BEDDING AND LITTER
Spot Cleaning (removing poop) is a great option in between full cage cleanings. It is not recommended to clean the cage too often as the rats will want to scent mark everything again. Cleaning a cage once a week with spot cleaning every day is a great choice.
Since the ammonia in rat urine can upset their sensitive respiratory systems, it's important to maintain a clean cage. Cleanings are required more often for smaller cages and larger groups of rats. If you smell rat pee - It's time to clean!
The bedding you choose can determine how often you'll need to clean the cage. While some beddings work well, some cause more harm than good.
Click the bedding type for more information and product recommendations. Or, keep scrolling!
As a general rule, paper bedding is completely safe for your pets. Certain types may need to be changed more often as they can clump when wet. Avoid paper bedding that contains baking soda or fragrance and avoid bedding that contains words such as "odor stop" or "odor control". Instead, look for words such as "natural" or "100% paper". Paper bedding is usually dust free, making it the perfect choice for rats.
Shredded Paper Bedding
Crushed Paper Bedding
Recycled Paper Bedding
Aspen Wood Shavings
Aspen is considered one of the only safe wood beddings for rats and other small animals. Unlike softwoods, aspen is a hardwood and does not contain the dangerous phenols that woods such as Pine and Cedar have (click here to continue to Dangerous Beddings). Luckily, aspen is readily available, cheap, and virtually dust free.
Doctors Foster & Smith
Litter pellets are great for using in litter boxes in your rat cage, but you can also use it as bedding in the entire cage. While it isn't the most comfortable of options for your rats, it works just as well. Avoid dusty litter or litter that contains baking soda. Cat litter or clay litter are not suitable for rats.
Paper Pellet Litter
Paper Pellet Litter
Fabric & Fleece
Fabric & Fleece are great to use as bedding. It's eco friendly, washable, reusable, soft, and looks great too! As with anything you place into your rat's cage, always check for loose threads and small parts that can pose a choking risk. Getting into the habit of checking before and after washing is important. If you notice excessive chewing, like all items in a rat cage, the fabric should be removed.
Known as the safest fabric for rats as it isn't created with threads that can unravel and pose a choking or strangling hazard. Other fabrics can be used, but may not be recommended for excessive chewers. While fleece is safe, it should not be used alone. Fleece does not absorb urine, and needs an absorbent layer underneath such as underpads or the fabric Zorb. Well liked for it's ability to be machine washed and reused, it is important for your rats to be litter trained prior to using fleece since their feces cannot be burried in bedding. Daily spot cleaning may be necessary in order to remove stray poops from the fleece.
Underpads 4 pack
Use with the white side up.
These underpads come in a pack of 4 - perfect for double critter nation cages. You can easily use them for other cages as well.
I personally recommend these!
Reusable, machine washable, and made for urine absorbtion, underpads (also known as hospital pads or incontinence pads) are the perfect bedding alternative. Use underpads as your only bedding, place them under fleece, or use under traditional substrate beddings such as aspen and paper.
Washing Rat Bedding
To wash your fabric, fleece, or underpads, use hot water and a natural detergent that is fragrance and chemical free.
I recommend Eco-Me.
Certain bedding types can be expensive, especially when you have multiple cages or a large number of rats that require more cage cleanings. A great choice is to make your own bedding. You can use items that are around the house, recycling things that would normally be thrown away.
Some beddings can harm your rats, making them seriously sick.
Always check the ingredient list to ensure the bedding you choose does not contain any harmful items. Keep in mind that brands may change contents of their products without warning. They often upgrade beddings to include ingredients to mask the smell of urine, and while these beddings may smell nice, they are harmful for your rats who have sensitive respiratory systems.
1. Pine and Cedar
These soft woods have phenols and acids that are toxic to rats and hurt their sensitive respiratory systems as well as their livers. While cedar should never be used, kiln dried pine has been proven to be safe and effective for your rats. Pine that has not been kiln dried should be avoided.
2. Baking Soda
Some sources claim that baking soda is perfectly fine for your rats, but I suggest avoiding it for a variety of reasons. 1. Not only is baking soda bedding often dusty, but your rats will breathe it in AND ingest it. It will cling to their feet and fur, inevitably entering their mouths during grooming. 2. I once sprinkled my upstairs carpet with baking soda, and all my rats had porphyrin discharge, often indicative of illness, for the next few days. (Yes, I felt horrible!!) 3. Baking soda is a common ingredient in homemade rat poison.
3. Scented or Fragrant Beddings
Rats have sensitive respiratory systems, so for the same reason that you should not spray perfume or air freshener, smoke, and light incense or candles in close proximity to your rats, you should avoid using scented beddings. If you find that your cage stinks, it's best to clean it. You can do daily removals of soiled bedding to cut down on full cage cleanings.
Newspaper printed with soy ink is safe for your rats. You can lay it in the bottom of the cage or shred it. Either way, your rats will have fun shredding it themselves and using it to nest.
Take an old fleece blanket or purchase one at a thrift store or Walmart, and cut it into strips. This creates a soft, dust-free bedding that can be washed and reused. I recommend purchasing a mesh delicates laundry bag to keep all the small pieces together in the washing machine.
Paper printed with soy ink is the safest option as some ink can be toxic when ingested. Plain paper is fine to use.
Cut Up T-Shirts
Take old t-shirts and cut them into strips. Use fabric that doesn't have a lot of loose threads. This creates a soft, dust-free bedding that can be washed and reused. I recommend purchasing a mesh delicates laundry bag to keep all the small pieces together in the washing machine.
Beddings to use with caution
Corncob is sometimes recommended, but please keep in mind that it has been known to mold when wet. Mold is never good to breathe, and especially not when rats already have respiratory issues.
Alfalfa Pellets are most commonly used as rabbit food, but some rat owners use it in the bottom of their cages as bedding. Like corncob, alfalfa can also mold when wet. If you see your rats ingesting alfalfa pellets, remove it from the cage immediately. Rats cannot digest alfalfa and it can cause an impaction and even death.