For those of you, who are in a hurry: Here is our top pick, the Carefresh Small Pet Bedding.
Rats have a lot of needs when it comes to their bedding. On the other side, there are so many products, that it is hard to get an overview. And we are not talking about choosing the best rat bedding. We reviewed a ton of products and spent hours and hours on research to make the decision a bit easier for you. So here is what we found out!
In this article we are going to review the following 5 rat bedding options:
- Our top pick: Carefresh Small Pet Bedding
- Kaytee Clean & Cozy Extreme Odor Control
- Small Pet Select Aspen Bedding
- Dr. Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding Bag
- Purina Yesterday’s News Unscented Paper Cat Litter
Why should I buy bedding for my rats?
With their sensitive feet, rats don’t want to stay on the slippy plastic bottom of their cage. But bedding is needed because of various reasons. Mainly there are 3 functions good bedding must fulfill.
We speak about substrate when we talk about the bedding that covers most of the ground space. Deeper is always better and it should be suitable for digging and building tunnels. Comfort and absorbency are secondary if your rat has a nesting area and is litter trained as well. Kiln-dried pine or aspen shavings are a good choice for this purpose.
Nest building material
Your rats need a comfy place to sleep, hide and chill. If you offer them a soft bedding material they will create their own sleeping area and carry it inside hideouts and hammocks.
No matter which bedding option you choose, it should only be used in the litter pan and nowhere else in your rats’ cage. Absorbency and odor control are the most important qualities. Choosing a good litter and training your rats for this really lowers maintenance. Apart from that, you save money because the substrate and nesting materials have not to be changed so frequently.
What to consider when choosing bedding for your rats (Buying Guide)
In the paragraph above you might have gotten a sense of the qualities of bedding you need to consider. Now we want to go into detail on these.
Absorbency is especially important for the litter. But keep in mind, that moisture can occur in nearly all areas of the cage. Perhaps the water bottle will leak, a bowl tipped or the territory marked – which is especially the case when you have male rats.
Odor control is mainly for your comfort. Apart from that smell is often caused by bacteria and ammonia. The later is a breakdown product of urine and both can harm the respiratory system of your rats.
Chemicals are generally bad for rats. So we advise you to ensure that the bedding you choose is free from fragrances, bleach, toxic ink and other chemicals.
The cost of bedding can add up to an impressive amount over the lifespan of a rat. Of course, you should have an eye on quality. But as the bedding has to be changed often, you might not choose the priciest option.
Bedding Materials to choose from
Shredded paper is the most common rat bedding. It is absorbent, cheap and has a good texture. When you opt for paper, make sure that it is free from toxic inks and bleach. As it tends to get mushy quick when it is wet, you have to change it more frequently.
Colored paper can bleed onto rats, especially when you own white rats you should not overlook this.
Paper pellets are very absorbent. That’s why they are famous as litter. The pellets reduce odor and also the growth of bacteria.
Aspen can be a good bedding choice. Like all hardwoods, it is naturally free from phenols and does not harm your little friends. Mainly used as a substrate it is not as absorbent than the other bedding options but rats love to dig in it.
Usually, the size of the single flakes varies between the different manufacturers. Packages with small pieces often tend to be dusty, so you will go better with large ones. Small pieces and dust are gathering at the bottom of the package, you can sort them out easily.
Pine is a common and also good absorbent bedding option for rats. But there is one thing you must ensure to keep your rats healthy in the shavings: They have to be kiln-dried. Through the process of drying all phenols, acids and potentially harming substances are neutralized.
Clothes or Fleece
Fleece and other fabric beddings are a good choice if your rats tend to be allergic to other natural varieties. It is warm, soft and cozy. The long term costs are very low because you can just put it in the washing machine and reuse it.
But there are two cons that are very heavy in our point of view: It does not absorb moisture and your rats ca not dig in it. These are the reasons why fleece should not be used alone. If possible we would go with one of the other bedding options.
Beddings you should avoid
- Cedar contains a lot of phenols. They are responsible for the smell of the wood but cause serious health issues.
- Corn cobs tend to mold.
- Cat litter is usually very dusty. Apart from that it is scented and can form clumps in your rats when they eat it.
Best rat bedding reviews
The paper beddings from Carefresh are a very popular option for rats. It is very soft and cozy so it is at least a good option for the sleeping area, most rats also love to dig in it. Dust should be no problem with this Carefresh product.
The paper used for this product is manufactured by Carefresh itself. This ensures, that there is no bleach, ink or other potentially harmful chemicals. Apart from that only sustainable sources are used for the production.
Even though the bedding is 2 times more absorbent than shavings and comes with 10-day odor control, you will have to change it regularly. Usually, paper bedding must be changed more frequently than other options.
The white color enables you to see where urine and poop goes. This is essential when it comes to abnormalities that can be related to health issues.
One pain point of this product is its inconsistent quality. Sometimes it is very good and sometimes not. But as Carefree offers you a refund if you are not satisfied, this not as bad as it seems. So overall this bedding might be a good choice, if you search for paper bedding for the nesting area and as a substrate.
- Free from chemicals
- Soft and cozy
- 99 % dust-free
- White color
- Refund if not satisfied
- Quality not consistent
This bedding from Kaytee is our second option when it comes to paper beddings. It is 99.9 % dust-free and should also be 2 times more absorbent than wood shavings. Literally it absorbs 6 times its weight in liquid. However, it is advertised that it controls odor for 14 days. That is because of fragrances. As it is designed for small pets and rats the scents do not harm your little critters. You have to decide whether it is ok or not to use scented bedding.
This bedding is also very light what makes ascertaining abnormalities in feces relatively easy.
- 99.9 % dust-free
- 2 times more absorbent than wood shavings
- 14-day odor control
- Soft and fluffy
- White color
- No guarantee
If you want to go with wood shavings, the aspen bedding from Small Pet Select might be the right choice – especially when you search for a substrate. It is made from solid logs and not from potential harmful fibers. Apart from that, there are no additives you can find in this option.
Aspen is not harmful in general, but SPS goes the extra mile and kiln dries its shavings. So you do not have to worry at all about the health of your sensitive rats. It is also 99 % dust-free, but of course, there will be some smaller pieces that gather at the bottom of the package.
Additionally, these aspen shavings are sustainable as they are recyclable and compostable.
For those of you who are unsure because of the higher price: This product comes with a 100 % satisfaction guarantee.
- 100 % satisfaction guarantee
- 99 % dust-free
- No additives
- From logs not fibers
- Recyclable and compostable
- Pricier than paper shavings
- Not as soft as paper
Hemp can be a very good bedding option also it is quite uncommon. It absorbs more liquids than wood shavings, unfortunately till 4 times its own weight. Also, hemp is very low-dust by its nature. Additionally, the plant grows is very resistant and grows so quickly that there are no pesticides and chemicals needed. That is a big advantage when it comes to the health of your little friend.
The bedding is very long-lasting what leads to reduced costs, but we do not have to argue, that its price is quite high in the beginning. If you do not want to afford it as a substrate for the whole cage, you can just use it as litter.
- Not good for the nesting area
When you are just looking for a litter the Purina Unscented Paper Cat Litter might be a good choice. As the name says it is unscented and causes no respiratory problems. Additionally, it absorbs 3 times more moisture than the traditional clay-based litter and comes with effective odor control.
As it is a low-dust and non-clumping litter there will not be any health-related issues.
- Litter only
As our top pick, we recommend the Carefresh Small Pet Bedding. It satisfies all the requirements we talked about in our buying guide. As typical for paper beddings it is cheap and even changing it very frequently should not add up to large amounts. Of course, you do not have to worry about your little friends’ health when using this safe option.
There are more paper beddings, that meet all the needs of sensitive rats. But when going with Carefresh you get a 100 % satisfaction guarantee. Another key point of our decision is, you don’t need to buy any other kind of bedding, as it is suitable for both sleeping and digging areas.