This was first posted on my old blog on March 13 2016
So I very recently decided to switch all of my rats over to aspen bedding and I wanted to just take a moment to share why.
Part of the reason I decided to do the switch was just with talking with other breeders. I am in some amazing breeder groups where I can pick the brains of some very experienced & knowledgeable breeders, A lot of very good points were brought up in the group recently on bedding choices.
Wood bedding is very absorbent, it keeps the smell down alot and that is really helpful to keeping rats healthy. As you know rats have very sensitive lungs and very strong pee lol! Ammonia buildup can cause health issues very easily.
Ofcourse I keep things clean but the smell builds up on fleece very quickly. And even if I can't smell it yet, the rats are right there living in it.
I have not had any health issues or URIs, using fleece. This is to me more of a precaution.
Secondly fleece has to be used correctly to work at all. The reason we all love fleece (besides it looking nice and being comfy) is that fleece wicks away moisture (pee). Which means it pulls the urine away from our babies. But it needs an absorbent layer underneath. You can read more about how fleece needs to work HERE, it is a guinea pig forum but they are like fleece using experts!
Anyways I have used fleece forever with my rats but I have found that the fleece can be a pain. It didn't want to wick half the time. I always went through the proper steps to use it but I think it would still get leftover fabric softener residue from when I would wash my clothes. I also was not a huge fan of washing the fleece.
I also have ALOT of rats. And while some of them are fairly well litter trained, others are not. Even with the fact that my rats get most of the day out of their cages as free range time, they were really just peeing all over their cage.
I think fleece may be better suited for those with just like a pair of rats.
On the cleaning...
I will still be cleaning my rats cages the same amount of time. I don't think that is going to change at all. I clean my cages 1-2 times a week depending on the cage.
It is alittle bit messier, as it can get thrown out of the cage. But I am ok with that.
On the dust factor...
Let me first say aspen is very safe. I find wood less dusty than other types of bedding even. I do feel that quality matters. I've bought really cheap aspen in the past and found it just not very good and quite dusty. But now I get it from tractor supply and the pieces are all alittle bit bigger and it is not very dusty at all.
On the price....
I buy a huge bag of aspen at tractor supply, it is like around $10. Washing all that fleece was costing me in utilities each week. It may save me some money it may not. But it is surely not expensive.
On the comfort level...
One reason I did love fleece is comfort. What would I rather live on- pokey wood chips or soft comfy fleece? But the truth is, like none of my rats really hang out on the floors of their cage. They spend most of their time sleeping in hammocks or other hanging things. They go to the floor to eat. They still will have lots of comfy hammocks!
I also find it is quite cute watching them dig around in the aspen. They all seem to like it.
So in the end I am mostly switching for health reasons. I do feel aspen is more likely a better choice to keep my rats healthy.
I do not think using fleece is bad, if used correctly. I still encourage people to try it out with their own rats.
A note on pine and cedar....
Pine and cedar are softwoods while aspen is a hardwood. Hardwood is safe!
Softwoods give off phenols which are very toxic to small animals. You should never use cedar or normal pine ever.
But... you can find kiln dried pine bedding available. They say that the way it is dried burns off the phenols and makes it safe. There is ALOT of debate in the pet community on if it is indeed safe or not. To be honest many of the studies done are quite old and nothing gives a definite answer IMO.
Is it safe or not? IMO there just is not enough information to make a well informed decision. So I choose not to use it. But many many other people and breeders even use kiln dried pine and swear by it.
In the end the choice is yours to make. I do not think there is a right or wrong answer. Do the research and decide for yourself.
I like aspen.