Some rat owners use fleece with litter boxes, while others use substrates such as paper or aspen wood shavings. While it's a matter of preference, they each have their downsides: fleece doesn't absorb urine well, paper bedding clumps when wet, and aspen is light and messy. Because of this, I set out to find an alternative option that is both safe and absorbent.
I normally use fleece along with 2 litter boxes in the cage, but fleece begins to stink after a few days. I find myself cleaning the cage twice a week to avoid the stench of ammonia from irritating my rattie's lungs and my nose!
Underpads, or incontinence pads, are commonly used on hospital beds to prevent urine from reaching the sheets or mattress below. I purchased a pack of 4 and decided to give it a test run in my cage with 7 rats.
The 4 pack of underpads worked perfectly for my Double Critter Nation cage that has 4 levels. I wrapped a pad around each shelf like I normally do when using fleece. The 4 pack (see it on amazon here) was the cheapest option I could find - and it's also perfect for smaller cages as you'll have spares!
For this experiment, I went an entire week before cleaning the cage. The best part? I could have waited an entire week before cage cleaning day - experiment or not!! They really absorbed urine well (which is their job) and in turn, the smells were very minimal.
While the soft, white twill turned yellow with pee in some places, the smell was hardly noticeable. The slick vinyl on the other side is water proof, making my normal routine of scrubbing the levels unnecessary!
The pink vinyl side faces down, while the white twill side faces up
They are a great addition to your regular bedding as well - place an underpad below paper bedding or fleece for optimum absorption. Not only are underpads safe (unlike puppy potty pads which contain harmful chemicals), but they are machine washable and 100% reusable!
As with anything you place with your rats, always check for loose threads and small parts that can pose a strangling or choking hazard. Inspect all rats toys and hammocks while they're in the cage, and check again after each wash. If you notice excessive chewing, remove these underpads (or other objects) from your rat's cage immediately.