As a rat owner of over three years now, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy searching for the perfect bedding. It doesn’t seem to exist just yet, but I’ve found some bedding products that work well enough to be more than satisfactory. I’ve also listed a few bedding products I’ve tried that didn’t quite work out. Rats have fairly specific bedding needs, so until that perfect rat bedding is invented, consider trying a few of these products wiht your rats.
Traits of the Perfect Rat Bedding
Let’s begin by listing the traits a bedding product needs in order to be suitable for rats. Unfortunately, I don’t think any current commercial product has all of these features, but it’s a good starting point.
- Absorbency: Rat bedding needs to be highly absorbent. Rats produce lots of liquid waste.
- Unscented: Scented beddings like perfumed cat litter or red cedar chips are hazardous to rats’ respiratory health and may eve cause pneumonia. Always choose an unscented product.
- Safe to Chew: Think of rats like human infants. Whatever you give to them, it will end up in their mouths.
- Odor Control: Even if a cage is kept meticulously clean, a bedding that doesn’t provide odor control will cause your rat room to stink to high heaven.
- Fun for Nesting: Female rats especially love to nest. If your rats like nesting, they’ll appreciate a bedding they can use for that purpose.
- Low Mess: Bedding that’s too lightweight gets kicked out of the cage and ends up tracked into your carpet.
- No Dust: Dust can cause respiratory infections.
- Not Yummy: Bedding that is too tasty will be eaten!
I’ve had some bedding successes in the past few years. Here are my favorites:
Yesterday’s News: This recycled paper bedding is low-dust, absorbent and offers average odor control. It’s easy to clean up and doesn’t get kicked out of cages and ground into my floor. I currently use this in all my litterboxes and in the cages that have an all-litter floor with no litterbox. There’s also a generic version by Petsmart’s store brand, Sophisticat, which has an odd odor but works equally well after it airs out a bit.
Fleece Liners: If you’re diligent about removing poop daily and changing liners every few days, these may be the best option. They offer zero dust and good absorbency if changed often. Leave them in too long, though, and they stink. There’s also the part where you have to be okay with putting fleece with rat urine on it in your washing machine every few days.
Ecobedding: Too flimsy to be used alone–it would need to be changed almost every day due to soaking through–but this makes a nice topper to a harder bedding for rats that like a cushion or like to do a lot of nesting. Ecobedding and fleece scraps are a good combination for nesting for pregnant females.
What Didn’t Work
I’ve also tried quite a few beddings I didn’t like. Here are a few:
Aspen Shavings: These are popular in the rat world, but I don’t care for them. They sometimes carry mites if purchased at pet stores. Also, wood shavings get kicked out of the cage easily and end up clogging the vacuum.
Swheat Scoop: Love it for my cat, but the rats just ate it and refused to eat their lab blocks!
World’s Best Cat Litter: The rats ate this one, too. Also, it smells like Fritos, which I’m not sure I prefer over rat urine by a very large margin.
Paper Towels: These are fine for a few days for a sick or injured rat, or for a new mom or mom-to-be who is nesting, but paper towels are not an efficient bedding for long-term use and there’s no real odor control.
Hemp Shavings: I really wanted to like these, but it just didn’t work. The rats liked the texture, but it ended up all over the floor as they wrestled in the bedding. I’d recommend this bedding for small animals living in cages with a deep, solid bottom. Odor control is decent, absorbency is not as good as I’d expected from hemp.