Rat Care Recommendations - Page 2
Choosing an appropriate bedding for your rats can be difficult. There are many options, and some really should be avoided for the health and safety of your rats. On this page, I will go over some recommended options, as well as options to use with caution and those to avoid completely.
Kiln-Dried Pine Shavings
Kiln-Dried Pine is just about the best option for use with rats. The kiln-drying process removes the harmful phenols in the wood, making it completely safe. Nearly all pine shavings sold for use with animals is kiln-dried. It's very inexpensive and readily available. This is also a light weight bedding, which allows rats to practice natural behaviors such as digging, burrowing and nesting. It is also effective at neutralizing ammonia. When wet, the thin shavings dry quickly, keeping your rats dryer. Solid waste tends to fall below the top level of the bedding, so that rats are in less direct contact with their waste. The only issue I've noticed with this bedding is some brands can be a bit dusty. This bedding is what I use for my own rats.
Aspen shavings are another very good option for use with rats. Aspen is a hardwood, which does not have the same phenols as pine or other softwoods. Just like kiln-dried pine, aspen shavings are safe and generally inexpensive. The shavings are light weight and great for encouraging natural behaviors. They also dry quickly and keep rats cleaner. The only issue I have noticed with aspen is that some rats (and people) may develop allergies or even respiratory issues in response to the bedding. This bedding also can be a bit dusty.
Pine pellets and similar wood pellet bedding can be a good option for rats. The wood used is typically kiln-dried, so it would be safe to use. The biggest issue with pine and similar wood pellets would be that they do tend to fall apart when wet. They can also be a bit hard for rats to walk on. But, they are generally absorbent and effective at neutralizing ammonia. If you choose to use pine pellets, it's a good idea to mix the pellet with something softer, such as pine shavings, so that rats can still dig, burrow and nest.
Carefresh Naturals and other similar beddings can also be a good option for rats. While these beddings are not as effective against ammonia as wood shavings and pellets, they are very absorbent and soft. They do allow rats to practice natural behaviors, and generally are fairly low dust. This type of bedding does cost a bit more than wood shavings, and should be changed a bit more frequently to keep ammonia levels down. I would avoid Carefresh Colors and other similar options as I've found them to be very dusty. For rats with respiratory issues or skin sensitivities to wood shavings, Carefresh Naturals or other similar beddings can be a good option.
Yesterday's News and other similar recycled paper pellet bedding can be a good option for rats. It does tend to be absorbent, but the pellets can also fall apart when wet, then would become a bit dusty once dry. Since it is not effective against ammonia, and will fall apart when wet, it may need to be changed more frequently. Since it is a pelleted bedding, it can be a bit hard on rat feet. If you choose to give this sort of bedding a try, I would recommend mixing it with another softer option, like kiln-dried pine shavings, to allow your rats to practice natural behaviors and make it a bit easier on their feet. Also be sure to only purchase the unscented option and make sure to avoid any recycled paper pellet bedding that includes baking soda, as it is harmful to rats.
Shredded paper as bedding might seem like a great, super cheap option, but it really should not be used as a stand-alone bedding. Shredded paper offers no ammonia control, and really is not very absorbent. While it would be very low dust, and would be soft, it would be best used in conjunction with another more appropriate bedding. Shredded paper would be a great option for nesting material, just be sure that any ink used on the paper is non-toxic.
I am sure many people are going to have different views on fleece as bedding. I will go ahead and say I feel fleece is just about the worst option for use with rats. While it looks nice, at least initially, and it's very soft, fleece does nothing for ammonia control. When used as a liner on a solid shelf or level, fleece does not absorb liquids - it wicks liquids, so urine passes right through and sits on the solid surface. When your rats walk or lay on that spot, that urine will pass right through the fleece and get on your rat. That will mean more ammonia build up, a smelly cage and smelly rats. Ammonia build up can also lead to respiratory issues.
Fleece liners need to be switched out very regularly - about every 2 days - and the shelves and solid surfaces should be wiped and sanitized every day. Fleece also does not allow rats to practice natural behaviors, such as digging, and since they do not have a natural outlet for these behaviors, many rats will chew apart fleece liners. They will burrow under them, or even rip them apart to use the pieces as nesting material. It's a much better option to offer a bedding that will allow these natural behaviors, is absorbent and effective against ammonia for the health of your rats.
If you insist on using fleece, please keep it very clean and offer your rats appropriate outlets so they can practice natural behaviors. Offering a dig box with an appropriate loose bedding would be an excellent option.
Clay Cat Litter
Clay cat litter might seem like a good option to use with rats, but it should be avoided. Many clay cat litters are clumping, and if your rats happened to ingest it, it could cause an obstruction. It also tends to be very dusty and many include deodorizers or baking soda, which would not be safe to use with rats.
Cedar shavings are generally considered the most dangerous bedding option for rats. Cedar has a very strong smell, and even after being kiln dried, it remains unsafe to use with small animals. It is known to cause respiratory issues and should be avoided.