Fabric bedding has a number of benefits over traditional bedding materials such as woodchips and recycled paper bedding like CareFresh. Fabric bedding is less expensive because it’s reusable. You simply launder and reuse. It’s also cleaner as it does not create dust, nor does it get kicked out of the cage. Fabric bedding is suitable for use with a small animal litter box.
Fabric bedding is healthier for the rats, as there are no harmful oils or dust, which can cause respiratory problems in small animals. It’s important to use an unscented detergent and unscented color-safe bleach for washing the bedding to ensure that it does not create any irritation.
Fabric bedding is ideal for hairless rats, as many tend to experience irritation from CareFresh and other beddings.
Tight-weave cotton tends to be the most absorbent and soft, and the tight weave does not pose a danger to the rats’ claws and toes, which can get caught (and injured) in loose-weave fabrics and towels (towels in particular are often made of “loops” of fiber).
I’ve found two very effective, inexpensive sources of fabric rat bedding: old T-shirts and old sheets. Small and medium T-shirts can be used as-is, whereas it’s generally best to cut large and extra large T-shirts in half. For sheets, it’s best to cut them into 1-foot squares.
To switch to fabric bedding, you’ll need to discard all old bedding material and wash out your rats’ cage with soap and water. Then, place the fabric bedding on the cage floor. I recommend being a bit generous with the bedding, as they tend to enjoy burrowing and snuggling in the fabric.
Fabric bedding typically needs to be changed daily, though it may be changed less often if your rats are consistently using a litter box for their bathroom activities.
Simply remove the soiled bedding from the cage and place it inside a plastic bag or laundry bag. I recommend shaking out the bedding (outdoors or into a large trash can) before laundering to remove little pieces of food and bits of feces that may be caught in the fabric.
This also serves as an opportunity to inspect the bedding. Your rats will chew holes into the fabric, though I’ve found the fabric chewing is minimal as long as the rats have consistent access to chewing blocks. Over time, I’ve found it’s easier to cut the bedding into smaller pieces, as I cut away the chewed-up regions. Discard the fabric once it gets significantly chewed up, as lots of small holes can serve as a hazard (the animal may get tangled up in the fabric.)
Use a gentle, scent-free detergent and color-safe bleach to launder.
In my experience, laundering is the only drawback to fabric bedding. Personally, I don’t mind the extra laundry, as my savings on Carefresh bedding are significant. But I know that the laundry situation is out of control in many households and the idea of adding more laundry is a bit unappealing to some!
Stop by PetLvr’s archives for more tips on caring for rats and other small animals.
Photo Source: Kai Kuusik-Greenbaum on Sxc.hu