Whether or not you choose to use bedding for your rats may depend on other factors such as:
* The environmental temperature of the area where they live.
* The substrate you have chosen for the cage.
* Whether your rats enjoy nest building.
* What materials you have available to you at any given time.
Bedding is not essential unless your rats live in low environmental temperatures – probably under about 13°C – or unless you choose a substrate that does not provide comfortable sleeping areas. Rats housed on newspaper and hard paper pellets especially, should be given some softer materials with which to line their beds. However, many rats enjoy nest building, and providing nesting materials can add to the enrichment of their cage environment. Many nesting materials can be incorporated in ways that are stimulating for the rats, keeping them physically and mentally active.
Suitable materials for bedding
Paper flakes - usually available in fairly small bags, paper flakes can work out expensive and are not very absorbent, but are dust free and non-allergenic. Safe bed is an example.
Shredded paper - can be made from waste (non-shiny) paper, old bills, telephone directories, or newsprint (from art suppliers) and therefore very cheap, if not free.
Finely chopped straw - this is comfortable and warm, but can be very messy and smells when wet. Russell bedding is an example.
Soft good quality hay – very much like straw beddings, only may be nibbled on by some rats.
Fleece and cotton towels - can be washed and reused, but will undoubtedly be chewed. Monitor carefully for frayed edges if using towels as loose threads can become tangled around the rats’ limbs and cause serious injury.
Paper towels and toilet roll - can become quite soggy when wet, but are fairly cheap.
Shredded soft paper - sold pre-packed in smaller or larger amounts. Safe bed is an example.
Some substrates, such as shredded card also make excellent nesting materials.
You should not use anything fluffy and cotton-wool-like, as this can get caught around toes or swallowed and choked on, no matter how warm and snugly it may appear.
Stimulating ways of presenting bedding
Shredded paper, hay, paper towels and shredded soft paper can all be placed into a hayrack (sold to attach to rabbit cages).
Shredded paper, materials and soft paper can all be left on to of the cage (if the roof is barred) and will be pulled into the cage for use as required by the rats.
Toilet rolls and kitchen rolls can be slung from the side of the cage on a length of cotton string. The rats can then unwind them at their leisure.
Wads of pages from old telephone directories can be hung from the cage bars using cable ties through a hole in the corner.
Shredded paper can be stuffed into boxes and paper bags and left in the cage.
Author: Fancy Rats Team
Articles relating to cages and habitat enrichment
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