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.
For 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.]
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.
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.
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)