Pet Rat Bedding & Litter

Bedding is the material upon which your rats sleep and Litter is used for where your pet rats urinate and defecate. As you can see, Litter and Bedding have distinctly separate uses, making it wise not to use the same material for both.

Because it’s SO important, let’s start with….

What NOT to use for bedding or litter:

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Cloth and plain newsprint are safe and healthy bedding options

  • Cedar and pine shavings – They’re toxic! It’s amazing that cedar and pine shavings are still sold in pet stores. Because they’re sitting there on the shelves ready for purchase (as well as readily available online), many people have no clue about how toxic these wood shavings are for rats. Cedar and pine shavings contain phenols, the same compound used in Lysol and Pinesol. Their caustic fumes can irritate a rat’s nasal passages, throat and lungs which, in turn, make them vulnerable to bacteria. Exposure to phenols can also damage their kidneys and liver and even suppress a rat’s immune system.
  • Corncob litter – Very dusty. The dust can be inhaled, compromising respiration.
  • Clumping cat litter – Risk of ingestion and, as a result, possible obstruction. Also often dusty, causing risk of inhalation.
  • Shredded newspaper or printed paper– The ink on the paper is not healthy, it comes off quite easily and transfers onto rats’ hands, feet and fur. The dust that comes from the ink can also be inhaled. Sure the ink may be made of soy, but it’s not food grade and there may be other chemicals mixed in with the soy. It might be considered safe if you completely cover any newspaper used with cloth and your rats don’t come into contact with it. I, however, still prefer to avoid it altogether.

Many people like to use Yesterday’s News or Carefresh. While not as bad as some of the bedding/litter mentioned above, there is still a fair amount of dust that gets stirred up when using these types of litters. From what I’ve read, aspen shavings seem to be okay. Any hardwood, in general, is supposedly safe.

My personal favorites for bedding and litter:


#pet rat bedding #pet rat litter #pet rat litter box training #pet rat care #pet rat cage #rat #rats #aboutpetrats #pet rat #pet ratsFor the cage floor, I start with several layers of plain newsprint covered by a fleece blanket —the kind you can buy inexpensively in a drugstore. The reason I cover all exposed areas is because standing on metal cage surfaces can cause “bumblefoot” which you’ll definitely want to avoid. [Bumblefoot can affect one or both hind feet. Symptoms include inflamed and/or infected sores or lesions which can become bloody and/or abscessed. Treatment can take weeks to months to resolve bumblefoot. Sometimes the condition becomes chronic. It’s so much better to prevent bumblefoot than to be faced with having to treat it.]

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Pet rat nest made of hand-shredded plain newsprint

Besides the cage floor, cover any horizontal surface in the cage with soft cloth such as old (or new) T-shirts, sweatshirts, wash cloths, towels and blankets. Be careful not to use any cloth that’s unraveling and make sure to cut off any loose threads or strings. If you aren’t careful, a rat could get a string twisted around his or her ankle, causing the circulation to be cut off, possibly resulting in a serious injury. Similarly, any small holes worn in cloth can cause rats’ feet to get trapped and possibly twisted or tangled up.

Place several handfuls of hand-shredded plain newsprint in the center of each cage floor. Your rats will enjoy dragging the strips into the various boxes and corners inside their cage. Not only do these strips provide something fun for them do, you’ll love seeing the various creative nests they build.

Litter & Litter Boxes

Litter Boxes

Use shallow cardboard box tops such as shoebox tops for your rats’ litter boxes. Ideally, something larger (such as the top of a boot shoebox) or cardboard trays (such as those that hold multiple cans of cat or dog food) are even better. If you don’t have ready access to shoebox tops or cardboard flats, you can purchase pizza boxes (each pizza box can be divided into two pet rat litter boxes) or cardboard trays.  If you prefer, there are also plastic corner litter boxes you can buy.


Paper towels can be used in place of traditional “litter”. Place several layers of paper towels inside each cardboard tray litterbox. You’ll want to use enough layers so that urine won’t be able to soak through to the bottom.

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Use cardboard trays or flats for pet rat litter boxes

If you prefer to use the plastic corner litter boxes, you can use layers of paper towels or traditional litter such as Yesterdays News or Carefresh. As mentioned above, I believe paper towels are safest and most effective.

Litterbox training your rats is both fun and easy. To learn how, read Litterbox Lessons for You and Your Pet Rat.

(last updated 3/17/16)

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