Fleece’s Dirty Little Secret

Cage RealityImage courtesy of Sally Hurley

Willow says: Mess? What Mess?

Traditionally wood shavings or a paper-based product, like Carefresh, have been used as guinea pig bedding. Fleece, however, seems to be gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. Fleece can be healthier for humans than traditional bedding because it cuts down on allergens, and is likewise good for the pigs. It’s good for the environment because there’s not the tremendous waste of shavings getting dumped every week (unless you compost). And because it is washed and reused, it can be very economical. Every guinea pig forum has discussions on the pros and cons of using fleece as bedding. Many photos of guinea pig cages sport fleece in some part of the cage, even if it’s just cozies and cuddle cups.

I’ve recently read several posts from guinea pig owners who are confused and dismayed with their fleece bedding: “What on earth am I doing wrong with my fleece?” They’ve seen the photos online of pristine cages decked out in this wonderful stuff. They’re beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to have a cage like that?

Alas, their guinea pigs’ cage didn’t look at all like the photographs online.  Their cage was a mess. Poo all over the place. They found themselves cleaning constantly, much more than a cage with shavings or Carefresh. How embarrassing to fail so dismally in keeping a cage cleaned properly. Why didn’t their cage look like everyone’s photos?

Well, let me tell you, unless you and your pigs are compulsive cleaners, your cage is probably pretty normal. All of those wonderful, clean fleeced-lined cages you see online?  There is a dirty little secret:  photos are usually taken of a freshly cleaned cage, minutes after the pigs were plopped back in. If the owner is good with a camera or computer-savvy, any offending mess is magically cropped or Photoshopped out of the shot. I admit to electronically removing a stray poo or two. Who wouldn’t?

Fleece RealityImage courtesy of Sally Hurley

Newbie's poos and hay

So let me put your mind at ease with a few typical halfway-between-cleaning photos from my girls’ cages. Be horrified. Be disgusted. My sows could really care less about some poo in the corner and hay or shavings spread across the floor. As long as the fleece is dry, doesn’t smell and I can see at least a little spot of clutter-free fleece, we’re good to go.

The top photo is of Willow’s cage and is a prime example of a half-fleece half-shaving setup. I have a low threshold between the two sections, so the bedding gets tracked all over the fleece if she’s been particularly active. Willow is not usually this sloppy, but it’s a great photo to illustrate my point.

The bottom photo of the Newbie’s upper deck is relatively clean. It is fleece only – no wood shavings to complicate matters. The hay tube is somewhat contained.  However, I swear that Pinni spreads the hay out on purpose, just to make me clean it up. Even the fleece that is far away from hay or shavings can get pretty messy:  the second level gets poo and whatever hay Pinni has tracked through. The first level, which is a combination of fleece and shavings, makes Willow’s cage look immaculate. Bertie loves doing donuts around the cage, so there’s no chance the shavings will remain on that side of the cage.

My cages would probably be cleaner if I did a full swap to fleece bedding. But no one seems to put off by the clutter. I don’t have quite the amount of laundry to do as I would with a full-fleece setup and I’m going through half the amount of shavings than I used to. The girls like both types of bedding, so the current setup works for all of us.

And that’s the dirt on clean fleece.

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Sally has owned guinea pigs for over 20 years and has organized the Boston Pignics since 2003. She is the CavyMadness “guinea guru” and assists guinea pig beginners on other cavy forums. Sally currently cares for a pair of sows.

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28 Responses to “Fleece’s Dirty Little Secret”
  1. Jessica W says:

    Loved this article! As a guinea pig mom, I have often thought this when I was building my cages. Question for anyone out there who uses fleece regularly (and whose pigs must secretly throw the hay up in the air and roll in it when you’re asleep, because what else could make such a mess?): when it comes time to throw the fleece in the washer, what do you use to get those hay pieces off of it first? I’ve tried vacuuming, which did not go well, and currently I take them out and shake them outside, but it’s messy. I’m open to other suggestions if anyone can share!

    • Sally says:

      I use a mix of nail brushes (something with short bristles) and I a rubber brush (I guess it’s called a curry brush?). It gets off all of the hay and bedding and most of the hair. It takes some elbow grease, but it’s less stress on the washer.

      Hmm. Perhaps I know what to write about next. 😉

    • cookie1252 says:

      Using kitty litter as a bedding for Guinea Pigs.

      *can be harmful to your pigs if proper precautions are not observed, taken and maintained

      1. I chose to use kitty litter to minimize the odor from my Guinea Pig cage and to make the maintenance easier.
      2. Cat litter has the ability to absorb more urine than traditional pig bedding and can control the smell far better
      3. Cat litter also has the ability to clump, therefor making its maintenance easier. The clumped litter can be removed while still salvaging what litter has not been soiled.
      4. This in turn prevents the waste that occurs with traditional bedding
      5. You will find yourself using less litter than you did bedding because of your ability to only throw away that which is soiled
      6. that will in turn save you money and time.
      7. Because litter has the ability to control odor better than traditional litter, you will find yourself stretching the time between extensive cleanings, making maintenance easier.

      May cause various irritations if no barrier is used
      Can cause problems to guinea pig if digested

      These problems can be avoided if a barrier is used to prevent direct contact with the Pigs

      1. I used one yard of 100% cotton fabric that is tightly woven. (I purchased my fabric from Wal*Mart for 4.99$)
      2. This prevents dust and litter from coming through to the surface where the Guinea Pigs are
      3. Also makes the job of removing the pellets of feces from the surface of the cover (daily) with a small brush and dust pan a breeze.
      4. The cover also makes the cage very pretty and adds a personal touch
      5. Your cage will need to be checked daily to make sure that your Pigs have not begun to munch any holes in the fabric that could lead to them consuming the underlying cat litter.

      1. I chose to use Fresh step Multi Cat Litter (scented) [Purchased @Wal*Mart for 10.99 25lbs]
      2. I saw a few sites online with over 5,000 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 stars so I am confident in its ability to control odor and clump to make for the removal of soiled litter easy.
      3. I am sure that most litter will suffice the job if it is know for odor control and clumping

    • aNervousFlower says:

      To stay clear of this whole problem, I actually have a separate kitchen area for hay, food and water that I use CareFresh bedding in. I left another comment at the bottom that goes into how I maintain mine, if you are interested 🙂

  2. Alena Loiselle says:

    Would a lint brush work?

  3. Claire says:

    That made me chuckle! I do the same thing but we have neighbours both sides – I startled my neighbour one day by whacking the fleece on the fence to get the hay off – I didn’t realise she was out in her garden! Tried explaining what I was doing….but now she just thinks I’m crazy! 🙂 I suggest tho that if you go into an equine/ horse shop then you can pick up a rubber curry comb that fits over your hand quite cheaply and it’s great for removing the bits!

  4. Vanessa says:

    Ha! I’ve always wondered about that! This article answered a lot of questions, thank you! But how often do you clean it…? With all the pee and poo going into the fleece, I imagine it would smell more than Carefresh bedding (if I were to use only fleece).

    • Sally says:

      If the fleece is set up properly, in a roomy cage with layers to absorb pee and decent air flow, then it is no more smelly than traditional bedding. Most of my fleece is dry all the time (except for maybe a few minutes after the pigs pee in a spot). The upper levels, where the pee doesn’t smell, get’s brushed and dust-busted regularly, but only swapped out to wash every couple of weeks. The fleece on the lower level, that gets a lot of pee and abuse, needs to be washed weekly (and more often than that on hot summer days!).

  5. Aisling says:

    I wear gloves (e.g. for hair dye) when cleaning out our 4*2 C&C cage and brush the hay and poop off with my hands. However I also wash the fleece in a large cotton wash-bag so any stray hay etc does not clog up my washing machine. Within minutes of being back in their freshly cleaned cage, my 3 make it look like a tornado has hit it, there is hay and grass everywhere! 🙂

  6. laura says:

    I shake mine off in the garden, then put it in a large bag made for horse blankets, it keeps all the hair and hay inside. .. I’m sure thy poop more after they’ve been cleaned, to put it back the way they like it 🙂

  7. Abby says:

    I tried to use fleece for my piggie, but he didn’t like it. He grew up on a farm in a cage stuffed with hay. I adopted him, and he loves to burrow in the hay and woodchips. In my experience, pigs like the hay and chips better, though it’s just my iggies taste. Carefresh is good because it’s not dusty, it’s soft, it’s not toxic like some chips, and great for burrowing.

  8. matt says:

    the reason all the online pictures look so good is because they have trained their piggies to use a litter box

    • Maddie says:

      That isn’t always true.

      I’m getting my second pig soon, as an early birthday present, and I’m setting up a 3×5 C&C cage for the both of them (two boars) and my current and only piggie mostly uses the potty by his food bowl, which he cannot get poop in because it’s about an inch, inch and a half off of the floor of his cage.

      I will be switching to fleece soon (once I set up the C&C cage, I currently have an 8 foot pet store cage) and I figure just surrounding the food area in some litter boxes or Carefresh should make clean up a lot easier, unless the baby decides he wants to go somewhere else…

  9. marian says:

    will i have fleece for mah guinea pig and its less wast on money i take a plastic bag and then i dump it and also buy a vacum cleaner and give it another shake and dump it in the washer 🙂 and it is messy ~ 😉

  10. Peggy says:

    When we put our girl back in her cage after a cleaning, the first thing she does is take her hay and spread it around, dump the pellet bowl and untuck whatever fleece she can from it’s contained corners. She likes her cage her way and that’s not the human “photogenic” way! I love that she has that much personality!

  11. Michelle says:

    this is absolutley brilliant idea n i think ill change to a fleece as its costing a fortune in saw dust and this will make my bf much happier hahaha thanx for sharing brill tip

  12. Chelsea says:

    I use bits of odd material & clothing that no longer fits (a local thrift store sells bed sheets for a dollar each) to line the floor of the cages. Then I put in a layer of shavings & shredded paper. When it’s time to clean, I just lift one edge of the material, roll it up & toss away. Whenever I have a little left over yarn from a project, I crochet up (goes quick when I’m watching a movie) a pad that will fit about half of the cage. I use the heavier, yarn pads for liner in the winter. My girls like the soft blankie feel so much, they actually keep all their poops off to the corner with no yarn pad, & end up keeping it longer while I then just have to clean the other half as frequently….of course, I’ve also seen them pull at it, fluffing & bunching part of it up & using the heap as a pillow(!)

  13. aNervousFlower says:

    I have been using fleece for a couple of months now, and I definitely agree with what you are saying. Here are a couple tips for how I keep my cage manageable.
    -using a dust-buster every other day or so keeps the poop level manageable, and looking less messy
    -use a seperate kitchen area for their hay, food and water where you use bedding instead of fleece. Hay is absolutely miserable to try to get out of fleece, and I find that my guys poop and pee a lot more around their food. This is my 4-pig cage’s kitchen – http://www.guineapigcages.com/forum/attachments/about-cages/43329d1361977060-renos-finally-done-pics-img_0089.jpg
    -fleece flippers are a great idea. You can buy them, or make them yourself. I made mine from a pattern on this site — http://www.guineapigcages.com/forum

    It is not “no work” to keep a fleece cage, as some people seem to suggest, but in my opinion it is less work and a much nicer looking cage in general. The piggies also adore it!
    Jasmine is one of mine that came from a very bad home. She and her ‘sister’ Belle were kept in a tiny cage that hadn’t been cleaned in months, and their toenails were grown around, the poor dears. The first night I had them in their new fleece-floored home, Jasmine found a quite spot and positively snuggled into the fleece. She stretched her legs out behind her and rubbed her face in it repeatedly before falling asleep. Just warmed my heart . . . <3

  14. Megan says:

    Quick Question,

    I was wondering how you line your cage. Do you just use two layers of fleece and that is it? Anything underneath such as newspaper or anything? And I definitely need to invest in a handheld vaccuum!

  15. Danielle says:

    We have been using fleece and towels for my piggy, Doink, for 5 years. He has a large cage to sleep in, where we use a towel and a playpen, he roams in during the day, where we use a fleece blanket. We change each every day. The towels/blankets do get very messy but are cheaper to use than bedding.

  16. Jen Stofer says:

    Hi. After trying fleece, which is a nightmare to clean, I decided to try another fabric…old twin sheets from my kids beds. I put about a one inch layer of wood chips and pat that down with a dust pan. Then over that I put a sheet. A twin sheets folded in thirds covers it perfectly for me. Then, each day I just use my small dust broom and dust pan to clean up some…and make sure to move their huts to a clean dry area.

    About every 4 days I pull up the sheet, shake it out in my outdoor trash can, and put it in a trash bag to save for cleaning. I save up about 6 dirty sheets at a time for washing in hot water and small bit of bleach to sanitize it. The wood shavings I’ve been leaving down about 2 weeks and just removing the wettest spots of chips and putting dry down during that time. I’ve been using both 100% cotton, and poly blend sheets and it seems the poly blend dry quicker.

    I’m saving money on that expensive care fresh….the sheets are a breeze to sweep the hay and poop off of so I can easily clean daily as well as easily clean the sheet for washing. “The girls” are in heaven with such a clean cage.

    • Melanie says:

      This sounds like an excellent idea. I planned to switch from CareFresh to fleece tomorrow, but I am intrigued by your idea of using bed sheets, which would be so much easier to clean. My question is, since the sheets would not wick the urine, do they stay wet for a long period of time?

  17. Veronica K says:

    We have been using fleece and towels for our boys for years. They live in a C&C cage with two levels – upstairs is the “hay loft” where we leave them huge piles of hay plus their Oxbow pellets. Downstairs they have a “pigloo”. We soak and wash the towels in soap + bleach – the fleece is washed in soap + vinegar. Everything is works fine but of course it’s quite a bit of work.

    I’ve been thinking of putting down the equine pine pellets (I’ve heard the name Equine Fresh among others) then fleece on top. Has anyone tried this?

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