As a rat breeder, this question gets asked a lot. And with all the types of bedding and liners out there, I understand that there can be quiet some confusion at first as to what to buy and what not to buy. I am talking to a future rat buyer currently about this and figured I would type up something before I head into work.
What types of beddings/liners should I avoid and why?
Even though these are sold in and next to the rodent and small animal bedding, tests have shown that cedar and pine bedding contains aromatic hydrocarbons which affects the liver. Aromatic hydrocarbons have strong scents that cover up the urine and feces smells, but can also be found in household cleaners.
Clay Cat Litter
Clay Cat Litter is dusty and can cause upper respiratory infections in rats.
Corn Cob Bedding
When corn cob bedding gets wet (from water or urine) it tends to rot and increase the amount of bacteria in your pets environment.
Aspen bedding is dusty and can cause upper respiratory infections in rats.
Any cloth that is absorbent has loops and can cause a hazard for little toes to be cause. Any other cloth product isn’t very absorbent at all. The cloth also will hold in urine and cause high ammonia smells in your pets environment.
What types of bedding/liners are okay to use and why?
This is most common with a lot of breeders due to the low cost and because it is highly effective. Make sure that the newspaper is printed with non-toxic soy or vegetable ink. It may have to be changed often (I change mine every other day and use a mix of the two).
CareFRESH is made of paper pulp and compacted into a brick. Once opened, it will expand up to 3x the brick size. (This was my original bedding and when it is given to me, I gladly use it for nursing mothers and babies.) It is highly absorbent and smells fresh for a while. You may have to spot clean every other day.
Pellet Bedding (Yesterdays News)
Yesterdays News is the most popular pelleted bedding and is also a cat litter. I have heard wonders about this as a rat bedding, but due to the cost, I haven’t tried it myself. Please make sure if you use another type of pelleted bedding that it doesn’t contain any of the types of “not to use bedding/liner” options above (yes, some do).
Rats are relatively easy to litter box train if you start young. I am working on litter box training my first set right now and am enjoying the cleaner cages. If you can succeed at this, your cage will stay cleaner for longer as well as smell fresher for longer. If you are interested in litter box training your rat, let me know and I will put together a blog about this.
If you don’t see a type of bedding/liner you plan to use listed, please look it up and talk to people who have rats/breed rats/etc before using it. There is a ton of information out there, but don’t just take one link as fact/fiction. Even though there are tons of links out there that say you can use aspen bedding for rats, breeders and vets HIGHLY advise against it due to running the risk of upper respiratory infections. If your rat starts sneezing for more than four days, has porphyrin around the nose, has a gurgling sound coming from the chest, has a clicking sound when (s)he breaths, or is acting abnormal in any concerning way, get him/her to the vet immediately. (Porphyrin is a red mucous that is produced by a gland behind the eye (the Harderian Gland) which dries the color of blood.) Upper Respiratory Infections can kill rats in a matter of a few days. Something as simple as a new environment, a change in diet, a new rat being introduced, a new bedding/liner, etc. can cause an upper respiratory infection. But please be aware that it is easy to treat.