I've raised various pet rodents, including rats. I love writing about animals and sharing my knowledge of how to care for them.
Safe Bedding Options for Rat Cages
Pet rat bedding is important not only for your rat's comfort, but also for yours. A good bedding will absorb urine well and keep your rat dry and healthy. The best beddings for rats include the following:
- Paper Pellet Bedding
- Straw Pellet Bedding
- Shredded Cardboard Bedding
- Cloth Bedding
How Often Should I Change My Pet's Bedding?
Keep in mind that even high-quality bedding needs to be changed regularly. I recommend a change of bedding once a day—yes, it's a little extra work, but it means that your rats aren't wallowing in their own filth, and it also means that particles of rat faeces and urine aren't wafting through your home for days on end.
Of course, my rats are currently babies and not litter-trained. If yours are litter-box-trained and do not urinate and defecate all over their cage, you might be able to get away with longer intervals between complete cage cleans.
Types of Bedding for Pet Rats
I've structured this article with the best options for rat bedding at the top, moving down to bedding that should never be used with rats.
The Best Bedding
- Paper Pellet Bedding: Paper pellets (like Carefresh) are an ideal bedding for rats because they're absorbent and fairly cheap. They will get mushy when they get wet and stood on, but you should probably replace them whenever they become soiled anyway if you don't want your home stinking like rat pee.
- Straw Pellet Bedding: Straw pellets work much the same way as paper pellets and are also suitable for rats because they're non-toxic and absorbent.
- Shredded Cardboard Bedding: Shredded cardboard bedding works well for rats because, much like paper pellets and straw pellets, it's a fairly natural and inert substance.
- Cloth Bedding: Some people prefer to lay down cloth in their rat's cage and clean the cloth daily. This is a valid option, especially if your rat seems to be allergic to other types of bedding. It's important, however, that the cloth be in good shape; ratty tatty cloth can cause injuries if it gets wrapped up around your rat's legs or tail.
- Shredded Paper Bedding: You have to be fairly careful with shredded paper because the ink can be toxic to rats. It will also 'bleed' onto them, discoloring them if you're not careful. Shredded paper bedding should probably only be used if none of the above alternatives are options.
Bad Bedding—Don't Use This!
- Cedar and Pine Bedding: I'm really not sure what you can actually use cedar and pine bedding for, because they're not suitable types of bedding for any small animal I've ever owned. Both of these types of bedding smell great, but they give off poisonous fumes that can and will make your rats sick.
- Cat Litter: Cat litter, especially the clumping kind, can form clumps in your rat's stomach and make them critically ill. It also often has a dust that isn't terribly good for their respiratory system. Whilst you might be able to get away with natural, non-clumping kitty litter, it's really not at all advisable.
- Corn Cob Bedding: This is another type of bedding that, as far as I can tell, is nigh useless with almost any animal. Corn cob bedding can cause issues when swallowed and apparently tends to get moldy. I wouldn't leave it there long enough to get moldy, though, and if you do, you probably have bigger issues than mold.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Layla Williams on April 07, 2020:
I have read that rats are prone to respiratory issues if there bedding is dusty, so is carefresh the best option?
maria burch on February 11, 2020:
what about aspen bedding
Ahsha on November 01, 2018:
Thank you for the info on rats! I am about get a rat and want to be prepared.
Ellis on January 15, 2018:
This website is very useful!
At least to me.
rat lover x on November 27, 2016:
I don't own a pet rat yet, but hopefully soon I will. I cant believe there are people out there who don't like rats. there so cute!
I wanted to get a hamster, but my dad has gotten bit and his rats never bit him, and hamsters sleep in the day, and are loud at night. p.s I have a bearded dragon
Esward borre on November 20, 2016:
Although this article is absolutely wrong about pine bedding,it is therefore pretty informative
Stephanie Giguere from Worcester, MA on January 04, 2013:
I LOVE the picture! I always used Carefresh with my rats, and I would give them my old socks to use for bedding too. I hope to get more soon!
Natalie on February 19, 2012:
Cute photo, for my rats I use cut up fleece. I buy a BUNCH of fleece blankets from my local dollar store. They are inexpensive. I cut up the fleece blankets and use it for all the bedding. Once or twice a week I gather all the fleece, but it into a couple of mesh laundry bags to keep it all together, and launder normally. This has been a great, affordable alternative to wood-chippings or newspaper. I also use the same fleece cut into larger sections as hammocks in the cage. All in all it ends up being more affordable, and more comfortable for everyone, a real win win situation. **on a side note, I keep my rats litter trained. This has allowed me to use a re-usable materials in the cage without to much mess and odor. Litter training is very easy with a little patients, only take a couple weeks or a month or persistence to do
christinepurr on November 08, 2011:
Awesome hub!! I LOVE rats, they're probably my favorite animal along with dogs, and bedding is such an important factor in owning rats. Pine and cedar can make ratties lives shorter, and many people don't know that! I like to use cloth bedding. The rats have fun chewing it up and making their own nests, or wherever they like to put it lol. I don't mind washing bedding and it's probably more cost efficient than constantly buying bags of pellet bedding.
Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on October 13, 2011:
You are so right! Why does pine bedding or cedar bedding even exist? I always hear to never use it, yet it is in every pet store. Weird! Very helpful hub and voted up!
Michele McCallister from USA on October 13, 2011:
Very interesting and informative hub. Certain to be a great resource for pet rat owners. I don't have a pet rat and probably won't as I am a bit scared of them plus my pet pal Kipperdoodles, the dachshund would probably give it a rough time. Cute photo!! Keep hubbing !! Voted up and interesting.
Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on October 13, 2011:
This was a really interesting hub and I loved the photo at the beginning - so cute!! I have never owned a pet rat so I didn't realise how many precautions you had to take with bedding and so on. Very useful information.