Plywood is a pretty versatile material. This multi-layered manufactured wood can be used to make everything from boat decking to attic floors.
Yet, while this engineered wood is great for construction, plywood can contain some worryingly toxic chemicals. And, the last thing you’ll want to find is your hamster chewing on this material.
So, is plywood really safe enough for a hamster cage?
Well, in this post, you’ll learn what really goes into the manufacture of plywood. You’ll also discover why the glues used to make plywood may make it a risky choice for a hamster cage.
This post may contain affiliate links to products that we receive a commission for (at no additional cost to you). Learn more here.
What Is Plywood Actually Made Of?
Well, plywood is an engineered wood, which means that it isn’t a natural timber.
Instead, plywood is made up of multiple thin wooden plies. And those plies are placed atop one another, at alternating angles.
However, the particular wood used to make plywood can vary widely. Various types of wood, from Douglas Fir to Maple to Birch, have been used to make this material.
Still, one thing all plywood sheets have in common, is the fact that an adhesive is used to make them. And when it comes to a typical plywood sheet, that adhesive will contain formaldehyde resins called phenol-formaldehyde.
Related Post: Is There A Type Of Plywood That Doesn’t Warp? (Solved!)
And Why Is Phenol-Formaldehyde Adhesive So Toxic?
It all boils down to the fact that formaldehyde itself is incredibly dangerous. If it is ingested in large enough amounts, it is poisonous — both to humans and pets.
Even formaldehyde vapor can cause severe respiratory problems. And in liquid form, it can burn our skin.
Does That Mean Plywood Can Release Toxic Fumes?
Solvent-based substances, (such as glues and paint), all go through something called ‘off-gassing’. Off-gassing refers to the fumes released from finishes, glues, and paint, as they dry.
It can take just a few hours for wood glues or paints to dry to the touch. However — as anyone who has painted a room can attest — it can take weeks for the fumes to clear up.
And the same goes for phenol-formaldehyde based glues. It can take up to 24 months for this glue to stop releasing significant amounts of fumes into the air.
Nevertheless, store-bought plywood will have already had time to sit and dry out. Which means that formaldehyde off-gassing shouldn’t be all that severe with this plywood.
But, even if off-gassing isn’t an issue, ingesting any plywood at all can still bring harm to hamsters. Why? Well because…
…Treated Plywood Is Full Of Chemicals
Plywood is not rot-resistant. So, more often than not, a sheet of plywood will have been ‘treated’ with rot-resisting chemicals.
And these chemicals are anti-fungal wood preservatives. Their job involves fighting off the bacteria responsible for wood rot.
However, the chemicals infused into treated plywood — such as Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) — are toxic. Certainly much too toxic to risk being ingested by hamsters.
Now, having said all that, you can still find and purchase untreated plywood.
But, without a wood preserving chemical treatment, untreated plywood will rot away fairly quickly. Especially if moisture or humidity gets into it.
Related Post: Woodworking 101: Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?
Is There A Formaldehyde-Free Plywood I Can Use Instead?
There are certain specialized formaldehyde-free plywoods you can buy. And they are marked as NAF (No Added Formaldehyde) Plywood.
These plywood sheets are glued together using a natural-alternative adhesive, instead of formaldehyde-based glues.
That’s Great! So, I Can Use NAF Plywood Instead, Right?
Sure, NAF Plywood completely does away with toxic wood glues. But, it replaces them with a soy-based adhesive instead.
Which is great news, until you realize that Soy contains something called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds, but they can cause hormone imbalances in both humans and hamsters.
So, if your pet likes to chew on wood — and you suspect they may also chew that plywood — then this is another possible safety risk.
Now, maybe this is all acting with an over-abundance of caution. Maybe avoiding even NAF plywood is simply being a little too careful.
But, it’s always better to err on the side of caution, when it comes to pet safety.
Is Pine Wood Safe For Hamsters? No, this softwood can splinter apart into thin strands when chewed upon. And those splinters can severely harm the inside of your hamsters mouth. What’s more, the high amount of resinous tree sap in this timber can make hamsters ill.
So What Type Of Wood Material Is Safe For Hamsters?
The safest type of wood you can use will be natural solid wood. And it should come from a wood species that is safe for hamsters.
That wood should also be dry (ideally kiln dried), and not treated with any chemical preservatives.
What Is Kiln Dried Wood? This is wood that has been dried inside a kiln until its moisture content levels are very low. Freshly cut lumber has a moisture content of around 100%, but kiln dried lumber has a moisture content of around 12-18%.
To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…
- 1). Plywood is a manufactured wood, often made using formaldehyde-based glues.
- 2). Plywood also tends to be treated with chemical wood preservatives.
- 3). When it comes to the health of hamsters, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, avoid using plywood altogether.
Treated Wood In The Landscape | Home & Garden Information Center
The pros and cons of phytoestrogens | National Library of Medicine
Soy and phytoestrogens | National Library of Medicine
Creating the right home for your hamster | RSPCA.org.uk