What's out there that's good for my rat?

Product Review:
Just Testing, A Litter Comparison

Sarah Shuman
From the Jan/Feb 1997
Rat & Mouse Gazette


The following information is based on a study that I have performed in
my rattery over the past two months. Please bear in mind that this
information is my with experience these products, and your experiences
may differ.

My goal was to gather information about the main non-cedar, non-pine
beddings available here in Illinois. Each of the four beddings was
tested in three types of cages:

1.a ten gallon aquarium with either a pair of adult rats or a mom with a
litter aged two weeks old or less. 2.a medium-size (25"X 17" X 19") wire
cage with a set-on tray, where most of my adult females reside. 3.a
large 3-story ferret condo with a wire floor, home to most of my males.

What follows is a summary of my findings, along with advice for use
based on my experiences.

Gentle Touch--This bedding was the absolute best for odor control. It is
a brown pellet, rather dense, made of processed aspen wood and aspen
bark. The adult rats had no reactions, odor control was phenomenal, and
the pellet is dense enough that it isn't easily kicked out of a cage
with a set-on tray. It works well in all cage types. The only problem is
that after 3-6 days (depending on traffic), it begins to break down into
powder. This is not a major problem, except for with baby rats under 2
weeks of age. The dust tends to clog the babies' noses, resulting in
nursing problems and slow growth. When the bedding is changed to a
different type, the babies resume normal growth as well as exhibiting
less congestion and nasal discharge. This bedding is recommended for any
cage type, for rats over 2 weeks of age.

Clean n' Comfy--This is a corncob-based bedding. It looks like regular
cob bedding except for occasional bright green nuggets, and has a
distinctive scent which is somewhat pleasant. No rat of any age reacted
adversely to it (even Naughty Louise and Bluebelle, who ate some). I
have used this with babies under 2 weeks, but I am concerned about
recommending it because of the possibility of ringtail, a reaction of
very young rats to an overly dry environment in which portions of their
tails become constricted, causing permanent damage. This condition has
been associated with the use of cob beddings in the past. I was also
concerned about mold, but never saw any when using this product. Odor
control was good. The main disadvantage was its low density; my big
girls in the medium size wire cage with the set-on tray had a delightful
time kicking it out onto the carpet, much to my dismay. However, it
worked fine in the wire-floor ferret condo and in an aquarium. It does
not seem to break down under use, and is not dusty.

Yesterday's News--This is a recycled newspaper bedding in pellet form.
The odor of the bedding itself is so mild as to be neutral. It is
slightly dusty. Absorbency is good, but odor control is mediocre--only
slightly better than the dreaded pine shavings. It does not break down
under normal usage. This is a bedding I sometimes use with moms and
their litters under 2 weeks of age. I am a little concerned about the
dust, but it doesn't seem to bother the babies. The pellets are quite
dense and do not easily scatter, so this bedding is neat and well suited
to all cage types. No rat in my rattery has had an adverse reaction to
it. Price was a little higher than other types.

Critter Country / Cat Country--This is a wheatgrass plant fiber pellet.
I tested Cat Country, which (according to the manufacturer) is the same
as Critter Country. I did this because I was able to buy it more
economically in larger bags--up to 45 lbs. This bedding, I found, will
also break down, but not as quickly as Gentle Touch--it usually lasts
5-8 days before breakdown starts. It has a fairly strong hay scent which
fades after the first day. Absorbency and odor control are both very
good. Density is also good, preventing messes from cages with set-on
trays. The rats have reacted well to it, too--no problems. I have not
used it with babies under two weeks of age, due to its tendency to break
down and my bad experience with Gentle Touch in regards to dust blocking
the babies' noses. However, I have used it with no problems for older
babies. It can conveniently be used in any cage type.

Well, there it is--I hope this "review" will help people who are
gathering info about various beddings. Currently, I am testing CareFRESH
and Sani-Chips, and I plan to expand this file when I have more info. Is
there something you could add, or any comments, questions, etc? I would
love to hear from you.

Sarah Shuman at AristoRats--RistoRat@aol.com