One of the most important decisions you make as a rat owner is what kind of bedding your rats should sleep in. If you make the wrong call, you rat could get sick or even die. Fortunately, it’s very easy to pick the right kind of bedding and we’ve got everything you need to know to make the right decision for your rats.
The 14 best bedding solutions for rats are Kaytee All Natural Aspen, Dr. Hemp All-Natural, Small Pet Select Natural Paper, Kaytee Clean & Cozy, So Phresh Paper Pellet, FiberCore Eco-Bedding, Carefresh Small Pet, Kaytee Clean & Cozy Extreme Odor Control, Vitakraft Fresh World Strength Crumble, Healthy Pet HPCC Natural, Carefresh Complete Confetti, Oxbow, Back 2 Nature, and Sunseed Small Animal Bedding.
What You Need To Know About Rat Bedding Options
There are many different materials out there being sold as animal bedding but, sadly, they are not all suitable for rats. While some bedding materials are an excellent choice which absorb odor when rats pee on them and give your furry chum a perfect night’s sleep. Others are not so good.
In fact, there are several classes of bedding that are on pet store shelves that are so bad for rats that they might even kill them! So, making the right decision when it comes to a rat’s bedding isn’t a minor detail – it’s a genuine matter of life and death.
The good news is that once you know what you’re looking for, it is very easy to avoid buying the wrong thing and if you’re in any doubt at all – you should simply buy a product from a name brand that states clearly on the packaging that it is safe to use for rats. That’s going to be the easiest way to protect your pet.
Shredded Paper: A Solid Choice
The most popular choice of bedding material for rats and most other small animals is shredded paper. This makes a lot of sense because generally it’s made from recycled paper which means that it has a high level of eco-friendliness.
Paper is also excellent for absorbing urine which helps to keep the odors of rat urine to a minimum. Now, as long as you’re cleaning their bedding out and the cage on a regular basis, you shouldn’t notice much of a smell from your rats as they are clean animals but choosing the right bedding can help.
It’s also completely safe for your rats and they seem to like the texture and are happy to curl up and sleep in paper bedding.
You do need to be careful when buying this kind of bedding because some of the colored options may not be safe for rats and white bedding is often bleached and that is definitely not safe for rats.
Aspen Bedding: A Little Messy But Rats Love It
Aspen bedding is a popular choice among many pet owners, but we don’t really get it most of the time. While they do process this to remove any dust and any big pieces of wood that might harm your rats – it’s still not the ideal choice for bedding.
The big problem is that it doesn’t absorb urine very well and that can lead to it ending up being very clumpy and not a little stinky by the end of any given day.
On the other hand, in its favor, rats really like aspen bedding because it allows them to dig down in it and they absolutely adore digging.
Cloth/Fleece Bedding: Hypoallergenic Choice
If your rat has a bad allergic reaction to other types of bedding, then you might want to consider giving it a bed made of cloth or fleece. As with everything when it comes to rats, try to avoid dyed substances as the dyes might be toxic if your rat consumes them.
Try to use good quality cloth for bedding. While it’s tempting to use shredded rags to give your rats a bed – they can get caught up in these strings and then injure themselves. This is a very common thing to happen, so please take it seriously.
Pine/Cedar Bedding: It’s Toxic – Avoid
There was a period when people used to recommend pine and cedar bedding for rats. Why? Because it’s super absorbent and that means there were never any smells emanating from the rat’s cage. It can also help to kill off lice and mites and protect their skin.
However, you should never use pine or cedar bedding. That’s because it’s very, very toxic and if your rats breathe in the wood oils – the best case scenario is they get sick, the worst case is that they die.
Corn Cob Bedding: Don’t Do It, It Turns Into A Fungal Nightmare
We can understand why people might fall for using pine or cedar bedding, it’s hard to know the link between rat illness and that kind of bedding without being warned of it. This is not true with corn cobs.
Now, it’s fine to feed your rat a little fresh corn (or even canned or frozen corn) but it is of no value as a bedding material. It rots. Quickly. It gets covered in fungus and that fungus releases spores which can kill your rat. So, can the fungus itself if you rat decides to eat the corn. It’s vile stuff for bedding, please don’t do it.
Cat Litter: Probably Best Avoided
There are some cat litters out there that can be used for bedding but working out which ones are safe can be a bit problematic.
You need to ensure they have no scents, no dust, are made from 100% paper and have been confirmed as non-toxic for rats. By the time you’ve done all that – you might as well buy paper rat bedding material which is no more expensive than cat litter.
So, avoid cat litter because if you buy the wrong stuff – it will make your rats sick and you don’t want that.
What’s Important In Rat Bedding?
OK, now that we’ve taken a look at the different types of bedding materials on sale for rats – we can move on to take a deeper look at the specific factors to consider when you buy bedding for your rats. There are four key things to examine: the ability to absorb urine (and thus, stop odors from circulating), the absence of added fragrances, the absence of dust and the cost to quantity ratio.
If you can get these four things right then your rats can rest easy and so can you, in the knowledge that your rats are safe and sound and that you’ve got value for money from your bedding purchase.
The Ability To Absorb Urine And Stop Odors
This is, without a doubt, the most important aspect of buying rat bedding from a human perspective. Rats are very clean animals and nothing like the dirty, foul beasts that they are often portrayed as in the media.
However, they do pee all over the place as they are scent-marking creatures and their pee does contain quite a bit of ammonia which can get a bit stinky if it’s allowed to build up. When the bedding material absorbs the pee, it can’t build up and get stinky.
Also, this prevents things from getting moldy in the cage which can add other unpleasant odors to the show and worse, molds can put your rat’s health at risk because it may inhale the spores or eat the mold by mistake.
You can also leave highly absorbent bedding for a little longer than other types of bedding which can reduce your spending on bedding and keep your home smelling good at the same time.
The Absence Of Added Fragrances
We say this a lot on this site but it’s so important that it needs repeating over and over again. Rats have extremely delicate respiratory systems. If they get exposed to anything that irritates this system, they can get sick or even die.
This is why it’s vital to buy bedding materials that have no added scents (this includes natural oils as well as chemical products).
It also means your rat won’t eat these chemicals which might make it sick.
The Absence Of Any Dust
This is very similar to the last point, really, dust is just as likely to irritate a rat’s respiratory system as fragrances are. Also, because rats are very similar to us – they can also suffer from dust allergies and end up with symptoms akin to hay fever with some skin rashes thrown in.
The other advantage of ensuring that the bedding isn’t dusty is that you won’t need to clean up as much because dust would end up going everywhere.
Cost : Quantity Ratio
You’re going to end up changing your rat’s bedding very frequently (most probably daily) and that means you want to give some serious though to the cost to quantity ratio. We like to buy a small bag of bedding to give it a test run but once we’re happy with it – we buy in bulk.
This saves a small fortune in the long run as most manufacturers offer big discounts for big bags of bedding. The more you buy, the cheaper it is to keep rats in the long run.
The 14 Best Bedding Solutions For Pet Rats
Kaytee All Natural Aspen Bedding
If you’d like to try aspen-based bedding for your rat then we’d recommend going with the Kaytee brand because of its reliable reputation with all things rat-related. They use a totally natural aspen shaving process which is 100% safe for your animals.
They do process the shavings to ensure there’s no dust and no lumps of wood in there that might cause any harm. It has a much higher absorbency rate than other aspen beddings we’ve tried in the past but it still can’t compete with the best of the paper products.
We do have to confess though that our rats love this bedding material, they really seem to find it comfortable.
You can find Kaytee All Natural Aspen Bedding on Amazon here.
Dr. Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding Bag
The Dutch have given us many wonderful things over the years but their reputation for hemp-based products precedes them and as you might expect Dr. Hemp is an excellent hemp-based alternative to paper products.
There are no chemicals used in the production of this bedding and it is entirely natural which should ensure the health of your rat. There is no dust either, which is very important to protect your pet’s lungs and respiratory system.
This bedding is totally compostable once it has been used and if you’re a keen gardener the high ammonia content in rat urine is super for fertilizing plants!
You can find Dr. Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding Bag on Amazon here.
Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding
We know a lot of people who rave about this bedding. It’s made from paper which has never had any newsprint on it and it is completely unbleached. That means it won’t have any chemical residue left behind on it which might harm the rat’s respiratory system.
They designed this with small creatures in mind and it shows. We found that the softness of the material really encourages rats to get burrowed down into it, which we feel is a sign of genuine contentment with the product.
It’s extremely absorbent and it seemed to stay fresh for a bit longer than the average bedding material does. It’s also nearly dust-free and there are no colorings used in the manufacturing process. You can buy very big bags of it as well to get the best possible value for money.
You can find Small Pet Select Natural Paper Bedding on Amazon here.
Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Small Animal Bedding
OK, this one often gets billed as “guinea pig” bedding but it’s fine for rats and, indeed, any small animal.
We really like the paper they used for this as it’s extremely soft and thus gentle or your rat, we found that our rats dove straight into it and started to dig down into it. It is also very, very absorbent – you won’t be getting any nasty odors from your rats with this laying on the floor of the cage.
It is also 100% dust-free and we think that’s extremely important.
It is white in color but there’s no bleach on the paper, so it’s completely safe for your rats to chew on when they feel like it. That whiteness makes it easy to see any soiled bits of the bedding and you can then only replace what the rat has used.
It comes in various size packs which allow you to buy as much as you can use at a substantial discount.
You can find Kaytee Clean & Cozy White Small Animal Bedding on Amazon here.
So Phresh Paper Pellet Small Animal Litter
This is one of the more environmentally aware products on our list and it’s made of paper that is mainly recycled from post-consumer materials. It’s surprisingly tough though and it doesn’t disintegrate when it gets wet unlike some other recycled materials.
They’ve pulled a clever trick with these pellets – they put baking soda in them. This substance is completely harmless to rats but is very good at neutralizing the odor from ammonium laden rat pee. So, when you use this product, you’re guaranteed to keep odors to a minimum.
We like the fact that this is a sustainable product and our rats reacted very well to this as a bedding product. So, why not do your bit for the environment while you take care of your rats?
You can find So Phresh Paper Pellet Small Animal Litter on Amazon here.
FiberCore Eco-Bedding Natural
Highly absorbent and highly-eco friendly is the eco-bedding from FiberCore. It’s completely non-toxic but based on 100% recycled paper which is guaranteed to biodegrade once you’ve finished with it.
We also felt that it was one of the least dusty bedding products in our tests. So, if you suffer from allergies or your rat does, you might want to give this bedding a go.
You can find FiberCore Eco-Bedding Natural on Amazon here.
Carefresh Small Pet Bedding
The folks who use Amazon seem to love this and it has more than 2,000 positive reviews on that platform. We like this as it’s made of scratch and with 100% natural, raw fiber that is collected at the source.
It’s exceedingly soft, to the point where it almost feels like a pillow to the touch. So, your rats will be happy to scamper through it without damaging their delicate feet. Our rats seemed to feel that burrowing in this bedding was really good fun.
It’s highly absorbent and should keep odors to a minimum. The packaging says you can use this for up to 10 days at a time, but we wouldn’t. We prefer to change bedding on a daily basis for the health of the rats as much as anything else.
You can find Carefresh Small Pet Bedding on Amazon here.
Kaytee Clean & Cozy Extreme Odor Control
You probably don’t need to buy this bedding if you only have a single rat (though you shouldn’t have a single rat – they get lonely, you should always have two) or your rats don’t have any real issues with the scent of their urine.
However, if things are getting a bit whiffy around the cage, despite your best efforts to keep things clean and tidy. You might want to go with this odor control product from Kaytee. As you might expect it’s a little more expensive but it is insanely absorbent – they say it can absorb more than 5 times its weight!
They haven’t compromised on the overall quality of the product, though, and it’s just as soft and pleasant as you’d expect it to be for your rats and it’s also nearly dust free. You can’t go wrong with this bedding material.
You can find Kaytee Clean & Cozy Extreme Odor Control on Amazon here.
Vitakraft Fresh World Strength Crumble Bedding for Small Animals
Vitakraft have an excellent reputation in the pet supplies industry and their product is a completely unbleached, recycled paper based bedding material that is guaranteed to be safe for your rats and to be good for the environment.
It is absolutely superb at keeping odors to a minimum and our tests put it on a par with the Kaytee Extreme Odor Control bedding. They say it can protect against smell for up to 14 days! (Though we didn’t let it sit for that long).
As you’d expect it’s very absorbent. It’s also entirely dust-free.
You can find Vitakraft Fresh World Strength Crumble Bedding for Small Animals on Amazon here.
Healthy Pet HPCC Natural Bedding
We like the Healthy Pet products we’ve encountered in the past and this one was no exception for us. It uses reclaimed wood pulp as the basis for the bedding and that makes it a greener solution for bedding than some other choices on our list.
It’s 100% compostable and totally biodegradable which might make it appealing, if you also do a bit of gardening. We really liked the texture of this bedding. It seems so soft to the touch and our rats seemed to like it too.
You can find Healthy Pet HPCC Natural Bedding on Amazon here.
Carefresh Complete Natural Paper Bedding – Confetti
If you want something a little prettier for your rat’s bedding, you can always go for the confetti style paper bedding from Carefresh.
We didn’t find it to be much different in quality from their standard offering, but it is very much full of bright colors. Our rats didn’t seem to notice the difference and were happy to set up shop in it.
It was reasonably absorbent, though not the longest lasting in our tests, and overall it’s a very decent choice for rat bedding.
You can find Carefresh Complete Natural Paper Bedding – Confetti on Amazon here.
Oxbow Pet Bedding
Oxbow is another old hand in the pet supplies game and this bedding is completely tailored to provide both safety and comfort for your rat. The paper used has never been printed on and they don’t bleach it as part of the production process.
We found that there was absolutely no dust with this product and that it performed very well on our absorbency tests. We didn’t think it was quite as attractive to look at as some of the other bedding materials, but we should point out that our rats didn’t seem to care and were happy to burrow into it.
You can find Oxbow Pet Bedding on Amazon here.
Back 2 Nature Small Animal Bedding
This product is made by Fibercycle USA and it’s considered to be a premium product. We don’t think that you have to pay this much for bedding but if you want to – it does feel like an upgrade. Certainly, it lasts much longer than other brands of bedding.
There’s also no dust, no additives, etc. which makes it very safe and kind to your rats. We also found that it provided excellent odor control and a great level of absorbency.
You can find Back 2 Nature Small Animal Bedding on Amazon here.
We’d not come across this product before but with nearly 100 happy customers on Amazon, we were please to give it a try.
We did feel that it was a bit more expensive than some other options, but it worked very well. It has a baking soda base that keeps odors under control and the recycled paper is exceedingly absorbent.
It’s also totally biodegradable so not only is it kind to your rat, it’s also kind to the planet.
You can find Sunseed Small Animal Bedding on Amazon here.
So, there you have it the 14 best bedding solutions for rats. They’re all affordable and can be very useful when keeping rats – you just need to try a few and decide which works best for you and your rats.
It’s an experiment worth conducting as you’re looking to maximize the value you get from bedding, while keep smells to a minimum and ensuring that your rats are happy and comfortable in their home.