Kristina Post author

      Yes, gerbils need a bit more of bedding so they have a feeling they are in their natural enviroment and that they don’t get stressed.
      Gerbils dig tunels that can be few meters big, because they tend to live in larger groups, so they need more space, and they make it by digging bigger tunels.
      Guinea pigs are lovable creatures (i personaly don’t like them that much) but the more attention and love you provide, the more they love you back.
      Guinea pigs are not diggers, but they could make some tunels in their hay bedding, in the wild they make tunel-like paths through the higher grass, at least thats what I heard they do, but they don’t dig and burrow deeper in the ground like gerbils, if that’s what you mean.:)

  3. Taylor Drew

    I just came across your article searching for the best bedding for our soon to be gerbils, thanks for the info!

    However, even though I don’t have any gerbils yet I have a cat and I can tell you now litter is probably not a good idea. It is dusty and it clumps like cement when wet which means serious problems if ingested. When kittens are just learning to use a litter box you use wood pellet like litter because of this exact problem. They start learning to groom and can ingest it when grooming their paws but they’re too small to pass it properly and can cause impaction. Also why you can’t flush it. So I can only imagine what it would do to a teeny tiny critter. My neighbor dumps her litter box in the back yard when she cleans it out and the pile remains as one solid mass after 3 years of living here, if that gives you a little insight on how it never breaks down. So personally I’d strongly advise against it 🙂

    1. Kristina Post author

      Yes, I agree with you on every statement you’ve made here. Litter can be dangerous for such small animals like gerbils. I’ve heard that some people use it and they say that they havent had any problems with it, but still i wouldn’t risk it and try it out (better safe than sorry). Thank you for your in depth explanation, it is highly appreciated. Hope it helps other visitors learn and understand more.

  4. Holly

    Hi I just want to say this is great information and came across this because I was looking to see if other gerbils were allergic to Carefresh or if my two were just very odd! I have just ordered some bedding called Megazorb from my local tack shop as it can be used for small pets.It is a paper based bedding and is very cheap to get 20kg sack.I just wanted to know if you have come into contact with it before and what you think of it.Also thank you for the idea of using toilet paper until the megazorb arrives!

    1. Kristina Post author

      Hello, I’m glad that this helped you. Yes, I’ve seen in a lot of gerbil groups that they don’t use Carefresh because of alergies.
      Unfortunately I never heard of Megazorb, because I live in a country where most people don’t even know what a gerbil is, and most of online shops don’t ship here, so we are limited with just a few options. Let me know if Megazorb went well with your gerbils.:)


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