Friday, March 15, 2019

How to Make Waterproof Guinea Pig Fleece Bedding

Two years ago we introduced a couple of sweet guinea pigs into our little family and I blogged about the corner guinea pig cage that I'd built for them.  They still live very happily in the corner of our living room and almost everyone that sees them comments on what an impressive habitat they have.

I made waterproof fleece cage liners for our guinea pigs at the end of 2016, and after two years, those original cage liners have sadly reached the end of their lifespan - and so it's time to make some more.  (Unfortunately, the waterproof backing degrades over time - especially in the areas that get more frequently used as a toilet.)  I was really pleased with how they turned out - both functionally and aesthetically, so when it came time to make more I thought I'd write a tutorial.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of using waterproof fleece liners in a guinea pigs' cage, I would compare it to using washable nappies instead of disposable ones, but significantly easier!  Like washable nappies, there is a polyester fleece surface that wicks the urine away from the guinea pigs' feet, an inner cotton toweling core that absorbs the wetness, and a waterproof backing that prevents the urine from transferring onto the bottom of the cage.

I love the look of waterproof fleece liners and I feel they fit in so much better in a living room setting than traditional alternatives.  Admittedly, they are probably more work than sawdust, Fitch, Megazorb, Carefresh or other disposable absorbent substrates, but fleece has to be softer and more comfortable for them to sleep on.  If you look around, you can find fleece to fit in with the colour scheme of your living room and, over the course of a couple of years, it saves quite a bit of money too.  (Mine would have actually lasted longer if they hadn't been asymmetrical, as I would have been able to rotate them.)

Materials needed to make waterproof fleece guinea pig cage liners.

 These supplies should be enough to make two full-sized liners for my 90cm x 130cm cage.  I'm also hoping that I'll be able to salvage parts of my original cage liners to make a few house liners that can be brushed down and removed between full clean outs.

  • Extra large 230cm x 255cm throw from Primark. (After trying a few fleeces I've found this one to be excellent for easily brushing down and removing hairs and hay, as it's so silky.)
  • Microfibre bathmat from Wilkos. (This will go under the main bottom house, one corner of which often gets used as a toilet.  Our guinea pigs also like to sleep on this mat in front of the house.)
  • Cotton towels to go inside the cage liners to absorb any urine.  The Haren from Ikea is one of the biggest towels I could find.
  • Waterproof, cotton toweling mattress protector.  The Superking Gokart from Ikea will be big enough for me to get a couple of liners out of and possibly some small house mats too.
  • I'm going to be repurposing the usable parts of my old cage liners to make house mats.  If you are starting from scratch, you will need another towel and another waterproof toweling mattress protector to make removable house liners.
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Pins
  • Metre ruler
  • Fabric pen
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing thread.
  • Heavy duty sewing machine needle.  I used a size 120/20

How to make Waterproof Guinea Pig Bedding

The most important step, before you start cutting out your fabrics is to wash everything, at least three times.  Wash and dry them at as high a temperature as the fabrics will stand without damaging them.  You need to do this for two reasons  - to remove any oils that might have been added during manufacture, which will reduce the absorbency of your fleece, but also to encourage your fabrics to shrink.  If they are going to shrink, it is much better that they shrink now rather than when you've made your cage liners.

Once all of your fabrics are dry, you need to trim away any edgings that will prevent your materials from laying flat - making it difficult to cut them out.

Cut off the elasticated skirt from around the waterproof, cotton toweling mattress protector.

Cut off the edging from around the towel.

Cut off the edging from around the fleece blanket.

When I made my cage, I also made a template of the base out of Proplex for future use.  I laid this template on top of the towels and marked 5cm all the way around it.  This gave me a 2cm seam allowance, plus a little extra to allow for possible shrinkage.  Making it a little larger, also makes it a lot easier to fit on clean out days.

Once I'd marked on my pattern, I pinned the two towel pieces together and then cut them out.

I laid one of the towel pieces on top of my waterproof mattress protector and fleece, right side up.  The mattress protector was cut out toweling side up (shiny side down) and the fleece was cut out right side up.  My cage is asymmetrical and so the arrangement of fabrics is very important.  If your cage is a rectangle, then you don't need to worry about which way your fabrics are facing when you cut them out.

Once your three fabric pieces are cut out, you need to pin them together, as in the photo above, with the towel on the bottom, followed by the waterproof mattress protector, facing shiny side up and the fleece with the right side facing down.

With a 2cm seam allowance, sew all the way around your three fabrics, leaving a 30 to the 40cm gap for turning it the right way round.  I made sure that the opening was placed on a part of the liners that wouldn't be seen ie. under the houses and hay/litter tray.

Cut the corners off at 45 degrees.

Turn the cage liner the right way round, making sure that the toweling is sandwiched between the fleece top and the waterproof base.

Pin and then stitch the opening closed a few mm from the edge.  There you have one finished waterproof guinea pig cage liner!

Making a Large Heavy duty Microfibre House Mat

I love our guinea pigs, but they do require quite a bit of regular cleaning.  Over the last couple of years, I've strived to find ways of reducing that maintenance as much as possible, while still giving them a hygienic and clean living environment.  One of the main methods I use to keep them clean between weekly full clean outs is to put separate waterproof mats at the bases of their main sleeping and resting areas.  That way they can be brushed down, or replaced if necessary, with clean ones without having to empty the whole cage.

Our guinea pigs have a litter and hay tray, which they mostly use as a toilet, but they also like to use the lower house, right next to the litter tray as a toilet, so this house needs a much heavier duty base.

These microfibre bath mats from Wilkos are ideal as they are very thick and comfortable for the guinea pigs to lie on, and if you cut them in half and trim off the edging, they are wide enough to fit under a good sized guinea pig house, leaving a cozy area that extends in front of the house for them to sleep on.

Making the house mats is pretty much the same as the bedding, but on a smaller scale.  The main difference is that the bathmats are much thicker, so they can be quite difficult to sew through.  You definitely need a heavy duty sewing machine needle for this.  I used a 120/20 needle for the house mats, but there's no harm in using this same needle throughout this whole project.

It's at this point that I realised that I didn't have enough of the new waterproof mattress protector and toweling left to make the house mats, but I was able cut sections of towel and mattress protector from my original bedding from the large areas that hadn't degraded.  I was glad to be able to reuse part of the old bedding, rather than throw the whole lot away.

Stitch all the way around the house mat, leaving an opening to turn it the right way round.

Clip the corners close to the stitches at 45 degrees.

Turn it the right way around and pin it closed.  I found that I had to hand stitch the opening closed this time as my sewing machine just couldn't cope with that amount of fabric.

Making smaller house mat liners.

I use two of these Ferplast pet houses with one side removed (to give them easier access to the hay corner) in my guinea pig cage.  They are actually sold as rabbit houses, but I'm sure they are much too small for even a dwarf rabbit.  They do however fit two adult guinea pigs quite comfortably.

Here's the template I use to make my house mats.  I haven't made a photo tutorial for the house mats as the process is exactly the same as for the previous two but on a smaller scale.  These smaller house mats are perfect for resting areas that don't get used quite so heavily as a toilet.  I have three of these in my guinea pig cage, one in the upper house and two in the small hidey areas to the side of the tiered houses.

These can be easily brushed down every day and changed if they get wet.  I rarely find that they get saturated though as our guinea pigs don't often like to wee where they sleep...

Here is a complete set of waterproof guinea pig fleece bedding that I use every week in my guinea pig cage.  I made two sets - one to use and one to wash.


Do you save money using washable guinea pig bedding?

I was intrigued to work out if I really do save money in using washable fleece bedding as opposed to disposable substrate so I decided to do the maths.  Here is a breakdown of everything it costs me to maintain a clean guinea pig cage, assuming that the bedding will last me 2 years ...

  • 1 large Primark throw - £11
  • 1 Wilko's bath mat - £6
  • 3 x Haren bath sheets - £15
  • 2 x Gokart mattress protectors - £28
  • 2 years' worth of Fitch to fill a 53cm x 34cm litter tray - £82
  • Very approximate guestimate of the cost of washing fleece bedding over 2 years - £45
Therefore using and washing guinea pig bedding and Fitch over 2 years costs me £187, which equates to £93.50 a year.  (This doesn't include the savings I made by repurposing sections of my old bedding to make small house mats.)

At the moment, I use Fitch, which is a paper-based bedding, just in the hay/litter tray.  If I decided to use a disposable substrate instead of washable bedding, I would continue to use Fitch as it is absorbant and very low odour.  My current litter tray is 0.18m², but my full cage is 0.9m².  At the moment I use 20kg of paper-based bedding a year, which costs me £41.  If I were to fill my 0.9m² cage with Fitch it would cost me £205 a year.

So that's an annual saving of £111.50, plus the savings I made by repurposing usable parts of my cage liners the second time around.  I'm pretty pleased with that!

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy my other guinea pig craft posts - 

Building a Corner Guinea Pig C and C cage

My Ultimate Guinea Pig hay Corner

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make the guinea pig bedding. If you click through and purchase anything, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

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Alysa Vos/Bazydlo said...

Very neat liners!How do they climb up into the upper house and upper deck? I don't see ramps. Do they need them? We are getting ready to get some piggies and researching cage set ups. Thanks!

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

We did have a ramp in our original set up but we found that they were just jumping from the floor to the very top of the ramp so we removed the ramp to give them more space. Ours are very happy to jump about 18cm if they know they are jumping into a safe area. Babies can jump higher - our youngest used to jump from the ground into the top of the hay bag, which is why I added the fabric roof. After that she jumped even higher and would launch herself at the roof like a basketball against a net. She can’t jump that high now that she’s an adult.

Not all guinea pigs like to jump, so I would put ramps in to start off with and see if they use them. Ours are 2 and a half now and I anticipate having to rethink ramps as they get older.

Unknown said...

Did the primark fleece wick? I’m really struggling to get any fleece blankets to wick, they just pool water! At the minute I’m using towels on top of waterproof disposable bed mats but it smells really quickly 😟

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

Yes, I’ve never had a problem with the fleece wicking. You need to make sure that you wash them two or three times before using and not use fabric conditioner. Have a look at my post on building a hay corner - as having a dedicated hay corner and hay tray can help to encourage them to wee in one dedicated area that is easier to clean out every couple of days and reduces how often you need to do a full fleece change.

Hey123 said...

How long does the liner last? Does it build stink easily? That was a problem with my last linear. After washing multiple times, it would still stink of urine and guinea pigs.

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

My first liners lasted two years before the backing started to degrade. They would have lasted longer if they hadn’t been symmetrical as I would have been able to rotate them.
Mine smell a little if I put my nose right up against them, but they certainly don’t stink and it’s not enough to bother anyone.

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

Having a hay tray helps an awful lot as it contains most of the urine and means that you don’t need to do a full clean out quite so frequently.

Unknown said...

Hello, I really like your cage and the liner tutorial. Since the Gocart liner is not available in all countries I use the Ikea Lenast mattres protector together with the fleece top layer. Then I do not need the towelling because it dissipates the urin so it dries up fast. I usually just put some exta fleece or a towel under the bedding to make it more "bouncy" but that doesn't need to be washed as
often. /Lena in Sweden.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, it's very encouraging. We have two guinea pigs, and I am looking for any way to make them happier. Thank you for sharing all of this information. I'm going to try it out. Wish me luck! 😃