One important component of every good snake cage is an appropriate bedding. There are several types of bedding to choose from. The type of snake you are keeping is also an important factor in choosing a substrate for your snake enclosure. The substrate provides many benefits for the health of your snake and the overall appearance of your snake cage.
Advantages: Newspaper is very easy to work with. When you notice that the newspaper is dirty, it is very simple to remove the soiled sheets and replace them with new ones. Another advantage to newspaper is that since it is all in one peice, you will not have to worry about cleaning up small pieces of the substrate. Newspaper is also very inexpensive. In many cases, you can obtain newspaper for free from a freind or family member. Most areas have one or more free publications printed on standard newsprint that are inevitably delivered to your door with or without your consent. We like to use newspaper in our rack systems as it is easy to work with, very sanitary, and free.
Disadvantages: Newspaper is not very attractive and the paper is printed with ink. Some have claimed that the ink in newspaper can be harmful to animals, but we have never had any bad experiences nor have we known anyone to have any problems with it. It also is not a very good choice of a substrate to use for species that like to burrow.
Advantages: Pine shavings can be found in most pet stores and even many large department stores. They usually have a fairly nice smell, are very absorbent, and are used by many breeders. This substrate works well for species that like to burrow.
Disadvantages: Pine shavings when compared to other wood shavings we mention in this article, are considerably expensive. They are messy and many varieties have small particles that have been known (rarely) to contribute to respiratory infections. We used pine shavings for several years successfully before switching to more cost effective substrates. Another disadvantage is that pine shavings can get accidentally ingested by your snake.
Bark Shavings (Western Bark):
Advantages: Bark Chips have many advantages. They are very attractive for display cages, they are an excellent choice for burrowing snakes, and have a very pleasant smell. The bark can be found extremely inexpensive from large building supply stores such as Home Depot and Lowes. We have used and continue to use this type of substrate in many of our reptile cages.
Disadvantages: Shavings may be accidentally ingested. Be careful where you get your bark. Many specialty suppliers and petstores sell bark chips at a very high cost. The higher cost chips are heat treated and of a slightly higher quality than what you will find at building supply stores, but the cost is substantially higher.
Advantages: Aspen shavings are used by many breeders. They are highly absorbent and are attractive. It is not quite as messy as other wood shavings as the shavings have a tendency to stick together slightly. They work well for burrowing species.
Disadvantages: Aspen is not always easy to find. In some cases you will need to order it and pay expensive shipping charges. The shavings themselves are often more costly than other types of wood shavings and are one of the most expensive choices of a substrate to use.