Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fleece Bedding Breakdown.

This post, as the title suggests, is a breakdown of the ins and outs of fleece bedding. As a newbie I found the GPC Forum post to be wordy, long and a little confusing. So I have taken the main post, plus the more helpful of the replies, and boiled them down to this user-friendly post.

What is it?
Polar fleece is a 100% polyester fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles. It's super-soft, doesn't rip easily or fray, and once it has been "broken in" [by tossing it in the washing machine a couple of times] it wicks any liquid from the surface, which makes it ideal for small animals such as guinea pigs, ferrets and rats, who have bare feet and carry their bodies so low to the ground and thus are particularly vulnerable to urinary tract infections.

Where can I find it?
You can find polar fleece at Big Box-Marts, thrift stores [fleece throw blankets], fabric and crafting supply stores such as Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics. Fabric supply stores and some Wal-Marts have many colors and patterns of polar fleece available for purchase by-the-year. All you need to do is let them know how much you need. Most bolts of polar fleece are 60" wide, so for, say, a 2x4 cage [28"x56"] you'd only need 1 yard [36"x60"]. Most places that offer by-the-yard cuts will also have fleece throws available, which come already cut and hemmed; I find these usually work perfectly for a 2x3 or 2x3.5-sized C&C cage, or a similarly sized cage. If possible, you should get anti-pill polar fleece, as it will last longer than just regular polar fleece. It's also best to get two sets of fleece and whatever you'll be using underneath it [towels, etc], for an easy cage cleaning.

How much is this going to cost?
That question is best answered here.

How do I get the fleece ready for pigs?
Make sure you have a good absorbent material to go underneath the fleece. Mattress pads, towels, puppy training pads and newspaper are all common choices. Fleece itself is not absorbent, it simply wicks liquid away from the surface. It needs somewhere to wick the liquid to. If you use fleece and fleece alone you'll be sorely disappointed.
Also make sure that you send your fleece through at least 2 wash cycles; 3 if you have a front-loading washer. In my experience, you do not need to use detergent, and you don't necessarily need to tumble-dry it between washings.

How do I set it up in my cage?
The best way to set up your cage so that your fleece doesn't become a mess is to set up a kitchen area and use a hay rack. Your pigs will do most of their "business" in this area, as an added perk.
As far as putting down the fleece, first layer your towels 3-4 layers thick, or use 2-3 layers of mattress pads. Place your fleece over the top of the towels/pads, and tuck the fleece under the towels [you'll want to leave about 4"-6" on either side of your fleece blanket]. If you find that your pigs are burrowing under the fleece you can use bricks or binder clips to secure the perimeter fleece.

This all sounds like a lot of work.
It doesn't have to be. Cute and stylish cage liners are available online in a number of places.
I make customized cage liner pads, available here. And so do a few other folks, here, here, and here.

How do I clean/care for it?
For regular upkeep you'll want to sweep or vacuum your fleece. Every 4-7 days you'll need to thoroughly sweep/vacuum/shake out the fleece and throw the fleece and towels in the washing machine. Never use fabric softener. Line or tumble dry. I prefer line drying, as the fleece always seems to smell fresher. How often you'll need to wash your fleece depends on your cage size, number of pigs, their age, and etc. For more cleaning tips, go here.

Did I miss anything? Please comment with questions/concerns/praise.

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