Substrate for Rats

There are many different substrates that are aimed at rodent keepers, some are appropriate and some are not.

A note must be made to discourage the use of wood shavings that contains phenols. This includes pine shavings, which is a popular product sold in pet stores specifically for use as rodent bedding. The phenols (which is what gives pine shavings its distinctive smell) in the shavings cause irritation in the rats lungs, causing respiratory distress. The exception to this is kiln dried shavings, which after being dried do not contain phenols.

The table below gives a brief assessment of the most readily available substrates.

SubstrateProsConsGeneral Rating
Picture of breeders choice™ paper based substrate
Breeders Choice™
Very good at absorbing odours and urine.
Easy to remove soiled patches
Provided it is spot cleaned regularly, it lasts well between cleans.
Rats love to burrow in it
Can be expensive9/10
Close up picture of 'natty cat'™ lucerne based substrate
Natty Cat Litter™
Rats love to burrow in it
Easy to remove soiled patches
Pellet have grassy aroma to them, although it wears.
Very absorbant
Is edible
Can be expensive

Once the grassy aroma has gone from the litter, it does not absorb the smell of the urine well.
Soiled patches can become dusty if not removed quickly
8/10
Close up photo of back-2-nature™ paper based substrate
Back2Nature™ Litter
Very good at absorbing odours

Easy to remove soiled patches

Provided it is spot cleaned regularly, it lasts well between cleans.

Rats love to burrow in it
Can be expensive

Slightly dusty when soiled
8/10
Photo showing a bag of Kaytee™ Aspen bedding & litter
Aspen shavings
Rats love to burrow in it

Usually dust has been extracted

No phenols, so no bad effect on your ratties lungs
Very expensive

Not particularly good at absorbing odours
7/10
Close up picture of ecopure™ paper based substrate
Ecopure™ Litter
Very good at absorbing odours and urine.

Easy to remove soiled patches

Provided it is spot cleaned regularly, it lasts well between cleans.
Can be expensive

Is quite dusty, can cause sneezing.
6/10
Close up photo of ozpet™ substrate made from waste plantation timber
Ozpet™ Litter
Quite absorbant

Rats love to burrow in it
Pellets are quite large and solid, making it hard to move through and possibly a little harsh on the feet.

Can be expensive

Once soiled, the pellets turn to dust which causes respiritory irritation.
6/10
Close up photo of ganmain™ weaten chaff, sometimes used as a substrate
Wheaten chaff/Lucerne chaff
Cheap

Natural material, so edible

Rats love to burrow in it
Does not absorb odours or urine well

Messy, easily kicked out of the cage

Lucerne is soft, however wheaten chaff has sharp edges and can prick the skin causing irritation
3/10
Photo of a bag of Kaytee™ cedar based bedding & litter
Cedar shavings
None Causes respiritory problems due to phenols in the shavings. Not suitable for use with rats.

The only exception to this is shavings that are kiln dried which removes the phenols, but these are very hard to buy in Australia.
0/10
Photo of a bag of Kaytee™ pine bedding & litter
Pine shavings
NoneCauses respiratory problems due to phenols in the shavings. Not suitable for use with rats.

The only exception to this is shavings that are kiln dried which removes the phenols, but these are very hard to buy in Australia.
0/10